Tuesday, January 3, 2012

best of 2011 | a year of reading

One of my personal goals in 2011 was to read more. I even resolved to read every day and to read ten Pulitzer Prize winning novels. While I didn't end up reading every day (I knew that was a nearly impossible goal), I did keep this goal up through April - yes, I read every day for the first four months of the year. I was derailed by Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer Prize Winning Gilead, which, while not a bad book, is definitely not a page turner. (Confession: I never finished it.) Despite my break from books in late spring, I read voraciously through the summer, and in fall continued to consume literature through listening to audio books. I read 25 books this year, more than I ever have as an adult, and consider my resolve to read more in 2011 a complete success (even though I didn't finish all the Pulitzers, I will keep reading until I do!).

It was a rather revolutionary year in terms of reading. I started reading books on my iPad and found that I read much more this way. While I mourn the loss of real books and hope that the printed word never becomes extinct, the convenience of the e-book has really changed the way I read. (Only 6 of the books I read this year were actual hard copies.) I also began listening to audio books at the end of the year. Part of me considers this cheating (it's listening, not reading, right?), but the other part of me realizes it's a lot better than not reading at all. I was so busy with my shop during the Fall months, that I really had no time to sit down with a book. Instead, I listened to audio books while I worked. The ability to digitally check e-books and audio books out from the library also really boosted my reading this year (and saved a lot of money!) and exposed me to some books I might not have ordinarily picked up, since some of the titles on my A-list weren't always available from the library. I have a full list of holds at the library and when one becomes available, that is what I read - it really helps take the decision-making process out of "What should I read next?" since I'm limited to what the library has in stock.

While Larry, himself an avid reader, always encourages me to read, he also constantly makes fun of my literary selections. He claims the books I read are "depressing" and that everything I read is about a tragic death by cancer, accident, etc. "How many people have died in this one?" he says. This is ironic considering his penchant for reading books about the apocalypse. I mean what could be more depressing than reading about the destruction of the world and the end of mankind? Here's how the apocalypse ends: EVERYBODY DIES.

And since I'm throwing Larry under the bus here, he also reads books about zombies and aliens. Dork!

That being said, he might have a point. What can I say - I like to read books where something happens, not just happy tales about rainbows and kittens. However, I prefer to describe these books as deep and challenging, rather than depressing.

Since I revealed Larry's guilty pleasure, I found that during times when I was having difficulty sticking with a book this year, I turned to Young Adult Fiction. They're typically quick reads (though not always fluff or "easy" books - many cover very adult topics and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas packs quite an emotional punch). You'll never catch me reading a vampire book, though!

Let's take a look at the numbers:

Total number of titles: 25

Number of books read: 19

Number of audio books listened to: 6

Number of fiction: 16

Number of non-fiction: 9

Number of young adult: 5

Number of books where a main character dies: 18
(Ok, maybe Larry has a point!)
Number of books about imprisonment: 9
(Yeah...he definitely has a point!)

Number of books that made me cry: 4

Number of Pulitzer Prize winners: 3

Wondering what these depressing books are that I read?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Room by Emma Donoghue
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon
Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
The Autobiography of an Execution by David Dow
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
Just Kids by Patti Smith
After by Amy Efaw
Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt
Somewhere Inside by Laura Ling & Lisa Ling
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Short Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
And Sometimes Why by Rebecca Johnson
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Run by Ann Patchett

Oh, and since I like listing my favorites of the year, here are my picks for Best of 2011* | Books:
(I wrote more about several of these in my Summer Reading review.)

Favorite BooksEmpire Falls (Why did it take me almost 10 years to finally read this? So good!)
                          Blood, Bones, and Butter
                          The Autobiography of an Execution
                          Just Kids

Favorite Audio Books | One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
                                    Little Bee
*Only one of these books actually came out in 2011, the rest are older.

January is always a big reading month for me - I turn towards cozy indoor activities when the weather is cold and I always resolve to read more each year. One of my resolutions this year is to spend $0 on books - between library books (over 50 on my wish list) and the unread books on our shelves (hundreds), there is plenty for me to read for free.

I'm looking forward to a 2012 full of books, books, books.


Sarah said...

Love, love, love this post! I am challenging myself to read 25 this year after realizing I only read 16 last year. Some of my favorites of the year are on your list (Room, Bossypants) and others are in the photo (Middlesex, Olive Kitteridge). I got a Kindle last Christmas, and still found myself reaching for an actual copy for about half the books I read. Cheers to your year of reading, I just may join you. :)

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

Thanks, Sarah! Reading is such a rollercoaster for me - sometimes I will devour book after book - staying up late, finishing several books in a week, etc, and other times I will not read for a month. I've found I'm most happy when I read a little every day - even if I'm super busy, being able to read a chapter, a page, or even a paragraph relaxes and focuses me for the rest of the day.

I loved both Room and Bossypants - both were great summer reads (Room because it totally sucked me in and I finished it in a weekend at the beach, and Bossypants because it was hilarious!). I've yet to read Olive Kitteridge and I started Middlesex but haven't finished it (not because I didn't like it, I just got distracted!)

Pickles and Dimes said...

Ooh, I love seeing what other people are reading! I'll have to check out some of yours. (I loved Bossypants but could not make it even 1/3 of the way through Room for some reason.)

I seem to be on the same page (HA!) as Larry, because lately most of the books I've read have dealt with the apocalypse, zombies, contagious viruses and other various fun topics such as fatal familial insomnia, which you should not Google unless you want your day ruined.

Any chance Larry wants to share his book recs? I'm already a fan of Ha Ha Tonka thanks to his music recommendations.

Karen Travels said...

Haha, my best friend always says I only read books with unhappy endings!

So far in 2012 I have read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and I have started 1000 White Woman. Feeding Brycen every 2-3 hours is giving me a lot of time to read!! I recommend both titles.

Michael - Innkeeper said...

i love,love books but i don't enjoy reading. is that weird? i think i read one book last year.


i'd like to read bossypants. i adore tina fey.