December 31, 2013

Books I read in 2013

This year is the first year I've ever kept a list of the books I read, mostly thanks to joining Goodreads last December.  I took an inordinate amount of pleasure in tracking my progress in the 2013 Reading Challenge, for which I set a modest goal of 34 books. Modest --- and at the same time more than what I would probably have read in years past. It's hard to tell for sure, though, since I've never kept a list. 

Once I saw that I was on track for reading fifty books, I joined the 50 Book Pledge site, which has a very satisfying shelf graphic. 

The list doesn't truly reflect the number of pages read in 2013.  I didn't include rereads as part of the count, which this year tended to be Victorian novels that I read here and there on my phone (it seems wrong not to count Dickens, even as a reread, but there you go). There are also some books (four or five) I abandoned halfway, which obviously are not part of the list either. A few of these abandonments were only because I lost track of the book in our multiple moves, so as soon as I find them they will likely make an appearance on my 2014 list!

A few of the books I read this year

The list is endlessly fascinating to me (a few of these titles I would have forgotten if I hadn't recorded them), and in case you're interested in the breakdown, too, it's as follows:

By genre:

4 poetry collections
4 short story collections
4 memoirs
4 graphic novels
7 children's/YA books
27 novels 

By nation:

21 Canadian
15 American
13 UK
1 Japanese

By gender:

16 titles by 12 men
34 titles by 30 women

And which was my favourite? Well, to tell you the truth, it's easier to pinpoint the disappointments. The newest Bridget Jones novel, for instance, was a let-down, though it was a decent enough companion during an endless flight delay. My Sister's Keeper, too, was generic in the ways you'd expect (though truly a page turner, in that I literally read it in a day). The Agatha Christie novel is probably the worst of hers I ever remember reading (maybe I should have stopped when I noticed the dedication to her dog), and the Neil Gaiman book, while interesting and genuinely a little frightening (!) is something I somewhat regret buying in hardcover. I seem to have petered out on the Jasper Fforde Thursday Next series, but only after the fourth book. I couldn't stop talking about the first three. 

The Interestings stands out among the novels I enjoyed the most in 2013, maybe partially due to length, as I spent some time with it. I remember loving Juliet, Naked and finding it hilarious, though at this point I couldn't tell you what it was about! In terms of contemporary novels, Malarky and Our Woman has probably lingered the longest in my memory, especially considering I read it in January. The Juliet Stories, too, was beautifully written and has stayed with me in unexpected ways. I sobbed throughout most of the astounding February, and The Fault in Our Stars made me cry a little, too. It pretty much lives up to the hype. The Wayne Johnston novels both made me laugh and laugh, as did Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. 

The book I may have been quoted as saying I wished would never end is The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who not only wrote beloved children's books (including my all-time favourite A Little Princess) but a number of books for adults, as well. From a (guilty pleasure?) narrative point of view, this one truly has it all: rags-to-riches, romance, a murderous plot, all wrapped up in a delightful Victorian package. Even writing about it kind of makes me want to read it again.  

My best discovery of the year is Margaret Drabble, whom I've never read before. I also read my first Judy Blume! (My mother confiscated the only one I'd ever started.) I'm sure I'll read more. 

I also liked how many funny books I read this year. I might not look like a very diverse reading list (certainly it pales in comparison to those of many librarians and reviewers and full-time writers I know, especially in terms of numbers), but many of these books were outside of what I might normally have read in the past (Serious Canadian Novels). 

Most of all, this year I read almost entirely for pure enjoyment (not to bolster something I was working on, or for a panel or for a review I needed to write, etc.), and I really loved almost all of it. Even the handful of books I didn't love were still pretty okay (say, three-star books). Just looking at this list makes me pretty happy about 2013.

I'm not sure what goals I have for next year, though I'm tempted to say Read Exactly Whatever I Want. (This remains, to date, the greatest thing about not being in school. I still savour this freedom, even after having it for so long.) It would be nice to read a little bit more poetry, as I'm always really happy when I'm in the middle of a collection. I also wouldn't mind reading one really great non-fiction book that isn't a memoir.

What are your reading goals for 2014?

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