I read so much in a year’s time that it’s easy to lose track of everything that excited or moved me in some way over the course of those twelve months, so I thought I’d do a summary of 2008.
In a way it was a wondrous and watershed year for me, not only because I ventured out beyond my normal reading preferences, but because that venturing out actually changed the way I read. It didn’t happen right away, but in twelve months my reading habits, needs and perceptions have altered profoundly. I can also thank the Amazon Vine program for that. My only intention in the beginning was to expand my range and read a wider group of authors and subjects, and in the end that manifested into two decisions:
1) I no longer have any tolerance for inferior books, bad writing, or even just mediocre writing. To put it crudely, I’m not wasting another second of my time on crap. Crap is subjective, obviously, so I won’t go into a dissertation of what I think defines it.
2) I want to cut down on the number of books I read and concentrate more on quality and absorption. I plowed through 106 books this year. 106! One might be tempted to admire such a feat, but don’t. There was a lot of chaff mixed in with that wheat. At least it taught me to fine-tune my nose for what will be good reading.
My reading tends to break down into about 40% classic lit, 40% contemporary lit, 10% genre and 10% non-fiction. I won’t list the titles of everything I read this year, obviously. Anyone interested in putting themselves to sleep with all my book reviews can find them here: http://bloody-keri.livejournal.com/tag/b
A brief summary:
Classic Lit: I always re-read a lot of classics but this year I finally discovered D.H. Lawrence, W. Somerset Maugham, Sylvia Plath and Edith Wharton, and am incredibly grateful for having done so. There really aren’t strong enough words to express how deeply affected I was by Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Of Human Bondage, The Bell Jar and The Age of Innocence, and I count them among the most meaningful books I’ve ever read in my life.
Contemporary Lit: I tried to read a mix of ‘popular’ fic (bestseller stuff) and the lesser-known literary releases, Booker, National Book Award and Pulitzer contenders. As to be expected – and this is at least partly what I mean by not tolerating bad books anymore – a lot of the bestseller stuff was forgettable and time-wasting, for me. The literary selections yielded better gains, obviously, and in at least four situations a quality literary novel actually found its way to the bestseller list, like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society, The Road and The Gathering. Those were rare gems and I’m heartened to see them getting wide recognition. My experience has long been that quality literature and bestseller lists rarely converge. Maybe that’s finally changing.
Genre Fic: For lighter reading I tend to pick up cozy mysteries, suspense and supernatural thrillers, although I’m reading far less of it these days. 2009 will probably not see a lot of genre reading as I try to get away from that for a little while and delve into deeper stuff, but I’m sure I’ll take a break sometimes and grab an Agatha Christie or a Cat Who book, re-read a Barbara Michaels / Elizabeth Peters here and there. Most of the forays I made into new releases in these genres were overwhelmingly disappointing. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the quality of the writing in the genres is being eroded a little further every day.
So that’s the nutshell. Overall, it was a great reading year because I pushed myself to get out of a ‘reading rut’ and the result was a total sea change in the way I read and what I want and expect in books from now on. There is something about a good book that makes me feel like I’ve been given a precious, wonderful gift, and I want to give myself that gift as often as possible.
I hope everyone had a fruitful reading year and that things will be even more diverse and interesting in 2009.