Where's the book?

Monday, January 14, 2013

In 2008 I started keeping a journal of the books I read. I did this because (a) I found myself forgetting which books I had read and occasionally even found myself 50 pages into a book before I realized I had read it before (sometimes it took even longer) and (b) even if I did remember reading it, I often couldn't remember what it was about. Before this starts sounding like I'm senile, I also wanted to do it because I like keeping track of things. Call it a mild form of OCD. I like lists. Academy Award winners. Best cheap restaurants. Books I've read.

Of course, once I started doing it, I started adding to the list: a few comments, some description (so I would remember it), a red star if I liked it or not, whether or not it was a book group book (I have the most awesome book group; more about that later). And then counting how many I read each year.

In case you're curious (I would be), I read 37 1/2 books in 2008. 40 1/2 in 2009. 40 in 2010. 50 in 2011 (I got laid off and had a lot more time to read). 47 in 2012 (still laid off, but I had a lot of freelance work). Does that count as a lot?

I read a lot of different types of books. Fiction is my preference, 19th-century Brits are my sweet spot, but I'll read sci-fi, memoir, fantasy, murder mysteries, YA, non-fiction, thrillers...as long as they're good.

In 2008, I starred 10 books, and looking at them now, they are a very well-mixed bunch: Revolutionary Road, The Golden Compass, Family Matters, Unaccustomed Earth, Pnin, Eat Pray Love (have to be honest here, no matter how it embarrasses me), On Chesil Beach, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Blue Zones, and Twilight (you heard me). The authors, respectively: Richard Yates, Philip Pullman, Rohinton Mistry, Jhumpa Lahiri, Vladimir Nabokov, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ian McEwan, Junot Diaz, Dan Bueltner, and Stephanie Meyer. Now wouldn't that be an interesting group to have over for cocktails?

The half a book, btw, was a bunch of stories from a short story collection. I didn't like most of them much, but "Boys" by Rick Moody was, I wrote,  "poetic and deeply moving."

In 2009, I read 40 1/3 books, the third being George Eliot's Romola, which I actually was trying for the third time. Couldn't do it. As much as I love George and everything else she's written, this book is unreadable. As in can't read it.

I red-starred Dreams From My Father, To Let (the last book of the Forsyte Saga), The Custom of the Country, The Warden, City of Thieves, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Barchester Towers, and Stuffed. By Barack Obama (heard of him?), John Galsworthy, Edith Wharton, Anthony Trolloppe, David Benioff, Ann Fadiman, Trolloppe again, Patricia Volk.

As you see, I have a bit of a thing (a thinglet?) for 19th- early 20th-century Brits. Just know anything by anyone named Bronte, Austen, Trolloppe, Eliot (sans Romola), etc. is gonna' get starred. Just know that.

In 2010, I read 40 and starred Doctor Thorne (Trolloppe, what did I tell you?), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (and both sequels), The Master by Colm Toibin, Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri, reading it for at least the third time, but every time it amazes me), The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire (more Trolloppe), To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in case you didn't know, and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

In 2011, I read 50. Red stars went to: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Room by Emma Donoghue, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility (both Jane Austen, each for at least the fourth time), The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald's masterpiece is my idea of the perfect novel, I read it every few years), The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton, third time), Wuthering Heights (a Bronte, this time Emily, and at least the third time), Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (also third time), and Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot.

2012 (we're almost up to today!) saw 47 books and the following red stars: 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Six Tales of the Jazz Age and Other Stories by Fitzgerald, Bossypants by Tina Fey, who is the funniest woman alive and my fantasy best friend, Flappers and Philosphers (more Fitzgerald), New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherford (I love any stories set in old New York), I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markowitz, Gone Girl by Gillian Murphy (me and about 50 million other readers), Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman, and Unbroken by Laura Hilenbrand.

That brings me to 2013, which is starting off with a bang. But you'll have to wait for the next post to find out why (such a tease!).


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