Thursday, January 7, 2010

2009 Reading Round Up

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain. (1873)
~ Louisa May Alcott ~

Last year it was a popular Nerdfighter New Year's resolution to plan on reading 50 books in the next 12 months. I resisted the urge to play along. I could just see myself getting all stuck on the rules. (What counts as a book? Fiction and non fiction? Just fiction? What about a collection of short stories? What about a graphic novel? What about a big pithy cookbook full of anecdotes and technique chapters? What if I read half a book, does it count as anything?!) Yeah, I get like that. I could also see myself, as of about October, starting to choose my reading material based on length. (yeah, yeah I'll read "The Giver" twice and then "Catcher in the Rye" *snicker* that'll boost my count!) So I just did my usual reading, vacillating between periods of voracious fiction consumption and several weeks of "reader's block" and back again. Picking from my ever-growing "to read" list willy nilly to suit my mood, in other words, sheer enjoyment reading with no agenda.

Overall I had a great reading year. I did read 41 books that I remembered to write down, and several more besides (not including graphic novels and the majority of the non fiction that I read). I found new books to fall head over heels for, shared some of my all time favourites with my sons, learned a bunch of new stuff (about art, autism, parenting, cooking) and found great pleasure, comfort and inspiration in the written word.

Reading Round Up 2009 (feel free to turn this into a meme if you want to play along):

Books read:

Favourite books of 2009:
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Least favourite:
I didn't read anything I didn't like. I did have two books I only made it halfway through:
-Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, which is brilliant, but I needed something with more of a steady narrative at the time. I plan on finishing it soon.
-Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis I have wanted to read it for years. It was light and amusing, and everything you would expect it to be, but no more than that, and I lost interest after awhile.

Most useful non fiction:
Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin (she is one of my heroes, and has helped me understand so much about Autism and the great possibilities that exist with the challenges)

Longest and shortest books:
Probably Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling respectively.

I was purposely lighter on rereads than usual this year, but a year without Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter ( read 5&6 to my sons) isn't much of a year at all!
I also read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, once to myself and once to my sons.

Favourite character of the year:
It's gotta be a tie between Owen Meany and Ignatius J. Reilly. Both completely blew my mind.

Favourite quote:
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree.
One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

This analogy resonated deeply, becoming part of my internal imagery about my own life.

Books read aloud:
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Harry Potter 5&6 by JK Rowling
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (part of the wonderful Bartimaeus Trilogy)

Most fun reading moments:
-sketching battle maps as we went along to keep E&L abreast of the action in LotR
-seeing my sons get caught up in the books that we read together in their play and art
-sharing the trashy, trashy fun of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris with my sister (team Eric!)
-laughing my way through Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons again (wait, that's another reread...busted! I am a chronic rereader. Combine great fondness for certain books with an exceptionally poor short term memory, maybe with a little aspie perseveration in there too and you have someone who loves rereading!)

Most touching:
-Owen Meany
-Elliot with shining eyes asking if we could start LotR over again from the beginning after we'd just finished the last word

What made you cry:
-Dumbledore & Dobby (I practically blubber all the way through the last book)
-Owen Meany
-all the beautiful parts of hope and struggle that choke me up every single time I read LotR

First book you will read in 2010:
I think I am up for a reread of Slaughterhouse soul needs a little Billy Pilgrim right now.

(is there a rereader's anonymous out there somewhere? Hello, my name is Evangeline and I am a rereader...)

Here's to another year of reading!

(art courtesy of Hey Oscar Wilde It's Clobberin' Time by Leigh Gallagher)


  1. I was wondering if you'd mention Sookie... LOL... I was going to ask to borrow Catch-22 at xmas! I like the list, I think I'm going to start one for this year! Shame me into better reading!

  2. I was pondering a similar post. still am. i read a lot this year too; was awesome!
    I also read the Bell Jar for the first time in 09! I loved it. It made me cry. I related too. :)

    OMG: when you mentioned Auntie Mame I had to go and google and see if it was the same one as the 1958 movie (which, of course, it is). why? well, this year my uncle who moved to Ottawa this summer was over early in December hanging out with me. I decided to decorate my christmas tree while he was there, and he decided to watch Auntie Mame on his laptop. It was a movie he attaches to my Grandmother who died 2 years ago, and one i had never seen. So we watched and i decorated and who woulds thunk it, it was an amazing new holiday memory. We laughed and oogled the outfits and the architecture all the way through. I had never even heard of it before a few weeks ago, and here you go and mention it!
    I had to tell you :)

    One you should read E is Mercury Falls by Rob Kroese. Its his first novel and you will LOVE it. he is working on the sequel as we speak; i cant wait! i had to buy it online from the US; but it was very inexpensive and so one of my faves of 09. again, had to tell you :)

    So far in 2010 i have read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Neffenegger, which was just as great as Time Travelers Wife, except it has twins and a cemetary and a ghost! SO good.
    Now I am 1/2 way through Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk => awesome love story. I want to travel to Turkey now. :)

    So, happy reading E :) Lets share more often!

  3. Oooooh the online book club!! I very much enjoyed learning about the books you read and loved this year, I agree with so many of them, and those I don't know are getting added to the ridiculous needtoread pile! I've never read the bell jar, but that quote! Stuck in the crotch of my own life tree, it fits so well!
    Keely, you're right, we should do this more often. I neglect my poor book blog, which I started to accomodate the reviews too long or personal for librarything. I'm still hopelessly stuck in Last Night at Twisted River, and still lost where Sookie left me last.
    I'll work on a blog update for Catch 22 and catch myself up on my 2009 accomplishments and my 2010 goals. The needtoread pile weighs heavy on my conscience. I'm trying not to pick up the kindle, and I've ordered two more books in the mail - East of Eden, which comes so highly recommended and The Solace of Leaving Early, so there's two more to bump to the top!
    Going to reread your post, your comments, and relish the word perseveration, which I just learned, thank you very much. Ironically, Catch 22 is my record for most rereads - 4 or 5 times maybe? It's amazing what I can forget about a good book! I could reread almost all of them.

  4. @elizabeth "Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends." ~ Dawn Adams ~ You know me, and I am at least as much Sookie as I am Elizabeth Bennett, and there's no denying it. ;)

    @leel The Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell is one of my favs!!! I think with the book this is one of those rare instances where you may as well just watch the movie (did I just say that? Sacrilege, but true here, I think). And thanks for the suggestion, just cut and pasted it onto my to read list. :) And I still haven't read Time Traveler's Wife yet...

    @Mel I LOVE East of Eden. (hmmmm...reread, methinks?)I have been in reader's block phase for a couple of weeks now, but have several books in a stack on my bedside table waiting for me. I want to finally read "Dune" this year among many others. And I'd like to read another John Irving book, do you have a recommendation to follow Owen?

    Look at all the literary adventures to look forward too this year! I can just feel my readers block dissipating... I shore loves me books!

    *runs off to smooch a few hardcovers*

  5. 41 books?!?! That's incredible. You put me to shame, Evangeline! Although I did just devour 'The Lovely Bones' in 2 days. Good start to 2010, as is this post.

  6. Oh man, I loved this post! I also love to read...and love reading reviews of people's favorite books. I just used the word 'love' a lot there :)

    You really should read Time Traveler's Wife. So great.

  7. I know you're in a different time zone, but do you also have an extra hour? How do you manage? Kids, art, DH, blogging, and reading... you are an inspiration!

  8. i read comics this afternoon. Fables had a tree wang in it.

  9. oh i love this! Dooby makes me cry too. and Prayer For Owen Meany is one of my favorite Irving's.

  10. @K That's how I read too. I will devour a book in a few days, taking it with me everywhere and reading in every spare moment, but then I'll have several weeks of almost no reading at times too. Consistency is just not my natural tendency. ;)

    @Dawn Thanks. I have got to get my hands on Time Traveler's Wife!

    @FoM I don't sleep. Or mop my floors. Or comb my hair. ;)

    @Craig Comix is good. A highly undervalued artistic and literary medium. Tree wangs and all.

    @Maggie The first time I read HP & the Deathly Hallows I had to put the book down and go take a shower after Dobby departed, I was snotty bawling so hard.

  11. thanks for the comment on my blog and curses over the allergy thingy, it does hamper life doesn't it?
    I remember reading that fig quote when I first read Plath in the 70's. I think it was true for us then, now I just don't see it as an either or kind of life, I see that I am the tree and I allow all the figs to ripen slowly... : )

  12. I agree completely. :) I don't believe that "choosing one means losing all the rest", rather the imagery reminds me that there are other figs on my tree waiting for their time to be plucked.
    (although I also don't believe in the myth of "having it all", we do sacrifice some things for others, and I have felt her indecision and wondered about the paths not taken at times too.)

  13. E, my second favorite Irving is Widow for One Year, though I can't explain why. It's not as funny as Garp, but Ruth's character just stuck with me all these years. I'm even more excited now for East of Eden, since you love it too. It is shipping from Detroit, so I have to be patient. I just couldn't do Steinbeck on the kindle - what if there were scanning typos? Didn't seem right!
    The Dune series was among my favorite sci-fi reads ever, I read everything that man wrote. The spice is life!

  14. Evangeline, that Sylvia Plath quote sent shivers down my spine. For many years that's how I viewed my existence. Not anymore, though. Life is short, yet at the same time there are so many opportunities ready for the grasping.

    By the way, my son and I reread Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, almost every year.

  15. @Mel Thanks, added it to my Library list. There are now 14 books on my 2010 shortlist, and I picked up "Across the Nightingale Floor" on a whim at the library yesterday. It looks really cool.
    re: Dune, I have this really battered copy of it waiting for me. An artist sent it to the DH along with a Dune sketch. He loves the book so much he picks up any copies he finds at second hand stores, and passes them along to spread the Dune-love. Great idea, non?

    @Angie Right on! (to the many opportunities in life AND the HP & LotR yearly reread)


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