I know I’m a bit later than a lot of other bloggers in posting a summary of my year’s reading, but I wanted to wait until the year had actually ended in case a few more books decided to sneak past the finish line (a fortuitous decision, it turns out, as an unexpected diversion via Glasgow on our flight up to Edinburgh on the 30th meant I devoured another two books). The Old English Thorn and I have just arrived back from a wonderful visit to our friends in Scotland, so this is the first opportunity I’ve had to write up this post.
I was considering how best to wrap up my yearly reading when I stumbled across this meme on Other Stories, Kirsty’s excellent blog. It seemed like an excellent idea, so without further ado I pilfered it and here it is: a summary of my year in books.
How many books read in 2010?
This is the first year since I started recording my reading that I’ve not been in full time education, and I was surprised by quite how big a difference that made to my final reading total. I’ve managed to read 115 books this year, 90 of which I’ve read since I began commuting to London in June. It’s good to see that my train journey has its uses.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve mostly read fiction books this year. 107 of them, to be exact. I’ve only managed 6 non-fiction books: one wedding-planning guide, one book about facts, one periodical containing essays about books and three memoirs (but two of those were by Gerald Durrell, so they’re practically fiction anyway). I’m not particularly good at picking up non-fiction and it’s definitely something that I’d like to read more next year.
Apparently this year I have read 57 books by male authors, 55 books by female authors and 5 books either written jointly by male and female writers or anthologising authors of both genders. I’m actually really surprised at how even this is, particularly as it wasn’t something to which I was paying any attention when I chose books this year. I would have expected to read more female authors.
Favourite book read?
I’ve read far too many great books this year to limit myself to just one favourite, so here are a top six (yes, six because I couldn’t wittle it down to five) in no particular order. Even then, it’s a closely fought battle to appear in the rankings.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles – So clever, so elegant, so tricky and yet so readable. This self-aware neo-Victorian novel was never style over substance, but always a perfect blend of the two.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson – This gentle book made me smile like nothing else I read this year. It may not be terribly ‘literary’, but it’s sweet and funny and genuinely happy, making it impossible not to love. It was alsomy introduction to the marvellous Persephone Press, a publisher from whom I look forward to reading more this year.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – I was very impressed by Collins’ ability to write in such a wide variety of different voices and make them all distinct, and I loved the gripping mystery.
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West – It’s a rare thing that I describe a book as perfect, but that is how I found this book. The prose was like poetry and each word was so carefully considered and expertly deployed. I’m definitely intending to read more of West this year.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton – Heartbreaking and bittersweet, yet so witty and amusing. I loved this look at forbidden romance in old New York and Wharton’s writing style.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – This was my first tentative foray into Russian literature and it blew me away with its scope and insight. For me it was the slow, ponderous Levin rather than mercurial Anna who made the book so great. I read this before I’d started reviewing everything here, but you can read my thoughts on it here.
There were a few books I read this year that I didn’t particularly like, but the one book that I loathed with a fiery passion was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It annoys me that a book that is so lauded for being historically accurate is laughably far from being so; it felt bloated, repetitive and unnecessarily long; and the characters read like 20th century people dressed up in faux medieval clothing. But I do recognise that I’m decidedly in the minority with this opinion.
Oldest book read?
I think this honour goes to The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, first published in 1859.
As my books tend to come from charity shops and it takes a while for new books to filter through to them, I would guess that the newest books I read would be the two that I was kindly sent for review: The Breaking of the Shell by Barry Durdant-Hollamby and Oops! Darrell Bain’s Latest Collection of Stories.
Longest book title?
The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear – Being the biography of a seagoing bear, with numerous illustrations and excerpts from the ‘Encyclopaedia of the Marvels, Life Forms and Other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs’ by Professor Abdullah Nightingale by Walter Moers
Crash by J. G. Ballard
How many re-reads?
Absolutely none, although I know I’m heading for some in 2011.
Most books read by one author this year?
Thanks to finally deciding to read the Narnia books, C. S. Lewis is way out in front of any other author with 7 books this year.
Any in translation?
This year I read 10 books in translation, which is more than I would have expected. In order of reading they are: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Swedish), The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Spanish), The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (Swedish), La Prisonniere by Malika Oufkir (French), Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Russian), Death and the Penguin by Andrei Kurkov (Russian), The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers (German), One Hundred Years of Solitue by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Spanish), Baudolino by Umberto Eco (Italian), The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (Norwegian).
And how many of this year’s books were from the library?
Absolutely none as I haven’t been able to use the library this year because of my working hours. I’ve finally sorted myself out with the ability to reserve books from the online library catalogue now though, so that I can either go and collect them at the weekend from the larger library or send my wonderful mother on my behalf.