Wednesday, December 25, 2013

2013 in books

It’s always fun at the end of December to evaluate what I’ve read.  Reading occupies so much of my time that in a way, a look back at the books is a look back at my life for the last year.

So here's 2013 by the numbers:
Total fiction: 149 (no doubt I’ll bump that up to at least a round 150 by the very end of the year)
Total non-fiction for fun: 4
Total academic books for classes or quals: 44 (and that's just the ones that I read cover-to-cover!)
Total re-reads: 35
Total children's books: 98
Total read aloud: 1 (I do wish my husband and I had more time to read together)
Total read on my new-to-me Kindle: 57 (definitely the best 20 bucks I spent all year)
Total books read: 197 (wow!)

I did a lot more re-reading this year than last year, when I started my blog.  I'm still eager to read new-to-me recommendations (my list has swelled to over 300), but it had also been a few years now since I revisited some old favorites.  It was lovely and I don't regret any of that time - re-reading old favorites is like sinking down into a chair that has been perfectly broken-in.  Many of these re-reads were children's books, which brings me to my second observation...

I read a lot more children's books this year too, and I really do mean a LOT.  This year I revisited Redwall, Tamora Pierce's books, Dear America diaries, the Animorph series, the Madeline books, the last few books in the Artemis Fowl saga, and a whole host of miscellaneous others.  In the end, about 2/3 of all the books I read this year were children's or young adult fiction - and I don't regret any of that time either.  I spent my summer days learning Latin and studying for my upcoming qualifying exams, and I spent my fall semester reading and critiquing several entire academic books each week for my independent study.  After all that brain-work, I desperately needed enjoyable, easy books to read.  Easy, however, is only meant in the sense of the reading level.  Many of these books explore terribly difficult moral dilemmas and societal problems, like the Animorph series, which constantly forces its child protagonists to question how far they'll go to defend humanity from a war it really has no chance of winning, or Among the Hidden, which ponders differing responses to totalitarian government, or Tamora Pierce's novels, which criticize sexism, racism, animal cruelty, and marriage inequality.

Where I'm disappointed is in the lack of national variety.  Perhaps influenced by Simon (who recently completed his dissertation on English interwar middlebrow fiction – congrats!), I’ve enjoyed lot of English middle-brow books – these are good fiction, but not the canonical greats, which means they are much easier to read and enjoy.  It’s not too surprising that I read a lot of English lit, seeing as I study English music professionally and am even planning a trip to England this summer (more on that later!), but it’s perhaps a little sad that my reading horizons are so limited.  I only read a few new books that really felt like they heralded from outside of Britain, giving me a taste of a different culture (including my own American one):
  • Edith Wharton, Glimpses of the Moon and Summer (American)
  • Italo Calvino, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (Italian)
  • Johann David Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson (Swiss)
  • Shusaku Endo, Deep River (Japanese)
  • Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child (American)

This year, I didn't abandon any books!  Perhaps I should have, though.  There were a few books I didn't much enjoy reading, but by the time I realized this, I was over halfway through and so I struggled on to the bitter end.  Unfortunately, half of these are the aforementioned non-British books, which says to me that I really need to make some better choices.  I'd love recommendations!
  • Maureen Duffy, That’s How It Was
  • Italo Calvino, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  • Johann David Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson
  • Isabel Colegate, Statues in a Garden

Soon, perhaps tomorrow, I'll post a few thoughts about my favorite books of the year.  For now, let me leave you with a photo that in an odd way, illustrates my life as a graduate student perfectly!

What do you do when you have this many books to return to the
library at the end of the semester?  Build a book fort, of course!


  1. What a terrific reading year you've had, Samantha! It was great to catch up on some of the titles you've read this year. I look forward to more thoughts on your reading experiences. (I love the book fort :)). Merry Christmas, Samantha!

    1. Merry Christmas, Lee-Anne! I hope you've had a lovely day! Did you get any reading time today (hopefully with tea)?