Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Revisiting my 2014 reading goals

Last January, I created a set of reading goals for the year. It was the first time I'd ever planned my reading in such an organized fashion; I tend to read as the mood strikes me or according to the order in which I've checked books out of the library.
  1. Read something contemporary (as in, written in the last five years). This was the year I got back into YA fantasy, and thanks to a number of fantastic blogs - Book Wars and Book Smugglers among them - I caught up on recent developments in YA and children's fiction since I left high school and no longer paid attention. Favorites included Elizabeth Wein's Rose Under Fire, Franny Billingsley's Chime, Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls, Margo Lanagan's The Brides of Rollrock Island, Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and Laline Paull's The Bees. I also read a few adult novels published in the last five years, including Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters (rated an honorable mention for the year), Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (meh), Jim Crace's Harvest (absolutely loved), and Drew Hayes's NPCs (delightful and fun). It would seem that after a couple of wonderful years reading mostly older fiction, I've begun to strike a balance.
  2. Read something Victorian (not including the Victorian things on this list). I had wanted to read another book by George Eliot or Elizabeth Gaskell, or perhaps try Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I did none of these things, and am feeling somewhat regretful about it. However, I still met the challenge, reading Oscar Wilde's A Picture of Dorian Gray (which a high school crush adored but after reading it, I can't really see why), E. Nesbit's The Story of the Treasure-Seekers and The Railway Children, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, and Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat
  3. Read something by Shusaku Endo.  This year I read Volcano, and found it even more inscrutable than Silence or Deep River.
  4. Read something by Marilynne Robinson.  Failed at this one. I started Housekeeping twice but couldn't get into it. I'm disappointed, because she's so beloved by a number of book bloggers whose opinions I generally share. Perhaps I'll try again some day when I can devote my full attention to her dense prose.
  5. Finish Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. The plan had been to take my copy with me to England, but I ended up bringing my Kindle and no physical books. So Les Miserables still sits on my nightstand, a bookmark at 478 pages out of 1463. I'm definitely going to get back to it someday, but by then I'll probably have to start over! Perhaps I should make this, as well as the other unfinished brick of a book on my nightstand, goals for next year.
  6. Re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Check! And it was absolutely amazing to read LOTR while in England, usually on the London Tube but occasionally on trains to other cities, catching glimpses of the rolling green hills that feature so prominently in Tolkien's descriptions.
  7. Read South Riding by Winifred Holtby.  I expected to love this one and I did!
  8. Read Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.  Oops. Nope. Maybe next year?
  9. Read Armadale or No Name for my annual Wilkie Collins October. I borrowed Armadale from my music librarian and started it around Halloween, per my tradition, but I got bogged down in this one. It's more detailed and less directed than The Woman in White or The Moonstone, and includes entirely too much obsession with names and family trees. I didn't finish and may give up on it.
  10. Read ShirleyThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall, or Wuthering Heights for my annual winter break Bronte novel. I'm partway through Wuthering Heignts, and will definitely finish this one! I'm enjoying it so much more than I did in high school, when we read it for my AP English Lit class - so atmospheric and so psychological.
Eight out of ten isn't bad, especially as it was my first year with reading goals and I spent the entire summer with only a Kindle. Having this kind of loose plan - nothing too restrictive or strenuous - was a fun experience and I'm already thinking about some goals for this year.

How about you? Did you set reading goals, and did you meet some or all of them? Did you share any of the same goals as me, and if so, did our results overlap? Did you love any of the books I did?


  1. Try Marilynne Robinson again. Try Gilead or Home, both of which are much, much better than Housekeeping. I loved both of them (have read them each twice) and hated Housekeeping!

    1. I've heard that, but I confess to some trepidation because while I study Calvin academically, I tend to be somewhat uncomfortable with Calvinism in literature, and supposedly Gilead is devoutly Calvinist. But if it's really that much more accessible, I've no excuse not to at least give it a shot! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I agree with Kathy about trying Gilead or Home. I think they're easier to get into. I did love Housekeeping, but it's a very different book in a lot of ways. If you like Gilead and Home, her newest, Lila, may be a good bridge to trying Housekeeping again, if you're so inclined.

    I'm sorry you're not enjoying Armadale. I really love that one, but it does take a while to get to the really great stuff. Once Lydia Gwilt is introduced it picks up a lot, but I have no idea how late in the book that is. She dominated the story so thoroughly once she appeared that I've forgotten some of the earlier stuff.

    1. How were you able to keep track of the family relationships when identical names play such a crucial role? It's almost as bad as Wuthering Heights, but at least my copy of that has a family tree at the front...

      In any case, thank you for the Robinson recommendation, and it's clear I'll need to take everyone's advice and give her another shot with another novel!