The Year in Review: Reading – 2009 Final Bookkeeping, and my Books of the Year
Before getting into the discussion of the quality of my reading this year, let’s run some numbers:
BOOKKEEPING: The Reading Status Report
Number of books read and reviewed in 2009: 47. This is an improvement over my 2007 reading, and a nice return to form from the dismal 35 I read in 2008. Given the pace at which I usually read, which isn’t aided by big chunks of reading time (other than my “Starbucks hour” most weekends), and the types of books I prefer, I really don’t see myself exceeding 50 books a year at this stage of my life, so I’m not displeased with the 2009 total.
I don’t really track my reading by sub-genres, but the major breakdown was 33 fiction, 14 nonfiction; 11 of the 14 nonfiction reads were memoirs.
Review copies read, from all sources:23. I’m fairly satisfied with that. With a nearly even split between books sent to me and books I bought, it looks like I didn’t do too badly at keeping review obligations from taking over my reading, and I want to keep the trend going in 2010 (while continuing to slow the influx of new review obligations). I reviewed books from the following sources in 2009:
Just one book? Easy! HAH! I kept thinking I’d have time to get to this, until I realized time was running out and I wasn’t going to meet my commitment. I sincerely apologize to Amy for dropping this one.
I’m currently reading my first qualifying book for this challenge, and I expect to significantly exceed my 5-book reading commitment, since my original prospective reading list for the challenge was at least twice that long and I’d like to read all of the books listed during the coming year.
I have obtained 5 of the 6 books I plan to read for this challenge, and may need to substitute for the sixth, since I can’t seem to find a copy of it. Since this challenge involves reading youth fiction and my list is 2/3 re-reads, I’m fairly optimistic about completing this one before the deadline.
I tend to read a lot of memoir as it is, and cross-challenges are allowed, so I think I can manage the minimum 4-book commitment for this new challenge (letters, diaries, and autobiographies also qualify).
Moving on to the more subjective, qualitative portion of the review of this year’s reading…
Best reading experience: The 24-Hour Readathon, October 2009 edition, featuring The Hunger Games. It was my first time joining in, and I didn’t last the entire time; however, I think I got in a solid 12-14 hours of reading, and I made it through 2-⅔ books. One of the two books I finished was Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games; I completed the sequel, Catching Fire, later that weekend after the Readathon was officially over. The novels were perfect – and popular – choices for the Readathon, but the real payoff came a little later. I handed both books to Katie, my 15-year-old stepdaughter, and told her “You ARE reading these. Now.” She had finished both within a week and loved them, and is now in the process of getting her friends hooked too.
Most disappointing read: I had the unfortunate experience this year of reading a few books that I wanted to like more than I did, but there’s really only one I regret feeling that way about. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a hard book to forget – beautifully written and thought-provoking – and I’m not sorry I read it. However, I had trouble connecting with it emotionally, and I ultimately feel like it was my failure rather than the novel’s; I ended up respecting it more than truly liking it.
Six months later, with 47 books behind me all together, here are my favorites of 2009. Book of the Year, fiction:The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff
David Ebershoff’s ambitious blend of historical fiction, murder mystery, and social commentary in interwoven stories of plural marriages divided by over a century has stuck with me for over six months since first reading it, and it’s a novel I look forward to re-reading one day. I was very impressed by Ebershoff’s use of distinct narrative voices and unconventional techniques – facsimile historical documents, letters, and Wikipedia pages are all part of the story. The novel as a whole is ripped-from-the-headlines contemporary in its themes, with a page-turning plot and vivid, memorable characters.
Fiction Honorable Mentions, in no particular order: The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
In September, The Help was voted “Best Book Published So Far in 2009” by participants in Book Blogger Appreciation Week. It’s rare for me to finish a book and immediately want to start reading it again, but I had that reaction to The Help. Kathryn Stockett’s first novel is thoroughly involving and engaging. It drew me in immediately and kept me reading compulsively.
I would truly describe this 120-page novella about the Queen of England’s late-in-life discovery of the delights of readingas “a joy.” If you should find yourself with a couple of hours to spare, you could do much worse than to spend them with a copy of The Uncommon Reader and the beverage of your choice.
This novel may have affected me more powerfully than any other I read this year. Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist by training who originally self-published this novel, has done a remarkable job of truly getting inside the mind and emotions of an Alzheimer’s patient. She includes a lot of real information about the disease and its effects in ways that don’t distract from the story, and she effectively captures its disruption and alteration of family, career, and daily life, but the fact that it’s all told from Alice’s perspective makes it unique and unforgettable.
Ayelet Waldman calls herself a Bad Mother chiefly because she falls short of the standard for the Good Mother. This book is an interesting combination of memoir and essay; each of the eighteen pieces in it revolves around personal incidents which Waldman relates to her own reflections and opinions on parenting and society. Her opinions are strong and expressed with eloquence and passion. Bad Mother would be a great read for moms’ book groups; it’s certain to generate discussion on multiple levels about both Waldman’s own stories and their relationship to bigger issues. Nonfiction Honorable Mention: Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran, by Azadeh Moaveni
While Westerners sometimes tend to lump the “Middle Eastern” countries together, Azadeh Moaveni elaborates on the ways in which Iran, whose heritage is Persian rather than Arabic, is different from its neighbors. However, while she is in the position of being able to report on Iranian developments from the inside, her purpose in this writing is to show their effects on individual lives – particularly her own, as a ethnic Iranian raised in the United States and working for an American news magazine, returned to her family’s homeland by work and her own choice.
I really think I had a pretty good reading year, and as it winds down, these are the things that stand out for me. How do you feel about your 2009 reading overall, and what are you looking forward to in 2010?