Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Year in Books

I am in the middle of reading a Moliere play for the Shakespeare Book Club, to which I was invited for January 5.  I may or may not finish it before the end of the year, so I thought I would take today to talk about my year in books.

For several years, I have been keeping track of the books I read, both the number of books and the number of pages, and I made a decision last year.   In 2009, I read 32 books (15,904 pages); in 2010 it was 40 books (15,811 pages), in 2011 it was 41 books (14,701 pages).  The number of books was going up, the number of pages was going down!

I decided that in 2012 I wanted to aim for 50 books and, a lot having to do with working in a book store and trying to read a book a day while there, I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.  Not counting the Moliere, I have read 77 books, a total of 24,549 pages.

Now, most of those books were lightweights and some were downright silly (those I read at the book store.  I also included audio books in the list, since I feel those qualify, even if someone is reading them to me.  So I decided to do a breakdown of the kinds and types of books that I read this year.

- 31 were "real books" I read at the book store
- 24 were Kindle books (4 of those were book club selections)
- 12 were "real books" I read at home
- 10 were audio books

Using the classifications I use on my Kindle these are the genres that I read

- 26 were what I call "blood and guts" books (crime drama)
- 20 were contemporary fiction
- 16 were biographical or autobiographical
- 4 were "classics"
- 4 were history
- 3 were historical fiction
- 3 were "oddball" (e.g., the Australian Akubra hat) 
- 1 was sci fi

I went through my list to see which I would name as the best book I read in 2012.  I decided it was a toss-up among three of them.

"Book of Illusions" by Paul Auster was the first book I read for the book club I had just joined and it cemented my decision to stay with the club (though subsequent books haven't had the same impact!) About a fictitious movie director and the hunt for him. "Auster writes with such convincing detail that the first part of his book reads almost like a documentary, so much so that I wanted to google Hector Mann and find out what Wikipedia had to say about him."

"The Elephant Whisperer" by Lawrence Anthony (who has since died) and Graham Spence is the story of the wilderness reserve Anthony set up in So. Africa and the herd of elephants he adds to the place, the difficulties he experiences, and the grudging mutual respect they came to have for each other.  A P.S. to the book (not in the book, of course) is that when Anthony died recently, his wife reported that the elephants walked miles across the reserve to their house, where they had never been before, and stood for a day, seemingly to give respect to his spirit, and then they turned around and walked away again.

The third is Diane Keaton's autobiography, "Then Again."   This is unlike any Hollywood autobiography you're likely to read and is funny, intelligent, and a tear jerker.  It is a wonderful tribute to her mother, more than anything else. and I loved it.

Honorable Mention would have to go to "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street," Helene Hanff's story of her first visit to London.   You may recall that Hanff's story was first told in "84 Charring Cross Road," which detailed her growing friendship with the staff of a little book store during the years following WWII.  By the time she was able to afford to go to London, the store had closed and its manager, her friend, had died, but her joy at finally being in London is infectious and I loved the book.

As for the "worst" of 2012, the scum at the bottom of the list is also a toss-up between two books. "The Stupidest Angel," by Christopher Moore was also a book club selection I was looking forward to reading because I had enjoyed Moore's "Lamb:  The Gospel according to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal."  However, I found absolutely nothing to like in "Angel" and was sorry I had wasted time on it. I felt it should be renamed "The Stupidest Book."

Sharing the bottom spot would be James Patterson's "Zoo," which Amazon says is "the book Patterson was born to write."  If that is the case, it was a misspent life.  Time magazine's reviewer also said it was Patterson's best book. This story was pure crap from start to finish.  It was so bad, I didn't even add it to my "Books of 2012" list, but did write a review on Good Reads, if you're interested (**spoiler alert**:  I tell the whole story, so you don't have to read the book itself)

As for the weirdest book of 2012, it would have to be "Driving Mr. Albert," the story of a guy who takes a cross-country trip with an 84 year old pathologist and, in the pathologist's suitcase, a mayonnaise jar containing Einstein's brain, 40+ years after the scientist's death.

I think it unlikely I will top my 77 books next year, but I will try.   It would be nice to shoot for 100, but I'll be happy to just keep reading and discovering new and interesting things to read.


Kwizgiver said...

Great post! I have a page dedicated to the books I've read so I can keep track. I was aiming for 50 books but I think I fell short, I need to count.

Bev Sykes said...

I like the way you've set up your book page, with the photo and basic info. I may try that for 2013. You may have fell short of your 50, but you had more "meaty" books than I did.

millie garfield said...

So happy I found you again. Saw the name of your blog on Ronni's site and it turned out to be BEV.

Enjoyed reading about your hair and all the books you read in 2012.

I'll be back!