Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year's Ritual #1: Last Year's Books

All along the course of a year I keep the books I've read in an ever-taller stack by the side of my bed and keep a running list on this here blog. Then on New Year's Day or as close to it as I can manage, I lovingly shelve the prior year's books. This generally entails dusting thoroughly and quite a bit of moving things around, given that there's the alphabet to consider when shelving Fiction and space considerations as well in the Science/Nature, Poetry, or History sections. There's a fair bit of mooning around and staring too, as handling each book reminds me of a specific time, what else was going on for me as I was reading, and puts me back in the story for a little bit. This is a solitary pursuit, best engaged in while other residents of the house are otherwise occupied. Talking ruins it.

At the beginning of 2009, in reviewing my list of 2008 books, I sincerely hoped I'd read more than 30 books this year, improving on last year's count. [Full list of 2008 books available here:] Well, I didn't break 30 this year. Twenty-nine is the count I get, and actually it's less than that when you consider that I didn't finish a couple (seems like cheating to count those that I haven't quite completed). Looking back, I am remembering that reading and studying for the Biology class I took at College of Marin last January - May interfered with my reading-time. Lymphoma also distracted me and kept my nose out of the books.

I started out the year sitting in the Big Chair chain-reading the Alexander McCall Smith "Isabel Dalhousie" series that my parents sent me for my birthday. Now that's my kind of present: a box full of books showing up on my stoop! And such delightful, clever little reads, really so charming. Then it appears I wound my way through Booker Prize winners and short-listed titles and, uncharacteristically, through a fair amount of non-fiction, from bees, to urban farms, drug addition, Marie Antoinette, cooking, funerals, migraines, indulging quite a variety of interests. Big thanks to Peggy for "Returning to Earth," which she loaned me (Peggy's list would be amazing and long, since she reads more than anyone I know, except maybe Alicia). Also thanks to Donna, who recycles many books to me once she's done with them. Some of these I will admit didn't make the shelves in my house (Guernsey Potato Peel, Testimony), but got freecycled to another reader.

Favorite books from last year would include The White Tiger, Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Lightning Thief (can't wait to read the rest of these, and see the movie!), Marie Antoinette, The Reader, and the title I'm currently enjoying, Sea of Poppies. I [heart] Amitav Ghosh!

For 2010, I don't have any real goals when it comes to reading, except to do more of it. This year I'd like to consume the entire Booker Prize short-list, and keep with my one-poem-a-day reading, to ensure I have plenty of verse in my diet. Reading more than 30 titles would be great, too!

And now, gratefully, the list of last year's books:

IN PROGRESS: Sea of Poppies, Amitav Ghosh
The Migraine Brain, Dr. Carolyn Bernstein
The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
All She Was Worth, Miyuki Miyabe
Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a More Natural Way of Burial, Mark Harris
IN PROGRESS: When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron
Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl
Marie Antoinette, Antonia Fraser
The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan
The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
Testimony, Anita Shreve
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Tweak, Nic Sheff
Beautiful Boy, David Sheff
The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
IN PROGRESS: Enthusiasm, Swami Chidvilasananda
The Age of Shiva, Munil Suri
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
Farm City, Novella Carpenter
Robbing the Bees, Holley Bishop
A Fraction of the Whole, Steve Toltz
Returning to Earth, Jim Harrison
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
The Comforts of a Muddy Sunday, Alexander McCall Smith
The Right Attitude to Rain, Alexander McCall Smith
The Careful Use of Compliments, Alexander McCall Smith
Friends, Lovers and Chocolate, Alexander McCall Smith
The Sunday Philosophy Club, Alexander McCall Smith

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