Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's ritual: Book Nerd

I start every new year the same way: I buy a new notebook; I set a theme and make my  multi-page chart of goals/resolutions/ wishes; and  -- favoritest of all --  I shelf all the books I read in the past year.  

All year long I stack the books up as I finish them, first on the floating shelf next to my bed, then on the floor below.  I used to measure how high the stack grew, but now I don't care about that so much -- I'm just happy to see them all together, to consider them as a whole before they go off to their permanent homes.  

This annual shelving ritual lets me celebrate each title as I dust and re-arrange and make room for it on my overcrowded shelves.  It lets me consider any trends or unifying ideas or gaps that might have emerged from that year's reading.  And, most fun, it makes me really jump around about the characters that grabbed me, all the great stories and knowledge gained from the year's stack of books.  I hoist my Book Nerd flag and fly it high.

And naturally I add them up.

The year's total: 32.

I didn't read as much as in 2010 (35), but I still read an interesting mix, lots of kid lit, fiction and non-fiction, and a fair number of this year's Booker Prize shortlisted titles.  And let's be honest: Dance with Dragons and 1Q84 are both massive, at over 1,000 pages, so that helps explain my total.  Carving out more quiet time to park myself with a book is definitely on my 2012 Chart, as a major ingredient in a maximally happy life.  As is getting to 40.  Books, that is.

Instead of listing my reads chronologically as I have in the past (2010, 2009, 2008), I've categorized 2011's (oh, geeky glory!).  Those marked with an asterisk are re-reads.  My very favorite books are in blue.

Books about Animals, some non-fiction, but not all
The Wolverine Way, Douglas H. Chadwick
Bonobo Handshake, Vanessa Woods
Ape House, Sarah Gruen
A Dog's Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier
Purge, Sofi Oksanen
Incendiary, Chris Cleave
Slammerkin, Emma Donoghue
The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
The Sealed Letter, Emma Donoghue
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin
Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch
River of Smoke, Amitav Ghosh
1Q84, Haruki Murakami
The Lost Art of Gratitude, Alexander McCall Smith
The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt
Swamplandia!, Karen Russell

Dream Work, Mary Oliver

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
This Organic Life, Joan Dye Gussow

Kid Lit
* The Golden Compass, Phillip Pullman
* The Subtle Knife, Phillip Pullman
* The Amber Spyglass, Phillip Pullman

Lyra's Oxford, Phillip Pullman
Graceling, Kristin Cashore
* From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

* Heidi, Johanna Spyri

I could go on and on about some of these books.  In 2010 I loved Room so much that I went on a small-ish Emma Donoghue tear this year.  I read Great Expectations to try and reclaim it -- it's the book that in the seventh grade nearly destroyed me as a reader.  It's good, of course, but not for an 11-year-old.  I truly loved the Hunger Games series and Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  I definitely went a little nostalgia-mad last year and re-read kids' books that I love, dissecting them as I went, cataloging what's essential, to prepare me to write my own (coming soon, one of these days).  Oh, and I loved LOVED Jamrach's Menagerie and The Sisters Brothers, both Booker titles -- really excellent reads.

So I start 2012 in this state of book-passion, excited about where books have taken me so far and where they may take me in the coming year.  I'm super-glad to be joining up with From Left to Write this year, since the cyber-company of other book nerds is bound to be a fun little organizing principle, something that's always welcome.

For all this book-nerdy paroxysm, still I can't commit to placing this sticker on my car.  I've seen it on others' and loved it, but no matter how big a book worm I am, I just can't do it. Must be the ponytail...


Susanna Harwood Rubin said...

I LOVE this. And it is strangely familiar- I've been keeping lists since the early 90s & at first I was sort of embarrassed, but now I admit it - I love to go through them & see what I was thinking that year, have my memory nudged so that I recall what was going on in my life. My lists are really a journal.

I started an art project in the mid 90's in which I asked a whole bunch of my friends to keep track of their reading as well & I was going to make some map or chart of it all. Everyone fell off of the wagon & I abandoned the project, sadly. But it could be a really fun collaborative

Also, now you're inspiring my to shift my chronological listing activity to...a categorized one? Something else for me to consider...

Ariane said...

Hmmmm, if you re-consider that art project and are looking for participants, count me in. I can't HELP but keep a list of what I read and have also been doing it so long, I don't know what I'd do without it.