Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Reading Year

I confess that I haven’t kept thorough records this year. My list of books read in 2008 totals 75 titles, but I suspect that there are more that ought to have been included on that list that I failed to note down. That partially explains the significant dip from the 100 books per year that I’ve averaged since I started keeping track in 2005. What else might explain the deviation? It’s been a very productive year for me in academic research and writing which has meant lots of time devoted to reading articles, cases, and bits and pieces of books rather than books cover-to-cover. I’ve also been very scattered in my reading of late such that I find myself now surrounded by ten partially read books, some of them 500 plus pages, most of them more than half read, all of them very good books that I plan to finish, but not before the new year rings in. But enough about the books I didn’t finish. What of the ones that I did?

Of the 75 on my list, 62 were fiction, 11 non-fiction, and 3 poetry. They were nearly evenly split between male and female authors: 38 written by men, 34 written by women, 2 co-written by a combination of both, and one written by a pseudonymous author whose sex has not been revealed. The list is dominated by English-language authors from Canada, Scotland, England, and the U.S., but it also includes books by Australian, Chilean, Czech, French, Japanese, Norwegian, and Swedish authors. Eight were translations. I’d like to be reading more works in translation than that but, nevertheless, it’s a marked improvement from the one or two translations per year that I was averaging before I started seeking them out in connection with my 2007 “Reading Across Borders” challenge.

In fiction it was a genre-heavy year, with 40 of the 62 fiction titles falling into the category of crime fiction, and a further 7 into the category of fantasy (the latter a testament to my continuing love affair with Terry Pratchett’s discworld novels). In non-fiction, there was the usual smattering of biography, memoir and books about writing and/or reading. But also a number of books on running (my antidote to Olympic withdrawl) and on nutrition and food politics (always an interest but now, I think, elevated to a preoccupation). The poetry books were all contemporary, small press titles by Canadian authors. Three sounds like a scant number, but given that I rarely read poetry books cover-to-cover, opting instead to dip in and out, that number doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of poetry that I read.

One unusual feature of this year’s list of books read is the number of authors that made repeat appearances on it. The list includes seven authors by whom I read anywhere from three to six books in a single year. This can be accounted for by a combination of happy discoveries (new-to-me authors whose work I liked so well that I immediately sought out and read more of their books) and binge reading (it’s common-place for me to read several instalments of a mystery series in quick succession).

One all-too-usual feature of the list is that it has a resolutely contemporary tilt. It breaks down into 59 twenty-first century titles (18 of those published in 2008), and 17 twentieth century titles, with nary a one from the nineteenth century or earlier. (Yes, if you recall any of the bold resolutions that I made this time last year, that does mean that I didn’t finish War and Peace, or Les Miserables, or Don Quixote.)

If I were in a mood for making resolutions, I’d resolve to expand my reading horizons in 2009 by seeking out books from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and endeavouring to read at least a few pre-twentieth century titles. But I’m not in a mood for making resolutions. I may take my reading in those directions, but I’m not making any promises in that regard to myself or anyone else. I’m going to read whatever I feel like reading whenever I feel like it. My only bookish resolution is to blog more often, or at least more consistently, in 2009.

7 comments:

Heather said...

You kept way better track then I did in 2008. I was looking at my blog template today and realized that 5 only had 27 books listed as read but I'm positive it was more than that. I decided to wipe the board (blog) clean and start fresh. My only book related resolutions are to finally finish The Faerie Queene and read more non-fiction.

allanmcdougall said...

Kate, how do you keep track of your reading? Especially when it comes to articles/book chapters?

Seachanges said...

I am very impressed by the way you've kept track of everything you read! I read, review (or don't review) and chuck them in with the list of books read and reviewed on my blog page. I have also decided not to make any resolutions as far as reading lists, challenges etc. are concerned this year: I am going to read whatever comes my way, meandering through reviews, other blogs (yours and others) and finding out what is in the limelight and what books are getting rave reviews. You've made me think: I'll add a page to my blog: books/articles/whatever read in 2009, it's going to be the only way I can keep track. How did you do it, I mean, keeping track so meticulously? I shall follow your reading and reviews with interest! It does seem that few of us want any bookish resolutions this year...

Danielle said...

Happy New Year! I think it is amazing that you read so much while writing, researching and teaching!! I would love to see a list of the crime novels you read as I am always looking for ideas. I'd like to read more books from other places as well, but I mostly just want to read whatever happens to appeal this year and see where I end up!

Suko said...

Many of the books I read come my way by serendipity; you, on the other hand, seem quite organized. That's probably why you're able to read and create lists of so many books in spite of a busy if not hectic schedule.

Dorothy W. said...

I'd love it if you blogged more in 2009 because I love reading your posts, but I do understand how the rest of life gets in the way. I hope you have a great year!

litlove said...

Happy New Year, Kate! I love everyone's lists - it's always interesting to see how everyone breaks down their reading. If you do feel like expanding into Africa next year, I've very much enjoyed the Northern African writers Tahar Ben Jalloun, Assia Djebar and Marianna Ba. Just to lead you astray!