The year in books

71975def-17e0-48e0-9d56-39fe2e09a477With nearly a week remaining in the year, I am calling it at 120 books read this year. (As always, I have included only cover-to-covers.) Here is my complete list, and here are a few numbers:

— 50 novels (not including graphic works)
— 37 non-fiction titles (not including graphic works)
— 3 poetry selections
— 6 plays
— 24 graphic works (six of which were non-fiction selections)

As I recounted in October, I crafted a bold challenge for this year: Read one hundred books from my shelves (i.e., books in my collection before the end of 2018), including at least 24 non-fiction titles and at least one book from each of the following “special collections”: Shakespeare, poetry, NYRB, Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, philosophy, art, and children’s / YA. I also planned to make short work of 2018’s unfinished business and to closely (re)read Moby-Dick.

Knowing that my daughters’ relocation would consume a great deal of my spring and summer, I chose a goal of 104 books total for the year, but I happily surpassed that goal by 16. So, while I did not meet my challenge of one hundred from the shelves, it was certainly a fascinating and productive year of reading! I read a total of 42 non-fiction books — a substantial increase over previous years; 18 of these were from my shelves. Well before my October review I had completed the books I carried over from last year, and I completed my reread of Moby-Dick on Christmas Eve. I met all of my mini-challenges, too:

Shakespeare RFS: Hamlet
Poetry RFS: Lunch Poems (Frank O’Hara)
NYRB RFS: The Summer Book (Tove Jansson)
Vonnegut RFS: Player Piano
Joyce Carol Oates RFS: The Rise of Life on Earth
Philosophy RFS: Letters from a Stoic (Seneca)
Art RFS: But is it art? (Cynthia Freeland)
Children’s / YA RFS: Milkweed (Jerry Spinelli)

Here are a few more facts about this year’s 120 books, 32 of which were published this year:

— 53 read from shelves
— 31 acquired this year
— 28 borrowed from the library
— 8 other

And here are the standouts:

Even better on rereading:
Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale (Herman Melville; 1851. Fiction.)
Beowulf (Trans. Seamus Heaney; 2000. Poetry.)
Oedipus the King (Sophocles (Trans. Ian Johnston; 2007); 429 B.C. Drama.)

The most engrossing books I read this year (not including rereads):
Ghost Wall (Sarah Moss; 2018. Fiction.)
A Loss for Words: The Story of Deafness in a Family (Lou Ann Walker; 1986. Non-fiction.)
The Wall (John Lanchester; 2019. Fiction.)
Charmed Particles (Chrissy Kolaya; 2015. Fiction.)
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America (Beth Macy; 2018. Non-fiction.)
An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic (Daniel Mendelsohn; 2017. Non-fiction.)
The Mighty Franks (Michael Frank; 2017. Non-fiction.)
In the Woods (Tana French; 2007. Fiction.)

Honorable mention:
The Story of Arthur Truluv (Elizabeth Berg; 2017. Fiction.)
American Spy (Lauren Wilkinson; 2019. Fiction.)
Wild Game (Adrienne Brodeur; 2019. Non-fiction.)
All the Names They Used for God (Anjali Sachdeva; 2018. Fiction.)

Fabulous story for a long car trip:
Paddle Your Own Canoe (Nick Offerman; 2013. Non-fiction.)

Fabulous story to read while waiting in airports:
My Sister, The Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite; 2018. Fiction.)

Cannot stop talking about the ideas in these books:
Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality (Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton; 2013. Non-fiction.)
The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged (Sam Friedman and Daniel Laurison; 2019. Non-fiction.)
The Years That Matter Most (Paul Tough; 2019. Non-fiction.)
The Privileged Poor (Anthony Abraham Jack; 2019. Non-fiction.)

Best graphic works I read this year:
Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead (Bill Griffith; 2019. Graphic non-fiction.)
They Called Us Enemy (George Takei; 2017. Graphic non-fiction.)

At this writing, I am still drafting my 2020 goals, but 120 will likely be my minimum total, with at least 24 non-fiction. Otherwise? In 2017, I completed “Shakespeare in a Year,” and the group is reconvening in 2020 to follow this schedule. Although I posted the schedule and accepted an invitation to serve as a moderator, I remain ambivalent. I had planned to reread at least four of the plays in 2020 (in anticipation of productions we are slated to see), but I have the ingredients of several other projects — including the Bible, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and a reread of George Eliot’s Middlemarch — any of which would prove more compelling than revisiting the sonnets. Heh, heh, heh. (This year’s projects included rereading James Joyce’s Ulysses and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.)

No matter what I decide, I will continue to participate in Robin’s “52 Books in 52 Weeks.” Speaking of which, one of her suggested challenges is to read three Agatha Christie works in 2020. Because Robin got me hooked on Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, the recommendation to return to Christie, an author I once adored, has that serendipity / synchronicity / synthesis vibe that I so appreciate.

4 thoughts on “The year in books

  1. LOVE the pic of the book-lined home! Like yrself I reread books on my shelf. Among them James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk (my fav Baldwin), Colette’s Break of Day, Charles Dickens Oliver Twist, Toni Morrison’s Sula and Beloved, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, & the grandaddy of them all, Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace. I so love that book. I hate to finish it. Also read Ulysses Grant’s Memoirs. What a remarkable book on many levels. I admire yr love for Moby Dick, I can’t get into it to save my life! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: the reading year - Side Hustle Intellectual

  3. Pingback: The reading life | Nerdishly

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