2011 Year-end Reading Round-up

Counting down from last year's 3381 books left to read, I've got "only" 3131 more books to enjoy. What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here.

And here's the 2011 reading analysis (2010 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2011: 250 (200)
best month: August/29 (July/37)
worst month: May/12 (September/7)
average read per month: 20.8 (16.6)
adult fiction as percentage of total:  21.2 (14.5)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 54.4 (43)
mystery as percentage of total: 9.6 (11.5)
Advance Readers Copies:  (106) - to be updated later
books read that were published in 2011: 172
books that will be published in 2012: 15

Five star reviews: 18 (20)
One star reviews: 11 (6)

This is what I said last year: "200 books. A nice, neat, tidy number, but wholly unexpected. I'll be very surprised to repeat that feat in 2011. And since I added 184 books, Mt. Bookpile only shrank by a mere 16, leaving my goal of <300 for next year." HA!  What did I know?  250 books read (not matching Wendy's exhortation to read a book a day, but still not bad), and despite adding books, Mt. Bookpile is down to 290!

Given that my circumstances will change in 2012, 250 is optimistic, but we'll try for 200 and further reduction on Mt. Bookpile.

Oh, and if you're looking for other lists (and To Be Read inspiration), Sherry over at Semicolon has done an amazing job of collecting booklists and year-end-round-ups.  Go.  Make a list for your 2012 reading.  Enjoy.

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Whew! What an amazing year of reading... and this quarter brought 60. Reviews in the usual place.

Children's/Young Adult

The Road to Petra; D.C. Baramki
Mysteries of the Middle Ages; Thomas Cahill
The Perils of Peace; Thomas D. Fleming
Exploring Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials; Lois H. Gresh
The Story About the Story; J.C. Hallman
Sympathy for the Devil; Virginia A. McConnell
Living With Ghosts; Prince Michael of Greece
A Train in Winter; Caroline Moorehead
The Filter Bubble; Eli Pariser

Science Fiction/Fantasy


Surprising Moments of Joy

My sense of myself is not of someone who has many friends.  That's not to say I'm a loser/loner, but that my natural state is to have a few people that I'm friends with outside work and then a bunch of people at work with whom I'm friendly.  This past year has taught me that perhaps that's not quite the case!

There has been a Big Life Change, a Massive Disruption if you will.  While part of me embraced this as being a much needed change, part of me was (is) quite nervous and scared.  Those surprising moments of joy?  The incredible number of people who have been supportive and who at times saved me from my worst inner demons.  So here is a list, in no particular order, of all those who have shared a good meal, offered advice/comfort/support, provided a laugh or otherwise brought joy into my life:
Ellysa, mk, Amy, Kath, Wendy, Lucia, Jo, Suzy, Marion, James, Jack, Flavia, Julie, Jean, Kevin, Michael, Waits, Phil, Mac, Danny, Bill, Cate, Thomas, Amelia, Carol, Robert, Julia, Alice, Lisa, Betty, Philip, Elizabeth, Heather, Anne Marie, Jo, Angela, Steve, Ted, Charlotte, Caroline, Rayona, Gail, Karli, Renee, Dave, Susan, Clara, Jen, Rowena, Daryl, Yapha, Karen, Liz, Maya, Francey, Carla, Buffy, Deb, Connie, Chuck, Karen, Diana, Rudy, Tobe, Alex, Cece, Beth, Brendan, Jonathan, Cathy and Terry
Here's to many more such moments, and my hope you all have been as blessed with friendship as I am.


#Reverb11: Week Three

The third week of #Reverb11 prompts - here are my responses:

Prompt 8: Limits
We often learn our limits the hard way. Were there any limits you realized this past year? Alternately, what self-imposed limits were you able to move beyond this year?
- I'm not sure that I realized any new limits this year, but I have become more aware of the limits to my energy levels, my ability to deal with unreasonable people and desire for a cluttered life. As for moving beyond, perhaps clutter isn't a limit, per se, but moving towards a simpler, "loser"-oriented life definitely is.

Prompt 9: Superpower
If you were a superhero, what would your power be?
- This is not a "superpower" but I'd like to have some artistic talent. Even being able to sing on-key feels like it requires powers far beyond me!

Prompt 10: Soul Food
How do you nourish your soul? What activities are essential nutrients for your soul’s well-being?
- It's axiomatic that cuddling with The Herd feeds my soul. Beyond that: spending time with "family" (those related to me and those relatives-by-choice). choosing to eat (drink) only quality food (or drink). Meeting and silence. reading curled up in front of my fireplace.

Prompt 11: Anticipation
What is the one thing that you are most looking forward to in 2012?
- Moving on to whatever the next phase in my life is (those of you that know me IRL will understand that one).

Prompt 12: Mistakes
It’s easy to focus on our mistakes—to reflect with 20/20 hindsight and berate ourselves for what went wrong. Bring your awareness to a mistake you’ve made over the past year. Unveil one positive lesson from that mistake. How can you actively use this lesson moving forward?
- Not moving past a relationship that wasn't working; my not finding a positive way to do this has (I believe) hurt the other person, which I feel guilty about because that wasn't the intention. The lesson? That dealing with those with whom I feel anger/hurt/resentment/irritation/etc towards still demands grace and thoughtfulness on my part. And I intend to try to make amends now, as well as being more aware in the future.


Can you say "bias"?

When I work with students on evaluating information, one of the things we discuss is how polls are conducted: how are the questions asked becomes one of the critical pieces. This e-mail blast from my Congresswoman really illustrates biased questioning:

(for full message, go here)

I've been appalled by the irresponsibility of the Republicans, whose only goal seems to be "defy the President" rather than doing the work necessary to help their constituents. If this is how one of the Conference Committee members is presenting the issue, nothing will get done. Silly me, I thought that committee was dedicated to finding a solution.

My suggested solution? Vote 'em all out, Democrats and Republicans equally. Let's start over with a whole new cast of characters.


Yet another crash blossom!

Yesterday I saw this in my e-mail inbox:

Did they mean that you could use Christmas to inspect your car? St. Patrick's Day as a coaster? Sadly, this is what they meant:

(yes, my sense of humor leaves something to be desired)


#Reverb11 Round-up: Week Two

The second week of #Reverb11 prompts asked us to think about the topic of giving. Here is my response:

Prompt #7: Giving
“The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” (David Viscott) What is your gift to give?
- I'd like to think that my gift to give is my loyalty to my friends, trying to be there when they need me, offering hope, encouragement and an ear/shoulder as required. My gift to give to my profession is practicality, looking at the what the thinkers and doers are up to and trying to work out ways that others can emulate and adapt their ideas. My gift to give to my employers, colleagues and students is hard work and help with their reading and information needs.

One friend told me that we only have three things to give: time, treasure and talent. I often freely give of my time and talent (such as it is), but treasure? That's a goal to work on for 2012.


I just know I mis-read this

At 4:15am, blearily glancing at this, I wondered "how does one become ex-French"? Then as the fog cleared I realized they meant "former French President". Thank you, WSJ, for today's crash blossom!


Getting into the holiday spirit

For the past few weeks I've been complaining about the Best Buy commercials that feature women buying many, many gifts for family (and friends) and then sneering at Santa for not being relevant or needed. My thoughts are along the lines of "isn't this mean-spirited? why do they need to go there?"

The other day Thing One sent me this link to a WaPo article about these commercials (they include recent Target and Walmart ads that are equally snide)
Months ago, there must have been a roomful of Best Buy mucketymucks who were presented with this atonal, needlessly mean-spirited ad campaign and were utterly delighted by the notion, laughing their heads off. I wonder if anyone in charge had second thoughts.

There's a lessening of civility throughout society and these commercials exemplify it. I won't go into my "bring back the good old days" rant, but I do encourage others to not shop at those stores or to complain to their management. Unless, of course, you also think those ads are funny.

On the other hand, I found this photo my parents forwarded to be funny... and a great commentary on consumer "can-you-top-this" culture:

#Reverb11 Round-up: Week One

As I mentioned at the start of December, I've been participating in the Reverb11 meme. And as promised, here's a round-up of the first week of prompts and my responses.

Prompt #1: One Word
Encapsulate the year 2011 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2012 for you?
- For 2011, it would be scary: many life changes on the horizon, with too many unknowns. For 2012, I want it to be serenity, having found peace in my personal and professional lives.

Prompt #2: Writing
What piece of writing are you most proud of from 2011? How does this piece differ from your other pieces?
- I think several of my professional blog posts (yes, posts) are my "most proud" pieces of writing. Recognizing that the prompt asked for one piece, my response is still the same. My other writing (for professional journals and at MFPOW) was less heart-felt and far less personal.

Prompt #3: Year in Review
As you reflect back on the happenings of 2011, what were your high points and what were your low points? What do you notice as you look back on the year as a whole?
- Low points were definitely professional - realizing that my vision wasn't shared, that my talents weren't appreciated and that my input was discounted. The high points were accepting the lows and moving on... finding time to reflect and refresh... discovering friendships I hadn't appreciated fully before... and, most important, starting to live my life in a way that doesn't compromise things I feel deeply in favor of expediency.

Prompt #4: Beauty
How have your standards of beauty shifted in the past year?
- They haven't. While I can appreciate something that's beautiful, it's the inner essence that's really attractive and if there's an imperfection in the external face it doesn't really matter to me.

Prompt #5: Reading
What has been your favorite book (or books if you can’t pick just one) that you’ve read this year?
Of course I can't choose just one or two - but these are the 5-star reads from 2011:
The Artful Dodger, Nick Bantock
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
Noah Barleywater Runs Away, John Boyne
Where She Went, Gayle Forman
fathermothergod, Lucia Greenhouse
The Shattering, Karen Healey
Mr. Chartwell, Rebecca Hunt
When She Woke, Hillary Jordan
The Lantern, Deborah Lawrenson
Exposure, Kimberly Marcus
The Tiger's Wife, Téa Oberht
The Invisible Ones, Stef Penney
A Trick of the Light, Louise Penny
Please Look After Mom, Kyung-Sook Shin
Press Here, Hervé Tullet
Before I Go to Sleep, S.J. Watson
Lost in Shangri-la, Mitchell Zukoff

Prompt #6: Ease
What can you do to add ease to 2012?
- Continuing to create a house that welcoming, where I can find comfort in addition to inspiration and healing will be the biggest "to do". It's essential to the process of mental decluttering and learning to let go of the past (a book I recently read talked about forgiving not equaling a reinstatement of trust or forgetting what happened; I need to work on remembering and practicing that).


Notable Quotes

Things are better now, but for a while it seemed like there was a Puritanism running through children's publishing that bore no resemblance to reality.  Kids were thought to be unable to separate the mildly gross from the debauched -- to my mind, a horribly patronizing attitude.  My children adored Roald Dahl, and they had no problem separating out his diet of squashed worm sandwiches from their real dinner.  Fortunately, the socially correct tourniquet around children's books seems to be easing, but a new Big Brother arrived on the scene.  One that says, "We mustn't frighten children with long words and complexity."  It's curious to note that a first-time submission of Alice in Wonderland would probably be passed over by the majority of present-day children's book publishers, and Lewis Carroll would be piling up those little rejection slips.  It really shouldn't be a matter of choosing between Grimm and bland, but as long as we underestimate our children as much as we overestimate ourselves, we will reap the inevitably unpleasant rewards.
Nick Bantock, Artful Dodger



Scanning my RSS feeds this morning, I saw a post on A Beautiful Ripple Effect that talked about Reverb11:
The purpose of Reverb11 is to reflect on the past year and usher in the new year with intention. Rather than blindly entering 2012, you enter the new year with a renewed sense of purpose and empowerment. This new perspective enables you to be more proactive rather than merely reactive.
Having spent much of this year decluttering and reflecting, this is the perfect way for me to end 2011 and head into 2012. For my daily posts, there's my twitter feed or my lifestream over on the left. And I'll post a round-up at the end of the month (or early January). Feel free to join in!