2013 Year-End Reading Round-Up

325 Books Read.  Not as good as last year, but then, this year included a Big Life Change that took away most of my reading time in September/October.  Going by my supposed 2413 books left to read I've been trying to be better about DNF'ing books that just don't hold up. For lists and review links, go hereherehere and here (the totals on the review blog won't match these because I don't add the books I read for professional review or for a fiction award).

And here's the 2013 reading analysis (2012 numbers in parens):
  • number of books read in 2013: 325 (400) 
  • best month: April/29 (July/48) 
  • worst month:  October/8 (October/23) [what is it with October?]
  • average read per month:  27.08  (33.33) 
  • adult fiction as percentage of total: 24.92 (22.75) 
  • children's/YA fiction as percentage of total:  40.6 (43.75) 
  • Advance Readers Copies: 209 (181) 
  • e-books: 2 (16)
  • books read that were published in 2013: 226
  • books that will be published in 2014: 20
  • five star reviews (aka "Must Read"):  25 (31) 
  • one star reviews (aka "DNF"):  24 (20) 
Last year I thought I'd get to 300... then revised it to 365... then back down to 300... and finally set on 325 (one in/one read for the year).  By Dec. 18 I was only at 298 and wasn't sure I'd make it.  YAY for Thing One being understanding and leaving me alone to read.  I even met the Reading Challenge I set myself, repeating the one from 2012, regarding "oldies". With Mt. Bookpile holding steady in 2013, my goal for 2014 is to read 300 books and get the mountain below 250.

Looking for additional lists?  Stay tuned - that post's right around the corner.

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Whew! I honestly didn't think I'd get to my 2013 goal (originally 300, then 365, then back to 300, then up to 325... but on Dec 19th I was only at 299).  Thanks to some marathon reading, I got there.  Did that influence my reviews? Not really: each book was approached with an open mind and hope for a 5-star read.  Now I'm looking forward to 2014 and the books that brings!

Children's/Young Adult
Science Fiction/Fantasy
  • Lighthouse Island, Paulette Jiles

The history you know...

On Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day I actually went to the movies!  What'd I see? Saving Mr. Banks (with a work friend) and The Wolf of Wall Street (with Thing One).  Only later did I realize that both were fictionalized accounts of real events, with white- or black-washing depending on the character and/or studio motivation.  What made a real difference for me was that I knew Wall Street and the backstory to the latter movie, while I'd only read and loved Mary Poppins (the book; I liked the movie, despite That Accent, and hated the Broadway show).

Is the movie profane? Of course.  But then, so was much of what went on on Wall Street at that time.  And as movies go, In Bruges is worse vis-a-vis the ratio of swearing to other language. Is it accurate? Well... not so much.  Maybe that's what kept me interested: playing spot-the-error.  Errors like, the culture at L.F. Rothschild wouldn't have allowed a character like McConaughey's to be as flamboyant as it was.  Like, the way the characters dressed wasn't in keeping with the times.  Like, the idea that selling penny stocks was new and radical (Michael Milken, anyone? plus I know "junk" traders who were doing legitimate trades in the '90s).  And let's be honest, the firm was never a Wall Street firm, it was based on the Island.  On our way out, there were some 20somethings cranky because the cast wasn't racially mixed - as a private firm, Stratton had no obligation to follow EEOC guidelines and in that regard, at least, it was very accurate.  Thing One commented later that the swearing may have been over the top, but it did downplay the drug use (believe it or not!). And the movie did bring back memories of my time working at an investment bank: the night before Black Monday I'd hung out with Thing Three and was so tired the next day that I didn't pay attention to any news when I got home - it wasn't until the next day the import of the losses from Monday became apparent.

As for "Mr. Banks", now I want to re-read the books and learn more about P.L. Travers.  What little I know (thanks to posts like these) shows a woman far more interesting than the one portrayed in the movie.  And here's a fun fact: she was at Radcliffe when my dad was teaching at Harvard and attended things my parents attended (Mom being a 'Cliffie didn't hurt, either).  The whitewashing of Disney himself bothered me somewhat. We know the man smoked, but these days you're not allowed to smoke - even to make things historically accurate - unless you're the villain (see Jonah Hill in the previous movie).  At the end, hearing Travers' voice on the audio recording from her work sessions in the Disney studios was fascinating.  Pity the script wasn't verbatim.

Who knows when I'll next make it into an actual movie theatre - my tolerance for the high prices and low ROI keeps sinking.  Neither movie I saw was a Must See On the Big Screen movie (few are).  There is something to be said for the group experience, hearing others chuckle and gasp along with you; on the other hand, there's something to be said for not hearing others' cell phones go off at a critical moment and not seeing the glow from their screens as they text someone.


Meeting Musings

Every Meeting has its own quirks and personality (just like ever congregation everywhere does), so I was prepared for something different yesterday.  First of all, this is a newer building, newer congregation and a larger one - not bad things, just a huge change from my average of 5 other people at worship in a building dating to 1831 (without heat or running water or electricity inside).  on the other hand, I started attending in Brooklyn which is bigger still!

What I didn't expect, and was take aback by, was the lack of Friendship I heard from one member(? could have been an attendee).  A gentleman had a Message and rose to speak.  It was a little long, a little rambling and at a few points he paused.  After the second pause my eye was caught by a woman's hand moving, in what I thought was a "move it along" motion, but I had to be mistaken, right?  Then he used the word "brotherhood" and I heard this woman hiss "sisterhood"... huh?  And at the next pause, another hiss, this time "sit down". Double HUH?? with a side of WTF????

It would be wrong to let this one incident cloud my judgement about this Meeting.  It took several months before I decided that the Meeting near the Cold Cottage was not the home for me, after all.  But we're definitely off to a rocky start.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Apologies for the delayed post - there's been a few things going on that prevented me from doing so.  Now that we're back on track, however... Not a stellar quarter based on the past year or so, but not bad all the same.  Let's see how close we get to 300 (or over) by December 31. And, as always, reviews in the usual place.

Children's/Young Adult
Science Fiction/Fantasy


Notable Quotes

The books themselves, whether at home or at large, are only part of the tale.  Libraries, ancient and modern, have something organic about them.  They are as difficult to define as the people who use them, and the more so, because a book can be both in and out of the library at the same time.  A library is at once an accumulation of books, maintained and managed to some end, and the place or places where they are or ought to be found.


I think she was right the first time...

We have an electronic keycard system at MPOW - without one, you don't get in.
One of my colleagues is keycard challenged.


Notable Quotes

Random jams only  ever occur when traffic is heavy and bunched up.  I think they're triggered when something seemly trivial takes place, like somebody changing lanes suddenly, and the person behind brakes, then the person behind them brakes a little harder, and so on, until people further back are having to slow to a crawl and then a stop, while people changing lanes to avoid it just spread the blockage further... 
Lastly, it has occurred to me that the person who initiates a random jam probably never knows what chaos they've caused behind them.  I've seen six random jams over the last eight years... and it took me a while before I realised that they might stand as a symbol for life in general; trivial actions leading to proliferating consequences that affect hundreds of others, but which we never know about.

- The Quarry, Iain Banks


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

99 books read -  still managing to keep up with the pace needed to achieve my 2013 reading goal (upped from 300 to 365 because, well, why not?). I was keeping pace with Mt. Bookpile additions, but then ALA Annual happened and now I'm really behind.  Oh well.  Live and read, right?

Adult Fiction
Children's/Young Adult
Speculative Fiction


Culture Vulturing

From the sublime...
Last year, when Thing One and I were deciding where to go on vacation, I suggested London.  We've been there many times before, so there's a comfort level about being there (favorite stores, restaurants, etc.).  Besides, there was a Pre-Raphaelite exhibit at the Tate.  The PRB is my favorite art group and some of the items exhibited are in private collections and thus not available to us mere mortals.   Then it was pointed out that the same exhibit was travelling to the National Gallery of Art in DC, making it possible to go some other place than London and still see my beloved PRB.   
The exhibit was slightly different, with fewer items, but still a great number that were privately held.  First of all, the exhibit was free: our tax dollars at work.  Second, it wasn't laid out by artist or in chronological order, but thematically.  We got to see how the PRB approached literary themes (or nature themes, or biblical themes, etc.) and were able to see a variety of PRB members, from Millais and Rossetti to lesser-knowns and people like Julia Margaret Cameron (supposedly a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood).  Yes, of course I bought the book.
What I found odd was that there were no guides, print or audio.  In some places, there were so many people looking at an item that it was difficult to read the accompanying text.  Still, now I can say that I've seen a number of items that I'll never get to see again...
to the ridiculous...
Movies used to be something I looked forward to.  For several years I'd plan my visits to work around what was playing nearby (having summers off made a midday showtime possible).  Recently, however, there are fewer and fewer that feel like Must Sees.  Ok, in part it's because I have a big screen tv that works quite nicely for quieter films, but also it's because the price and the subject don't mesh for me.  Every now and then there's a movie that seems perfect for that big screen experience... Man of Steel was, according to Thing One, such a movie. 
How wrong we were.  I was ready to leave after 15 minute, he after 30 (of course, we didn't communicate this to each other and sat there for the entire painful experience).  I get that "shit blows up real good" is the in thing for summer movies, and the louder the better.  Plot?  Irrelevant.  I also know that many of the so-called reboots (and can we please get rid of that term? please??) play with the canon, that Vulcan is destroyed in the "new" Star Trek series, for example.  In the upcoming Star Wars movies, Darth may turn out to not be Luke's father.  Who knows?  So I was prepared for changes to the Superman mythology.  What I wasn't prepared for was a Superman I didn't care about at all.
The Kryptonian technology didn't awe me, it just felt like millions in CGI dollars.  90% of the film was fighting, shit blowing up and more fighting. There was no humor, no heart, no warmth to this movie.  It was time I'll never get back.  And if I could get my $9.50 back, I'd take that in lieu of the two hours wasted.
For a variety of reasons, that's the sum of my culture vulturing over the past few months.  No concerts, no shows, just a wonderful art exhibit and a really awful movie.  Here's hoping that more comes along to cleanse my palate.


Notable Quotes

After someone you love so dearly dies, you are absent from the world for a time, living only loss.  The pain of existing without the other is too hard to bear.  Only slowly do you return to life.  To being hungry, not just eating for sustenance.  To pouring a glass of good wine, not just drinking to quench a thirst.  To hearing the words of those around you and answering.

- M.J. Rose, Seduction


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Not a bad start to the year: 100 books read.  I should easily make my goal of 300 - sadly for Mt. Bookpile, most of these were received in 2013.  Still I've read 7 received pre-2013; again, not a bad start.

Children's/Young Adult Fiction
Adult Fiction

Speculative Fiction
  • The Returned, Jason Mott


For Thee or Me?

Last Sunday, my good F/friend Gail and I had lunch.  Among the many things we talked about was my new habit of saying things like "back to reading Book [number]" and paying so much attention to how many books I've read.  I blamed a former colleague, who convinced me to review what I was reading (she was appalled that I just read and moved on) - the Killin' Time Reading blog is the result.  Ok, it was also a good way to see how high Mt. Bookpile had grown.

Then a couple of years ago I started to participate in the GoodReads reading challenge and managed to read 250 books (prior to then, I'd averaged 100-150 books a year since leaving college).  Then last year, 400.  This despite "wasting" time doing other things like watching tv, sleeping, working on consulting assignments, etc. - but not working full time.  400.  And now, when I go to GR to mark another book read or add some to Mt. Bookpile, I see the total I've read for this year's challenge (hoping for 300).

Still, after it was mentioned, I had to wonder: was I saying this for thee or me?  There's a wonderful flow chart that helps guide Quakers as to when they should speak in Meeting... or not. Over the past week I've pondered how I've been approaching the Books Read issue, as well as this blog, twitter, several of my e-mails... am I truly writing for thee, or for me?  Who really cares about the pensées of Lazygal, or her rants?  Do my book reviews matter?

Until I have clarity on this, don't expect too much from this blog.


Notable Quotes

Well, think of it: there used to be whole libraries filled with books like this, copied out by hand.  Jesus, all the time and effort the poor buggers the monks put into each one.  We take it for granted now, don't we -- the printing press, the copy machine, the internet.  I mean, words lose their value, in a way, don't they, when you're drowning in them?"


Notable Quotes

It was like one of those times when you go to the library to check out a reference book for a science paper, but when you get there, you notice there's a new book out by your favorite author, so you check that out instead, leaving without any kind of reference book, and, in fact, you've forgotten all about your science paper because who can think about science when there's a new book out you haven't read.

- Kathryn Fitzmaurice, Destiny, Rewritten 


Book Question Meme

(found on Semicolon... saved until I needed blog content)

1. What book (a classic?) do you hate?
I have to go with Ethan Frome.  (if you've heard this rant before, please feel free to skip to the next question).  If you grow up in Upstate NY, in SmallTown, you know about tobogganing.  You know how easily you can go off track.  And you know how impossible an idea it is to commit suicide by toboggan.  I had to read it in 9th grade and I think my entire class was torn between disgust at the plot device and giggles that anyone thought it was possible.

2. To what extent do you judge people by what they read?
Hmmm.... I'm not sure that I do.  I do judge people by if they read.  When I was house-hunting, I actually asked my realtor if anyone read any more, because every place we visited had candles galore but no books!  I don't judge how much you read (or if it's magazines and newspapers over books - Thing One has read maybe 20 books in the 25 years I've known him), but if you don't read? There's probably very little we have in common.

3. What television series would you recommend as the literariest?
Gosh. Not sure what "literariest" means: based on literary novels (in which case, Masterpiece in all its incarnations)? based on books (in which case, add shows like Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries)?  Intellectually stimulating?  C-SPAN's Book TV.

4. Describe your ideal home library.
I almost have it!  Fireplace - check.  Comfy couch - check.  Floor-to-ceiling bookcases - check. Cats to cuddle with - check.  What's missing?  A mini-kitchen with nibbles and an ever-brewing tea pot.  Not that my kitchen is that far away but this did ask for "ideal".

5. Books or sex?
Oh please.

6. How do you decide what to read next?
Depends.  Right now, I'm reading ARCs in the order of publication... once we head into older Mt. Bookpile territory, I randomly pull books from the shelves and read them.  The problem is that I should read LIFO but tend to read FIFO (what?).

7. How much do you talk about books in real life (outside of the blogging community)?
Oh, anyone that knows me in real life knows I can go on for hours about books: what I'm reading, what I liked, what I didn't like, what you should be reading, what my neighbor is reading, what I suspect my sister is reading...


What true love looks like

Thing One and I have been watching the Shakespeare Uncovered series.  Last night, he asked if I minded a spoiler - about Hamlet (surprise! he dies in the end!!).  Turns out he wanted me to know that Trevor Peacock was in one of the clips.

How can you not love someone like that?


Notable Quotes

The shadow life of reading begins even while we have the book in hand -- begins as soon as we move from the first sentence to the second and start up a memory context.... Here is the power, the seductiveness of the act: when we read, we create and then occupy a hitherto nonexistent interior locale.... No less exalting is the sensation of inner and outer worlds coinciding, going on simultaneously, or very nearly so.  The awareness is enforced regularly.  I am reading, caught up in my book, when the phone rings. I am shocked back into the room, forced to contend with some piece of business.  Then, a moment later, I am back.  I have jumped from one circuit to another.  The book is there, waiting, like one of those rare dreams that I half-awaken from and then reenter.

- Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies


PSA: Fever Kills

It's flu season out there - do not take a fever lightly.

Many years ago, a young woman I knew, Heather, went home from work feeling a little unwell.  She and her husband Larry worked together at the company at which she'd met, and that night he did the right thing with Tylenol and soup.  The next day, she still wasn't feeling good so she stayed home and made an appointment with the doctor.  The following day, Larry waited to hear about what the doctor said... at first, he wasn't worried (doctors and waiting times, after all) but then he grew concerned.  Finally he called the office: she hadn't come for her appointment.  Larry raced home from Midtown to Staten Island - she was dead in their bed.  They'd been married only a couple of years.  Heather was in her 20s.

Yesterday, Thing One sent me an e-mail about a colleague of his, a many in his 60s just inching toward retirement.  He'd had a mild fever on Thursday, but it had gone away.  Friday it was back, and 103.  But why worry?  It had gone away before.  Saturday his girlfriend couldn't get him on the phone... Sunday she used her key to go into his apartment and... dead.

If you have a fever, and it's inching up past 102, call your doctor.  Tell your friends.  Take something to bring it down.  Be careful.  Please.


Challenge Accepted... and Met

This time last year I decided to do the Read Your Own Books challenge with the goal of getting to Level 4.  Despite Mt. Bookpile's best efforts, I did it!  32 books read that were bought/given to me before December 31, 2011:
  • The Backwards Glance (Bresland)
  • The Ballerinas (Migel)
  • Being Dead (Crace)
  • The Book of Lost Fragrances (Rose)
  • Byron (MacCarthy)
  • The Children of Hurin (Tolkien)
  • The Citadel (Cronin)
  • Cleopatra (Schiff)
  • Crooked House and The Body in the Library (Christie)
  • Dancing with the Witchdoctor (James)
  • Floating (Bailey-Williams)
  • The Gates of Ivory (Drabble)
  • The Ghost Writer (Roth)
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring (Chevalier)
  • The Green Man (Bedard)
  • Hearts of Darkness (Thompson)
  • House of Meetings (Amis)
  • I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere (Gavalda)
  • The Knitting Circle (Hood)
  • Leaves from the Valley (Harvey)
  • Leeway Cottage (Gutcheon)
  • Lemprière's Dictionary (Norfolk)
  • The Lions of Little Rock (Levine)
  • Losing Mr. North (Kagan)
  • Read Between the Lies (Bryant-Woolridge)
  • Paulina (Howarth)
  • Simone de Beauvoir (Bair)
  • Ship Sooner (Sullivan)
  • The Starboard Sea (Dermont)
  • Summer at Tiffany (Hart)
  • This I Believe (Allison)
  • Waves (Dogar)
I think I'll do this again this year.  Anyone else take this challenge?  How did you do?

Year-end Reading Round-Up

Counting down from last year's 3131 books left to read, I've got "only" 2731 more books to enjoy.  What did I think about books I've read this past year? For lists, go here, here, here and here (the totals on the review blog won't match these because I don't add the books I read for the award committee or for professional review). A list of the Best of 2012 has been posted!

And here's the 2012 reading analysis (2011 numbers in parens):
  • number of books read in 2012: 400 (250) 
  • best month: July/48 (August/29) 
  • worst month: October/23 (May/12) 
  • average read per month:  33.33 (20.8) 
  • adult fiction as percentage of total: 22.75 (21.2) 
  • children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 43.75 (54.4) 
  • YA nonfiction as percentage of total: 22.75 (didn't track in 2011)
  • Advance Readers Copies: 181 (177) 
  • e-books: 16 (none in 2011)
  • books read that were published in 2012: 288
  • books that will be published in 2013: 21
  • five star reviews: 31 (18) 
  • one star reviews: 20 (11) 
Last year I was surprised that I'd read 250 books, and said "Given that my circumstances will change in 2012, 250 is optimistic, but we'll try for 200 and further reduction on Mt. Bookpile." Ahem. Mt. Bookpile is down to 263 (so met - and passed - the Reading Challenge I set myself!).  I've more than passed 200 books for the year.  So for next year, I'm continuing to try to reduce Mt. Bookpile, and I'm going to go for 300 books.

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.  The Daily Beast has an overview of the Best Books (per several review sources) in both fiction and non-fiction.  Go. Make a list for your 2013 reading. Enjoy.