Month: December 2013

2013: The Year in Books

Here we are, at the end of 2013.  It’s time for my Grand Book List, which I skipped last year (as I skipped reading for the most part, but that’s a long story). I’ve read more this year than I have in the past several. It’s possibly the most I’ve ever read. I’m not quite sure how it happened since I have a job, and such. Palmer says reading is a waste of time and a way for unhappy people to forget that they’re unhappy, but I don’t think it is. I’ve had a good year, all told. There is, of course, the Elephant in the Room, which makes everything difficult, but I’ve been dealing with it long enough, now, that it’s not that big of a deal. Reading does help me forget about that, sometimes, which is both good and bad. But I digress. Here, by the way, is an excellent article from Slate about the psychological and moral benefits of reading. So there.

For the past three years, I’ve set a quota for myself: 50 books. I started because, at the end of 2010, I realized that I’d only read about twenty books, which seemed ridiculous. I thought that if I set a goal, I could get my reading back on track. And I did! I squeezed in at the wire, but I did, and I was very proud of myself. In 2012, I set the same goal, but I didn’t even get close. I blame the Elephant – I was sick, my vision was blurry, and I was exhausted. After July of 2012, my world stopped for a while. This January, I decided I could no longer use ye olde Elephant as an excuse, so I jumped in for another fifty. If you pay any attention to my blog, you’ll know that I easily surpassed that number this year. I’m not sure why or how, especially since so many of thee books I read were huge.

Which leads me to a title for 2013: The Year of Long Books. Until this year, I hardly read books over three or four hundred pages because I didn’t think I could get through them. Jumping into A Game of Thrones and getting hooked cured me of that, I think, and I think I’ve decided that I love long books the best because I can get more into them without feeling rushed. That’s not always easy to do with this quota, though.

So here’s my list. Yes, it’s long. I’ll use the same system I used for my 2010 and 2011 lists: Bold means I really liked it, and italics means I really disliked it. If it’s neither of those, it was good enough.

So there you have it. I read some pretty good books this year. But which one is the best? In 2010, the prize went to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and in 2011, One Hundred Years of Solitude won. Last year, there was no winner, as, well, you know. Elephant. What could I possibly have chosen this year? Drumroll please…

stoner

Yep, Stoner. If you read this blog regularly, you probably saw it coming. Stoner is the best, most amazing novel I’ve read in years. It’s perfect on just about every level. I was crying and entirely speechless by the end of it. Oh, so good.

But Stoner wasn’t the only good novel I read this year, so I’m adding a couple of runners-up. I liked these novels almost as much, though they weren’t quite as mind-blowing as our winner.

orlandoericocean

First, there’s Orlando, which is hilarious and fantastic and addictive. I want to read it again. After some reflection, it definitely wins my top spot in the list of Virginia Woolf‘s novels. I know that a Discworld novel, of all things, probably doesn’t fit in too well, but I absolutely adored Eric, and I can’t help myself. It’s definitely my favorite Discworld novel so far. There’s also The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is no my favorite of Neil Gaiman‘s because it’s an overwhelming fairytale that I couldn’t quite have understood when I was a child. This one qualifies as mind-blowing, too. I’ll make myself stop there, though I’m having a hard time not adding more.

2013 was definitely a good reading year. So many books make for so many interesting experiences, most of them good. Next year, I’ll do the same, and it’ll be especially pleasant because my super-awesome husband made me a library out of what had been a storage-bedroom in our house. It’s beautiful, but I still need to clean up a bit and hang art before I post official photos. I’ll be spending lots of 2014 curled up in my papasan, feet propped up and reading. I can’t wait.

2013 Book #60: Bleak House

bleakhouseBleak House has been languishing on my bookshelf for years, firmly established in the tl;dr pile. I’m pretty sure it’s even longer than the Game of Thrones books. It certainly took me longer to read. I decided to give it a try after I blazed through several books and wanted to slow down with a long one. That, and Dickens seems to be perfect Christmas-time reading. At some point when I was in high school, I read A Christmas Carol – or enough of it, at least, to pass a test on it. I liked it well enough. I also read Hard Times because a teacher I really respected recommended that I read it. When I was in college, I read exactly zero Dickens, which seems strange to me. The first book I read after I graduated with my English degree, though, was A Tale of Two Cities. Which I loved. I should read that one again, in fact. A couple of years ago, I tried reading Great Expectations, but I couldn’t get through it. And I think I tried David Copperfield at some point, also unsuccessfully. Last year, I reread Hard Times and thoroughly enjoyed it. Anyway.

I started reading Bleak House without really committing to it. It’s really long, and I thought it would be boring. It begins with a long explanation of a civil suit called Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Except it’s funny. I was hooked almost immediately. The plot is so long and complicated that I’ll just note the (early) highlights. There are two points-of-view: an omniscient third person and one from Esther Summerson in first person. Esther is a young orphan who lives with her very severe aunt until said aunt dies, and then she is taken by John Jarndyce, who refuses to be directly involved in said lawsuit, though it affects him. At the same time, he takes in two Jarndyce-related wards, Ada and Richard, who fall in love. We follow these characters and at least a couple dozen more through their lives, all somehow related to Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The title comes from John Jarndyce’s house, which is in no way bleak. We eventually find out where Esther came from, and every little thing is interconnected and resolved neatly by the end. Too neatly, I think, though I guess that’s what I should expect from Dickens.

I loved this book so much, which is especially surprising since I didn’t think I’d even make it through. I certainly didn’t think I’d enjoy every page. There weren’t even rough patches that bored me. My only problem with it is the end because perfectly tied-up endings annoy me. Bleak House made me want to reread A Tale of Two Cities and give David Copperfield another try. I don’t know why this one isn’t up there in popularity with the likes of A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, except that it’s long as all hell. After reading so many long books this year, I’m amused that I avoided them so much in the past. But I’ll talk about that in my next post.

Also in my next post: the big reveal! Palmer and I have been repainting and otherwise upgrading the front room of our house, which fairly recently became my library. Here’s our grand beginning:

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Painting time is fun time.

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The cats played Kitteh Fort with my displaced books. Much fun was had by all.

Here’s the damage. I’m hoping most of them will be back on their shelves by the end of today.

bookpiles

In other, non-book-related news, OpenEmu, a video game emulator (okay, an emulator platform?), was released for mac. This thing is beautiful and super user-friendly. I’d even taken the trouble to compile it when it was still in beta. Now I can play so many of my favorite games – like Zelda: Link’s Awakening. I still had the game, but I didn’t have a Game Boy old enough to play the original games. Fun!

zeldalinksawakening

Now, to finish my library so I can read in it!

Merry Christmas!

2013ornament

Okay, I haven’t finished my book, so this isn’t a review because I don’t have anything to review yet. In my defense, Bleak House is an especially looooong book, and somehow Dickens doesn’t read as quickly as George R.R. Martin. I’ll probably finish by the end of the year. (I guess now’s the time to write my big end-of-the-year post, anyway. Which I skipped last year. I know.)

So. Since it’s taking me a long time to read this behemoth, and I haven’t posted in a while, I figured I’d offer a Christmas update (in the last half-hour before Doctor Who makes me cry. But that’s neither here nor there). So here goes. And since this post will be mostly photos (and thus very long), I’ll add a Read More here… Continue reading

I’m joining the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. Yay Reading Things!

dalekread

Wait, you say. Lindsay doesn’t participate in anything, especially when it’s book-related. Book clubs? Bah! Comments? Hellz, no. Reading other people’s blogs? Only when looking for similar (often unpopular) opinions.

Well, in 2014, I want to change that, if only a little bit. I think that the reason I’ve kept this blog for so long is that I write it so selfishly: I started writing in earnest when I realized that I never remember what I’ve read for very long. You know, the time I got halfway through Franny and Zooey before realizing that I’d read it less than a year before? Yeah. It really started after Katrina, when I really got into digital preservation of memories, especially photos, since they can easily be lost. Remembering what I’d read came shortly after, but that was before the days of Goodreads, so I think I started with AllConsuming or, possibly, Shelfari. When I finally switched to Goodreads, I think I transferred all of that there. But the hurricane happened in 2005, and I didn’t start writing about every book I read until 2011. That’s a lot of years, and sometimes I forget what I have and haven’t written about.

Anyway. My blog is very insular because I generally don’t participate in the book-blogosphere since I’m only really writing for myself (except I’m explaining all of this to you, and you aren’t me, so…). In 2014, I’ll give it a whirl. In the beginning, at least. I think I found a good place to start: Roof Beam Reader‘s 2014 TBR Pile Challenge, which aims to help me get through some of the books that have been languishing on my to-be-read list for a while. Here are the basic rules: I have to choose twelve books (and two alternates, in case I can’t get through a couple of them) that have been on my tbr pile for at least a year, which means that they couldn’t have been published in 2013. I have more than enough books like that to fill such a list, so here goes:

  1. The Master and Margarita (Bulgakov)
  2. Under the Net (Murdoch)
  3. The Shadow of the Wind (Zafón)
  4. The Children of Men (P.D. James)
  5. The Ambassadors (Henry James)
  6. The Slynx (Tolstaya)
  7. Still Life with Woodpecker (Robbins)
  8. Pedro Páramo (Rulfo)
  9. Demons (Dostoyevsky)
  10. Ragtime (Doctorow)
  11. Wicked (Maguire)
  12. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (Clarke)

And the alternates:

  1. Warlock (Hall)
  2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Riggs)

We’ll see how I do with these. They’ve all been on my list for a while, but, for whatever reason, I haven’t gotten around to reading them. I’ve been careful not to choose all long books, and I haven’t chosen books I know I’ll read like Wolves of the Calla or Dances with Dragons because I’d have read them anyway. What will be most challenging to me is planned reading: I’m the Netflix type. After I finish a book, I like to pick up whatever strikes my fancy at that very instant. Working in a library definitely helps, but you can get your hands on almost anything pretty quickly with an internet connection.

I own physical copies of the vast majority of these books, and if I don’t, they’ve been sitting on my Kindle or Nook for at least a year. I think what I’ll do, though, is put them all in one place: the sparkly new iPad Mini my awesome husband is giving me for Christmas. Tracking down digital copies of most of these shouldn’t be a challenge – and I have no qualms about not paying for a digital copy of a physical book I paid for. Paying once is enough, and at some point, I have paid for every one of the books listed above. Yay, Calibre (which organizes, converts, and transfers to various reading devices. You’re on your own for downloads).

I’ll also mention that I found the Most Awesome iOS eBook Reader Ever: Marvin. I wanted a wireless way to transfer non-Kindle books from my Macbook to my iPad, and somehow I ran across their website. It’s the most powerful reader app I’ve seen. As far as I know, the Kindle reader app only opens books you’ve bought from Amazon, and you have to plug in to transfer books you haven’t purchased from Apple into iBooks. Not cool. With Marvin, all you have to do is link it to your Dropbox account, and all of the epub books you have stored there show up on the screen, ready to download. And it even syncs your pages between devices! Better yet, it’ll sync with Calibre, which boggles my mind. End of gush.

So there’s my plan. I’ll stick with the 50, but at least twelve of those will be books from my tbr list, specifically the list above. I’m pretty sure I can do it with just a little reading discipline, especially since I’ll have most or all of them right in front of me in my handy-dandy Marvin app.

I can’t wait to start!

2013 Book #59: Snow Country