Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Status Report: What I've Been Up to Elsewhere

My dear @booksNyarn and I were recently interviewed for the Circulating Ideas podcast as part of the Best Books of 2012 episode!

At Collection Reflection, I wrote a post on how to start weeding your reference collection. The post was recently, to my astonishment, linked to by American Libraries Direct.

I also made a list as one of the 125 librarians to follow on Twitter!

Over on Tumblr, I posted some thoughts about how (and when) I buy books.

I've reviewed quite a few books over at the Lesbrary since I last made this sort of update:

I Can't Think Straight, by Shamim Sharif
Strange Bedfellows, by Q. Kelly
Getting There, by Lyn Denison
But She is My Student, by Kiki Archer; LoveLife, by Rachel Spangler
96 Hours, by Georgia Beers
Switchby Q. Kelly
Keepers of the Cave, by Gerri Hill
Silhouette of a Sparrow, by Molly Beth Griffin [my favorite of this bunch]
The Campaign, by Tracey Richardson
Girl Friends Complete Collection v. 1, by Milk Morinaga
Double Pleasure, Double Pain, by Nikki Rashan

And of course I've been posting with frightening regularity on Twitter. I recommend that you search the hashtag #librarylife to see some of what librarians are up to every day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Reading Roulette: Second Pick

As of this next spin of the wheel, there are 373 books on my To Be Read list (I can't seem to stop adding them). The next three picks, after consulting the number generator:

323. Cut to the Quick, by Kate Ross (Julian Kestrel mysteries #1). This will make my friend Margaret happy, as the copy she loaned me has been sitting on my dresser for the last two years.

Description: To the ranks of great sleuths of ages past, add a new candidate - Julian Kestrel - a detective as historically authentic as Brother Cadfael and as dashing as Lord Peter Wimsey. Kestrel is the reigning dandy of London in the 1820s, famous for his elegant clothes and his unflappable sangfroid. One night he rescues a young aristocrat named Hugh Fontclair from a gambling house, and in gratitude Hugh invites him to be best man at his wedding. But when Kestrel goes to stay with the Fontclairs at their sumptuous country house, he is caught in the crossfire of the bride's and groom's warring families. Soon, discord erupts into murder. In a world without fingerprinting, chemical analysis, or even police, murder poses a baffling challenge. Undaunted, Kestrel sets out to solve the crime. With the help of his Cockney manservant, Dipper a (mostly) reformed pickpocket, Kestrel delves beneath the Fontclairs' respectable surface. What he finds is a trail of crime, deception, and forbidden lust that leads him at last to the killer. The combination of a new author, a charming new sleuth, and a strikingly original setting adds up to a smashing mystery that moves with force and intelligence - and expert suspense - from beginning to end.

326. Freedom and Necessity, by Steven Brust and Emma Bull. My sister gave me this book, and it is also in the pile on my dresser.

Description: It is 1849. Across Europe, the high tide of revolution has crested, leaving recrimination and betrayal in its wake. From the high councils of Prussia to the corridors of Parliament, the powers-that-be breathe sighs of relief. But the powers-that-be are hardly unified among themselves. Far from it...

On the south coast of England, London man-about-town James Cobham comes to himself in a country inn, with no idea how he got there. Corresponding with his cousin, he discovers himself to have been presumed drowned in a boating accident. Together they decide that he should stay put for the moment, while they investigate what may have transpired. For James Cobham is a wanted man--wanted by conspiring factions of the government and the Chartists alike, and also the target of a magical conspiracy inside his own family.

And so the adventure begins...leading the reader through every corner of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, from the parlors of the elite to the dens of the underclass. Not since Wilkie Collins or Conan Doyle has there been such a profusion of guns, swordfights, family intrigues, women disguised as men, occult societies, philosophical discussions, and, of course, passionate romance.

Nor could any writing team but Steven Brust and Emma Bull make it quite so much fun...

351. Rusalka, by C.J. Cherryh (Russian Stories #1). Recommended by my friend Jessica. I used to own a copy of this book, but never managed to read it. Maybe this time will be different!

Description: This is Hugo-Award-winning author C.J. Cherryh's Del Rey debut—the story of Rusalka, the ghost of a murdered girl still seeking to exist by drawing the energy of life from all nearby living things, and the attempt to bring her back to life by her father Ulamets, and Pyetr, the young man who loved her.

None of these picks are available in audio format, which makes them more difficult to finish quickly. However, I will give all of them a chance. I'm not really sure what I'm in the mood to read right now. Feel free to help me choose.

Why am I doing this?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reading Roulette: Why I'm Not Finishing The Passage

Justin Cronin's sci-fi/vampire book The Passage was one of the three books that came up in my first Reading Roulette pick, and several friends and colleagues recommended it. I duly requested the audiobook through the library, and found the paperback on the shelves at work. I was pleased to find that the narrator of the audiobook was Edward Herrmann (aka Richard Gilmore from The Gilmore Girls), but I was startled to discover when I switched from the audio version to the print version that there was significantly more to the paper book.

It turns out that the audio version I requested was the abridged version, which clocks in at 12 discs (14.5 hours). The unabridged version consists of 29 discs (37+ hours) and is narrated by Scott Brick instead of Edward Herrmann. Per Nancy Pearl, I read past page 50, but by that point I knew that I didn't want to make myself read/listen to the entire 894-page book. My (grumpy editor) feeling is that if the book can stand to have more than half of its content removed and be marketed as a complete book, it probably needed a lot more revision before publication. I knew my feelings of resentment--about having to stop and start over, and switching narrators from one I loved to one I didn't know, and my unhappiness with the entire concept of abridgment--were going to make it very difficult for me to read with the kind of excitement and energy a book deserves. So I am putting it down (it will go back on my To Be Read list) and returning the library copies.

And I'll be a little more cautious about checking to see whether an audiobook is unabridged before I request it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: The Black Tower [2008]

In addition to Call of the Mild and The Passage, Louis Bayard's The Black Tower also came up in my first Reading Roulette draw. I was able to get the audiobook through the library, and was pleased to discover that it was narrated by my perennial favorite Simon Vance. The book is one that's been on my list for a long time, but I never would have gotten around to reading it if not for this project. I even learned a bit about French history!

The year is 1818. In Restoration France (only recently delivered back into the hands of the monarchy after Napoleon's rule), medical student Hector Carpentier is startled out of his routine by the appearance of one Vidocq, the criminal-turned-policeman who was responsible for creating the first detective bureau. Vidocq is investigating the death of a man who bore a well-concealed paper with "Dr. Carpentier" and Hector's address on it. Vidocq, brusque, crass, and possessing qualities similar to a terrier, is convinced that Hector must know something, and brings him along as he makes inquiries. As they trace the dead man's contacts, they uncover leads that stretch back to the days of the French Republic, when Hector's father was called to minister to the ailing dauphin, held captive in the Black Tower. Official reports claimed that the boy, Louis-Charles, died in 1795 at the age of ten.

They discover that there are certain people who believe the dauphin, who would have been Louis XVII if not for the overthrow of the monarchy during the French Revolution, is still alive, and there are several dead bodies to prove their earnestness. Vidocq and Hector find themselves with someone who might be the presumed-dead dauphin, but with no way to prove or disprove his identity. Questions abound: Is this Charles the real prince? How did he get out of the tower? If he did, who died in the tower in 1795? How was Hector's father involved? Throw in a buried journal, disguises, the guillotine, a duel, the nobility, Mesmer, and family secrets, and you've got a fun and dramatic mix of elements.

Grade: B

I enjoyed this both as historical fiction and as a good detective story, although this one ends with some questions still unanswered. One of the best parts of the book was Hector's slow maturation from predictable pushover to surprisingly unreliable narrator.

What to Read Next:

Although he and Vidocq are nothing alike (aside from their aptitude for clever disguises), The Black Tower made me want to read some Sherlock Holmes. Hector Carpentier plays a role that's very similar to Watson's at times.

Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," which actually mentions Vidocq by name.

And again, I will recommend Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time. Princes in a tower!

In terms of nonfiction, I'd recommend The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (audiobook also narrated by Simon Vance), which concerns a country house murder and a celebrated London detective in the 1860s.

Book Review Index

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: A Memory of Light [2012]

There were times, particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s, when I despaired of this moment ever coming to pass. But the publication of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, is finally a reality. This is due in large part to Brandon Sanderson, the author who stepped in to finish where Jordan left off at his death in 2007, as well as the detailed notes left by the man himself. Sanderson recently revealed that the entire epilogue of the book (a little more than twenty pages) consists of Jordan's words, with only cosmetic tweaks from him. There is something very sad about reading the last words of the last book and knowing they were written by a man who has been dead more than five years and will never write again, but it's also cheering to see his legacy completed.

I have not only touched this once-mythical volume, I have consumed all 909 pages. It is difficult for me to separate my emotional reaction (largely relief at the conclusion of this twenty-year reading saga, but some sadness about letting go of favorite characters) and view the book with a critical eye. If possible, I would make this post a review of the series as a whole, but my memory of most of the middle eight or ten books is fuzzy at best. And believe me, I have too much on my plate to re-read those thousands of pages.

A Memory of Light picks up on the precipice of the Last Battle, in which Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, will confront the Dark One for humanity's last chance etc. etc. As pointed out by Marie Brennan (who has done entertaining and informative recaps of each book in the series from the perspective of a critic and author), the chapter entitled "The Last Battle" doesn't happen until page 617. Before that point, there's a lot of distributing characters here and there (thank goodness they figured out how to travel from place to place immediately with the One Power) as the forces of Light try to fend off the Shadow in a variety of locations. If you haven't read any of the books, let me sum up: good vs. evil; lots of characters; magic is called "the One Power" and works differently for men and women; Trollocs are this world's orcs; and there are a lot of nations and rulers and political shenanigans to go with the whole "nothing will grow, the weather is wacky, I'm pretty sure the world is ending" vibe.

The book does become bogged down in the tactical detail of warfare at times, to the point where my eyes glazed over and I was tempted to skip ahead. However, there's also a lot of worthwhile character interaction as people say goodbye and prepare for their likely deaths. There are even some moments of humor among the seemingly endless tide of Trollocs. The story, as usual, is told from numerous points of view, with cameos or mentions given to a vast swath of characters from earlier volumes. As far as I could tell, every "I wonder what happened to that character?" question was addressed in some way or another, which was a nice reward for those of us who have persevered. Overall, I think it was worth the wait.

I enjoyed A Memory of Light, but not as much as I could have. Here's part of the problem: the book has been so long in coming that it wrapped up plot points I couldn't even remember were dangling. Maybe this is a function of the series being so long and filled with characters, but there were cameos for people I simply didn't recognize. I have a variety of issues with the way that Jordan represents male/female interactions, but I will say this for the series: there are a lot of awesome female characters, and we get to spend time from their perspective. This book even went so far as to overtly mention the existence of homosexual males, which is a more than a lot of epic fantasy ever does. For all its flaws, I couldn't put it down. I will purchase it to complete my collection, but I probably won't ever read it all the way through again.

Grade: B

Book Review Index

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Meditation on Being a Librarian in Public

My road to becoming a librarian was somewhat winding and involved a few false starts, but most days I'm very content with the job I have now. A few recent posts by my friends about egotism and recognition have made me think a bit about why I talk so much about my job online. Why isn't it enough for me just to be a good reference librarian who helps the patrons at my library? I know I'm not in it for the money, but maybe it's for the glory?

My experience as a full-time librarian has coincided with the rise of social media. I joined Twitter in 2007, but it took me a few years to figure out what to do with it. For the past several years, however, my goal with Twitter and other forms of social media has been to relate what it is that I do every day as a librarian. Yes, I use Twitter as a way to meet other librarians of all kinds and to have my burning collection development questions answered, but what I want to be known for is the "slice of life" posts that I make. This is the same reason I participate in Library Day in the Life and other similar projects--I want to be known as a librarian, and I want people to understand what librarians actually do. That's why I put library-related updates on Facebook; update on Tumblr; write here and co-write a blog on collection development, and spend a good chunk of every day broadcasting my life at work. When interacting with librarians, this can lead to cathartic commiseration, but many of my posts seem to strike a chord with my non-librarian contacts as well.

There are never-ending debates about the future of libraries, the future of books, and the future of librarianship. How do we make ourselves relevant? How do we "reinvent" ourselves? Should we go completely paperless? (No.) But libraries and librarians are doing awesome things with their collections and programming every day. The greatest barrier to the future of libraries, in my opinion, is the fact that many of our patrons have no idea what we are already doing. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone say to me "I didn't know I could do that here!," which is unfortunately often coupled with "I haven't been to the library in forever" . . . Even though we should definitely be aware of the next big thing, we also need to do a better job of marketing the resources that we've already got, and have always had: books (in whatever format) and programming. Experienced librarians with reader's advisory skills. Awesome children's librarians, who often see more kids and families in a day than I see in a week.

When it comes down to ego, yes, I admit to having one. I want people to pay attention to my work. And I'm not perfect, either. Some of the posts I make may tend toward the snarky, but I hope that some love for my patrons shines through. I hope it's clear that if I had to choose between presenting at ALA and helping someone learn how to cut and paste, I would choose the latter every time. I'm happy to be known as a librarian by people I went to high school with, people I interact with on twitter who are not in the field, and people I meet on the street who ask me how late the library is open. Many of my patrons don't have computers and can't afford a device that would allow them to read ebooks. They're looking for jobs. They want something to read or watch for education and entertainment. They don't care about the next best thing, they just want us to be open as many hours as we can. I don't give a damn if I'm famous in the field if I can help someone with their résumé.

Last week, a non-librarian that I interact with occasionally on Twitter sent me a direct message to ask if I could look something up for her that she'd had no luck finding herself online. We don't talk much, but she knows I'm a librarian. This is what being a librarian in public should be--helping people understand that the library is a resource waiting for them to make use of it. Reminding people that libraries still exist, and that they're pretty damn cool. That's why I'm going to keep tweeting from the trenches, and appreciating people who do the same. As far as I'm concerned, they're the real rock star librarians.

Patron Debris
Collection Reflection

Meditation Index

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: Call of the Mild [2012]

When Call of the Mild, by Lily Raff McCaulou, came up in my first Reading Roulette draw, I couldn't remember what had prompted me to put it on my To Be Read list in the first place. It's the account of an East Coast reporter in her early twenties who takes a job in Oregon and, after dipping some toes in the water via fly fishing, begins to hunt game.

I am not a hunter. I've never been hunting. In fact, I'm a vegetarian. I'm not really cool with killing things in order to eat them, although I know that the production of my tofu and so forth probably comes at the cost of some animal lives (see Michael Pollan, repeatedly quoted in Call of the Mild). Nevertheless, I approached this book as something that might broaden my horizons--both in terms of what I usually read, and the subject matter.

In addition to providing sometimes humorous descriptions of her first encounters with hunting and guns, McCaulou frequently describes her struggles with the ethics of hunting. Her thesis is encapsulated by these passages:
The chase fosters a special relationship, a direct connection between predator and prey. Yet that closeness does not infringe upon the predator's willingness to eat the prey. Instead, killing and eating the prey becomes an expression of that relationship's specialness. (207)
Animals die whether we acknowledge them or not, whether we eat them or not, whether we participate in their deaths willfully or indirectly. To me, hunting my own meat feels like saying grace before a meal and really, for the first time in my life, meaning it. (209) 
Whether you agree with this justification/explanation, her stories and tidbits were interesting enough to get me through the book. McCaulou never seems completely comfortable with her identity as hunter, no matter how much she works to understand it. Some of her assertions were downright troubling:
As a conservationist, it pains me to think of someone pulling the trigger on a rare tiger. But if the astronomical price tag for hunting one tiger raises enough money to protect hundreds of them, isn't that doing more good than harm? (172)
I don't agree with the idea of sacrificing one for the good of the many, nor am I fully on board with "In a sense, hunting is a final frontier of feminism. As women make up a growing percentage of American hunters, we quietly lay claim to a party of humanity that has been dominated by men" (239). Still, this book does provide a lot of food for thought, and maybe McCaulou's continuing internal conflict over the act of taking animals' lives is what makes her a good hunter. Guilt is a continuous thread through the book, yet it doesn't dissuade her from continuing on her path--from rabbits to pheasant to larger birds and finally big game.

Grade: B-

It's not you, it's me. When it comes down to it, I just don't care that much about hunting, although McCaulou does make a compelling argument for hunting as a way of better understanding the natural world--and that hunters ought to be the staunchest of environmentalists. McCaulou's narrative of her activities is interspersed with many digressions on related topics and stories about friends and acquaintances, sometimes feeling like a series of essays rather than a cohesive whole. But I'm glad I read it, even though I never would have gotten through it if not for this project.

My favorite part of this book was completely unintentional. In a passage on cross-country skiing, she describes what she does to keep herself entertained during the seemingly repetitive exercise:
Once I get too tired to be anything but practical, I make mental lists of articles I want to write. Next, I compose pneumonic devices to remember my lists. (180)
I'm going to file that typo away for a rainy day laugh.

This is a thing in a lot of states, including MA, where I live: Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW)

Book Review Index

ETA: Now I do remember how this book got on my TBR list--I read a review in the course of collection development, and thought it looked interesting. This is how a lot of books end up on my list.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review: Wolf Hall [2009]

Thomas Cromwell, widely known as a villain in the court of King Henry VIII, is made sympathetic by Hilary Mantel, who builds Wolf Hall exclusively around his experiences. The narrative is so closely tied to his perspective, in fact, that it is often difficult to determine which "he" is being referred to--I found that it was best to always assume Cromwell. The result is a character study of a self-made man, the son of an abusive blacksmith, who was at the center of some very important changes in law and religion.

Set primarily between 1527 and 1535, Wolf Hall traces Cromwell's path from his position as Cardinal Wolsey's right-hand man to his ascendancy at court as Henry VIII's Master Secretary. Although common-born, Cromwell functioned for many years as the calculating power behind the English throne. While the courtship and marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn--which led to momentous changes (shepherded by Cromwell) in England's relationship with the Catholic church--is given its due, Mantel spends as much or more time on Cromwell's home life, his wards, and his relationships with businessmen and philosophers at home and abroad, focusing on the intricate workings of his busy existence. She doesn't disguise Cromwell's ambition, his love of wealth, and his belief that he can control everything, yet he still comes off sympathetically.

Conflict in the latter part of the book stems from Thomas More, the philosopher and former Lord Chancellor who refuses to support Henry's divorce of Katherine and marriage to Anne. Although Cromwell repeatedly tries to get More to swear to an oath to uphold the new order, he chooses instead to die for his faith. Mantel uses More, and many other examples, to drive home the seriousness of religious belief; in this world, it's a life and death matter. Over the course of the narrative, the church loses ground steadily, and those who had previously been branded "heretic" gain it. It's interesting to contemplate whether these changes would have taken place so rapidly had Henry not been so desperate.

Highly recommended, especially if you enjoy historical fiction. I listened to the audiobook as well as reading the paper copy, and the audio performance helped somewhat with the "'he,' which he does she mean?" problem.

Grade: A-

What to read after Wolf Hall:

  • Bring up the Bodies, the 2012 sequel about the fall of Anne Boleyn, which also won a boatload of prizes.
  • The Wives of Henry VIII, Antonia Fraser, a perennial favorite of mine.
  • The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett, is a similarly dense, but more swashbuckling character study of a fictional rogue Francis Lymond, set in 1547 Scotland. 
  • The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey--another revisionist history of a classic villain, this time Richard III.
  • The Other Boleyn Girl, which featured Anne's sister Mary (also a character in Wolf Hall).
  • The Swerve, which is not about the Tudors, but is also a book about the deadly seriousness of religion and great changes in the world.

The New Yorker on Thomas Cromwell and revisionist history.

Book Review Index

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reading Roulette: First Pick

After cajoling people for recommendations, sculpting it carefully, and waiting patiently for the end of the year, I have a total of 355 books on my To Read list over at Goodreads. I used the number generator to produce three numbers (drum roll), which correspond to these books:

91: The Black Tower, Louis Bayard

Vidocq. The name strikes terror in the Parisian underworld of 1818. As founder and chief of a newly created plainclothes police force, Vidocq has used his mastery of disguise and surveillance to capture some of France's most notorious and elusive criminals. Now he is hot on the trail of a tantalizing mystery--the fate of the young dauphin Louis-Charles, son of Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI.

Hector Carpentier, a medical student, lives with his widowed mother in her once-genteel home, now a boardinghouse, in Paris's Latin Quarter, helping the family make ends meet in the politically perilous days of the restoration. Three blocks away, a man has been murdered, and Hector's name has been found on a scrap of paper in the dead man's pocket: a case for the unparalleled deductive skills of Eugene Francois Vidocq, the most feared man in the Paris police. At first suspicious of Hector's role in the murder, Vidocq gradually draws him into an exhilarating--and dangerous--search that leads them to the true story of what happened to the son of the murdered royal family.

Officially, the Dauphin died a brutal death in Paris's dreaded Temple--a menacing black tower from which there could have been no escape--but speculation has long persisted that the ten-year-old heir may have been smuggled out of his prison cell. When Hector and Vidocq stumble across a man with no memory of who he is, they begin to wonder if he is the Dauphin himself, come back from the dead. Their suspicions deepen with the discovery of a diary that reveals Hector's own shocking link to the boy in the tower--and leaves him bound and determined to see justice done, no matter the cost.

In "The Black Tower," Bayard deftly interweaves political intrigue, epic treachery, cover-ups, and conspiracies into a gripping portrait of family redemption--and brings to life an indelible portrait of the mighty and profane Eugene Francois Vidocq, history's first great detective.

172: Call of the Mild: How I Learned to Hunt My Own Dinner, Lily Raff McCaulou

When Lily Raff McCaulou traded in an indie film production career in New York for a reporting job in central Oregon, she never imagined that she'd find herself picking up a gun and learning to hunt. She'd been raised as a gun-fearing environmentalist and an animal lover, and though a meat-eater, she'd always abided by the principle that harming animals is wrong. But Raff McCaulou's perspective shifted when she began spending weekends fly-fishing and weekdays interviewing hunters for her articles, realizing that many of them were more thoughtful about animals and the environment than she was.

So she embarked upon the project of learning to hunt from square one. From attending a Hunter Safety course designed for children to field dressing an elk and serving it for dinner, she explores the sport of hunting and all it entails, and tackles the big questions surrounding one of the most misunderstood American practices and pastimes. Not just a personal memoir, this book also explores the role of the hunter in the twenty-first century, the tension (at times artificial) between hunters and environmentalists, and new models of sustainable and ethical food procurement.

193: The Passage, Justin Cronin

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

I generated three books because I'm a mood reader and I don't want to get mired on one choice if I can avoid it. I just put holds on The Black Tower and The Passage in audio format, we'll see which gets here first. There are only two copies of Call of the Mild in the system, but I placed a hold on that as well. At this point, I'm not sure which one I want to read most, but maybe it will become clearer when they're in front of me and I can read/listen to a few pages. You are welcome to press for one or another choice in the comments. I will update this post when I figure out which book I'm reading!

ETA: Call of the Mild best fits the underlying purpose of this challenge, which was to get me to read outside my comfort zone--and since I'm a vegetarian who doesn't like guns . . . however, I think I'll also listen to The Passage in the car, since the most people recommended it.

Why am I doing this?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Meditation on my 2012 Year in Reading

This year, I challenged myself to read 100 books (since I easily exceeded last year's goal of 50), and--to my surprise--met that goal by the end of November. My other goal was to read as much nonfiction as fiction, which . . . emphatically did not happen, although I did read five times more than last year, thanks to my participation in an ALA panel on nonfiction readalikes. On to the stats!

Read: 117 (including 29 audiobooks and 10 ebooks), almost twice as many as 2011. Goodreads says this is almost 40,000 pages. Interesting.

Romance of the non-lesbian variety: 25
Nonfiction: 20
Lesbian romance: 21
Fantasy: 16
Young Adult: 13 (7 LGBT, 4 historical, 1 paranormal, 1 contemporary)
Science Fiction: 10
Mystery/Suspense: 4
Historical Fiction: 1
General Fiction ("literary" or otherwise): 3
Manga/Graphic Novels: 2
Picture books read to my son: ∞
Difficult to categorize: The Rook, Timeless

The number of ebooks I read this year held steady, and the increase in the number of audiobooks is largely due to the fact that my library consortium has all of Lois McMaster Bujold's books available for download in audio format. I read 14 of her works in 2012, and many of those I devoured in both audio and print, whichever was most convenient at the time. She alone was responsible for more than 10% of my reading for the year. Henceforth it shall be known as the Year of Lois.

I really stepped up my romance consumption this year; lesbian romances, historical romances, and contemporary sports romances accounted for almost 40% of my total. I was pleased to discover several new (to me) authors, including Sherry Thomas and Cecilia Grant, who will be on my TBR list in the future. I also took several hints and read some Jennifer Crusie books, which was a great idea.

I read several books, such as the Fifty Shades trilogy and Gone Girl, simply because they were "buzz" books and I wanted to get a handle on them for myself and my patrons. I probably would have gotten around to them eventually, but in this case the publicity nudged me into reading them in 2012. For a full list of books I read in 2012, visit my Goodreads page. I continued my trend of not writing long reviews--in favor of reading more--but I did rate and review things there.

As for 2013, I am embarking on a project in which I randomly select books off of my To Be Read list. I am going to make a few exceptions for books that are already on my holds list (such as A Memory of Light, which I have essentially been waiting for since the early 90s), but my overall goal is to broaden my horizons. My list is now stocked with more than 350 books that have cluttered up my list for many years, been recommended to me, or looked interesting when I was ordering books for the library. Let the randomization begin!

My favorite reads of the year:

Historical Fiction: The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett
General Awesomeness: The Rook, Daniel O'Malley
Fantasy: Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
Lesbian Romance: Jericho, Ann McMan (featuring a lesbian librarian!)
Romance: Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie
YA: The Miseducation of Cameron Post, emily m. danforth & Unspoken, Sarah Rees Brennan

What were your favorites?

Meditation on my 2011 Year in Reading (62 books)
Meditation on my 2010 Year in Reading (51 books)

Meditation Index