Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 Book Report

Now that I've listed all the books I read this year, I thought I'd add up some totals and look at some trends, then consider my best five (new) books I read this year.

In 2009, I read:

92 total books (an average of 1.76 per week)
65 books for the first time
33 books were for children or young adults
13 books were Austen or Austen-related
23 books were fantasy
27 books were science fiction
8 books were nonfiction (mostly biographies, mostly for work)
5 were classics I read for the first time

The total number is a bit disappointing; I think I usually read more than 100 books a year (at least two a week), but all the extra assignments this year, plus the gap caused by NaNoWriMo, brought the number down. I actually read more books for the first time than I did old favorites, which surprises me. (Thank goodness for the library.) Over a third of the books were for younger readers, which is something I worked at this year. I was also surprised to see that I read more science fiction than fantasy; usually the proportion is the other way around, but between my yearly re-reading of Bujold's Vorkosigan series and my discovery of YA author Scott Westerfeld, I got a lot more in this year. (YA sci-fi is pretty unusual, at least compared to the amount of fantasy out there, so I was curious to check it out, and was glad I did. Westerfeld is a fun author to read.)

So now it's time to consider what were my favorite books I discovered this year (ie, read for the first time). This is a toughie, picking just five out of 65, but I'll try my best.

Favorite book in the 1st quarter
Richard Peck, The River between Us, a wonderful YA historical set during the Civil War with a fantastic twist to it.

Favorite book in the 2nd quarter
Scott Westerfeld's Peeps, a welcome, SF-oriented antidote to all the angsty romantic Twilight vampire madness.

Favorite book in the 3rd quarter
John Green's Paper Towns, an Edgar-winning YA mystery that's more about discovering character than solving a puzzle.

Favorite book in the 4th quarter
Cormac MacCarthy's The Road, and yes, I know I'm late to this classic apocalyptic elegy, but I love a good end-of-the-world story and this one is beautifully written.

Favorite book of the year
Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, The 2009 Newbery Award winner that begins with a toddler fleeing a murderous killer with a dripping knife, but is more a coming-of-age tale than a horror story. Gaiman remains one of my favorite authors writing today.

Hmmm. Four of my favorite new books of the year were written for young adults. Either I'm immature or I just know good literature. In any case, it's good to know I'm writing in a genre I really enjoy.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fourth-quarter book report (2009)

I've been reading for a long, long time (over forty years now), but this is the first time I've ever tracked what I read throughout an entire year. Let's check out the fourth-quarter results. Remember, the number in parentheses means the number of times I've now read the book.

Key: C: Children's; F: Fantasy; H: Historical; Hr: Horror; M: Mystery; MG: Middle Grade (ages 8-12); NF: Nonfiction; P: Poetry; SF: Science Fiction; SS: Short Stories; V: Verse novel; YA: Young Adult (age 13+); *not in the last ten years at least; ^for work.

10/01/09: John Green, Looking for Alaska (YA, 1)
10/05/09: Leslie Connor, Dead on Town Line (YA, V, 1)
10/11/09: Ellen Hopkins, Impulse (YA, V, 1)
10/18/09: Cormac MacCarthy, The Road (SF, 1)
10/21/09: Jennifer Carson (my former critique buddy!), To Find a Wonder (MG, F, 1)
10/24/09: Martin Gottfried, All His Jazz: The Life and Death of Bob Fosse^ (NF, 1)
10/31/09: Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (H, Hr, 1)
11/03/09: Carolyn Marsden and Phillip Matzigkeit, Sahwira (MG, H, 1)
12/06/09: Scott Westerfeld, The Last Days (YA, SF, 1)
12/16/09: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain (Hr, 1)
12/16/09: Chuck Liddell, Iceman^ (NF, 1)
12/22/09: Scott Westerfeld, Uglies (YA, SF, 1)
12/27/09: Westerfeld, Pretties (YA, SF, 1)
12/29/09: Westerfeld, Specials (YA, SF, 1)
12/31/09: Westerfeld, Extras (YA, SF, 1)

So I only read fifteen books this quarter; not bad, considering that I basically skipped the entire month of November because I was spending all my spare time writing a novel for NaNoWriMo. The distinctive thing for me this quarter, and probably a first, was that every book I read was one I was reading for the first time. I love to revisit old favorites, but I had a stack of books I had brought home from a writers' conference, plus a couple borrowed from friends or from the library, and I caught up on those first. By the time the end of November rolled around and I realized none of the books on my list were old favorites, I decided I might as well try to focus on new books. It was fine; it allowed me to finally get to MacCarthy's The Road, which many critics were putting on their Top Ten of the 2000's lists, and to get through the "Uglies" series which I kept hearing great things about. (I liked it, but not as well as Westerfeld's other series.) Still, the first book I'm reading in 2010? An old favorite I haven't visited in a while, Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. I deserve a treat, I think.

Coming tomorrow, I'll look at trends for my whole year of reading, and list my top five favorite books for the year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Photo of the Week--12/28/09

Ah, Scotland ... lovely and green and cool even in the spring sunshine. No pigeons to be found at Jedburgh Abbey, the very picturesque ruin you see here. The coolest thing about this place? There's actually a scale replica built of Lego at Legoland Windsor, a place we visited frequently during our English sojourn.