Looking back before looking ahead: 2018 reading wrap-up

Toward the end of last year (November 17, 2017, to be exact), I posted my Top Ten list of books I had been looking forward to earlier in the year, and books I was looking forward to in 2018. Now we’re nearing the end of 2018, and it’s time to see how things went. Those who are familiar with Nick Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column – or really anyone who always has a to-read list going – know that some books never quite rise to the top of the list, even if you really meant to read them, while others jump the queue. Here are the ones I was planning to read:

  • I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman (YA/new adult)
  • I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell (memoir)
  • Starlings by Jo Walton (short fiction and poetry)
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel/memoir)
  • Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (YA)
  • Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn (fiction)
  • The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (sci-fi/fantasy)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA)
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (gothic romance)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (nonfiction)
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay (memoir)
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (fantasy)
  • Walking Home by Simon Armitage (nonfiction/memoir/poetry)
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson

I’ve done pretty well with this list, even with queue-jumpers; the only ones I haven’t read (yet!) are Mrs. Queen, Daniel Kahneman, Roxane Gay, and Walking Home. Of the rest, I really enjoyed them all, but Jemisin’s trilogy was particularly outstanding for its world-building, character development, and storytelling structure/perspective, and Transcription was incredible as well; when Kate Atkinson observes that “The mark of a good agent is when you have no idea which side they’re on,” file that away for later. And Maggie O’Farrell continues to amaze me; I’ll read anything she writes.

Cover image of The Princess Bride 25th anniversary editionRe-reading: I used to love re-reading, but when I started working in publishing and then in libraries, there were always so many enticing new books I didn’t re-read the ones I liked nearly as often as I used to. This fall I’ve made more time for re-reading, including the Harry Potter series (I’ve re-read the first six since the end of August). I plan to re-read the seventh, and maybe The Cursed Child as well. I’m also planning to re-read The Princess Bride (that was on my mental list for November/December even before the sad news that Bill Goldman passed away). And December wouldn’t be quite complete without re-reading Greenglass House by Kate Milford, though maybe this year I’ll re-read Ghosts of Greenglass House or Bluecrowne by her instead.

Community Reads: In addition to continuing to serve on the Arlington Reads Together committee, I’ve been drafted to be on the Winchester Reads committee, which means I have a nice new stack of books to read before our next meeting in February; I’m not sure if our shortlist is public knowledge yet so I won’t say what those titles are, but there are some strong candidates and I’m looking forward to starting them…after I finish S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure.

2019: It looks like Nick Laird’s new poetry collection will be out next summer. I’m also hoping for the next Book of Dust by Philip Pullman, and Audrey Niffenegger’s sequel to The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’m sure there are plenty of other books to look forward to – what’s on your radar for next year?

I’m planning to post the actual 2018 wrap-up in early January. Here’s the 2017 wrap-up, and here’s the 2018 mid-year reading wrap-up.

2018 Mid-Year Reading Wrap-Up

It’s almost time for the mid-year wrap-up of books I’ve read and liked best so far this year. There’s still plenty of June left, but I’m preparing for a book talk later this month, so it seemed like a good time to go over the past five months of reading in my LibraryThing catalog. This isn’t BuzzFeed so I won’t be doing a “Top [odd number] Books You MUST Read RIGHT THIS SECOND” style of list, but I have separated them by category. As always, these are books I’ve read in this time frame; some are recently published, but others are older.

There are a lot of picture books, because we read a lot of picture books (and, at about 32 pages each, you can read many more of those – even with repetition – in the same amount of time it takes to read an adult book). So we’ll start there, and if you have no interest in picture books, then skip ahead!

Cover image of A Different PondPicture Books
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi (illus. Laurel Molk)
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
A Different Pond by Bao Phi (illus. Thi Bui)
Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins (illus. Paul O. Zelinsky)
Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski
Sleep Like A Tiger by Mary Logue (illus. Pamela Zagarenski)
Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar
Cover image of Henry & LeoThe Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman
88 Instruments by Chris Barton
More More More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams
Perfect Square by Michael Hall
Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

Fiction
Interestingly, all of these fall under the umbrella of “speculative fiction.”
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Cover of StarlingsAn Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Starlings by Jo Walton
Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill (esp. the novella “The Unlicensed Magician”).

Nonfiction
Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling by Philip Pullman
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Cover of So You Want to Talk About RaceWhen They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Cookbooks
Dinner by Melissa Clark: lots of good ideas to follow or riff on, all based on the idea of a single dish being a whole meal (though that single dish usually has many components)

Middle Grade & Young Adult
Stella by Starlight and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Cover image of The MarvelsThe Boy From Tomorrow by Camille P. DeAngelis
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll (graphic novel)
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
And this batch of novels, each of which is satisfying if you’re looking for contemporary realistic fiction with some romance and diversity: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman; The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler; When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon; Puddin‘ by Julie Murphy; You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, I’m excited to read new novels by Kate Atkinson (Transcription), Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers), Angie Thomas (On the Come Up), Hank Green (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing), and Therese Anne Fowler (A Well-Behaved Woman). Looking back at a to-read list from November 2017, there are still a few titles there I haven’t gotten to, and more coming out all the time….What books are you looking forward to reading?

2014 Year-End Reading Wrap-Up

The beginning of January: the traditional time to collect statistics on the previous year’s reading. At least, this is the tradition on librarian blogs. See: Jessamyn West, Meredith Farkas, and my co-worker Linda.

Last year I read 154 books; here’s the complete wrap-up from 2013. In 2014 I re-discovered picture books in a big way, so I’ve got an inflated-looking number (281!) as well as a more comparable one (147).

Number of books read in 2014: 281

Books per month average: 23.4

Total page count: 54,111 (most picture books are 32 pages, most audiobooks are “unpaged”)

Fiction/Nonfiction split: 244 fiction/37 nonfiction

Books read minus 6 partially-read books: 275

And minus 128 picture books: 147

Books per month average minus partially-read books and picture books: 12.25

Audiobooks: 20, including a few re-reads (Will Grayson, Will Grayson; My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece; Landline; Every Day), not including one I didn’t finish (White Tiger)

The male/female author split in my library (read, currently reading, and to-read)
Figure 1: The male/female author split in my library (read, currently reading, and to-read)

Female/male authors: roughly 50/50 if this year is consistent with my library as a whole (see Fig. 1)

5-star ratings: 18 books (though two of them were The Very Hungry Caterpillar, one in English and one in Spanish).

And as Linda wrote, “I stand by my 5-star ratings, but when I look at what I read this year, there are many other books that really jump out at me, that when I see them on the list I think ‘That one was really good.'” It’s hard to tell, when you finish a book you really liked or loved, if it will stick in your mind or not. Some fade quickly, and others continue to grow in your memory until they’re firmly lodged there; these are the ones you end up recommending to others for years, even if they weren’t the ones you raved about the instant you finished reading the last page.

For the Robbins librarians’ collaborative blog post about our favorite books of 2014, in which we  particularly focused on books with 2013-2014 pub dates, I chose to write about The Bone Clocks, Station Eleven, All the Light We Cannot See, Men Explain Things to Me, and Far Far Away. I also strongly second many of the other librarians’ choices, including The Magician’s Land, Landline, Thunderstruck and Other Stories, Say What You Will, and I’ll Give You the Sun.

As for reading resolutions, stay tuned. Or if you’re looking to make a reading resolution of your own, check out Linda’s blog post about reading challenges, or mine on bookish resolutions.