Friday, January 10, 2014

Books I read in 2013. Early in the year I figured I should join Goodreads to promote my book, but I quickly became obsessed with it as a way to keep track of my reading. It's also a great way to remember what books you want to read when you are in a bookshop or when people ask you what you want for birthdays or Christmas.

I also found myself writing more and more detailed reviews (which you can click through to read), which annoys me now because I can't seem to stop. I've got a backlog of reviews still to write of books I read.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I am putting this pressure on myself because god knows nobody cares and I am not being remunerated or rewarded in any way for all this work. But it is useful for me to look back and see my thoughts on each book articulated to myself. I've actually ended up using some of the material from my Goodreads reviews in paid work I've done. So I guess it's worth it?

I read 40 books in 2013, which is not even a book a week. In 2012 I read 43 books and in 2011 I read 46, so it was a pretty shit year. Let me guide you through my reading habits.

To be honest, in 2013 I favoured reading pleasure over literary quality or edifying non-fiction. I read lots of genre fiction, including the playful Shambling Guide to New York CityBut I found myself being surprised by some books, including Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which had sat on my shelf for literally years because I was too daunted by how thick it was. It turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year.

I went on a young adult fiction and film adaptation jag (in some cases these overlapped). Sometimes I saw the film first, then read the book; others I wanted to get in ahead of seeing the film. It is embarrassing when you look at my bookshelves and realise how many of the books I read have been adapted to the screen.

I read The Silver Linings Playbook, World War Z (which was heaps better than the film), Austenland (which is much worse than the surprisingly charming film), The Hunter and How I Live Now. I slogged my way to the bitter end of the Sookie Stackhouse series with Dead Ever After (the most recent season of True Blood was so much better).

Probably my defining reading experience this year was the truly mediocre Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, which was made into a risible film that I enjoyed greatly. I read all five novels: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Falling Angels and City of Lost Souls. They are very badly written but I found myself beguiled by Clare's peculiar preoccupations and following her characters as if watching a trashy TV series.

But I redeemed myself with the Emily of New Moon series, a childhood favourite of mine. For the first time, I read all three books in sequence: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and my favourite then and now, Emily's Quest. 2013 was a year of revisiting my childhood; I also re-read The Changeover, another book I loved as a kid.

I read War Horse even though I haven't even seen the film; I just watched a doco on TV about the making of the stage version. I missed Warm Bodies at the cinema, too, but I read the book anyway. And I haven't seen The Ghost Writer (even though I'd like to) because I've boycotted every Roman Polanski film since The Ninth Gate.

My fascination with stories about intellectual cults and coteries continued with The Bellwether Revivals, and my weird Stockholm Syndrome interest in class privilege continued with the intriguing non-fiction pigeon pair Gentry and Servants.

I wanted to read books I'd heard a lot of buzz about. So I read Australia's 'big two', Burial Rites and The Rosie Project. Also in this category were Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, The Shining Girls, Cat & Fiddle and Boomer and Me. But I also wanted to go back and read some books that had previously been blockbusters to get a sense for a past zeitgeist. In that context I read The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Eight and The Happy Hooker.

Then there were the book club reads. I was pretty frustrated that our book club only got through five books last year (continuing the downward trend; we managed six in 2012), and am considering starting up a separate book club so I can discuss more books throughout the year. I only managed to finish our final book of 2012, Telegraph Avenue, in January 2013; it was the first book I read in the year and was Tash's pick. I then read My Brilliant Career (Lucy's pick), We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Camille's pick) and Questions of Travel (Kentia's pick).

Helen's pick was Thinking, Fast and Slow, which coincided with the final edits of my book. I was just too braindead to read a complex book on psychology; I dubbed it Reading, Hard and Slow and ultimately gave up. Felicity's pick was The Diary of a Teenage Girl and I didn't read that either. But I still went to the book club meetings and participated in the discussion!

Finally there were the random reads I discovered serendipitously. I found It on a bookshelf in a holiday house (one of my favourite ways to discover new books), Into the Wild in a country op-shop, and Bellman and Black was sent to me unsolicited by the publisher.

I'd never heard of the Falco novels, but thanks to my love of ancient Roman crime procedurals I thought I'd enjoy The Silver Pigs. Now I have seven more Falco novels waiting to be read, and I actually got stuck on one and couldn't get into it.

Okay, now it's stats time!

Hard copy: 25
Ebooks: 15

Fiction: 35
Non-fiction: 5

Literary fiction: 10
Popular fiction: 15
Classics: 2
Young adult: 8

Vampires: 7
Angels/Fairies: 5
Zombies/Pandemics: 3
Ghosts/Gothic: 3
Romance/Erotica: 9
Crime/Mystery/Procedural: 4
Historical Fiction: 2

History: 2
Memoir/Biography: 3

Australian authors: 7
International authors: 33

Male authors: 12
Female authors: 28
Australian female authors: 6

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