Midweek @ Musings: 2011 Year in Review

‘Tis the season for “year in review” posts, whether they are about the most important cats of 2011, or books. ūüôā

So here I am with a wrap-up on all things reading in 2011.¬† I’ve also been doing some housekeeping by adding to my Best of Musings page and sprucing up the design with a new header, which also graces the top spot on this post (photo credit).¬† I wanted an image that shows the fun of collecting (and, yes, reading!) used books.¬† In 2011, I added 65 books to my library; 32 were used Virago Modern Classics and 22 were swaps from Paperbackswap (I also sent 18 books off to new homes).

It was a little scary, tallying up my new additions that way.¬† I was truly relieved to find I read more books than I acquired.¬† I’ll end the year having finished 77 books (23,500 pages), an average of about 6 1/2 books per month.¬† I continued last year’s trend of reading much more literature written by women than men.¬† If you’re a graph geek (and you know I am!), you can see all that and more by clicking on the graphic:

Click here for a 4-graph slideshow!

I began the year with a pledge to “read normally,” which meant abandoning reading challenges and being more spontaneous in my choices.¬† This worked really well, and both more fun and more satisfying. My top books for 2011 were all 5-star reads, and have earned a spot on my favorites list (click on links to read reviews):

P&P was a re-read, and even more enjoyable the second time around.¬† Dance was a fabulous find, discovered quite by accident after doing the “Which books were on the bestseller list the week you were born?” meme.¬† I’ve since read the “second movement” and plan to complete the series in 2012.¬† The Memory of Love was nominated for the Orange Prize, and The Sense of an Ending won the Booker Prize, so I guess I’m not the only one who liked them!

My least favorite books were two I found weak on both plot and character development:

And my greatest disappointments came from three books I couldn’t finish:

I had high hopes for The Eyre Affair, but found it gimmicky.¬† I was most surprised by the Murdoch and Steinbeck, since these are authors whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past.

This year I also got a Kindle, loaded it up with free classics, and purchased a few books.¬† I enjoy it but since I’m selective about what I buy, I haven’t gone hog wild.¬† I also acquired my first Persephone Classic, and received two more as gifts, so there may be more collecting in store!

As happens every year, there are so many books I wish I’d read, but just didn’t have time.¬† I know, there’s always next year — and I’m planning to focus heavily on my stacks in 2012.¬† Be sure to stop by on January 1 for my 2012 Reading Resolutions!

The Sunday Salon: Third Quarter Progress

Hello Saloners!¬† As we head into 2011’s “home stretch,” it’s time once again to take stock of my reading.¬† I’ve read 55 books so far (19 in the third quarter), which puts me on track to read about 72 books by the end of the year.¬† That will be fewer books than in 2009 & 2010, but I’m OK with that.¬† I keep reminding myself that two of the books were “movements” from Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, which would have counted as six books if I’d read them as separate novellas.¬† And besides, if I’m enjoying my reading it doesn’t matter.¬† Right?

The third quarter started on a high note with Orange July.  I had a great time reading Orange Prize winners & nominees, and I also logged my third 5-star read this year.  Speaking of highly rated books, here are my favorite reads from the third quarter (click on the link for my review):

I read several 4-star books, mostly Orange nominees and Viragos, but there were also some clunkers.¬† Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice, and John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat were both disappointing, and made me cranky, so I set them both aside.

At this point in the year, I can also declare victory on most of my 2011 Reading Resolutions.

  • I will not set quantitative goals
  • I will not read ahead of myself
  • I will not join reading challenges
  • I will take part in reading events
  • I will make steady progress on all reading projects

The only resolution that continues to challenge me is, “I will make a noticeable dent in my stacks.” I originally intended to read books acquired before 2010, but amended this resolution to read books acquired before 2011.¬† I’m doing a little better based on my new criteria; I’ve read nine from my stacks so far this year, four of these in the third quarter.¬† Still, as I look ahead to 2012 I’d like to make a concerted effort to read books I already own.¬† In fact, I’m starting the fourth quarter off with a book I’ve had for more than three years!¬† It’s The Story of Forgetting, by Stefan Block.¬† How did this one get lost on my shelves?¬† I’ve heard good things about it from several readers & bloggers, so I hope I like it as much as they did.

What are you looking forward to reading between now and year end?

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

The Sunday Salon: Second Quarter Progress

Hello Saloners!¬† We’re having a long summer holiday weekend in the US, with Independence Day on Monday.¬† My office also closed on Friday so I’m luxuriating in a 4-day weekend.¬† The weather has been typical for Pennsylvania at this time of year, that is to say HOT!¬† But for me, summer isn’t summer without heat so I’m actually enjoying it for the time being.

So we’re now halfway through 2011, and it’s time once again to reflect on my reading so far this year.¬† I’ve read 36 books, which is pretty close to my normal pace.¬† Two of the books were “movements” from Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, which would have counted as six books if I’d read them as separate novellas.¬† And I’ve actually read more pages than this time last year so … but wait!¬† 2011 wasn’t supposed to be about the numbers, was it?¬† Sorry, old habits die hard. ūüôā

My favorite books from the second quarter were A Dance to the Music of Time (first movement), and An Artist of the Floating World (click on links to read my reviews).¬† There were no clunkers — every book was at least 3 stars — and my ratings average 3.8 stars so far this year.¬† Oops, numbers again!¬† Sorry!¬† ūüė≥

 

I continue to be surprised at my ability to keep my 2011 Reading Resolutions.¬† Well, all but one of them anyway; here’s a run-down:

  1. I will not set quantitative goals:¬† Despite the opening statements in this post, I’m still keeping this resolution.¬† Yes, I tally up books, pages, and ratings but I don’t have specific targets I’m trying to meet.
  2. I will not read ahead of myself:¬† This was challenging in the first part of the year, and has become easier with time.¬† I am not reading completely on a whim, but I don’t plan my reading until the start of a new month (or, well, a few days before …)
  3. I will take part in reading events:¬† The second quarter brought a bit of a dry spell in this area.¬† I’ve simply been reading what I wanted to read.¬† I thought I’d be more active in The Classics Circuit, but the tours haven’t fit my schedule or interests.
  4. I will not join reading challenges:¬† Still no problem here.¬† I think I’ve permanently kicked the habit.
  5. I will make steady progress on all reading projects:¬† I’m “on pace” reading Orange nominees, Booker winners, and Virago Modern Classics.
  6. I will make a noticeable dent in my stacks:¬† This was a FAIL in the first quarter, and I don’t have much more to show for myself at this point, either.¬† My resolution is to read books acquired before 2010, and I read 2 that qualify (Year of Wonders and People of the Book), for a total of 3 year-to-date.¬† I have plenty of “less dusty” books that joined the stacks during 2010, and if I count those then I’ve read 5.¬† Well that makes me feel better.¬† I’m still reading from my stacks, right?¬† So it’s decided:¬† I’m amending my resolution to read books acquired before 2011.

Qualitatively and quantitatively, this is shaping up to be a pretty good literary year.  The third quarter is off to a great start with Orange July, which is a fantastic reading event (see resolution #3), and Orange nominees are usually sure-fire wins for me.  Stay tuned for more orangey thoughts from me and my mascot, Pumpkin.

What have you enjoyed most about your reading this year?

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

The Sunday Salon: First Quarter Progress

It’s hard to believe we are already three months into the year; the time has gone by so quickly.¬† So, I guess it’s time for my first quarterly summary of 2011.

I read 17 1/2 books in the first quarter.¬† I don’t normally count partial books, but that “1/2” represents 375 pages of A Dance to the Music of Time.¬† Most of my reads are 300-400 pages long, so under any other circumstances, this would “count” as a full book!¬† Anyway, I’ll finish it soon and return with a full report.¬† The best of the first quarter bunch was my re-read of Pride and Prejudice, which proved just as worthy of its 5-star rating the second time around.¬† I also greatly enjoyed The Hills at Home, One Fine Day, and The Colour (all rated 4.5 stars).¬† The biggest disappointment was The Winter Ghosts, by Kate Mosse, a lightweight sort of mystery that failed to capture my attention.

So you’re probably wondering, am I keeping my 2011 Reading Resolutions?¬† Well, I know you’re not really wondering, but I’m going to tell you just the same. ūüôā¬† Here’s what I resolved in January, with a few words about how I’m doing:

  1. I will not set quantitative goals:¬† This is going well.¬† I’m keeping track of what I read, but it’s a historical record not a forward-looking plan.
  2. I will not read ahead of myself:¬† I consciously restrained myself during the first quarter, waiting until the last week of the month to choose the next month‚Äôs reads.¬† This was more difficult than expected, but there is hope:¬† I didn’t even think about April until March 30 !!
  3. I will take part in reading events:¬† I did Orange January and Virago Reading Week, and organized a group read on LibraryThing for Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady.¬† This was wonderful:¬† I read some great books and really enjoyed the social element.¬† I hope to do more in this area.
  4. I will not join reading challenges:  No problem here.  I have not missed them, not one bit.
  5. I will make steady progress on all reading projects:¬† This is going reasonably well.¬† I read 4 Orange nominees and 4 Booker nominees, and while I’ve only read 2 Viragos I’m hoping to make up for that by reading 2 more in April.
  6. I will make a noticeable dent in my stacks:¬† FAIL.¬† My resolution is to read books acquired before 2010, and I only read one (Behind the Scenes at the Museum).¬† In the “close but no dice” department, I read two that joined the stacks in 2010 (The Colour and The Betrayal).¬† But … I’ve added 15 more books to my pile, not counting Viragos.¬† Gulp.

It feels great to let go of structure and commitments.¬† I’m reading books I might have passed on before.¬† My current book is a great example:¬† I had to wait six weeks for A Dance to the Music of Time to arrive at my local library.¬† In years past this would have thrown off my challenge commitments or other goals.¬† Instead, I just kept reading other interesting books until it came available.¬† I’m enjoying my reading much more, which is just what I hoped for from my ‚ÄúYear of Reading Normally.‚Ä̬†¬† So far, so good.

How is your reading year going?

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

4 years old today!

Musings is 4 years old today!

My daughters are great kids, but I have especially fond memories of them at 4 years old.¬† Suddenly they transformed from a baby into a person.¬† And now this blog has reached a similar milestone, growing from a baby during its first years on LiveJournal, into something more fully formed here.¬† So on my 4th “blogiversary,” I thought I’d look back at the past year, and share some thoughts about the year ahead.

Looking back

Last weekend, the “stats helper monkeys” at WordPress.com provided me with a whole mess of data about my blog in 2010.¬† This was my first year on WordPress, and here’s what I have to show for it:

The Blog-Health-o-Meter‚ĄĘ reads Wow.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 195 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 197 posts.

The busiest day of the year was November 24th with 94 views. The most popular post that day was Midweek @ Musings: If you give a blogger a cookie ….

These posts and pages had the most views in 2010:

I also expanded my relationships in the blogging community.  I enjoyed the interaction on this blog, discovered lots of great blogs, and kept up with some old favorites (check out my complete blogroll in the sidebar).

Looking ahead

Those sweet little things pictured above are now 18 and 15 years old, and have matured into intelligent, confident young women.¬† Now, I don’t know if this blog will ever reach the ripe old age of 15 (!!), but I do know it will mature over time and I want it to be something I’m proud of.¬† My blogiversary is a good time to find ways to build on what I’ve created here so far.¬† Last year I created a Blog Improvement To-Do List.¬† This year I have just a couple of broad resolutions:

Strengthen connections with classics bloggers. Something interesting happened in 2010 —¬† most of my new connections were people who enjoyed reading classics.¬† Bloggers like Paperback Reader, cardigangirlverity, Book Snob, Buried in Print, Iris on Books, and Stuck in a Book enriched my reading through their love of classic literature.¬† Most of them read other genres as well, but generally speaking, we read more “older” fiction than newly published works.¬† This insight helped me define my own blogging niche.¬† In 2011 I want to strengthen these relationships and build new ones.

Experiment with new types of content: Last year I established a “blogging rhythm,” creating my Midweek @ Musings feature, and taking part in The Sunday Salon.¬† In 2011 I’d like to bring more variety and creativity to those posts.¬† I like the way Florinda at The 3 R’s Blog curates content for her readers, pulling together links she finds around the interwebs.¬† And I think it would be fun to have more “book chat,” like comparing two books, or a book and a movie.¬† I’m open to ideas, so feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.

Thanks for reading and commenting over the past year.¬† Here’s to a great 2011!

The Sunday Salon: 2011 Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year!

Last week I posted my 2010 Year In Review, including my Top 5 Books of 2010, and several “reading superlatives.”¬† Today, in a bright shiny new year, it seems fitting to write about the year ahead.

Last year, my new year’s post was filled with measurable goals e.g., to read a set number of certain types of books, and participate in specific challenges.¬† Not in 2011.¬† Back in October, I decided to abandon reading challenges, and read what I most want to read at that very moment. ¬† I still had a small pile of books I’d planned — but genuinely wanted — to read, so initially my reading wasn’t really all that spontaneous.¬† But with a new year comes a fresh start.¬† Welcome to my “Year of Reading Normally” !

What does “reading normally” mean to me?¬† I’ll try to describe it in terms of a few new year’s reading resolutions:

  1. I will not set quantitative goals, since they intensify my “urge to plan.”
  2. I will not read ahead of myself *.¬† I will wait until the last week of a month to choose the next month’s reads.
  3. I will take part in reading events, including Orange January/July and The Classics Circuit, because they are a fun way to discover new authors and chat about great books.¬† If you’re paying attention you’ll have spotted a contradiction here.¬† So yes, book events are a permitted exception to resolution #2. ūüôā
  4. I will not join reading challenges.¬† This one has an exception as well (!!):¬† LibraryThing‘s monthly “Take it or Leave it” Challenge.¬† This event challenges readers to find books that fit specific categories.¬† Its very nature will force me to stick with resolution #2.¬† Win-win!
  5. I will make steady progress on all reading projects, but especially the Booker Prize, Orange Prize, and Virago Modern Classics.  No quantitative goals here (see resolution #1), just reading books that catch my interest.
  6. I will make a noticeable dent in my stacks, reading books acquired before 2010.  Trust me, I have plenty to choose from.

* excellent phrase borrowed from Buried in Print.

And I think that’s about enough, don’t you?¬† I’ll be back later this week to talk about Orange January and celebrate my blogiversary.

Wishing all of you excellent reading in 2011!

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.