The Sunday Salon: 2012 Year in Review

2012 is rapidly coming to a close and, like book bloggers everywhere, I’m taking stock of the year.  I’ve spent the past week reflecting on my reading, and doing some housekeeping here on the blog.  I added to my Best of Musings page, made sure all my other pages were up-to-date, and then decided to spice things up a bit with some new design elements.  If you’re using a feed reader, I hope you’ll click-through and have a look!

Now about my 2012 reading.  I finished 64 books (and might reach 65), fewer than in any of the past five years, but for good reasons which I’ve already explained.  And as my book-blogging buddy Rebecca from Love at First Book reminded me in a recent comment,

I also don’t think you should be hard on yourself with the AMOUNT of books being read this year. Take a look at those books and think: Were they challenging? Did you learn things from them? Did you enjoy reading those books? Did you read when you could or was there more time you could have dedicated to reading?

It’s about quality, not quantity. I could read 300 zombie/romance YA books, one per day almost, but that wouldn’t fulfill my requirements of reading actual books.

Yes Rebecca, I’ve read some really great books — books that delighted me, challenged me, and provided insight.  These are my Top 5, all of which garnered 5-star ratings (click on links for my reviews):

When I look back on my 2012 Reading Resolutions, I find a bit of a mixed bag.  I wanted to read more books from my stacks than I acquire, and I did better at this than in earlier years.  I added 64 books to my library, not including reference works like knitting books.  This is, coincidentally, the same number of books I read.  28 of my 64 acquisitions were Virago Modern Classics, which I regard as a collection, something slightly different from a run-of-the-mill TBR pile (if you sense me rationalizing here, you’re probably right).  25 of my 64 books read came from my shelves, and 12 from my Virago Modern Classics collection.  I don’t want to over-complicate the math here (!!), so I think I’ll just declare this reading resolution a draw.  Are we all OK with that?

Moving on.  I completely failed to read more non-fiction; in fact, I read only 6 books.  They were good reads, too:  books like The Hare with Amber Eyes (review), and The Worst Hard Time (review).  I had good intentions to read more, but often found I just wasn’t in the mood.  I’m not giving up on nonfiction entirely, but I now known I just have an overwhelming preference for fiction.

Moving on, again. I feel good about my remaining two resolutions!! I continued making progress on all reading projects,reading loads of prize winners/nominees and classics, including Virago Modern Classics.  I also increased interaction with the book blogging community.  This came about through The Classics Club, Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and the Estella Society’s Book Blogging Buddy System, which is how I “met” Rebecca.

And finally, there was the Elizabeth Taylor Centenary.  This began in the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group, but in a burst of new year enthusiasm I expanded beyond LT, recruiting other bloggers to chat about one of Taylor’s novels each month.  I had so much fun collaborating with the hosts, and of course reading the novels and talking about them with other readers.  I’m also thrilled at how many people have discovered Taylor because of this event.  It was one of my most satisfying reading projects, ever!

Well, that’s the year that was.  And of course I’m already geared up for 2013.  I’ll be back in the coming days with more resolutions to keep or break as I see fit.  🙂  And I’ll tell you about a personal long-term project, too.  See you soon!

What were the highlights of your reading year?

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The Sunday Salon: Third Quarter Progress

Here we are, at the end of a quarter again.  How does time pass so quickly?  Seems like just yesterday I was whinging about reading fewer books, and reading more slowly, this year.  Well, things picked up a bit in the summer, as they often do.  I’ve read 48 books year-to-date, 18 in the third quarter.  I also finished Middlemarch, which I’d been reading most of the year.

I was also lucky enough to enjoy two 5-star reads:  Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, which won the Orange Prize, and Jane Harris’ Gillespie and I (click on the links for reviews).  All in all, I feel better about my reading now than earlier in the year.

Happily, most of my 2012 Reading Resolutions are back on track too:

  1. I will read more books from my stacks than I acquire.  Eight of the books read this quarter were ones I already own: 3 Virago Modern Classics, 5 from my stacks.  I also read 1 new acquisition. And it seems I added *gulp* 20 books to my home library.  But wait!  12 of those were Virago Modern Classics, which I consider part of a collection, not part of my stacks.  Using this new, vastly preferred calculation method, I added 8 books and read 6 (5 from my stacks and 1 new acquisition).  Not so bad, right?  Well, that’s how I rationalize it anyway. 🙂
  2. I will read more non-fiction.  I’m failing miserably!  I read only 1 non-fiction book in the third quarter, and just 4 year-to-date.  As much as I want more balance in my reading, I’m much more tempted by the fiction on my shelves.
  3. I will continue making progress on all reading projects, but especially the Booker Prize, Orange Prize, and Virago Modern Classics.  I’m on track to reach my goal of reading 12 Virago Modern Classics.  I hoped to read 12 Booker and Orange Prize nominees as well, but I’m likely to fall short by a book or two.  Still, I’ve made steady progress and I’m happy about that.
  4. I will increase interaction with the book blogging community.  The Elizabeth Taylor Centenary continues to be a lot of fun.  I dropped out of some reading challenges mid-year, but The Classics Club has taken shape nicely with its own website, a growing membership, and interesting monthly features.   I also can’t say enough good things about Book Blogger Appreciation Week, which gave me a much-needed boost of community good will and inspired me to use Twitter more, which has been fun.

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, my reading plans are deliciously unstructured.  Yes, I have a stack of books lined up for October, which I’ll share with you next week.  But after that, I’m not so sure.  And that’s fine with me — I’ll go where my mood takes me.

How has your reading evolved over the year?  Any changes in store for the fourth quarter?

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The Sunday Salon: Second Quarter Progress

What’s that squishing sound I hear?  Oh, wait, that’s me, wading through the molasses pit that is my 2012 reading.  Two quarters into the year, I’ve read far fewer books than this time last year, or for that matter, fewer than any of the past 5 years.  Specifically, I’ve read 29 books year-to-date, including one year-long read (Middlemarch).  I read only 12 books in the second quarter, and it looks like my pace is slowing from 6-7 books per month to something more like 4-5.

I have very mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I am enjoying other hobbies and family time, and I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that need high-priority focus. So it’s all explainable, and not all bad.  But then I look at my stacks of unread books, and all the books I don’t own but really, really, want to read … and I have to fight off feelings of anxiety.  Does anyone else suffer from this affliction?

At least there’s a bright side to my second quarter reading.  One book was absolutely fantastic, earning a 5-star rating:  John Green’s The Fault in our Stars.  Coming in at a close second, at 4.5 stars, is Elizabeth Taylor’s A Game of Hide and Seek (click on the links for reviews).

So I’ve taken stock of things, being realistic about the rest of the year.  Let’s take a look at my 2012 Reading Resolutions:

  1. I will read more books from my stacks than I acquire.  I’m doing better on this one than last quarter.  Half of the books read this quarter were ones I already own: 3 Virago Modern Classics, 3 from my stacks.  I also read 4 new acquisitions.  I added 11 books to my home library altogether, so technically I achieved this resolution. Hurray!
  2. I will read more non-fiction.  After doing well in the first quarter, I read only fiction in the second quarter.  I’m slipping, and with everything else going on in my life now, I am losing my motivation for this reading resolution.
  3. I will continue making progress on all reading projects, but especially the Booker Prize, Orange Prize, and Virago Modern Classics.  I’m doing OK with these.  I’m confident I will reach my goal of reading 12 Virago Modern Classics.  But considering my slower pace overall, I may not hit that target for Orange and Booker prize nominees.  As long as I read a few more of each, I’ll feel OK about it.
  4. I will increase interaction with the book blogging community.  I’ve had a fabulous time running the Elizabeth Taylor Centenary, which started on LibraryThing and quickly expanded to Facebook and the blogosphere.  I joined a few reading challenges at the beginning of the year, but I’m not seeing a lot of interaction there.  I also remembered why I stopped doing reading challenges a couple of years ago:  I didn’t want the commitments and pressure.

So I’m abandoning reading challenges again, and will just read what I feel like reading.  And if that’s almost entirely fiction, so be it.  It’s a hobby, not a job, right?  I’m excited about the books I’m considering for Orange July, and I have lots of great books on my stacks.  Now I just need to relax, stop worrying about my pace, and enjoy.

How is your 2012 reading shaping up?  Are you changing anything in your approach?

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The Sunday Salon: First Quarter Progress

No foolin’, 2012 is 25% complete, so it’s time to take stock of my year in reading (so far).

I finished 16 books, and have 1 long-term read in progress (Middlemarch).  Although I’ve often felt like I’m reading more slowly, this is pretty much the same pace as first quarter 2011.  I’ve had two 5-star reads so far this year and oddly enough, I read both in the same week ! Click on the titles to read my reviews:

And let’s not forget my 2012 Reading Resolutions. There are only four, but one is proving especially challenging:

  1. I will read more books from my stacks than I acquire.  Whose idea was this, anyway?  The good news is, the majority of books read this quarter were ones I already own: 3 Virago Modern Classics, 7 from my stacks, and 1 re-read on my Kindle.  I’m well on my way to achieving my 2012 goal to read 30-40 books I already own.  The bad news?  I added 21 books to my home library, 11 of which are VMCs.  And I can’t blame it all on my birthday.  Cringe.  Sigh.  Moving on …
  2. I will read more non-fiction.  Success!  I’ve read 3 non-fiction books already, and have enjoyed “mixing it up” a bit.
  3. I will continue making progress on all reading projects, but especially the Booker Prize, Orange Prize, and Virago Modern Classics.  I’m on a good pace with this one.  Orange January started the year off right, and one-quarter into the year, I’m exactly one-quarter of the way towards my Virago and Booker reading goals.
  4. I will increase interaction with the book blogging community.  In January, I expanded the Elizabeth Taylor Centenary beyond LibraryThing to the blogosphere, and I’m delighted with the enthusiastic participation in both venues.  I also recently joined The Classics Club.  And I’m happy to say I’m seeing new visitors to my blog!  I love all the comments and discussion.

And while the year may be 25% over, that just means 75% of the year is still to come, and with it more great books.  In the next few months I’m looking forward to reading more books by Elizabeth Taylor, a Persephone, a few books from my stacks (of course!) and … um … a couple of books I plan to buy soon (blush).

What books are you looking forward to reading?

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The Sunday Salon: An anniversary post (or: Are blog years = dog years?)

This weekend I’m celebrating my 5th blogiversary!  Well, “celebrating” might be too strong a word, but I did take notice.  And as I reflected on 5 years of blogging, and being a dog lover and all, it occurred to me that blog years might be roughly equal to dog years:
PhotobucketEarly on, I was filled with a puppy’s curiosity and boundless energy. Then, like most bloggers, I experienced a sort of adolescent period, where I wondered what it was all about, and some days I just wanted to shut myself in my room for a while.

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But with perseverance, my blogging reached middle age (35-40 in human years).  I’ve found my voice.  My blog has a clear purpose, and I understand my strengths and weaknesses.  And I feel pretty good about it.  I’ll never be one of those ultra-popular bloggers, but I read books I enjoy, and I enjoy sharing them with you.  And hopefully, if I’m like my sweet dog Lily (pictured here), as this blog heads into its “senior” years, it will continue to show the pluck and, er, doggedness of its youth.

Well, I think that’s about as far as the dog years metaphor can go!  It’s been a slow reading week so now I’m going to get back at it in hopes of having something bookish to say next weekend.

Have a great week!

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The Sunday Salon: 2012 Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2012!

It’s been a busy blogging week, as I worked feverishly to read and review my final books for 2011 (reviews: The Crowded Street, and The Land of Little Rain), and write a hopefully coherent 2011 Year in Review post, which includes the usual roundup of stats as well as my top reads for the year.

Last year, I resolved to “read normally,” shifting away from hyper-planned reading, filled with challenges and quantitative goals.  And it was a great year!  But now I’ve turned the calendar page, and have 366 days spread out before me.  It’s time to take stock of last year’s resolutions, and form some new ones for 2012.

My 2011 resolutions helped me stop planning my reads 2-3 months in advance.  I stayed away from reading challenges; in years past years these fueled my “need” to plan.  I also intended to take part in more reading events, but some of them didn’t pan out as I’d hoped.  Although I’m very active on LibraryThing, by the end of the year I was missing the community interaction that’s such a fun part of blogging.  So … um … I’ve joined three 2012 reading challenges :oops:.  But each one supports a reading resolution, so I can work towards my goals, in the company of other bloggers.  A rationalization?  Perhaps … 😉

  1. I will read more books from my stacks than I acquire.  I have over 60 unread books acquired before 2012, and more than 140 unread Virago Modern Classics in my collection.  Enter the Off the Shelf Challenge.  I hope to read 35-40 books I already own (about 50% of the year’s reading).  I also signed up for The Chunkster Challenge, as encouragement to read some of the heftier tomes on the shelves.
  2. I will read more non-fiction.  In a recent post, I noted that my reading was more than 90% fiction.  And I have tons of nonfiction on my shelves!  The Non-Fiction, Non-Memoir Challenge will help me accomplish two reading resolutions — woo hoo!
  3. I will continue making progress on all reading projects, but especially the Booker Prize, Orange Prize, and Virago Modern Classics.  I don’t have quantitative goals (sticking with my 2011 resolution!), but will be reading books that catch my interest.
  4. I will increase interaction with the book blogging community.  This includes group reads, events like Orange January/July, and  especially two that I host:  The Complete Booker, and the Elizabeth Taylor Centenary (which at this point is only on LibraryThing, but I’m toying with ideas).

And there they are: challenging, but not overwhelming.  Wish me luck!

What are your 2012 reading resolutions?
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2012 Off The Shelf Challenge

Every reader has this problem, right?  We acquire books with every intent to read them, and then … well … somehow they don’t get read as soon as we think.

In 2011, I decided to make a noticeable dent in my stacks, and I did, sort of:  I read 17 books acquired before 2011, plus 11 from my Virago Modern Classics collection.  But I also added 65 books to my library, including 32 Viragos.

So.  As I write this, I have over 60 unread books just lying around, not including 140+ Viragos.  The Off the Shelf Challenge, hosted by Bookish Ardour, is just what I need to help me keep the pile at a manageable level.  I’m going for the Making A Dint level, requiring 30 books.  I actually hope to do better, but the next level up requires 50 books, way more than I can imagine!

I plan to read 12 Virago Modern Classics, and at least 24 other books acquired before 2012.  I’ll share progress reports in my quarterly reading updates.

2012 Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Challenge

”2012Not long ago, I posted about reading more nonfiction.  I need some outside forces to motivate me, so I joined a Non-Fiction Challenge group on LibraryThing.  Then I came across the year-long Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Challenge, hosted by Julie @ My Book Retreat.  I’m in!

The challenge offers multiple levels of participation.  The “Diploma” level requires reading 10 books, enough to stretch me a little.  My list is very much subject to change, but at the moment I definitely want to read:

And I have several other books on my shelves that qualify, including:

I’ll report progress in my quarterly reading updates.  Let’s go!

2012 Chunkster Challenge

I hadn’t planned to join any 2012 challenges, but Wendy and Vasilly made this one sound so fun, I fell right into their trap.

A chunkster is defined as 450 pages or more of ADULT literature, whether non-fiction or fiction. A chunkster should be a challenge.  eBooks and audio books are not allowed — this is about dragging a really chunky tome around with you until it’s finished.

I’m signing up at The Plump Primer level, or 6 books, and I have a partial list:

  • A Dance to the Music of Time: Third Movement, by Anthony Powell
  • A Dance to the Music of Time: Fourth Movement, by Anthony Powell
  • Dark Fire, by C.J. Sansom
  • Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

I’ll be back with progress reports in my quarterly reading updates.