Sunday 30 December 2012

2012: A Year in Books (and a bit of film and TV too.)

Looking back over the hundred-plus books I've read this year, I was surprised to see which books had stuck in my mind and how many I had forgotten ever reading - or at least, was surprised to discover I had read them only this year. I've paid flying visits through some story-worlds, and immersed myself in others, which were often but not necessarily the ones I enjoyed the most at the time.

It can be a wonderful but slightly frightening thing to be so engrossed in a story that it is more real than day-to-day life. The notable books and series for this in 2012 were:

The Sandman graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman. Can that really have been this year? It seems a lifetime ago.

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, prompted by the BBC's second series of Sherlock at New Year. (Towards the end of the year I once more immersed myself in the world of 221B Baker Street by watching the second Holmes movie from last year, and having another Sherlock marathon.

My reread of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, around the middle of the year, reignited a second time by receiving a lot of the Lego sets for my birthday, and a third by the release the first Hobbit film. Middle-Earth has had a strong pull on me since I was 16, and it doesn't like to let me go.

A Song of Ice and Fire. I took a long time to even be tempted to read this series of doorstopper novels, but eventually I was won around - although I have second thoughts about whether or not to watch the TV adaptation.

Shakespeare as a whole, although I've only actually read the one play in its entirety this year - Julius Caesar. The BBC's marvelous Hollow Crown was a magnificent introduction to Shakespeare's history plays - I love the tragedies, and some of the comedies, but apart from studying the famous bits of Henry V, the histories were entirely new to me. But the staging of Richard II, Henry  IV and Henry V utterly captured my mind and admiration in the way only the Bard can do.

Other books that have stuck in my brain:

The Fault in our Stars - John Green.
The Etymologicon - Mark Forsyth (look! A non-fiction!)
The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters
Little Brother - Cory Doctorow
The Perks of Being A Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
1Q84 - Haruki Murakami
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Suskind

But looking back over my reading, I realise how much I've already forgotten; how many books that I enjoyed while I read them but which didn't stick in my mind, and the books that I was fairly indifferent to, and how relatively few really engaged me as a reader. And there is a place for light reading, for enjoyable fluff, but I found myself wondering how many books were ones which I read because they were short or easy, and because I hadn't posted a review on my blog for ages. Surprise, surprise, the easy reads often didn't get reviewed either, because I hadn't much to say about them.

Ellie at Musings of a Bookshop Girl wrote an excellent series of posts about rediscovering the joy of reading which I recommend reading if you feel you've fallen into a bit of a reading or blogging slump. Quality, rather than quantity, is my aim for reading and reviewing in 2013. Of late I have not done much of either. And by "Quality" I don't mean reading only Serious Literature and shunning light reading - far from it! At heart I am a fantasy freak. A thriller-seeker. A comfort-reader. A girl with a literature degree and the intent to use it. A nostalgic inner child. All these things at once and more. My aim is to merely to read the books I love, not the page-numbers of those I don't.

I set myself two reading challenges in 2012 - to read 120 books in a year (at the time of writing I have just over 5 books left to read in under 29 hours - not going to happen!) and Ellie's Mixing It Up Challenge, which encouraged me to read outside my comfort zone. In the end I read books in 13 of 16 genres - you can see which ones here - so I missed target but hardly disgraced myself, and seem to have more non-fiction in my list than in most years. But for 2013 I have resolved to set myself no blogging/reading challenges at all - not even enabling a target on Goodreads for how many books to read. That in itself feels like a bit of a scary commitment as I've been setting myself challenges for several years now (and failing to meet any of my targets.) I'm going to be selfish, and I'm going to fall back in love with my books once more.

At the same time, one of Gandalf's lines in the new Hobbit film really struck a chord with me: The world is out there, not in your books and maps. Or as Dumbledore would put it, It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. So in 2013, I want to go on my own adventures. What form these may take is as yet a mystery, but I feel the need to redress the balance between book and life.

Happy new year everyone, and I wish you all lots of joy for 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, so I've had this post open in my browser for about a week waiting to comment on it, so I'M HERE TO DO COMMENTING NOW!

    Loads of these books are on my 2013 mental maybe-TBR pile - A Game of Thrones, The Hobbit (re-read), more Sherlock Holmes, more Shakespeare (THE HOLLOW CROWN, WOOHOO!)... I can't wait! I've just bought The Fault in Our Stars too, and I'm increasingly tempted by 1Q84 as well. ALL THE BOOKS!

    I absolutely agree on the 'reading easier stuff because I hadn't posted' thing too. I'm determined to start afresh this year and just go with the flow, because like you, a lot of what I read this year just wasn't good. It wasn't well written, it wasn't memorable or interesting or exciting - it was just quick! This year I want to choose books based on how much I want to read them this minute, how great they sound, how eagerly I've been anticipating them - not how fast I can get them 'knocked off' the pile.

    Here's to a great year of reading, falling back in love with books and reclaiming some balance, for both of us! :D


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