My year in books

I didn’t read the 35 books I’d pledged for the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I read 30. Except for one real dud for which I’d won an advanced copy and thus felt committed to complete, I had a wonderful reading year and thus have no regrets. But my “failure” (isn’t that silly?) has also forced me to consider the whole notion of a numerical goal.

I’ve seen annual goals as high as 150. I can’t imagine how anyone can read so much and still manage a day-to-day life, but obviously there are deeply committed readers who legitimately have the time. I’ve always kept my goals modest, and I’ve over-achieved at least once. But this year, at some point, I remember making a conscious decision just to slow down and appreciate each book, without thinking of what day I would finish it and which book I’d start next.

While I know that some people love audio books and fully understand why they would, they’re not my thing. If they’d been around in the years when I was rocking babies to sleep for hours on end, I might have fallen head over heels, but they weren’t. I’m strictly a reader. I want to see and savor every word, flanked by all those other lovely words that create power, beauty, and, above all, context. I want to be able to go back and re-read a sentence, a paragraph, or even a page. Not surprising that I’m rather a ruthless editor, is it? I occasionally do read electronically, but my preference is print on paper and a book in my hand.

Reading challenges based on numbers are disincentives to tackling anything over 350 pages. Perhaps that’s why the fourth volume of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels is still there on the shelf, waiting for me. I will finish it in 2020, no matter what (and it will be interesting to see how I feel about the series after a lapse of a year or more).

Thus, for 2020, I’m setting a more modest Goodreads goal of 25 (it’s still fun to look back and see all that you’ve read) but adding to/enhancing it with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s more qualitative approach. You can read about it here. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

In the meantime, below are the books that stole my heart in 2019. If you’ve read any of my book posts, you’ll know that several of my favorite writer (Louise Penny, Richard Russo, Anne Tyler, Adriana Trigiani) are in the mix, along with some writers, like A J Pearce, who were new, or new to me, like Carol Shields and Annie Proulx. And then, the final gift of beloved Peter Mayle, who’s in a class all by himself. I hoped to get to Frances Mayes’ latest this year, but I’ll look forward to reading it next month.

20 thoughts on “My year in books

  1. francefougere

    Yes for Peter Mayle too !
    Bravo for your personal challenge – dear Angela – Do have a nice December 31 st night !
    ( I must try audiobooks – sometimes I like hearing books, theatre during night – in the dark !
    amitiés et bises 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Maureen Hart

    I did my first challenge—a book a week—this year and just finished my 58th! I did not feel pressured at all and did not feel like I was rushing. I don’t watch TV except for Penn State football. I spent less time playing Solitaire on my phone or Facebook and Pinterest. So, I just spent more time doing what I love. My favorite discovery was Louise Penny. My first book of the year was The Heretic; just finished Hotel de Lac yesterday.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Angela

    Maureen, I could never do a book a week. I tend to read slowly, to begin with, and right now, I am almost as busy as I was when I was working. So I will just proceed at my own pace. Also, I prefer not to read more than one book at once, unless one is nonfiction and fairly linear. Prolific readers seem to have no problem reading more than one book at a time. But it’s all good, isn’t it?

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  4. Apple Hill Cottage

    I read Ferrantes first book in her series and loved it, but could barely get through the second. I also usually love Richard Russo but didn’t like Chances Are as much as his others. Thanks to you I discovered Louise Penny and have read the first two. May I suggest Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane.
    We should be friends on Good Reads. I’ll look into it…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. BookerTalk

    Setting a goal to read a specific number of books doesn’t work for me either. It would feel like work and I’ve had enough of that. I’ve also discovered that the number of books people read can be misleading. Some people seem to read an eye watering number of books and they do it by devoting time others spend on watching tv or perusing other hobbies. But then there are people who count manga books and since they are heavy on pictures and light on text it’s easy ratchet up the number read. Or they are reading very light books that are quick reads. I’m not being judgemental – if it gives them pleasure that’s fine by me. It’s just not my thing,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Angela

      Good perceptions. I like a quick read now and then, especially after I’ve read something more challenging or thought-provoking. But I do like to spend time doing other things as well. Addicted to UK and Euro TV series, which often is almost as good as reading a book. Thank you for your comment.

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  6. Life...One Big Adventure

    I agree that it is important not to get hung up in the numbers, however I feel a bit more motivated to keep reading if I keep track of the books I read and what I thought of them. I clocked up 79 books this year which sounds like a lot, but in reality it just means not much TV watching! 😉 Have loved working my way through Anne Tyler’s back list and also loved A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – a lovely read. Happy reading, Mel

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Angela

      Thé Towles is near the top of my queue, Mel. I just signed up for GR at 30, which I achieved last year, and will try to work the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge into that. My problem, I guess, is that I’m not as « demi » retired as I thought I was!

      Liked by 1 person

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