Friday, 1 January 2010

Some thoughts about reading and blogging in 2009

So, it's January, and here comes the annual post, where I go through everything that I have read, reviewed, and blogged about, and try to sum up what this year has meant to me. There will be stats, best of, blogging highlights, resolutions, considerations and all that. It's going to be a long post, so be prepared.

Never before, since I started blogging 2 and half years ago, life has come in the way of my reading, as this year. I've slowed down everything, reading and blogging, since about June. The reason being a very painful break up which is still very much affecting me, in everything that I do and say. I have never really shared my private life here, since I started this blog to talk about books only, but the truth is that it's almost impossible to separate our reading experiences from our life experiences. They influence each other in many ways, sometimes more than we would want them to. So, yes, it's been hard, but I'm healing, slowly. Reading has been hard too, cause my mind is so full of everything else, that it wonders away from the page constantly. That's also why I haven't reviewed that many books in the past few months.

But I believe 2010 is going to be better. It has to be. I'm starting fresh, with a new house and new flatmate. I have many good resolutions that I want to follow, and the keyword to all these is confidence: I want to believe in myself more, in what I do and what I could do.
I want to dedicate more time to creativity, in any form.
I also want to liberate myself from the burden of the looming TBR mountain. Which means not what you think it means, but quite the opposite. No more guilty feelings if the unread books are left unread. I'll just read what I feel like reading. So what if I have many unread book? It's not like they go out of date. They can wait. I will keep my ban on buying books, though. I discovered it's not that hard to keep to it, when you're so broke as I am! I'll just use the library more. They usually have almost everything I'd like to read. And if they don't, well, I'll deal with that problem when it comes.
Speaking of bookish resolutions, I want to start rereading. It's not something I have ever considered. I always thought there's too many books in the world to waste time going back to the ones I have already read. But that was my younger self speaking. The older, wiser one is saying: rereading is not wasted time. It enriches the experience of a book. It makes you notice things you hadn't notice the first time. It lets you meet beloved characters and place again. And let's not underestimate my inability to remember...stuff. Rereading helps a lot on that front, too. So I'll compile a list of recent reads that I would like to revisit soon. The list is going to be solely for entertaining purposes. No commitment attached. Me no likes commitments.
Which brings me to the next resolution: Challenges. I quit them. Officially. We're done. It has been fun till it lasted. But now I'm over them. Except for those I will join, of course. I don't think I'm ready to quit The Once Upon a Time, yet. And I want to give another chance to Amanda's LGBT challenge. But other than that...goodbye yearly challenges!
This year I have only finished the Young Adult one. No surprise (or struggle) there. As for the rest, let's not hover on those failures. Really, there's no need. I know I suck at challenges. Hence the drastic decision.

Before I start with the stats and the annual list of favourite reads, I'd like to highlight some of the best moments of my 2009 blogging life:

My second Read-a-thon, in April: So.Much.Fun. I wouldn't enjoy it so much if I just had to sit there for 24 hours doing nothing but reading. I always say I should read more during Readathon, but to tell the truth, it's the blogging (with the games, the mini challenges, the comments, the sharing) that makes it so awesome.

The Ya Tournament, a.k.a. Nerds Heart YA, created by Renay.
I loved every step of it. From proposing the books to read, to selecting the short list, and then of course, reading the books, reviewing them and seeing how the tournament proceeded. It didn't hurt that the book I chose as winner of the first round, My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, ended up winning the Tournament!
I sincerely hope we're doing this again this year.

NaNoWriMo. OK, it's not strictly a blogging activity, but it is very much linked to it. I wished I had more time to share about the whole experience here, but I hardly managed to write the daily quota, let alone blog about it! It has thought me a lot about what it really means to write every day. It's HARD! But also very satisfying. I haven't even started revision yet, but I will. I definitely, most certainly, absolutely will!
Again not strictly blogging related, but definitely book related, is the Coraline premiere, at the Jameson International Film Festival in February. And the Gaiman/Palmer signing few days later. Geek heaven:)

Now for the stats:
Total books read: 52
Adult Fiction: 19
Ya+ Kids fiction: 21
Written by Women: 18
Written by Men: 19
Authors new to me: 25 out of 37
Rereads: 0!
Graphic Novels: 6
Manga: 5
Non fiction (including graphic novels): 5 (Although, does Laika qualify as non fiction? it's a mix of both really).
Books left unread: tons! better not start listing.

What all these numbers say about my reading habits in 2009? That I haven't read much non-fiction, that's obvious. That's why one of my goals for next year is to extend my knowledge about the world in general, by reading non-ficiton books on science, current affairs, travel and maybe even history.
It also says that for all my "graphic novel frenzy" phase, I've ended up reading merely 6 titles. Although I've counted The Absolute Sandman as only 1 book, while it could have easily been considered as 3 volumes! Still, I want to read a lot more than that this year.
Something else I need to read more of is just plain adult (as in grown up, non-kiddish stuff) literature. Everything from modern to classics, I have neglected it a bit. I need to keep in touch with my inner adult self, I know she's there somewhere:P

Favourite reads:
As I go through my list of read books, I realise how many great ones there are. It will be hard to narrow it down to just a few!
First the ones that really stand out from everything else in no particular order.

The Knife of Never Letting Go + The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness.
I never got around to write a review for these two. Now it's too late. All I can say is, they're fantastic. Loved loved loved the first (and cried so much when that thing happened) and loved even more the second, for its complexity, for being political and touching and heartbreaking, and completely impossible to put down. I've also read the short story here. I cried there too.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenneger

The Absolute Sandman by Neil Gaiman

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Dust of 100 dogs by A.S. King

Loser by Jenny Spinelli

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Klueger

Tapping the dream Tree by Charles de Lint (I had already read half of it in the past 4 years,but I finally finished this year, so it counts. Beside, the stories I have read this year would have definitely made the list on their own, anyway).

Safe Area Goradze by Joe Sacco

Death: the high cost of living by Neil Gaiman

The Wee Free Men + A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

I also really enjoyed: The Restaurant at the end of the Universe by Douglas Adams; The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot; Honey and Clover by Chica Umino (first 3 volumes); Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa (first volume - it's impossible to get the 2nd vol.); Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine; Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi; Laika by Nick Abadzis; The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan; The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery; Missing Angel Juan by Francesca Lia Block; The Hunger Games + Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; A bear called Paddington by Michael Bond; all the Scoppettone books except one; Speak by Laurie Halse-Anderson; Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

Biggest disappointment: The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. And the Owl Service by Alan Garner

Books I'd like to reread soon:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Wee Free Men + A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
The Book thief by Mark Zusak
Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine
Tipping the velvet by Sarah Waters
Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
Holes by Louis Sachar
and more to come...(to tired now).

The end.


Amanda said...

Okay maybe it's weird, but this whole post just makes me want to send you big virtual hugs. I hope 2010 is a million times better for you, and I'm glad you're allowing yourself to move forward with regards to challenges and TBR piles.

Jodie said...

Sad about your break up, books are not the best initial cure with all their strong emotions but when you get further into recovery they'll probably prove very helpful.

Nymeth said...

I'm so sorry you had such a rough year, Val :( I know what you mean about reading and life: they really are impossible to keep apart. I don't share all that much on my blog, I don't think, yet anyone who reads closely will know all about me because of how I react to books. As much of a cliché as this is, time does heal. May 2010 be a year of healing and regaining strength and being happy for you.

I am happy (but not surprised) that you loved Patrick Ness so much :D But not The Secret Scripture? :( I've been looking forward to that. Then again, I did love The Owl Service :P

Kim said...

I wish only happy things for you in 2010 Valentina! I so agree with you about letting go of the angst over the tbr piles. Would we be book lovers if we didn't have stacks and stacks of books about? :)

Celine said...

*hugs hugs hugs*
I hope that 2010 is a much better year in every way for you, Valentina. I think you are so right to take your time and only read when and what you want. Too many book bloggers end up letting the desire for a big quantity of books read overwhelm the simple joy of reading.

I'm so glad that you enjoyed The Poison Throne. I hope that (if you feel like reading them) CS and RP live up.

Have a great year, have fun, and be happy. *more huge hugs*

Serena said...

thanks for the recap of 2009 and for sharing your hopes for 2010! I think this year is going to be great...and I think we're all resolving to read books that we want to read!

Kelly said...

I'm sorry to hear about your breakup. But your post got me pumped up for 2010 so I feel like for me to have gotten that feeling from your writing, you must be jazzed for it as well. :)

I like the idea of tracking which authors are new to you. I hadn't ever thought of doing that before.

And...glad to see Looking for Alaska & Broken Soup on both of our "best of" lists!

Callista said...

Okay so I'm 26 days late in commenting but anyways..

I enjoyed reading your post, thanks for sharing. What you said about thinking rereads are a waste of time when there are so many books out there, that's how I feel. I don't know how much older than me you are (or if you are for that matter) but I still don't have much interest in rereads. The only books I've reread are ones I read in grade or highschool.

Sorry to hear that 2009 was rough for you, here's to a better 2010!