It’s been quiet around here. Chalk it up to a wedding, new apartment, a job change, or a Sisyphean struggle against the inanities of Chinese censorship law, but 2012 was a struggle on both the blogging and reading fronts. The time, it feels, just wasn’t there. Yet, I’ve already done a mea culpa earlier this year about my blogging habits (one that ultimately didn’t take) and I have no intention of writing another one here. As it’s a new year, it’s time to reflect a bit on the books of 2012.
Number of books read: 34
As I mentioned, 2013 was a struggle and, for the first time in recent years, I just
couldn’t didn’t make reading a priority. 34 is a pitiful, sad little number, not even amounting to 3 books a month over the course of the year. I could console myself with the fact that 19% of Americans don’t read any books in a given year and that, of the remainder, the average number is 17. This is little comfort as 5% of Americans read more than 50 books and, sadly, I am no longer in that particular category.
Fiction/Non-Fiction Split: 17/17
A slightly higher percentage of non-fiction than last year and, all in all, one that I’m satisfied with. The topics of the non-fiction were quite eclectic including musical biography, cooking memoir, travelogue, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, international diplomacy, cultural reportage, and television analysis.
E-Book/Paper Book Split: 24/10
One of my goals for this year was to get away from my iPad/Sony reader a bit more and read some of the real books that I keep around. As compared to 2011, where I only read one paper book the entire year, this goal, at least, was successful.
The group of books I read this year was, by and large, forgettable. The majority of them were amusing or interesting in the moment, but I’m having a having a hard time recalling almost anything specific about them now. Still, there were a few that stood out and deserve a mention.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Ostensibly a mystery about a missing woman, this book is a scathingly funny and black-hearted satire about a marriage gone bad in a culture of economic decline and social shallowness. Through the use of several very unreliable narrators, the story keeps you guessing through it’s brilliant set-up and into it’s rewarding conclusion. The characters are, for the most part, despicable but they’re human, they’re interesting, and they’ll make you uncomfortable by how close they come to reminding you of someone you know – or, perhaps, yourself.
Spillover by David Quammen
Hypochondriacs beware – if you read this, you may never again be comfortable doing the following: walking in the forest, riding on an airplane, eating chicken, staying in a hotel, taking a taxi, or generally interacting with any other living thing (human or otherwise) for the rest of your life. The title refers to the phenomenon of an animal disease ‘spilling over’ into a human population where it either sputters out unnoticed (countless, unnamed times in human history), sporadically erupts causing localized devastation before burning out (Ebola, Marburg) or goes on to wreak long-term and widespread havoc on humanity (AIDS, influenza). Heavy topics, but Quammen keeps things interesting and surprisingly funny – in a dark sort of way. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the book: “Advisory: If your husband catches an ebolavirus, give him food and water and love and maybe prayers but keep your distance, wait patiently, hope for the best – and if he dies, don’t clean out his bowels by hand. ” Sage advice we all can live by.
The Hunger Games Trilogy
I don’t think remember the “young adult” genre existing when it would have been age appropriate for me (although I suppose it must have), but I don’t regularly (ever) dip into this pool of books for reading material. With all the hype surrounding this series, and the release of the movies, I took a chance and was pleasantly surprised. The story was addictive and taut and the characters were appropriately complex. To be sure, this series went downhill from the first installment, but The Hunger Games was certainly one of the best written stories I read last year.
2013 – The Resolutions
In my current job, I’m constantly working with long-term goals, and as much as I abhor the meta-jargon of project management, it is true that the best plans are SMART plans – Specific, Meaningful, Attainable, Relevant, Timely. In this vein, I have two reading resolutions for 2013:
1. Read at least five books every month – Self explanatory, with the caveat that this is not an average over the year. Every month should have at least five books read.
2. Post on this blog twice a week – again, self explanatory.
Sounds simple now, but we all know what is said about the best laid plans of mice and men. But, Jan 1st, while a manufactured milestone through the arbitrary assignment of days on a calendar, is the time for lofty (or not so lofty) goals and these are two that I intend to stick to.
Happy New Year’s everyone and happy reading in 2013!