2019 in Books!

I’ve been trying to compose a retrospective post about 2019, despite it being three whole days into the new year, when old things are passed away and, largely, forgotten in the mists.

So whilst my mind sorts that out, I thought I’d follow a collection of prompts to tell y’all about this year’s reading.  Do share your own reading experiences as you like!!  Here’s to further work on our respective TBR piles throughout 2020.

  1. How many books did you read this year?   33!
  2. Did you reread anything? What? Curse of the Pharaohs (as I hope to continue the Amelia Peabody series, and had forgotten how this story went), As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (ditto, but re: the Flavia de Luce series), Good Omens (before watching the Amazon show’s depiction of it).
  3. What were your top five books of the year? Persuasion, A Gentleman in Moscow, The Stature of Waiting, Good Omens, and Thoughts on Creating Strong Towns.  The first 3 were beautiful, beneficial to the soul, and felt classic.  Good Omens remained hilarious, if blasphemous.  Strong Towns was so thought-provoking that I think it’s given me a bit of a paradigm shift in how I think about communities.

  4. Did you discover any new authors that you love this year? I definitely enjoyed Ted Chiang, what I’ve read of Amor Towles, and WH Vanstone.
  5. What genre did you read the most of? Mysteries – 7 of them (2 Amelia Peabody, 4 Flavia de Luce, 1 Sherlock pastiche).
  6. Was there anything you meant to read, but never got to? Oh, always.  Kristin Lavransdattir, Crazy Rich Asians, some things other friends lent me.  Still haven’t finished Benedict Option or A Gathering of Ravens.  At one point I had three copies of The Ode Less Traveled, but I had trouble on Exercise 4 so I haven’t finished the exercises therein yet.
  7. What was your average Goodreads rating? Does it seem accurate?  3.7, I guess, which sounds fair.  Just as I try not to go overboard on standing ovations, I try to save 1- or 2-star reviews for the truly terrible, and 4- or 5-star reviews for the truly edifying or life-changing.
  8. Did you meet any of your reading goals? Which ones? I read 30 books, which was my main goal.  There will always be a TBR pile, though. I tried giving up fanfiction, which would work for a month tops before I returned to old habits.
  9. Did you get into any new genres? No, I guess not, unless you count “Spanish baby books” as a genre.
  10. What was your favorite new release of the year? The only new release I read was, apparently, The Golden Tresses of the Dead.  So I guess that wins.
  11. What was your favorite book that has been out for a while, but you just now read?   The Stature of Waiting was originally published in 1982; A Month in the Country, 1980.  Oh, and Persuasion! 1818.  I’d seen the movie but hadn’t read it before.
  12. Any books that disappointed you? A Study in Sherlock.  It’s an anthology written in homage of Doyle’s canon, but several of the entries seemed to say “Look how much I’m into memorabilia and name-dropping!!” instead of “Hey, look, a well-composed story.”
  13. What were your least favorite books of the year?   Hmm.  Robinson’s Housekeeping was strange to me.  Olive Kitteridge was delicately written but so godless!  So depressing.  Bright Bazaar was a book I checked out in hopes that it could give me decorating ideas, but instead it just infuriated me – apparently bright colors are only possible for wealthy homeowners who are aggressive minimalists.  Ugh.
  14. What books do you want to finish before the year is over? I squeezed The Stature of Waiting in, and got started rereading The Buried Giant, which I haven’t finished yet.
  15. Did you read any books that were nominated for or won awards this year (Booker, Women’s Prize, National Book Award, Pulitzer, Hugo, etc.)? What did you think of them? …okay, possibly I did?  But also, who knows.  I don’t care enough to go look it up.
  16. What is the most over-hyped book you read this year? I dunno about ‘overhyped,’ but – I read 3 books by Jason Fung (The Obesity Code, The Complete Guide to Fasting, The Diabetes Code) and they could have/should have been edited down into one book.  I’m also surprised that Olive Kitteridge has been made into a show; it was so depressing that I’m not interested in learning more about the characters in it.
  17. Did any books surprise you with how good they were?   The Stature of Waiting did.  It was also surprising in terms of content – I don’t know that I’ve ever read a gloss of the Passion narrative like this.
  18. How many books did you buy? Seven, I think – 4 as gifts, 3 for me.  And I received at least 2 as gifts in return.
  19. Did you use your library? Oh, for sure.  This is part of why I’m an irresponsible reader: I check out everything that catches my eye, and then it sits and waits for me for ages.
  20. What was your most anticipated release? Did it meet your expectations?   Probably Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang?  Which.  I wanted to read it because Arrival made me cry a lot.  It was both what I expected and…not at all what I could have expected.
  21. Did you participate in or watch any booklr, booktube, or book twitter drama?  Nope.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  22. What’s the longest book you read? A Gentleman in Moscow, apparently – 396 pages.
  23. What’s the fastest time it took you to read a book? Probably an hour or two for a shorter book.
  24. Did you DNF anything? Why? I didn’t finish The Story of a Soul because someone else requested it from the library.  I didn’t finish Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story because it Just Wasn’t What I Expected; I honestly thought it was a story, not a philosophical enterprise.  Lastly, I checked out several Spanish children’s books in the expectation that they would suit my level of Spanish vocabulary.  Some (Nariz, Naricita; Besos for Baby; Los Sueños) were feasible; some (Cómo Esconder un León a la Abuela; El Príncipe de los Enredos; Rooster; Los Arboles Están Colgando del Cielo) were beyond me. 
  25. What reading goals do you have for next year?   To start with, I want to read at least 35 books.  I hope to read through my current library checkouts and not get out more than I can get through (even during the Summer Game)!  I want to finish The Ode Less Traveled and Studies in Words so I can, at long last, remove them from my “Currently Reading” tab.  I want to reread The Lord of the Rings.  I want to read all of Shakespeare’s plays, or at least, all those I haven’t read or watched before.

Tell me about your 2019 reading, or what you look forward to reading in 2020!

 

An Invitation to Introspection

When I was a senior in high school – 11 years ago (?!!?!??!  What weeping angels just stole a decade of my life?) – I took Psychology, since it was available and intriguing and, though I didn’t know it at the time, would fulfill one of Hillsdale’s core requirements when I aced the AP test.

In lieu of a final exam for the fall semester, our teacher gave us a list of prompts.  We were to choose a selection of them (though some were mandatory), practice the art of introspection for some weeks, and assemble a binder or album for her perusal with our answers – effectively, a scrapbook.

It’s not unfair to say that I learned much more about the practice of scrapbook assembly than I did about myself.  That said, it provides a better snapshot of my identity at that point than other keepsakes.

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We were required to have a title page, and this was mine.  11 years to the *day.*

So.  Flash forward to this year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  I was visiting Ryan, my friend for some 13 years now and a fellow member of this psych class.  He pulled out his scrapbook, which is about 6 inches thick on account of the fact that he fashioned pop-ups on every single page.  It’s a behemoth of a book, and testament to his creativity and diligence where projects are concerned.

While a few of us gathered around to peruse it (look at how he fashioned his own paper clarinet and bassoon!  Look at these 5 doors that all open at once when you pull this string!), we wondered “What if we answered those questions again, today?”  What would change?  What wouldn’t?

So I tracked down the sheet of prompts to share.  No one needs to share their answers – I have found that I’ve grown a bit more circumspect with age, and perhaps a bit more honest with the unpleasant facets of my own character – but y’all are free to, if’n you like.  How much has changed in the past 11 years?  How much would your answers shift from year to year?

  1. Five words that describe me
  2. Three things I really like about myself
  3. Skills and behaviors I need to learn
  4. Two things I would like to change in myself
  5. My top values in life are:
  6. Two of my special abilities or talents are
  7. The happiest moment of my life
  8. The most unhappy moment in my life
  9. Tomorrow I would like to be
  10. The two deepest concerns I have right now
  11. The best advice I ever received
  12. If I were anyone else I would be
  13. The most important person in my life
  14. Ranked in order, this is who I am
  15. My close friends see me as (have them write a narrative and place that in your packet)  [This prompt was the BEST.  Especially delightful years later to have a bit of your friends’ handwriting.]
  16. My really close friends are
  17. Five things I like about my family
  18. Two major events in my family’s history that made an impression on me
  19. Two people that affected my lifeLHWL
  20. I will remember Lutheran High Westland as
  21. Two experiences that affected me in a personal way
  22. I will never forget the following people
  23. My biggest fear
  24. I would like to be remembered as
  25. 10 experiences I would like to experience

Optional: We had to choose at least 15 of the following:

  1.  My most embarrassing moment
  2.  The funniest moment I experienced
  3.  One moment that I will never forget
  4.  If you own or drive a car, describe it
  5.  I see my girlfriend/boyfriend as (also, an experience that you have shared and you will never forget)
  6.  It’s the year 2004 2015 and my favorite song is

    1012

    Ohhh dear, high school boyfriend. Ironic that he featured so prominently when we broke up a year and a day later.

  7.  It’s the year 2004 2015 and my favorite movie is
  8.  It’s the year 2004 2015 and my favorite book is
  9.  Favorite article of clothing
  10.  Favorite sport/hobby
  11.  Favorite place to hang out
  12.  One year from now I see myself
  13.  Ten years from now I see myself
  14.  The greatest compliment I ever received
  15.  Two things I would change about my family
  16.  My favorite time of year
  17.  My family sees me as
  18.  If I had a million dollars, I would
  19.  One thing that makes me unique
  20.  My room is
  21.  I see my brothers/sisters as
  22.  I see my parent(s) as
  23.  One place I want to go
  24.  My favorite thing to do when I am alone
  25.  If I could change one thing in the world, I would
  26.  My pet
  27.  My favorite class in school (any year)
  28.  My best childhood memory
  29.  “When I grow up” I want to
  30.  I get most frustrated when
  31.  My favorite thing to do on the weekend
  32.  My most nerve-racking moment

    1027

    I like The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Harry Potter.  Color everyone SHOCKED.

  33.  My favorite teacher
  34.  If I could re-live one high school moment (repeat or change)
  35.  The place where I live
  36.  The best choice I have made
  37.  The worst choice I have made
  38.  My greatest accomplishment
  39.  My greatest failure
  40.  The way I have changed the most in the last four years
  41.  My nickname is (and how I got it)

Alphabetical Promptings

Back in the Egotistical heyday of 2011 and 2012, we set up a couple of challenges for ourselves.  2011’s challenge gave us fodder for every single day of May; 2012 split up 10 weeks between 5 of us.  We’d schemed a bit in 2013 to follow a similar paradigm with different themes, but alas, the engine of thought never quite sputtered to life.  2014 likewise lay fallow.

But recently I found an alphabetical list from Perpetual Page Turner, and thought it was just the thing for this spring.  My plan is to respond to a prompt every weekday of April and May (more or less).  Feel free to join me; since you can be as brief or as detailed as you like, you may only require a single post!

Here are the prompts:

A. Author You’ve Read The Most Books From
B. Best Sequel Ever
C. Currently Reading
D. Drink of Choice While Reading
E. E-Reader or Physical Books?
F. Fictional Character You Would Have Dated In High School
G. Glad You Gave This Book A Chance
H. Hidden Gem Book
I. Important Moments of Your Reading Life
J. Just Finished
K. Kinds of Books You Won’t Read
L. Longest Book You’ve Read
M. Major Book Hangover Because Of…
N. Number of Bookcases You Own
O. One Book That You Have Read Multiple Times
P. Preferred Place to Read
Q. Quote From A Book That Inspires You/Gives You Feels
R. Reading Regret
S. Series You Started and Need to Finish
T. Three Of Your All-Time Favorite Books
U. Unapologetic Fangirl For…
V. Very Excited For This Release More Than Any Other
W. Worst Bookish Habit
X. Marks The Spot (Start On Your Bookshelf And Count to the 27th Book)
Y. Your Latest Book Purchase
Z. ZZZ-Snatcher (last book that kept you up WAY late)

Book stack