I love computing yearly stats for my reading. Yes, I’m aware it makes me a bit of a nerd. My husband and the few friends who know stare funnily at me but, heck, it’s just once a year. Besides, I have to compute so many other things for my job that I can indulge in some counting just for me.
The good news about 2010 is that I’ve return to my pre-pregnancy rhythm of reading, with 75 books read this year, which is a lot more than in the last 2 years. Yes, I cheated a bit by selecting some shorter books for my commute but not all of them were: I have yet to review the 700 pages biography of Marguerite Duras I finished earlier, but it took me almost 5 months to complete. One of my non-bookish resolutions was to carry lighter handbags, and I failed miserably, all the more as I bought an even larger bag that enables me to carry literally a dictionary around… ah, fashion!
I was a bit disappointed to see that I read only 2 books dated before the 20th century: Wilkie Collins’ The law and the lady, and a memorable collection of short stories by Edith Wharton. I hope 2011 will take me once more to ancient shores with new discoveries: I started the few first chapters of Ooronoko by Aphra Behn in November and have still to complete it.
In 2010 I still read a vast majority of Anglo-American writers (including Canadian and Australian, more than 60%), but I read a lot of French writers, about a fifth of all the books. This is quite a change from the previous year, and that is mostly due to the amount of non-fiction books I read too, like essays, history books and biographies, which makes up for about a third of the yearly total. It leaves about a fifth of all books from the rest of the world (Japan, China, Russia, Hungary…), but I don’t think it’s quite enough.
2010 has been a great year for shorts! I read 6 collections of short stories, mainly from female writers (I didn’t choose on purpose) such as Edith Wharton’s, Mavis Gallant’s, Jean Rhys’, Marguerite Duras’ or Francine Prose’s. And I read 5 more novellas or “long shorts”. And I still have plenty on my shelves for next year! As a result of choosing more collections and more non-fiction, I also read fewer mysteries (but very good ones, like the Swedish Sjöwall and Walhöö!).
Last year I’ve started to read books linked to one another by a common theme. It started rather informally, but I’ve discovered that I love this way of reading, because then each book (fiction or not) complements and replies to the next. Some themes I’ve read about this year: the end of WW2, seen by European historians, by Marguerite Duras in Paris, by Sandor Marai in Budapest or Anne Wiazemski in Berlin. On a less serious theme, I read several books about food: the Beijing memoir by Jen Lin-Liu (yet to be reviewed), the book from the blog “Julie and Julia”, a collection of short articles about food and Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions, and even a manga about growing and making food in remote Japan. I’ve also read several books about women, and quite a lot of books about happiness (I don’t like the name “self-help books”).
From all these books it’s difficult for me to point best ones from the rest. I’ll give you 5 memorable titles if you want to try…:
something strong and dark: Gomorra by Roberto Saviano
something uplifting and practical: The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
something magical and light: Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner
something shocking and raw: La Douleur, by Marguerite Duras
something unusual and thought-inducing: The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm