I love computing my reading stats every year because it gives me time to remember each of the books I read over the year. It was a nice thing to ponder about on the last day of 2011, a rainy, low-key kind of day (until the neighbors decided to open their windows because they got too crowded and to dance the whole night through with blaring techno)
Surprisingly enough, the figures themselves are pretty consistent with those of last year. I’ve read 70+ books, the typical one would be a novel by a British or American woman, published after 2000. Crime (and spy) novels make up for a third of my reading, quite an increase from last year. Non-fiction comes a bit under one-fifth of my reading.
Things that do not change are the few books I managed to read prior to 20C. I read only 10 books published before 195o… and I’m not proud of it (although I’m still in the middle of the Aeneid and didn’t count it yet). For sure I should do something about it this year, but I’m not good at reading plans, so who knows where 2012 will bring me? Somehow it’s much easier to grab a fancy, comfy thriller published last year than an Alexandre Dumas three-decker or a play by Euripides, but once I’ve started them it’s a lot more fun than what I’d expected.
Things that changed this year is that I read more Asian books and more YA novels too (and a few were Asian YA 😉 !). I’ve also read more books by authors I do enjoy (Sarah Caudwell, Qiu Xiaolong, Philip Kerr…). But I also enjoyed visiting uncharted territories, such as little-know Chinese best-sellers (Chi Li’s Life Show, although I doubt it has been translated into English), Dutch disturbing WWII novel, alternative political-economic pamphlet, Japanese novellas about the workplace dynamics, an analysis of Euripides’ works etc.) I also gave in to commercial successes and didn’t regret it: at last I read the first volume of Harry Potter, Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, William Boyd’s Restless, and they all were well worth the hype.
That’s why choosing a few best for 2011 has been more difficult than I thought, because I could easily come up with a list of 20. But if I have to par it down to 5, here are my favorites for the year:
– Best crime in the categories “discovery” and “witty”: Sarah Caudwell for Sirens Sang of Murder (got me chuckling about tax evasion… Yes, it’s possible!)
– Best crime in the categories “gruesome” and “rediscovery after a decade”: Philipp Kerr for One from the Other
Perhaps unsurprisingly, if I have to name but one title for the whole year, that would be Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. It’s not an original choice but I was just floored by the book. I’m just joining the crowd who awaits the follow-up with growing impatience.