2011 Stats and Best

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

– Best moving novel with a strong war context: a tie-in between Ru by Kim Thuy, and The Gardens of Kyoto by Kate Walbert (I defy you not to need a kleenex or two)

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.

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5 thoughts on “2011 Stats and Best

  1. You’re making me crave a reread of Wolf Hall! I actually didn’t love as much as many others did on first read, but I held onto my copy because I have a feeling that it’s a book I could love on a second read. (That’s often how it is with big multi-character epics for me.)

    Happy 2012!

  2. I must, must get to Wolf Hall this year! I’d like to kick off January with a bit more historical reading, so hopefully I’ll get to it sooner rather than later. I am also a huge fan of Sarah Caudwell and will have to reread all her novels soon – I just wish there were more of them!

    And a VERY happy New Year to you and your family, dear Smithereens!

  3. I’ve really got to get to Wolf Hall. I bought a copy in early 2011 but didn’t get to it then. I am reading through Euripides’ plays and I am very disappointed the book you read on him isn’t available in English. The plays are pretty good though and easy and fast to read if that helps motivate you 🙂 Happy New Year!

  4. I was gifted Wolf Hall last year and started it…then got sidetracked and didn’t finish it, but was liking it very much. I shall start again. Best wishes for a very happy 2012.

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