First World Book Nerd

With only a couple more weeks until the end of 2014, I’m at the point in my reading year where I only really read things that I think will help me get a more impressive reading total.

Me trying to squeeze in extra books.

Me trying to squeeze in extra books.

Before I kept track of how many books I read in a year, I read whatever I wanted, unrestricted by challenges and competitions. I just read because I liked it.

Then I had the brilliant idea to start logging all the books I read. Initially this was just because I thought it would be fun to be able to look back at the titles I had read, sure that over time I would put together an impressive list. But then I started competing with myself.

And that’s where I’ve run into trouble.

A couple of years ago I set a goal for myself: read 65 books. I managed 64. The year after that I bumped the goal number to 75 and read 82. I was pretty damn smug but didn’t want to spend my time thinking about how many books I’d read and how many I still needed to reach my goal vs how much time was left in the year so the year after that I stuck with 75.

I ended up finishing 115.

Naturally this year I want to read 116. Technically my goal this year was 75 again. But I really want to read 116. And I’m close – I’m working on 106 right now. But realistically with 14 days left in the year, it’s not going to happen.

And I’m so irritated by that.

I finished A Hercule Poirot Christmas (SO GOOD you guys), a delight to read and nice and short at 271 pages. I was going to read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad but flipping through the pages noticing the dense text and then peeking on Goodreads to see that many people found her prose “experimental” I decided not to spend my time on it. I don’t go for experimental prose. I cracked Tom Rachman’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. I think I’ve managed to get to a point where I’m interested but at the same time, it’s definitely not The Imperfectionists and my restless reading spirit wonders if it shouldn’t have gone with the Jane Green book I took out of the library?

If only I had never started keeping track! But I won’t lie to you – I get immense satisfaction flipping through the pages of the books I’ve read in the last couple of years. I’m secretly super proud of  the fact that since the beginning of 2013 I have read 221 books. Because I’m a nerd like that.

But this is the point in the year when before I start a book, before I admit to reading it on Goodreads, I check how many pages it has and what the font size is. There’s a book I took out of the library that has tons of pages but like 7 words per page. That’s about what I can handle right now.

I’ve read a great number of wonderful books this year but the end of the year just sees me frustrated that I haven’t read more of them.

Which is the most first world book nerd problem I could possibly have.


My Top Reads of 2011

It is the end of the year, and as per tradition dictated by the masses, here are the top 10 books that I read this year. You should know that these weren’t necessarily published this year and they are in no particular order but they were all awesome and should you be looking for something to read, maybe check out my list.

  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943, Betty Smith). Pretty sure that I am the last person on the planet that has read this book. I feel like this book was always hovering on the periphery of my world, but I never paid enough attention to realize how incredible this book is. It’s one of those classic books where nothing really happens except for mundane every day things. At least, the everyday for Francie and her family in Brooklyn in the beginning of the 20th Century. Nothing I can say will do justice to the quiet brilliance of this book so if you haven’t already read it, read it.
  2. Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl (2010, David Sturrock). I feel like Matilda changed my life. I was a young disciple of Roald Dahl’s so how could I turn up an opportunity to get to know the man behind of some of the best stories of my childhood? The man behind The Twits, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and of course, Matilda, was kind of a curmudgeon. As he got older, he embraced his mantle as a teller of children’s tales, but for most of his life, he resented his adult stories being overlooked. It was a surprising and intimate, if not always favourable, portrait.
  3. The Flavia de Luce books by Alan Bradley. I’ve posted about my love for these books before. I read the first three this year, I look forward to reading the 4th one in 2012. They are a refreshing take on the classic murder mystery, told with an incredible sense of humour and style. The series starts off with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, carries on with The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag and A Red Herring Without Mustard and so far, concludes with I’m Half Sick of Shadows. So now you know and you can read accordingly.
  4. The Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin. I know that I was a little late on the uptake on this one, but I can’t remember the last time I was so invested in a story and it’s characters. Martin actually makes me afraid to turn the page. Yes, the story will advance, but it may not always turn out well for my favourites. I’ve read the first three books so far and they are a commitment. They will take a long time to get through but the pay off is huge. And if you can’t see yourself reading the books, watch the first episode of the HBO series and see if you still feel the same way.
  5. The Imperfectionists (2010, Tom Rachmann) was an incredible read. I loved every story, every chapter, every character. I loved the way that the story was constructed so that each chapter took you home with a different character, carried you along in time so that you could still check in with characters from other chapters and see how they’ve fared. It’s a bit of a sad read when you realize that it is also a commentary on the state of the newspaper industry today but the melancholy is worth it.
  6. The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI 1895-1952 (1990, Sarah Bradford). Despite the popularity of The King’s Speech last year, I still find that George VI is one of those monarchs that is overlooked, despite the extraordinary sacrifice that he made for his country. This biography tells the story of the man who wasn’t supposed to be king, but who wore the crown with dignity and aplomb after his brother abdicated in favour of a divorcee. Ultimately, the shy, quiet younger brother of Edward VIII would pay for this heavy burden with his life, the stress of the job proving to be too much for him.
  7. Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings (2008, Mary Henley Rubio). I always assumed that the creator of Anne of Green Gables would be very similar to her heroine: sunny, imaginative and wonderful. After reading this biographical masterpiece, I know that that is not the case. The woman who would make Prince Edward Island the internationally known home of this most famous of her characters, spent most of her adult life living in Ontario in circumstances that she didn’t much care for. She was depressed, took all sorts of medications that poisoned her from the inside out, and had horribly dysfunctional relationships with her husband and sons. This book was illuminating and brilliantly put together, making it a compulsive, as well as informative, read.
  8. The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2008, Muriel Barbery). I wrote a post about this book so I know that you know how much I love this book. This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever had the pleasure to read. What Barbery can do with language is incredible. The story is tragic and sweet and ordinary and the ending…it left me in tears and it stayed with me long after I had finished it.
  9. The Age of Innocence (1920, Edith Wharton). This is one of the books that I read this year that I know I will read again. Obviously it is an excellent book – a Pulitzer Prize winning book in fact, the first one for a woman. But sometimes those grand award winners are stiff and difficult to read, relevant to their time, but somehow lost in the translation of time. This is not one of those books. While it is the story of 1870s New York (what an uppity place!), it is ultimately the story of love and loss and duty and all the things that make for a respectable life. Told from the perspective of a man, and so masterfully done that I forgot almost the whole way through that this was in fact, written by a woman.
  10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003, Mark Haddon). This won a bunch of awards back in 2003 and had been on my list for a long time but I’m not sure why it took me so long to read it. A wonderfully quirky murder mystery that ends up having nothing to do with murder at all and everything to do with the human condition and all the flaws that make up our relationships with each other. Loved it.

So there you have it, my top 10 books that I read this year. I’m sure that I overlooked some but its not easy to choose your top 10 books in a year! Hopefully you found a title that sparks your interest!

Happy New Year!