Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year in Review: Books

I'm going to have to force myself to focus today because I really want to rewrite the scene I've been working on, but I seem reluctant since it means totally rewriting it. I may disconnect from the Internet after a quick bank/post office trip and force myself to get started. Starting is always the hardest part.

Now that I've finished reading All Clear, and since I doubt I'll finish reading another book this year, I can do my Year in Review for books.

This year, I read 101 books, which is down from last year, when I read 116, but a lot of the books I read this year were classics that took some wading through, and I read a lot of reference books that could qualify as heavy tomes. I also did more writing this year, I think. My heaviest reading month was July, which was when I went into heavy research mode for the book I'm currently working on. Low months were August and November, both of which were heavy writing months.

Nearly half of the books I read, 50, were in some way related to work -- reference books, works in the genres I was researching, market research, writing how-to, psychology, etc. I'm not counting novels that fall within my broad genres, only books I read especially because of their specific connection to a particular project. Forty-two of these books related to the current project.

My biggest genre by far was fantasy, with mystery in second place. Young adult and non-fiction tied for third. There may be some overlap to the categories because when a book could fit in two categories, I counted it in both. So a YA fantasy would count as both YA and fantasy.

Twenty-six of the books were books I'd read before, but in some cases, I hadn't read them since childhood. I read one book, Blackout twice within the same year. As usual, Terry Pratchett shows up a lot on the list, but this year a lot of my re-reads were by Dick Francis, since I sort of went on a binge after his death.

My Book of the Year goes to Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis, which I will discuss in more detail next week. I'm counting it for this purpose as one book because it is one story divided into two volumes, probably because otherwise it wouldn't fit into the binding and for publishing business purposes. This book was a magnificent accomplishment that blew me away and both inspired me and made me feel like a talentless hack who should just put in an application at McDonald's because obviously my writing career can't amount to much in comparison. I'm going to try to focus on the inspiration part and use it as motivation to do better. I don't think this one will top To Say Nothing of the Dog as my all-time favorite because it's a little too heavy for constant re-reading, but a future re-read will determine its place on the all-time list. My mind is still so blown from the first read that it's hard to judge.

My New Find of the Year was Rachel Aaron, whose Legend of Eli Monpress series (The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater) was a refreshingly fun take on magic. I think I liked the middle book best, which is unusual in a trilogy, and I'm looking forward to the next book. It was so nice to find something that was more fun than dark and that wasn't about vampires and tough chicks with tattoos.

Meanwhile, I read 15 classics this year, digging into the kinds of books you probably should be forced to read in school but which I, oddly, wasn't. Some of them I'd read before on my own (like Jane Eyre), but a lot of them I hadn't tried before. There does seem to be an alarming tendency in "classics" to have depressing endings where nothing really works out and life is meaningless. I won't be turning into a literary snob anytime soon.

The next idea churning around in my brain will require a ton of reading and research, so I imagine that's what will make up most of my reading for next year. I don't yet know of any books scheduled for next year that I'm eagerly anticipating. The publishers' web sites are incredibly unhelpful in that respect.

No comments: