Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Book Wrap Up


First: Happy New Year!

I keep track of what I am reading and look for new books to pick up over on .Goodreads has a stats function that will keep track of how many books you've read each year and allow you to compare years in bar chart form -- you can also compare by pages rather than books, and it will also split out each year to show you which books you gave however many stars to.I am a fan (and a nerd, so I like this).2013 appears to be a fairly typical year:in 2013 I read 81 (new-to-me) books and any number of re-reads.This is more than I read in 2012, identical to the number of books read in 2011, and far less than the 134 I read (including The Stand, so not all shorties) in 2010.

I took a poll of friends on Facebook to see what others reported as average annual number of books read.What I mostly discovered was reporting bias, i.e. the more people read, the more likely they were to post.I think there is also often a sex bias -- my husband is highly educated/crazy smart/very professionally successful and reads like 1 or MAYBE 2 books a year while on the beach in Michigan or if there is like an especially juicy book about something airline related that has been released.He reads way more newspapers and periodicals than I do.My brother reads both books and periodicals, but he tends to want to read actual good books (i.e. prize winners and so forth), whereas I am happy to read any old trash as well as the occasional prizewinner.Prizewinners and non-fiction books (also more heavily favored by men it appears) tend to take longer to read than, say, post-apocalyptic YA romances or other random supernatural couplings:

Anyway, no surprise that my friend

was the biggest reader of all, clocking with an average of about 200 books a year(!).The other responses ranged from about 1 per week (so about 50-52 books/year) to about 1-2 per month (so about 12 or 25 a year).Just to return to Carrie for a minute, what is REALLY insane, is that she also appears relatively up on different tv series, is mother to 3 children, is a working lawyer and has friends.HOW IS THAT ALL POSSIBLE??Ahem.

In looking through my own books, there were less of said post-apocalyptic YA romances but more historical romances than in prior years, and a surprising amount of Christian fiction this year.I read one Grace Livingston Hill book and then I read a thousand -- they were free or like 90 cents on amazon for kindle and were fairly fascinating for the depicton of the time period in which they were written.I don't have a "Best of 2013list, but I can see via Goodreads which books I gave 5 stars to.They were:

* - lawyer/former Supreme Court clerk married to rich banker in NYC with 2 kids has lovely life but is somehow not enjoying it as much as she knows she should.She therefore does lots of research about happiness and employs various strategies in attempting to discover how within our own everyday lives, within the normal range of emotion that we experience on a day to day basis, we can increase our ordinary level of happiness.Essentially, the book posits that each person (excluding depression, dire circumstances, etc etc etc) in everyday life has a happiness range, and the book seeks to explore how to consistently move toward the upper part of our everyday happiness range.No surprise: fake it till you make it and a positive attitude actually work a lot, and reducing yelling and nagging also help.The voice of the author was SO familiar that it was a little shocking -- i.e. there were entire passages where I seriously felt like I had just read something that I had myself written.That was a little weird but also fascinating.This was also the first book, EVER, that prompted me to send a note to the author telling her how much I had enjoyed the book, and I was pretty surprised to get an email back (clearly from the author) in a relatively short turnaround.

* - after the death of his father, poor but noble Viscount returns from Peninsular Wars to find estate saddled with debt by reckless feckless dead father; faced with selling off estate he relinquishes pretensions to his beautiful and highly dramatic and sensitive almost-fianc e and marries unattractive and pudgy but highly sensible daughter of vulgar but super-rich trade merchant.Written in 1961, set in the early 19th century.Such a great book -- there is no implausible heart-throbbing love that is suddenly discovered, there is the experience of two common-sensical people who grow to like and appreciate each other very much as they understand there is more to love than first seems apparent.

* - This book was at once fascinating and sickening, and nearly impossible to put down.Written in the early 1970s, Into That Darkness centers around the author's in-person interviews with Franz Stangl, Kommandant of the extermination camps Sobibor and Treblinka, after he was extradited from Brazil, tried and convicted in West Germany.There are a lot of books out there -- both fiction and non-fiction -- about World War II generally and about Nazi atrocities specifically, but this is the only one I have ever read that really tried to explore the person behind the grotesque and to try to piece together how and why one individual could come to not only participate in but to lead such acts.In the portrait of Stangl that the author produces through interviews with Stangl himself and related dramatis personae, the author really shows rather than tells the incredible paradox -- an intelligent man who did not himself seem unduly prejudiced or personally violent, who participated in and coordinated the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the most unimaginably horrible conditions, yet who seemed also to love his wife and children very much and who was committed to being a good father and husband.You tend to imagine these now infamous men as monsters, but the portrait of Stangl that emerges in this book is more shocking for how normal his prior life and background were.

* - I never read the Betsy-Tacy series as a child and only picked it up after stumbling across a review of it somewhere earlier this month.Very glad I did -- I plowed through all 10 of them and was sad to reach the end.The Betsy-Tacy series more generally is a series written in the 1940s and 1950s, but set in the first years of the 1900s in Deep Valley, Minnesota, modeled after Lovelace's own hometown of Mankato, MN.The series is highly auutobiographical and revolves around Betsy Ray, beginning when she is 5 years old and written for the age appropriate audience.The series traces Betsy's adventures up through her 1917 wedding (no surprise that MHL was also married in 1917).It is absolutely delightful to read and I cannot wait to be able to share it with my girls.Betsy and Joe is the 8th book in the series and takes place Betsy's senior year in high school.It very much captures the feel of that last year of high school, whether in 1910 or 1996 (ahem) or probably even now.And it has an adorable love interest.

*-- What can I say, I loved it.The wedding (can't be a spoiler, right, it's in the title?) happens in like the first five seconds, so the rest of the book is about the trials and tribulations of the first year of marriage and the encroaching Great War.So sad to say goodbye at the end to Betsy and her world.I very much enjoyed the time I spent in it.

So yes, I have wildly varied reading tastes.Other highlights of 2013 were Wallace Breem's , Jeannette Walls's , and Stefan Kiesbye's , plus re-reads of Maria V. Snyder's , Georgette Heyer's (I have a weakness for it), and the entirety of Ilona Andrews'sbefore reading the newest one.What good books did you turn up in 2013?Do share -- I always love suggestions.
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