Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: The Year in Review

Wow, 2011 is all done!  What a rollicking year it was, too, for the world.  Reading-wise, it was a slow year for me.  I wasn't super-impressed with my reading this year, but in going over the list of books I've read, I read some amazing works!  I think I just read most of them in the first half of the year, not the second :-)  I'll get to goals for 2012 in another post, but here's the breakdown and my favorite reads of 2011 for you:

Total Books Read:  72.  This is a pretty significant drop from 2010 (101 books), but pretty much on par with 2009 (77).  I don't think I am likely to read 100 books in one year again for a very long time.  I suppose the easiest excuse for the drop this year is that I was in graduate school and spent more of my time being social or doing work or trying to find a job than reading.  Also, it took me weeks to read some books, and as I only ever read one book at a time, that may have had an effect, too.  And generally, I have expanded my hobbies beyond reading this year- I exercised a lot more (not that you can tell) and spent a lot of free time cooking fun meals.  Also, I was introduced to Dr. Who.  So, just many more ways to spend my time than in prior years! 

Male/Female Author Ratio:  25 Male : 47 Female. This is significantly more unbalanced than in any prior reading year for me.  I usually am right around 50/50 on this ratio, but this year I just got much more interested in women's history, and that really impacted my reading.

"Out of Comfort Zone" Reads (books not in the fantasy/historical fiction genres):  38!  This is a pretty great number for me, especially as I felt like I reverted back a lot to fantasy and historical fiction this year.  But I think I'm doing very well in expanding and cultivating my reading palate, and I'm happy about that.

Non-Fiction Reads:  13.  That's about 20% of  my reads for the year, so I am really pretty happy with the number, though it seems really paltry to me.  Some of those reads were the best ones of the year, though, so I think I'll continue to read more non-fiction going forward.

Books Read that were on the Bookshelf at 12/31/10 (reduction in TBR pile):  20.  Three of these were DNFs, however, and do not count towards the 67 books finished this year.  20 is not as high a number as I would have liked, but I was in New York for the entire summer, without access to any of my books, so I am going to use that excuse.  Also, I got a Kindle, which made me read many books that were not already on my shelves.

Classics Read (I define classic fairly loosely and include children's classics in this number):  12.  This isn't bad, especially when you combine classics with non-fiction and come out to 37% of my reads for the year being in some way "improving."  :-)

Countries Visited Through Books:  Britain, France, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Austria, Switzerland.  This is a very Eurocentric list.  But it's hard to meet a huge variety of goals in one year when you have limited reading time.  Hopefully going forward, I will be more diverse with this.

Now, onto the more interesting awards!

Longest book read:  A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin (not reviewed), weighing in at 1,016 pages. Very few of which, in my opinion, actually advanced the storyline, leading to:

Most disappointing book read:  A Dance with Dragons, by George R. R. Martin.  I feel like I am just over this series and want it to end quickly.  I am sick of the rape, the violence and much else.

Best newly discovered authors:  Gail Collins, Margaret Atwood, E.F. Benson, Katherine Mansfield

Characters I Wish I Could Give a Bear Hug:  
Stephen Kumalo, Cry, the Beloved Country 
Harold Godwinson, I am the Chosen King
Francie Nolan, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Characters with whom I Wish I Could Share a Glass of Wine and Good Conversation:

Francie Nolan, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Sarah Tolerance, The Sleeping Partner
Tiffany Aching, I Shall Wear Midnight

Most Kickass Females:
Sarah Tolerance, The Sleeping Partner
Tiffany Aching, I Shall Wear Midnight
Elinore Pruitt Stewart, Letters of a Woman Homesteader
So, so many women in Gail Collins' America's Women and When Everything Changed

Funniest Books:
Right Ho, Jeeves, by PG Wodehouse
I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett
Mrs. Ames, by E.F. Benson

Unexpectedly Amazing Books, or Classics become Classics for a Reason:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton 
Mrs. Ames, by E.F. Benson

Books Everyone Else Seems to Have Loved but I Did Not:
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick

Books that Opened My Eyes:
America's Women, by Gail Collins
Soldier from the War Returning, by Thomas Childers
Kindred, by Octavia Butler
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan

Greatest Free E-Book Finds:
Letters of a Woman Homesteader, by Elinore Pruitt Stewart
The Garden Party and Other Stories, by Katherine Mansfield

Biggest Literary "Holy cow, I can't believe someone came up with this idea":
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

Biggest Non-Fiction "There is really a book on this topic?!":
The Unfolding of Language 

Most Self-Absorbed Character Encountered:
Frankenstein from Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Most Obscure Topic I Can Now Talk About With Authority:
Serial cutting of women's clothing and undergarments in 18th Century London

Book that made me want to churn my own butter:
Understood Betsy

Most Anticipated Reads that Ultimately Disappointed Me:
The Heiress Companion
A Dance with Dragons
The Map of Time
The Agency:  A Spy in the House 

Most Annoying Females:
Corie from Summers at Castle Auburn
Cora Cash from The American Heiress
Pretty much any female from The Leavenworth Case   

Best Books Read in 2011 (in no particular order):


  1. You've read some excellent books this year! I'm still totting up my stats, but I did enjoy the Tiffany Aching series, which i read the whole of this year, and The Blind Assassin is on my wishlist for 2012

  2. Yes, Tiffany is such a great heroine :-) I am really looking forward to seeing your list, too!

  3. Very fun list! I definitely did not have any in the category "Books That Made Me Want To Churn My Own Butter" LOL

  4. Harvee - Thank you.

    rhapsody - What?! Maybe next year you'll be luckier.

  5. What a fantastic post. I can't believe you're a graduate student and read 77 books that weren't for your degree. You are a reading rock star. Loved your insights in 2011, and looking forward to them in 2012!

  6. Gosh, I have so many things to comment on here...hmm, let me see if I can get them all in. :D

    - I think children's classics definitely count as classics!!
    - I was keeping track of my countries visited at the beginning of the year, but started to read books solely to get in more countries, and that didn't sit well with me, so I dropped the stat. Now I wish I knew. I read some short story collections that were all over South American and Asia, and read about hundreds of countries, and now i have no idea what they all were!
    - I am SO HAPPY that you loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I loved Francie, and really loved Katie Nolan too. She reminded me of my mother.
    - Also - Cry the Beloved Country! That was such an amazing book.
    - While I did love The Night Circus, I was not all that enthused about Wonderstruck. It was kind of disappointing. Pretty, but meh.
    - Kindred was definitely eye-opening.
    - I need to revisit Tender Morsels. It touched on a particular phobia of mine that no longer exists, so I think I can read it without ruining the experience now.
    - I love the category for Dorian Gray!
    - Your categories rock.
    - I really wish I could get into Margaret Atwood but I just don't like her writing that much. :/

    Um, I think that's it. :D

  7. Now that is an amazing wrapup for 2011 - it must have taken you hours and the categories are great fun.

    I confess to having only just read my first Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale which was only so-so for me because I don't really like dystopia. Maybe I'll try The Blind Assassin next.

    Wonderful to see Cry the Beloved Country getting a mention.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Col - Well, I'm a grad student in business school, so we don't have massive amounts of reading to do before each class. Sometimes we do, but not so much!

    Amanda - I didn't really keep track of countries visited at all. It's just part of the way I categorize books on LibraryThing, so wasn't too hard for me to figure out in the end. I didn't visit that many, either, so that made it easier. And yes, Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Cry, the Beloved Country were both SO, so good. I loved them both so much I can't even describe. Tender Morsels was really disturbing and moving in many ways that I can't describe, but I wouldn't describe it as a favorite.

    Cat - You know, I vacillated a bit on the Atwood. I don't know that I ENJOYED the book so much, but it was so brilliantly written that I was quite in awe of her writing style. I think she has serious skill.

  9. Aw, I remember reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was... young. I don't know how young. I remember thinking I wasn't going to like it because it was an old, old copy that was my mother's when she was a kid, and I didn't think I liked old books. But I started reading it and couldn't put it down, and I loved Francie too. Probably should think about re-reading that one.

    I must have missed your review of A Spy in the House first time around; that was one book I was also looking forward to quite a bit, but as you said in your review (which I just read now) I think you're right: it's clunky in places, and I wasn't patient enough to finish it, though I love the concept and I quite liked Mary. I'd like to try reading it again, especially as Lee is a Canadian author and her books have been nominated for Ontario Library Association awards. But yes, it makes my list of disappointments for the year too.

  10. I love the way you did this! And Dr. Who can definitely take time away from reading. :)

  11. It looks like you've read some great books this year! I still haven't read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (it's actually not a book that gets a lot of attention here in the UK) but I'm definitely putting it on my list for 2012. And I agree with you about The Night Circus and The Map of Time - I was disappointed with both of them.

  12. What a great post, and I love the way that you organized it! I think it's very creative to share little bits like you did that highlight the books you've read, and what you thought of them. I have to say that I did buy a few of these books after having read your reviews of them, so I am anxious to get started with them in the new year. Great list today! Very fun!

  13. Kiirstin - Yes, I have a feeling I'll purchase a beautiful older edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and hopefully go back to it at least once a decade! I am glad you were also disappointed by YS Lee's novel. It just wasn't as good as I expected, but maybe the series gets better!

    Trisha - Haha, glad you agree! Just met the 11th doctor two days ago :-)

    Helen - Oh, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is so good! I think, based on what I know of your reading tastes, that you would really enjoy it.

    Zibilee - Thank you!

  14. I'm sorry you were disappointed by A Dance with Dragons - I still haven't managed to read it myself despite loving the first few (it all soured a bit with A Feast For Crows). And, two of your best books are sitting on my shelves - Cry, the Beloved Country and The Blind Assassin - which means I really should actually read them, especially as they're two I've had for a while.

  15. This is a fabulous recap and a great Top 10, Aarti. I see lots of books here that I'd like to tackle myself.

    Thanks for sharing, and cheers to 2012!

  16. This is great, Aarti! I didn't go into that much detail... I was just happy I got a post up period!

  17. Meghan - I soured on Feast for Crows, too. I think it just got too violent and disturbing for me, and I admit I don't have much faith in Martin's ability to control his story.

    Andi - Same to you!!

    Kelly - Yes, I enjoy the superlative-type posts myself. It's a nice way to give credit to as many books as possible.

  18. I love your categories! Thanks for the reminder that Katherine Mansfield's fiction is available for free, too. I'm planning to focus on kiwi and Australian authors in February, so I'll nab THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES for my ereader.

  19. What a fun way to look at your books for the year! It seems like a diverse set of reads and I wish you the same for next year!

  20. Hoorah for the inclusion of Kindred. That was in my 'best books I read in 2009' list.

    I read Blind Assassin in 2010 as well. Though I don't think it will go in my best read list, I can see why it would in others. Very interesting set-up in that book.

  21. I love your categories too - especially the butter churning one haha! Also like the notion of visiting countries in books - one of the best parts about reading is being an armchair traveller! Nice blog. TONS of books read - I feel like a complete slacker!
    Great wrap up of your 2011 books read!

  22. So glad to see A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on your list. I read it several years ago for the first time and absolutely loved it! Happy new year!

  23. Dr. Who will certainly take away from reading time. :-) I really like the show too. You had a busy year with all you had going on! And you managed to read a lot!

    My husband hasn't been too eager to pick up the new Martin books and from your take on A Dance with Dragons, I can see why. I hope to read the second book in the series this year.

    My husband (again with him!) has been trying to get me to read The Blind Assassin for years. Maybe this is the year!

    I will have to look for the others--they all sound so good!

    Have a Happy New Year, Aarti!

  24. I started reading Cry the Beloved Country years and years ago (I think maybe 8 years). I put a bookmark in, put it down and have never picked it up again!

    Maybe I need to rectify that.

    Glad to see a Pratchett still made the list!

  25. What a great combination of reads for this year! You've reminded me how much I want to re-read The Blind Assassin; I agree that it is, at times, as much about admiring her skill as it is about simple enjoyment but, over time, one has transformed into the other with her work for me. I recently made a pilgrimage to the bridge off which Iris runs her car at the beginning, and definitely feel pressed to revisit it on the page now. (I'm also planning to read Kindred in the next couple of weeks, and to finally fit Pratchett into my reading in a serious -- not just dabbling -- way this year. Glad to be encouraged on all those fronts! I hope you find just as many favourites in 2012!

  26. P.S. I meant to ask if your butter churning category was inspired by The Wilder Years and her actual purchase of a churn?!

  27. Haha, no, it was inspired by reading Understood Betsy, wherein the main character learns to churn her own butter and feels so good about herself!

  28. Congrats on a really fantastic reading year! Thanks for sharing your statistics and favorites with us here. All the best in 2012~


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