Reading: 2010 in Review; 2011 Goals

January 9, 2011

A quick look back at how I fared, book-wise, in 2010 before I lose my breath again in the rapid onslaught of 2011. Did I read what I said I was going to read in 2010? Also, what’s in store for this year?

I set several reading goals for 2010.

Reading Goals 2010: How I did
Thing I Said How’d I Do?
I want to read as much of Nabokov’s works, in order, as possible Not bad. I read King, Queen, Knave, The Defense and The Eye. I acquired several more of his works and they are currently waiting patiently on my bookshelf. The Nabokov section is looking handsome.
I want to read The Plague by Camus. Yep. I did.
Plato. It’s time for me to break into classical philosophy. Good headway here; read Five Dialogues and a couple of other standalone works. Listened to some lectures on the topic. Still vastly undereducated, though.
I’m going to read a couple of plays by Aristophenes Actually, no I’m not. Didn’t read any Aristophenes in 2010. But I have some. Does that count?
This is the year I’m finally going to read The Inferno and War and Peace (comma, dammit). No and sort of. I’m about 1/3 through War and Peace. It took me much of the year to realize that I needed the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation. Much better. I still haven’t found a translation of The Inferno that puts me at ease.

2010 in Reading

I read 40 books in 2010, still a slightly down number, though one more than 2009. 2008′s 75 books still hangs above me, but I don’t anticipate that kind of downtime or insomnia again any time soon.

I’m starting to put a dent in Shakespeare’s histories, getting both parts of Henry IV under my belt. I read a couple of full-on tomes, which should really count as three or four books each: Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurty; over 900 pages), The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet (David Mitchell), Last Night in Twisted River (John Irving), The Lonely Polygamist (Brady Udall), and Mating (Norman Rush).

There were a few real awful experiences. Adam and Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund stands out in its own league in that regard. Tom McCarthy’s much-regaled C confused the hell out of me.

My favorites?

In no particular order, I enjoyed these:

  • A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick: This story went by in a flash of grim, spare prose. I remember it more as a series of carefully-crafted snippets. Plot implausible, but evocative in the extreme.
  • The Piano Teacher, Janice Lee: This one loudly announces its place in the genre of books bought in airports, but I found that it was even more absorbing than books-designed-to-be-read-on-vacation normally are. The setting (WWII Hong Kong) was absorbing, as were the characters. A page-turner through and through, but a rather better-than-average one.
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins: In which I eat crow and admit that some YA titles can be really, really great. If you haven’t read it yet, read it.
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell: Mitchell continues his hyperbolic arc toward becoming my favorite author. This weird confabulation of Dutch-Japanese-forbidden-empire history is long, dense and crazy-making, but wonderful.
  • Let the Great World Spin, Column McCann: It won the National Book Award for a reason.
  • Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurty: Potboiler chintzy meets Pulitzer-class plotting and character building. Slow and yearning in its first couple of hundred pages, but then it stampedes all the way to the far-off end. A long and harrowing adventure.

What about 2011?

What about it? I’ve set definitive reading goals for the past four years, starting with quantity (50) in 2007 and moving more toward specific authors and genres. I am at the point where I feel like I don’t need any shaping or prodding. I have a pile of books waiting for me, and I am waiting for them. I am going to do something extreme and not set any reading goals for 2011.

Wonderful games with Caslon