Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Reading Year in Review - 2010

2010 was another great year for reading, with a host of very good books having crossed my nightstand. This year probably had a broader selection of authors, types of books and publication dates than any other year, which is a good thing. So without further ado... [Dates of my blog capsule reviews are in square brackets - all dates 2010]

5 Stars - Excellent
  • The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald (1925). I loved this book as a younger man and still do now. Some of Fitzgerald's prose is breathtaking. I took this out of the running for my favorite book of the year, mainly because I have read it a few times before. [Feb 10]
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonsen (2010). My favorite book of the year in many ways, although two story collections below gave it a serious run for the money, as did a couple of novels. [Sep 20]
  • Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It (Stories), Maile Meloy (2009). Runner-up #1 for my book of the year. [Dec 27]
  • If I Loved You I Would Tell You This (Stories), Robin Black (2010). Runner-up #2 for my book of the year. [Aug 27]
4.5 Stars - Almost Excellent
  • What is Left the Daughter, Howard Norman (2010). A new author for me, and a book I really liked. [Aug 10]
  • Safe From the Neighbors, Steve Yarbrough (2010). Yet another strong outing from one of my favorite authors. [Feb 25]
  • Molly Fox's Birthday, Deirdre Madden (2008) [Aug 15]
  • Memory Wall (Stories), Anthony Doerr (2010) [Aug 21]
  • Summertime, JM Coetzee (2009). Another great Coetzee book. [Jan 17]
  • The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (1952). A classic well worth the re-read. [Feb 12]
4 Stars - Very Good
  • Emperor of the Air (Stories), Ethan Canin (1988) [Jan 21]
  • A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan (2010) [Oct 18]
  • Driving on the Rim, Thomas McGuane (2010) [Nov 11]
  • Keep the Change, Thomas McGuane (1989) [Nov 17]
  • Nothing But Blue Skies, Thomas McGuane (1992) [Nov 16]
  • Chemistry and other Stories, Ron Rash (2007) [Oct 18]
  • Alone with You (Stories), Marisa Silver (2010) [Nov 4]
  • Love and Summer, William Trevor (2009) [Feb 26]
  • Mississippi History (Stories), Steve Yarbrough (1994) [May 20]
3.5 Stars - Almost Very Good
  • Weeping Underwater Looks a Lot Like Laughter, Michael J White (2010) [May 15]
  • My Father's Tears and other Stories, John Updike (2009) [Jan 29]
  • Fun with Problems (Stories), Robert Stone (2010) [Feb 17]
  • Nemesis, Philip Roth (2010) [Oct 23]
  • Burning Bright (Stories), Ron Rash (2010) [Oct 1]
  • The Cadence of Grass, Thomas McGuane (2002) [Nov 13]
  • Something to be Desired, Thomas McGuane (1984) [Nov 18]
  • Broken Glass Park, Alina Bronsky (2008) [May 29]
3 stars - Good but nothing special
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (1926). I wanted to like this, but just couldn't. It just didn't strike a chord with me. And the prose was painful at times. A stark contrast to The Old Man and the Sea, which I really enjoyed. [Feb 4]
  • Comedy in a Minor Key, Hans Keilson (1947) [Nov 13]
  • Tinkers, Paul Harding (2009). [Jan 20]
  • Point Omega, Don Delillo (2010) [Aug 11]
There were a few books that I started and just couldn't keep moving on. The two that come to mind are Paul Auster's Invisible (2009), which I just bogged down in, and Emma Donoghue's Room (2010), which is one of the very rare books that I just actively disliked.

Factoids on the Year's Reading:
  • I read 31 books, or exactly the same number as last year. For most of the year I was on a pace to read somewhere in the low 20's, but many hours at Dad's bedside added 8 or 9 books I probably wouldn't have read otherwise.
  • I bought 64 books for a total of approximately $501.27, or $7.83 per book, or only $41.77 per month. This is about half of last year, which is good I suppose since I'm not sure where to put all these books.
  • My deficit of books read to books purchased this year is only 33 (64-31), which has to be my lowest since I began reading again.
  • My modern lit library is up to about 755 books, of which I have read all or part of around 200.
  • The books from this year broke out as 10 story collections and 21 novels, which is many more story collections than last year when I read only 3. Maybe my attention span is going...
  • 22 of the books were published in the 2000's, 2 in the 1990's, 3 in the 1980's, 1 in the 1950's, 1 in the 1940's, and 2 in the 1920's.
  • 17 of the 31 books were by authors new to me (or new in the sense of having read them as an adult, which lends a different perspective, I think).
I did have some specific reading goals for 2010, and I will review them in a different post.

[12/29/10 - On further reflection of this list in its entirety, I shuffled a few ratings from what I originally gave them in their reviews. The three 5-star books other than Gatsby were elevated from 4.5 stars, as they really were the three best books I read this year. Tinkers and Point Omega were dropped from 3.5 to 3. This "unclumps" the middle of the bell curve a little...]

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