Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thoughts on 2008 Books

2008 was quite a reading year for me. I read a total of 127 books, which is a personal "best" -- quantitatively at least. In looking at the list of books I read in 2008, I see that some of the quantity may have come at the price of quality. Did I really only read four prize winners all year? Did I really not get any closer to accomplishing my goal of finishing off the Radcliffe Top 100 list? Gosh darn it anyway! The year went by too fast. Looking back, I remember that I made a conscious decision to lighten up on the "goal" reading in 2008, having finished reading all the books on the Modern Library Top 100 list in 2007. I intentionally set out to be more relaxed about my book selection. Looking over the list, I see a few trends in my serendipitous reading year: First, I see I spent a fair amount of time with a couple of favorite authors. Even if they did not win any prizes or show up on any Must Read lists, I enjoyed reading several books by Jim Harrison, Lee Child, and John Lescroart. And, since I cannot give up all my reading compulsions, I am pleased to note that I have now finished every book by Child and Lescroart and every prose book by Harrison (not reading poetry is one of my flaws). So I guess I did get to cross off a couple of lists in 2008. Second, I see that I read quite a few review copies of books that I received from publishers, from authors, or through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. This whole review copy thing is new to me and I have mixed feelings about it. Of course, I love to get a free book. Who wouldn't? And I enjoy reviewing books to keep my reading wits sharp. But when I did not get around to reading one if them immediately, I felt guilty for not living up to my end of the deal. Or resentful that my obligation to read some random book was taking me away from some other book that was calling to me at that moment. And there were a couple that I really did not care for, which made "free" too dear. Finally, I see that, thanks to the magic of audiobooks on my iPod, I got through several "classics" that I had avoided to date. The older and denser a book, the more I prefer the audio version. The readers on these books are incredibly talented, so they can make the phrasing understandable and bring the characters to life with different voices. It makes a big difference between understanding the story and going blurry-eyed at a wall of text. In 2008, I "read" Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage, The Diary of Anne Frank, Silas Marner, Hard Times, The Trial, Siddartha, and Candide all as unabridged audio books. Well, I guess it was not such a bad year after all. And there is plenty of time in 2009 to finish some book lists.

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