Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: My year in reading.

Well, bloggers, I've been kind of absent lately -- December was really hectic for me.  It ended well, however, with an incredible week in New York City -- I ate some great food, saw some amazing sights, and, naturally, came home with another stack of books.  But that should be another post.

Anyhow, before this year is officially over, I'm going to post a quick recap of my year in reading (questions and logo borrowed from Jamie at Perpetual Page-Turner).  First of all, I made my goal of 100 books!  I didn't blog nearly as much as I wanted, so some of the books mentioned below don't have reviews posted.  But these are my thoughts on my year of reading in 2012. 

1. Best book(s) I read in 2012: This is a tough one.  I read so many good books this year!  I think Anthony Trollope would win the prize as my favorite author -- I completed three of his books this year, and I've started another.  I just love him and hope to read all 47 of his novels someday.  

However, for my very favorite, number one book, I would have to say Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham.  It was a reread for me, but it had been so long since I read it, it was just like reading it all over again.  And I was sorry I'd waited so long!  It was just as wonderful now as when I first read it as a freshman in college.  Just brilliant.  

2.  Book I was excited about and thought I would love but didn't: I'm sorry to say it was A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin -- because his Song of Ice and Fire series was my favorite discovery of 2011, and his books showed up on my 2011 Best of List over and over.  I'm hoping his next book doesn't take five more years -- and that it isn't another disappointment!

Second would be The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen.  Just meh.  

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012: Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens.  Nobody ever reads this book, but it's full of great stuff.  Not the best Dickens, but definitely worth reading.  I thought it would be a complete slog but I loved it.  

4.  Books I recommended most to people in 2012:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  By far, one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read.  The story is both shocking and sad and heartwarming.  It should be required reading in schools.  Just brilliant. 

5.  Best series I discovered in 2012:  The Gideon Trilogy series by Linda Buckley-Archer.  It's a great historical children's series -- two thirteen-year olds get transported in time to 1763 and have to elude a scary criminal known as the Tar Man, while trying to get back to the 20th century. My daughter recommended it and I finally got around to reading it this year. 

6.  Favorite new authors of 2012:  I thought Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre was just wonderful.  He's written several books about WWII, so I'm looking forward to reading more of them.  

7.  Most thrilling, unputdownable book of 2012:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  It wasn't the best book I read in 2012, but I read almost the entire book in one day.  

8.  Book(s) I most anticipated in 2012:  Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire Chronicles.  I started out reading Doctor Thorne, which I loved, and I'm currently in the midst of the final book in the series, the Last Chronicle of Barset.  I have about 600 pages to go, so there's no way I'll finish it this year -- works by Trollope will be bookends for the year, I suppose!

9.  Favorite cover of a book I read in 2012:  It's a tie:

I love this cover.  I think it's taken from a historical travel poster.  Doesn't it make you want to visit England? 

And I love this classic cover of The Hobbit

10.  Most memorable character in 2012:  Cathy Ames from John Steinbeck's East of Eden.  Just creepy, one of the most evil villains in literature.  Amy Dunne from Gone Girl is also particularly memorable.  Just read the book and you'll see. 

11.  Most beautifully written book in 2012:  Probably Of Human Bondage.  I kept putting sticky notes in to save my favorite quotes.  

12.  Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for me:  The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. I hadn't read it since middle school, and decide it was time for a re-read before I saw the movie.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it -- I never made it through the Lord of the Rings, though I liked the movies.  All I could remember was Gollum and the ring, so it was fun to reread it. Might tackle The Fellowship of the Ring next year!

13.  Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012:  Again, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, with Of Human Bondage as a close second.  

14.  Book you can't believe you waited until 2012 to FINALLY read:  A Bell for Adano by John Hersey.  It is by far, the book I have had on my to-read shelves the longest, for, ahem, close to 20 years.  It was wonderful.  Also East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  I love Steinbeck, I don't know why I took so long to read it!

15.  Book you read in 2012 that would most likely to be reread in 2013:  Probably a classic, most likely a short one.  Maybe Up at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham, which is really a novella.  Or A Room With a View by E. M. Forster. 

16.  Shortest and longest book of 2012:  Without doing an actual word count, I'm pretty sure the shortest is Up at the Villa -- my edition is 209 pages, but the print is large, double-spaced, and the margins are huge.  Seriously, you can read it in an hour or so.

By the same token, A Dance with Dragons could be considered the longest book at 1017 pages, but the print isn't that small, and there are only about 957 pages of text -- there are a lot of appendices at the back.  I think all the Dickens books I read this year are longer -- I read somewhere that Martin Chuzzlewit has 375,000 words, one of his longest works.  I'm sure it's the longest book I read in 2012.  I'm pretty sure it took me the most time.  

16. Book that had a scene in it that had me reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it?  (A WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc., etc).  No spoilers! 
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  If you haven't read it, go get it.  Buy it, download it, put yourself on the waiting list at your local library (I'm sure there are a LOT of holds).  That's all.  
Just for fun, here are some statistics of my 2012 reading: 

Here's a breakdown of what I read:

Number of books: 100
Approximate number of pages read: 34,758, slightly less than last year.

Nonfiction:  17
Children's:  9
Young Adult:  10
Rereads:  7
Classics: 29
Persephones: 9

Books by male authors:  41
Books by female authors: 59
Books in translation:  3

Repeated authors and number of books per author:

Suzanne Collins - 2
E. M. Delafield - 2
Charles Dickens - 3
Susan Hill - 2
George R. R. Martin - 2
W. Somerset Maugham - 3
Barbara Pym - 2
John Steinbeck - 2
Anthony Trollope - 3
Emile Zola - 2

And my favorite statistic. . .

Books from my own shelves:  50!!  (Okay, 7 were rereads, but it's a vast improvement over 2011 -- only 29 reads last year were from my TBR shelf.)

I also completed a bunch of challenges, details of which you can see here.

So how about you, bloggers?  Was 2012 a good reading year for you?  Which books were your favorites?


  1. What a lot of great books you read this year! I loved reading your break down. My daughter recommended the Gideon trilogy to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it as well. Love those covers as well. Of Human Bondage is on my list for 2013 so it's great to hear such a positive recommendation for it. Happy New Year!

    1. Of Human Bondage is just brilliant. It truly stands the test of time. It's quite long, but not a difficult read. If you're looking for something shorter by Maugham, The Painted Veil is also wonderful.

  2. Happy New Year! I hope it brings you many wondeerful books to share with us.

    I also hope to have one of those visits to New York City someday!

    I really enjoyed your categories - and you've reminded me again that I've meant to re-read Of Human Bondage for some time now (I first read it in college as well). I see other books I've had on my TBR list (not shelves), including Ben MacIntyre's books. And I can't wait to hear more about your Trollope reading, of course. The Last Chronicle might be my desert-island Trollope.

    1. Thanks! I hope to post more often now that the holidays are over. I'll put up photos of my Christmas swag and my NYC trip soon.

      If you haven't read The Way We Live Now, that could also be your desert island Trollope. It's just brilliant -- it was my first Trollope, and I could not put it down.

  3. Well done for reading so many books from your own shelves, I read a shocking small amount of mine! I'm delighted to find another Trollope fan, I started out with The Warden this year and loved it. :)

    The Holtby cover is a train travel poster and I've loved that series of posters for ages so it was great to see them use it for Holtby as it's a nice fit for her era and style.

    Here's to a great, book-filled 2013!

    1. I liked The Warden too, but the series really picks up steam with Barchester Towers, which is the one that really hooked me.

      I thought that looked like a travel poster! I received The Land of Green Ginger for Christmas so I'm looking forward to that one. Happy reading in 2013!

  4. I definitely need to get around to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks this year. It was on quite a few year's end lists by people I trust, even though it's already a few years old. Happy New Year, Karen!

    1. I know I took forever to read it, but it's really worth it! Not a difficult read at all, completely engrossing. It's well-written and researched and I did listen to part of it on audio, which is also excellent.

      Happy New Year and happy reading to you as well!

  5. Those are some of my favorite covers too - I'm dying to find copies of South Riding and The Hobbit with those covers! In fact, the only reason I haven't ordered South Riding from abebooks is because I want that beautiful and historical cover and can't be sure of getting it! Thanks very much for this summary - sounds like you've had a wonderful year!

    1. That's the British edition of South Riding, you can probably get it from The Book Depository. That edition of The Hobbit is the hardcover 75th anniversary edition, they're still available.

  6. You read a lot of terrific books. Some I'm familiar with and others I'll be adding to my TBR list.

    1. Thanks!! A lot of them are really long, I hope I've chosen well this year.

  7. What a great selection of books! I really must read Trollope this year!