Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 in Review: The Reader's Report

Once again, I've managed to read most of the books on my list. That's why I engage in this exercise: it helps focus my mind when it comes time to choose books to read. Plus, it helps me remember what I wanted to read. Let's see how I did:

1. The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain by Barbara Strauch

I wanted to read this book when I read Barbara Strauch's article in The New York Times. Then I heard her on an NPR show (Diane Rehm?), and I could hardly wait. Alas, between the article and the interview, I had already heard/read all of the important ideas in this book by the time I read it (read my review here).

2. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

This book has been on my list since I read an article in O magazine by Jill Bolte Taylor. Again, the book disappointed, since I felt like I had already read the most important ideas. However, if I ever face recovery from a stroke (either my own stroke or a loved one's stroke), I want to remember to reread the last chunk of the book.

3. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

I never returned to this one (it was on my 2009 list too).

4. After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of Religion by Robert Wuthnow

I read this. It's fairly basic ethnographical sociology. Good to have numbers to back up what I already suspected. Read my review here or peruse some quotes here.

5. The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister

Another fairly basic book, but good if you don't already have this information (read my review here).

6. The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

Another book that didn't open new worlds to me, but I liked it anyway (read my review here).

7. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller

I didn't make it through this book, but I read several chapters. Keller comes from a much more conservative background than I do, and I just couldn't force myself through it.

8. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins

I read this on the plane during my last trip. It, too, didn't tell me much that I didn't already know, but reading it was like reading an old friend. Ah, the feminists of the 60's and 70's--how I miss them!

9. History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism by Judith Bennett

I didn't get to this one. I'll probably add it to my 2011 list.

10. The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws by Margaret Drabble

I read this one, too, on the airplane. It told me more about games and jigsaws than I cared about knowing. I wanted to know more about the life of a writer, which Margaret Drabble didn't talk much about at all. Impressively researched for a mass-market book--I just wish that the subject matter captivated me.

11. Literary Life: A Second Memoir by Larry McMurtry

Very short, but interesting--interesting enough to make me wish there had been more depth.

12. Gail Godwin's Unfinished Desires.

I loved this novel all the way through.

13. Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs.

I liked the first part, not the last half.

14. Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic.

A wonderful read, as Richard Russo so often is.

15. Zoe Heller's The Believers.

Not such a great read--utterly unlikeable characters.

16. Barbara Kingsolver's latest, The Lacuna.

Another disappointment, the only Kingsolver work I haven't been able to finish.

Well, how interesting to look at this list and to see how many books disappointed me. But happily, there were others. I read 60books this year (60! Cool--not as many as some years, but more than I'd thought--and that number doesn't count the volumes of poetry). About five of those books I didn't actually finish, but I devoted enough time and attention (time I will never get back!) that I feel I should count them in the total.

Some delights:

--I discovered Lionel Shriver. Wow. What a writer.

--Michael Cunningham's By Nightfall was a treat.

--my vote for best novel of 2010: Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad.

--I loved Justin Cronin's The Passage. While I'm thrilled that it will be a trilogy, it's hard for me to imagine keeping track of those characters across the years to come. He's a skilled writer, so hopefully he'll figure out a way to help me with that.

--Bill McKibben's Eaarth confirmed what I suspected: the planet has been irreversibly changed. Everywhere I go, people talk about the unpredictability of the weather--it's just going to get more wild and unpredictable.

I also read Anna Karenina for the first time ever (indeed, the first time I'd ever read a novel by any of the great Russians). I liked parts of it, and parts of it drove me mad with frustration. I was pleased with myself for soldiering through. This book was on my 2009 list, and I'm glad I got back to it.

Yes, I will continue to record what I read, although I haven't found a good way to keep track of all the online reading I do. I read several newspapers, various blogs, all sorts of things that I imagine would add up to many, many pages if I read them in the paper world. I don't have an e-reader yet, but I'm beginning to see their appeal.

And I'm in the process of creating my reading list for 2011--that's tomorrow's post.

Don't forget to come back later this morning for the book give-away!

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Yay! A book list! Love it! Love the range, too. Glad to know of the Gail Godwin book, which I will recommend to my book group, as we read another of hers, and will share your Lacuna comment, as my friend Kim is just now reading Lacuna and planning to suggest it. Aauugghh! Poor her. We are reading Abide With Me now, by Elizabeth Strout, and you might like that one!