That Year That Was 2014

Everyone is doing these fun lists on their blogs about their favorite books they read from the last year, which I really love because then I can add more books to my TBR pile!  Well, at least the pile in my head.  The virtual pile.

So I feel like I should have a list!  But I don’t exactly have one. Hmm, how about a list of Top Five Book-Related Thingees for 2014?

1. I got a Little Free Library for my birthday!  It’s not up yet, cuz we (ahem, my husband) had to build a stand and dig a hole, and just stuff.  So my daughter and I just picked out paint colors for it this last week.  Hopefully we will paint it soon, but it’s stinkin’ cold out so we might have to do it inside the house.  We’ll see how that works…

2. Along with a friend from my local library’s Friends group, I started a monthly Science Fiction Book Group for the library.  We have a small group, about 6 average, who come faithfully and a few more who trickle in depending on the subgenre of the book.  We’re limited in what we pick to read by what the library owns, since we need to have enough copies for everyone who wants to participate.  It’s a little tricky sometimes because our library system is geared toward more modern readers, so sometimes they only have a few copies of the classics.  Still, we’ve been able to come up with some good titles.  Here was our roster for our first year:

  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories
  • The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • The City & The City by China Mieville
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Flashpoint by Nancy Kress
  • Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

We did a mix of classics and new stuff, as you can see.  Our best discussions were probably with Oryx and Crake and Ender’s Game. I think my favorite was Ender’s Game, but I’m conflicted about it because I think Orson Scott Card’s personal politics stink. My other favorite was the Connie Willis story collection.  I liked her so much that I read Bellwether, which was a really funny take on fads, and Passage, which is a more serious investigation, but not at all fluffy, of life after death.

3. One of the readers who joined our Sci-Fi group got involved with the Friends group and then started another book group, this one for Graphic Novels and Comics, which has been wildly popular. We regularly have 15 people or more, and we have fabulous discussions.  People who come to that group seem to have very open minds!  Here’s the titles we read this year:

  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
  • Black Hole by Charles Burns
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • Preacher by Garth Ennis
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • epileptic by David B
  • Habibi by Craig Thompson
  • A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

I liked most of these at least somewhat, except for Preacher, but for that one we had one of our best discussions, so it was totally worth coming.  Hyperbole and a Half was the absolute laugh-out-loud funniest.

4. I finished writing another issue of my book review zine, Bookstore Thief.  A whopping 68 pages! It’s from all my notes I took on books I read in 2013.  I know, it takes me forever to catch up!

5. My mom can still see to read.  This is a big deal.  We always discuss books together and like some of the same mystery authors (our fave: Deborah Crombie), and just in the last couple months she’s had a scare with spots in her vision.  She couldn’t read at all for a few weeks, which had us all very sad and frightened. Right around Christmas she was able to see better and is reading again!  Hooray! (Okay, I know this is a totally personal list item, but let it make you appreciate taking for granted that you can see to read this.)

Ready…Go!

Yes, I’m starting a new blog, just about my reading habits. Habit? Is it a plural habit? I do read more than (way more than) one thing at a time, so perhaps it is. Anyhoo, I wanted to start a new thingee for the new year, and this is it.  I have probably an average of 30 books checked out from my library at any one time, and that’s just on my card. On my daughter’s homeschool card, we’ve usually got another 50. Do I read them all?  Well, yes, sometimes.

Other times, like now, I feel like I’m in a reading slump.  I’m still reading, but nothing is grabbing me.  I’ve started a few books and thought, Meh, and put them back down.

I only received one book for Christmas this year, which, frankly, feels quite bizarre.  My family has always loaded up on books for Christmas, not just for me, but for everyone.  In fact, I did give everyone else books for Christmas (except for my librarian, for whom I got a mug that says “Keep Calm and Ask A Librarian”).

The book I received is really interesting so far, so I’m not complaining.  I’ve wanted it for a while now, like over a year, and my library didn’t have it (the horror!).  It’s called The Economy of Prestige by James P. English, and it’s all about cultural prizes.  Some are literary and some are artsy, but all are part of this popular culture economy that we’ve created.  The Nobel Prize was created around 1900, and it was really the first and only big prize.  Since then it’s exploded.  English is not taking a stand on them being bad or good, just examining how they all came into existence and what’s that meant for our culture.  Maybe it sounds very dry to you, but I’m interested in the prizes.  I mean, haven’t you ever wondered? There have been times when I wanted some good recommendations, and thought I’d just go look at some prize lists, but there are literally hundreds of them!  What are they all for? Best in terms of what?  Who judges them? I have a friend who’s working through both the Hugo and the Nebula winners because he loves Sci-Fi (actually we’re in a sci-fi book group together), but he’s finding the lists very uneven in terms of quality.

Over the last year, I’ve gotten my most reliable reading recommendations from Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman, of the podcast Books On The Nightstand. I do love to listen to reading/bookish podcasts, and so I’ve tried a lot of them.  This is my favorite one.  It’s weekly, the podcasters are two friends who work in the publishing industry, so they know a lot about books, and it’s only a half hour long, so they get in and out fast with no blather.  I’ve gotten to know their tastes well enough that I know I’m pretty much going to like something if they recommend it. I also became a subscriber to Audiobooks.com because of their recommendations, and I like that they talk about which performers are good at audiobooks, because a rotten narrator can really ruin a story, whereas a good one can really bring a book to life.  One of my favorite audiobooks is Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.  Lenny Henry, a comedian by profession, performs the book, and I wish he’d do more, because he is hilarious to listen to, the way he does all the different voices. Another favorite is Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, performed by Stephen Briggs.  Again with the variety of voices.  Now whenever I think of certain characters, they are forever tied to those wonderful performances.

Then Michael and Ann did an episode with Simon Savidge, who was smart and funny, so I recently started listening to a couple podcasts he’s in: The Readers with Thomas and Gav, and a book club discussion, Hear…Read This, with Kate, Gav, and Rob. Simon also has a reading blog, Savidge Reads. These are all a lot of fun.  Simon laughs a lot and I love that, he’s very joyous about reading.

So instead of reading like I usually do, I’m OD’ing on podcasts about reading.  I think I go in cycles like this.  Anyone else do this?