What I read in 2013

It’s becoming a habit of mine at the end of each year to reflect back on the books I’ve read in the past 12 months — and invariably I decide the list is not long enough, or diverse enough, or recent enough and I resolve to do better. (Here’s what I read in 2012.)

This year will be no exception. In fact, my total for this year is so embarrassing I contemplated not writing this post at all. But I’m going to come clean.

Once again I’ll break them down into medium…

Audiobooks

NightingaleIn 2012 I listened to an estimated 19 audiobooks in the car during my 1.5 hours in the car as I commuted to and from work five days a week. This year I didn’t have that commute, so I’ve only made it through four that I can think of:

  • Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn (see my review here) and its sequels, Grass for his Pillow and Brilliance of the Moon. (This trilogy is a beautiful fantasy set in a fantastical world reminiscent of feudal Japan.)
  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey (This is the first in Carey’s acclaimed fantasy series about a courtesan spy, and one of my favourites.)

I’m currently listening to Kushiel’s Chosen (sequel to Dart) in the car and Santa Olivia (also by Carey) on my other MP3 player when I go walking.

Paperbacks

Among_Others_(Jo_Walton_novel)I’ve started a few, but only managed to finish two that I can think of:

  • Banished by Liz De Jager (This is a YA paranormal I picked up as an ARC at World Fantasy and read on the plane on the way home. I don’t think it’s actually been released yet from Tor UK. Woot! Something recent!)
  • Among Others by Jo Walton (See my review here) (This won lots of SF awards a couple of years ago.)

I’m currently reading Stormlord Rising by Glenda Larke, a popular Australian fantasy author. I’m also making my way through For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.

Kindle e-books

shadow-queenI’m kind of shocked how few kindle books I’ve finished this year. I can think of only two I care to mention:

Once again, there are a couple of others I started but haven’t persevered with. (There were also a few random romance novels consumed.)

So that pitiful total comes to about eight books. Eight. In a whole year. I’ve re-counted several times and can’t come up with any other total. Yes, I’m officially embarrassed.

Maybe I’ve forgotten a few?

Actually I did also beta-read novels for three writing friends, so I guess they could sort of be added to the tally…

***

So what has gone wrong? I’m pretty sure I wrote a whole post about how I wish I was still a bookworm not so long ago, mainly focused on identifying activities that have displaced my reading time, so I won’t repeat myself. Bottom line: I’m just not spending enough time reading.

But another thing I have noticed is my inability to find the books I want to bury myself in. I’ve always loved immersing myself in books, but I don’t seem to be choosing books that will give me that fix.

Perhaps I need to be more ruthless at abandoning books that aren’t gripping me. I’ve never been someone who has to finish every book I start — I’m too slow a reader to waste time doing that. But sometimes I find myself reading a book that I genuinely want to finish, except at the end of each day I find excuses not to read it. This means I turn off the light without reading anything. And I don’t start anything new, because I have real plans to finish the one I’m already in the middle of.

It’s a conundrum…

All this has made me wonder what I’m looking for in a book. What is that secret X-factor that will lure me to pick up my book even when it’s late? (Just one chapter… Just one more… It doesn’t matter if I only get four hours sleep… Sleep? Who needs it? Is that the birds chirping I hear? Oh, shit, the sun is up…!)

I’ve always believed it’s characters I truly care about, a journey that excites me, a world that I wish I could visit, and a well-constructed (and well written) story. An emotionally powerful love story doesn’t hurt either.

These are the books I try to select, but my strike rate hasn’t been very good of late. If I’m honest, I think I’m veering towards the more critically acclaimed and they’re not meeting all my criteria.

I’m particularly disappointed that I didn’t achieve my goal for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which was to read and review a mere four books by Australian women. I read and reviewed two and part-read a couple more. It seriously shouldn’t have been that hard.

Anyway, it’s been extremely poor showing in 2013. I figure things can only get better from here. Much as I hate the necessity, I’m going to be diligent in scheduling in reading time for 2014, just to make sure I do a certain number of hours per week!

How did you go with reading this year? What’s the best book you read? Will I like it?! (Heh)

 

26 comments

  1. I was actually a little afraid to total up the books. It would be a lot! I sort of bounce between writing and books, though I’ll admit it’s far and between that I get one that I have to read in one sitting (a sign of what the publishers are taking, I suppose). But standouts are Black Thunder by Aimee and David Thurlo and Wide Open by Deborah Coates. BT is a long-standing series that I am still reading. Most decline, and this one is managing to avoid all the pitfalls with Book 17. This one had a big change though, and we’ll see how it fares in the next book. WO had a woman vet in and supernatural, so that was cool.

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    1. Hey, Linda, thanks for commenting. Your tally is more what I would expect from a writer! I can’t believe how little I read this past year. I’m a little depressed by it actually. Thanks for sharing your reading tips. 🙂

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    1. Um, yeah… I so wish I could speed read actually. I’m a painfully slow reader. And I often tell myself I should be writing, when I’m tempted to read. Maybe I need to cut myself a little snack. 🙂

      Welcome back, by the way!

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      1. Thanks! I never left, just didn’t comment as much 😉

        I decided that I would do one book review a month on my blog which I’m hoping will provided a little more motivation to both read more, as well as analyzing the book, topped off with a bit of writing at the end!

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        1. Yeah, I like writing book reviews too, but limit myself to those I a) like and b) finish. I wrote reviews for four of the eight in 2013… Didn’t love Banished enough to bother, and never got around the reviewing the sequels to Nightingale Floor. I will probably write a Jacqueline Carey review post at some stage, because I love her books. 🙂

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  2. You can borrow credit for some of mine, if you like, I’m up to about 120 I think…my favourite trilogy was Anne Bishop’s ‘Landscapes of Ephemera’, I’ll lend them to you, if you want?

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  3. I haven’t read as many books this year as I should have. It’s really hard to find the time, so I tend to do it in bursts. I do read a lot of RPG stuff because I find a lot of the worldbuilding stuff inspirational, and I often flirt with the idea of starting up a game–but I have no idea how I’d fit something like that into my schedule, especially when I haven’t been getting as much writing done as I feel like I should.

    Conundrums…

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    1. Conundrums indeed. But I think this has to be a real low point for me. Maybe next year I’ll aim for… 12 books read the old-fashioned way as words on a page? One a month has to be achievable!

      As for starting up a RPG… it seems to me that the person running the game spends quite a lot of time doing so. Would that be correct? But from my novice player’s perspective I can fit in one gaming session a month easily enough. I think it’s good to have social interaction and external inputs to help inspire me. At least that’s what I tell myself. 🙂

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      1. I think a book a month sounds doable. Maybe it would even make a good productivity goal, since I’ve often heard that writers really benefit from reading.

        And yeah, a gamemaster can quite easily spend a lot of time prepping for an RPG session, but it can vary depending on the type of game, and how much material he or she needs to prepare in order to feel comfortable. Some GMs can get by with hastily-scrawled notes and a lot of improvisation, which can be good because players have a way of deciding to go in a different direction than the GM anticipated.

        You’re right that the social interaction of a game is good, and role-playing can certainly be inspirational. I’m also inclined to think that running a game might even be decent writer practice, with the worldbuilding, characterization, plotting, dialogue, and everything else that goes into a game.

        Anyway, if I ever decide I don’t have the time to run one, maybe I could find a game to join, either online, or with some local group.

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        1. I think you will certainly find reading in my weekly productivity goals for 2014! Actually I’m really looking forward to it.

          I think running a game would be an ideal way to develop worldbuilding and other novel stuff etc. I think you should do it! (It would provide you with some blog fodder too – heh.)

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          1. I just might do it 🙂 I’ve been flipping through a new Old-School Renaissance game lately that’s given me a nifty idea for a new mini-setting that would be fun to develop for some gaming. It might even be fun to do a little writing there, even if I need to revise stuff I’ve already written far more urgently than I need to write new stuff. But on the other hand, writing new stuff is probably good exercise for the writing muscles.

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          2. It’s all good! But it does sound a little as though you’re prone to writing new stuff rather than revising… I have the opposite problem. Can’t WAIT to start revising. But I think I’d rather be better at writing first drafts, so go for it!

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  4. My excuse is that I do a lot of beta reading. I also read lots of craft and how-to books for writing and WordPress.

    What stands out for this year – and what I RECOMMEND – is Matthew Quick’s “Silver Linings Playbook”. (the movie was a based on this.) It is EXCELLENT.

    I also read – for the first time – Agatha Christie’s ‘And then there were none’ – also very enjoyable and interesting to see how styles have changed over the decades.

    I think we should all check in with Books Read each month!

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    1. Suzanne – that’s a great idea. I’ve set myself the goal of at least one book read (as words on the ‘page’) per month. In addition to beta-reading and other things. I really should read more craft books too, but I confess I don’t. I’m far more likely to consume that type of content in the short format of a blog post.

      Thanks for the reading tips too. I’ve read a couple of Agatha Christie novels in the past, but not for years. I do love the dramatised versions though. Silver Linings Playbook is a movie I want to see — didn’t realise there was a book too. Interesting.

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  5. I guess I’m on the other side of this, Ellen — I often wonder why writers put so much pressure on ourselves to read massive quantities. I’d rather fully engage with (and love) a few wonderful books a year that really speak to me than read just for the sake of reading. And maybe that’s in part because I’m a slow reader, too, and I really like to savor it all. 🙂 I really relate to your post, though. I’ve been finding it harder to come across the books I just can’t put down as well, and I’m not sure what that means!

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    1. I like your thinking… But I’m just so looking forward to that full immersive can’t-put-down experience again. I’m watching my niece and nephews get consumed by books they’re reading – my nephew for the first time! – and I want to recapture that so badly.

      I like to savour too — the more I like a book, the slower I read! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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