On Reading

Looking Back, Looking Forward

JANUS  (from Vatican Collection)Photo Credit

In some ways it seems strange to me that we pin so much hope on the change of a calendar—our problems will simply not go away because we flipped the page and now must remember to end the date with a “2” rather than a “1”—but at the same time I love the breaking point, the cut-off. After the abundance of December, January always seems so new and fresh and clean. (A feeling enhanced when we happen to get snow, as is forecast for the next few days.) It seems an appropriate time to start again, as well as to reflect. All that to say, I buy into the hype of “new year” even when the logic side of my brain doesn’t always agree!

In many ways 2011 was not the year I expected twelve months ago. Last December I had reason to believe that I would likely move straight from one job to the next (all the signs pointed that way), but instead come January, I was hit with that dreaded phrase “more experience” as in “we decided to go with the person with more experience.” I’ve yet to be the person with “more experience,” so here I still sit, hoping 2012 will be better. On the other hand, I passed all of the Architectural Registration Exam, in a time frame I probably wouldn’t have managed had I been working, and this has been the least stressful year I’ve had in a long time. It’s only with time and space that I can see how bad the work environment at my last job had become. Regardless of what happens, I know that I don’t wish to enter 2013 the same way I’m leaving 2011, so something will change in the next year. What, precisely is to be determined.

But this is a book blog, and where are my reflections on books? Again, 2011 was not where I expected. I’ve only managed to read 15 books and one essay this year, not counting my study materials. On the other hand, I’ve read a lot of non-fiction, which I hadn’t planned on. Non-fiction takes me much longer to read, as I slow down, consider it, take notes and more notes. I don’t begrudge anything I’ve read, but it would be nice to return to the days when I read more than 30 books in a year. It’s been a long while.

Some highlights from 2011:

And my plans for 2012?

I’ve thought a lot about this. I would really like to improve upon last year–even just making it to two books a month would be nice. But more importantly, I would like to add some focus to my reading. I want to return to fiction, to let the non-fiction sit in time-out, while I regain my reading feet. And I want to return to the basics, the foundational pieces of Western literature. (Nothing against non-European/US literature, but I need to focus on one thing at a time, and these works have been in the TBR list longer.)

Some of the works I’m considering for the year: The Iliad; The Odyssey; Aeneid; Beowulf; plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries; The Lusiad; Don Quixote. Among others as I explore, I’m sure. I also have on my shelves a number of medieval works that I could pick from if I want to expand that direction. I’d l love it if I could make it through the complete works of Shakespeare, but I doubt I’ll manage that in one year!

I avoided signing up for most challenges and readalongs, because I really did abysmally at most of these last year. I intended not to sign up for any, but a couple were irresistible, and I decided that I could use them to my advantage.

Year Long Challenges:

  • Adam’s (Roof Beam Reader) 2012 TBR Pile Challenge:
    • The Iliad – Homer, c. 8th cent. BCE (Greece)
    • The Aeneid – Virgil, 1st cent. BCE (Rome)
    • Beowulf – Anonymous, c. 8th-11 cent. CE (Anglo Saxon)
    • The Lusiad – Luís Vaz de Camões, 1572 (Portugal)
    • Twelfth Night – William Shakespeare, 1602 (England)
    • Coriolanus – William Shakespeare, 1607 (England)
    • Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1605 & 1615 (Spain)
    • Bleak House – Charles Dickens, 1853 (England)
    • Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell, 1853 (England)
    • The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins, 1860 (England)
    • Ficciones – Jorge Luis Borges, 1962 (Argentina)
    • The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien, 1977 (posthumous, England)
    • Alternates:
    • Black Beauty – Anna Sewell, 1877 (England)
    • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke, 2004 (England)

Single Month Challenges:

  • Allie’s (A Literary Odyssey) Shakespeare Reading Month, choosing from among:
    • Twelfth Night
    • Coriolanus
    • Titus Andronicus
    • Cymbeline
    • The Winter’s Tale
  • Bellezza’s (Dolce Bellezza) Venice in February reading challenge – TBD, but may include:
    • Othello (Shakespeare)
    • The Haunted Hotel (Wilkie Collins, 1878)
    • A Commissario Brunetti mystery (Donna Leon)

Of course, lest you think it’s all plans and seriousness, I really, really, really want to reread some of my favorites in 2012. Little Women is long overdue for a reread, and with the first part of The Hobbit hitting theaters in December, I think it’s time to reread both that and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m also hoping Carl hosts R.I.P. again in the fall, as I enjoyed it so much last year! If I can get back into good reading habits, I may also join in other month-long challenges or RALs here and there as they strike my fancy. I know Risa is hosting one Shakespeare play a month all year, and I would like to join in when the play selected coordinates with my schedule. All in all, I’m really excited about my reading for 2012.

Here’s to an excellent reading 2012! Happy New Year!

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23 thoughts on “Looking Back, Looking Forward

    1. Thanks, Rikki! It just seemed right when my theme was looking both back over the year past and forward over the year to come. I also saw Janus on another blog, although I can’t remember which one, now! Thanks for stopping by.

  1. I’m excited to keep reading with you in 2012, Amanda! Thanks for being a steadfast friend and inspiration. You read 15 books and an essay — and that’s an accomplishment. Nothing “only” about it. Every step forward is an experience. Cheers and Happy New Year, and here’s to an awesome 2012. x

    1. Thank you, Jillian! I’ve enjoyed reading along with you and look forward to 2012 as well. As for the “only” 15 – truthfully, I’m comparing myself to MY past reading habits and knowing I can do a lot better. But I’m excited by my plans for 2012, so hopefully it will be a much better reading year!

      An awesome 2012 to you as well!

  2. You know, sometimes your posts don’t show up in my RSS feed. LAME. So I bookmarked you so I make sure to visit more often. 🙂 Stupid RSS Feed.

    Anyway, I think you accomplished a great deal! I only read so much because I have a lot of free time with the whole…being unemployed business. And my summer job is super easy and allows for reading time. I’m spoiled that way I think.

    You have great goals for 2012! I’m excited to see your thoughts on a lot of these-especially Woman in White, Cranford…okay, quite a few of them. 🙂 I have plans to read The Hobbit again right before it comes out-I’m going to look forward to it all year. I’m also going to reread Little Women at some point, which should be a good time-it’s the first book I am rereading from my project list.

    Anyway, I haven’t done any reading for my readathon (and I’m the host. SUCH a bad host), so I’m going to go do that. I have the Bryson book as well, but I might save it for later in the month. 🙂

    1. Hmm…that’s annoying. I’ll have to try to see if it’s something on my end.

      I have that same unemployed thing which means that I should have had a lot more reading time, but somehow it vanished! (To be fair, I spent a good chunk of time studying and when I wasn’t studying my brain wasn’t up to other reading.) And like I told Jillian, I’m really comparing myself against my past self. I’m planning for 2012 to be a much better year!

      I’d like to leave a bit of space between rereading The Hobbit and the movie because I don’t want to compare them too closely. I had reread the trilogy right before The Two Towers came out, and it ruined my first viewing of the film, because I spent too much time comparing the versions!

      Good luck with the readathon!

  3. I love the books you’re planning to read this year- especially The Odyssey and plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. They’re all wonderfully written.
    I can definitely relate to comparing how much you read to how much you used to read. I guess all we can is turn the page, both metaphorically and literally, and do our best for 2012. Best of luck with all your goals! 🙂

    1. I’ve read some of the Greeks in the past–The Odyssey and some of the plays, but some I don’t remember so well (The Odyssey) and there are still so many I don’t know. I’m looking forward to starting, probably early this spring for the Greeks.

      I’m really hoping I can reclaim some of my earlier reading habits this year. Best of luck to you as well, and thank you!

  4. It is silly on one hand that we look with such hope to what is really just another day, but at the same time I think we are built with a need to have moments where we can hit the ‘reset’ button, where we can renew our hopes and dreams and let go of the past as best we can. Days like the first day of a new year, the first day of a new season, even our birthdays can give us that built in excuse to stop for a moment and reflect and try to get our focus back. So while I don’t think there is anything magical about it, there is something tangible about these days that can prompt reflection and change.

    I’m very happy to hear that you enjoyed the R.I.P. Challenge and I will definitely be hosting year number 7 this coming September/October.

    I hope you reach your reading goals this year, and perhaps more importantly your career goals too.

    1. A “reset” button, yes I think that’s what I like about a new year. And I feel like this year I really needed that reset!

      Oh, good, I was hoping you would have R.I.P in the fall–I already have some books planned for it!

      Thank you, Carl, for your kind thoughts about my goals for the year. May your reach your reading goals as well.

  5. Your format is so good! And it sounds like you have a great reading year ahead of you. 😀

    Ditto what Jillian said: don’t discount those 15 books and essay!

    1. Thank you, Eva. I’m excited about my plans. It’s going well already!

      I suppose I should remember that in 2009 I actually read even fewer books (assuming my record is accurate), so in that sense, I’m improving. 😀

  6. Even though we are ‘officially’ book bloggers, I always enjoy reading about personal life stories and thoughts. It’s interesting how in retrospect we realize we were ‘rescued’ or at least relieved from a negative situation (i.e. your previous job’s negative environment). Congratulations on your exam! I know how tricky passing those exams can be, and I try to make it a point to not subejct myself to them anymore. 😉

    As to your reading plans for 2012, what a wonderful list of titles and challenges you have before you. May we share lots of great discussions together as you progress through your goals.

    1. I enjoy reading personal life stories as well, although I’m not sure I’m all that good at interjecting them here very often. It’s hard to find the balance between sharing and privacy. Thanks! I’d rather not have to take any exams again…hopefully I won’t need to!

      I’m hoping the 2012 reads are all as good as they sounds and everyone says, and that many great discussions follow.

  7. I too believe in the New Year reset. In fact, I needed it badly this year. One day can make all the difference to a depressed and stressed out mindset :). I love your goals because they are tailor made to you. I hope to read The Odyssey this year. And, upon my mother’s insistence, I’ve added a number of Western classics. I feel really good about that. I also read far less and like you, I enjoyed the few that I read. Better and relaxed reading to all of us in 2012.

    1. I think a lot of us needed the reset badly this year!

      I’ve learned that tailoring my goals in a way that allows both some guidance and some whim seems to work best.

      Here’s to better reading in 2012 and I hope you enjoy The Odyssey!

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