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:
- Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – my favorite read for the year
- Carl’s R.I.P. challenge – the first time this year I really spent time reading just for fun rather than study
- Reading Castle of Wolfenbach for Classics Circuit – hardly the best book of the year, but just plain silly fun
- Chapter 3 (“Reading”) of Walden – it justifies us all in our bookish obsessions!
- “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” – so pertinent in this year of revolutions and protests
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)
- Black Beauty – Anna Sewell, 1877 (England)
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke, 2004 (England)
- Jillian’s (A Room of One’s Own) Books I Started but Didn’t Finishreading challenge:
- Don Quixote
- The Silmarillion
- The Italian (Ann Radcliffe, 1797)
Single Month Challenges:
- Allie’s (A Literary Odyssey) Shakespeare Reading Month, choosing from among:
- Twelfth Night
- Titus Andronicus
- 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!