On Reading

At the Turn of the Year

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As I write this, it is already the New Year in most of the globe, while I am still wondering if I shall manage to stay awake to see it in at my time zone. It is incredible to me how quickly this year has sped by, yet at the same time when I look back to the beginning of the year it feels so far away. I didn’t really know at the start of the year what I expected 2012 to be, and I can still say the same at the start of 2013. It may perhaps be more of the same–and if so, at what cost?–or perhaps it may change for the better (and I hope, not the worse). But life so often has a way of popping up upon us unexpectedly, that perhaps I can never anticipate what may be.

I can say with some satisfaction that 2012 reading was more satisfactory–both quantitatively and qualitatively–than 2011. I started the year with many reading goals and plans, most of which weren’t met, but I learned in the process that such plans are only of limited use to me. I may perhaps finally conquer a taunting text, but at the expense of not following my whim and leaving other books aside. So I enter 2013 with few plans beyond the next month, determined to continue to allow one book to lead to the next–and the allow myself the chance to join in on readalongs or short-term challenges as they strike my fancy. It was one such readalong that led me to some of the best books I read last year, so I think I prefer to leave open in my reading time to allow such challenges.

I don’t read enough books to create a “top-ten” list, but I did have some highlights last year (in order finished):

  • The Savage Detectives – Roberto Bolaño – I didn’t exactly like it, but there isn’t another author I read in 2012 whose other works I want to read more than Bolaño’s, and I will probably at some future point read The Savage Detectives again. Probably my second-favorite read this year.
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco – I wouldn’t have read this had it not been for a readalong/readathon, but would have missed out had I not. Not always easy, but surprisingly entertaining considering the amount of theology and theory.
  • The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien – More difficult to work through than his more famous works, but I just might like it better. Easily my favorite this year.
  • Old Testament – For as much hard work as this is, there is something about it that makes me want to start all over again, now, even the boring parts. It’s simply impossible to take it all in on just one pass. I’ll finish the New Testament first, though.

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, although if I did, I would resolve to finish posts in a  more timely manner so that I don’t have to cram two month’s worth into December 2013 as I did in 2012. Goals, however, I am fond of, even if I cannot remember what my goals were last year!

  • Read at least one more book in 2013 than I did in 2012–removing only partially read books from my 2012 list, that means I should aim for twenty six books.
  • Although I want to follow my whim, I would like to also try to read at least one book completely in Spanish this year. I have quite a few on my shelf to choose from!
  • Successfully complete a challenge that isn’t my own this year. Or a readalong within the actual timeframe of the readalong rather than a month or two later.
  • Read at least one book from each of my currently-existing project lists (I libri italiani,Mysteries & Detective Fiction,The Original Classics, Siglo de Oro, Realists and Romantics, Sensation!, Shakespeare & Co., Libros españoles)
  • (Non-bookish goal) Finish up all of the projects currently in my knitting basket, less the Lewrick Shawl (which will probably take a year on its own…)
  • Watch and post about at least 12 films for my Cinematic Treasures project.
  • Finish at least 10 books from my Classics Club list.
  • Read the four or five books on my shelf that I want to read once and then get rid of.

It is this last goal that finally decided me in favor of attempting Adam’s TBR Pile Challenge again. I failed miserably last year, but I think this year’s list is perhaps more feasible.

I leave 2012 with three books in progress, Ficciones, The Woman in White, and Little Women, but this year it doesn’t bother me not to be able to place them neatly in one year or another. The first two will be ignored until after January; the third I hope to finish soon.

January, of course, will be the Children’s Classics event, which I am hoping will be much fun. My specific plans are adaptable, outside of the readalong title, The Princess and the Goblin, but there’s also the aforementioned Little Women and I have a copy of Pinocchio sitting on my shelf waiting patiently. I’m probably mad to try to finish it this month, as it is the Italian, not a translation, and I’ve forgotten most of what little Italian I know, but the first sentence I understand, so attempt it I shall.

And with the goals finished, the old year fast fleeing, I wish you a Happy New Year! Welcome 2013!

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24 thoughts on “At the Turn of the Year

  1. Yes for another person leaving challenges out this year! I decided not to sign up for any this year, lest I end up with another 5-month reading rut because I was too focused on finishing books I no
    longer felt like reading.
    One of my favorite reads of the year was Concierto Barroco, by Alejo Carpentier. It’s a fantastic book and it’s only 130 pages long, so perhaps you might want to consider it for your Spanish title.
    Happy New Year to you too!

    1. Happy New Year, Caro!

      I’ve definitely learned that it works best if I follow my own path and whims rather than limiting myself to challenges I set for myself months previously. I have a couple Carpentier on my list, but I’d not heard of Concierto Barroco–I’ll have to look into it. (Okay—just looked it up–sounds good!)

  2. Happy New Year, Amanda! I hope you achieve all those incredible goals you have set, but if not, please remember that you read a lot and, more importantly, that most of the times is the quality of what you read what matters and not only how much.

    1. Happy New Year, Elena! I love making goals and lists–the more impossible the better! Don’t worry, I have fun with the challenge of it and don’t worry about actually finishing or not. If we never challenge our limits, we never see how far we can go!

      1. Completely agree! I’ve just seen so many friends setting impossible goals and fretting and becoming anxious for not finishing them. I love your approach 😀

  3. I really like your goals for the year and wish you all the best in reaching them…or more importantly in enjoying the process whether you reach them or not.

    The Old Testament is very interesting. I always feel so inadequate in my knowledge of history and the time period when I read it but I learn so much from it.

    I’m so with you on The Silmarillion. It is such an amazing achievement and there is so much there that it may well be my favorite Tolkien too. So happy that you enjoyed it so much.

    I wish you the happiest of new years!

    1. Thank you, Carl! If I get completely derailed and spend the year reading books that don’t meet any of my goals it will be great too–I always have half the fun in making the lists and plans.

      Interesting is a good word for the Old Testament–I forgot how many odd things there are in it! One of the things I thought about while reading it this time was the context of the era and trying to imagine what it might have been like. I just ordered a new study Bible (Norton Critical Edition) which, as it’s designed for classroom use (I think?) I’m hoping will have some of this context to add to future read-throughs. Oddly, I’m glad I read both The Silmarillion and the Old Testament at about the same time, as I think in a way they complimented each other, at least stylistically. Or maybe that’s just me! 🙂

      A happiest of new years to you as well!

      1. Not just you, in my review of The Silmarillion I compared it (favorably) to the Old Testament. I don’t think that is an accident given Tolkien’s devout Catholicism.

        1. Oh, good, I’m not imagining things! Good point about Tolkien’s faith–and he also translated Jonah for the Jerusalem Bible, so that probably had an impact too.

  4. Hi Amanda and Happy New Year. Like you, I’m in for the TBR challenge. I started unofficially last year but decided to join up today. I’m also in The Classics Club, a 5-year plan gives me a lot leg room. I play challenges in a casual way. They simply echo my own intentions but aren’t binding because, like you and many, I enjoy being able to respond in the moment to books and authors that cry out to me. Have a great reading year.

    1. Happy New Year, Vikk! I really like that 5-year leg room of The Classics Club too–although it allows the procrastinator in me to put off my lengthy list a little too much. A happy reading year to you as well!

      (For some reason, your comment was sent to spam and I didn’t see it until this morning. Sorry!)

  5. I’m so disappointed I never managed to complete The Name of the Rose, as I truly enjoyed what I did read. Maybe in 2013?

    Happy New Year!

    1. Glad to see you back! I’m happy I managed to finish The Name of the Rose eventually as it truly was one of the best books I read last year. You really should try again in 2013!

  6. Happy new year to you 🙂
    It’s true, that it doesn’t make much for predicting about what the year is going to bring for us. For all we know, and for all we’ve seen last year, so many surprises wait for us in the unknown, so it’s better to just let it be 🙂
    The Silmarillion really is difficult compared to other texts by Tolkien, but its definitely worth read for a Tolkien fan 🙂

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