End of Year Thoughts on 2010 Reading

*****************Updated on 1/6/11 to note that I failed to complete The Sea by end of year, so I only read 70 books in 2010.   Oh well.     ***********








Grab a piece of pie and fill your tea or coffee cup; this is going to be a long rambling post. *smiles*

How many books read in 2010?

I only read 71 (and as I write this, I still need to finish that 71st!   The Sea by John Banville.)   Last year, I read 86 books so my goal to ever read 100 feels like it will never happen.    Maybe I’ll set a goal of 50 books so I can soar right past it.

How many fiction and non fiction?

I read 22 nonfiction books or 31%.     I read 22 NF last year, too – but the percentage is bigger this year!     I had a good mix of topics, too.    Unfortunately, 2 of the 5 DNFs were nonfiction this year – both of the memoir variety.

Male/Female author ratio?

A fifty-fifty split!    But to get extemely technical, I read more female authors, just one!  than male authors.

Favorite book of 2010?

After bugging everyone I met at the Book Blogger Conference with the question, “What’s your favorite read of the year so far?”, I don’t have an answer myself!     Last year I gave 12 books the coveted FIVE PIE SLICE rating and this year, I give out 12 again.  And yet looking over the list, I’m almost *meh* about it all.     I didn’t gushingly overwhelmingly adore ANY except The Book Thief and it was a re-read so I don’t really count it.   Many of the FIVE-SLICERS were rated high because of its literature importance to me, like The Bell Jar, To the Lighthouse, and The Yellow Wallpaper. Mrs. Dalloway was a re-read, too – but this one might count because I fell in love with it MORE upon this second reading.    I had 2  nonfiction books in the top 12:   Woman by Natalie Angier and Overboard by Michael J. Tougias due to how that one got my heart-beating with its charged adventure telling.     And yet, I can’t seem to declare it a love-swoon favorite.    SO.    I guess I will categorize:     For my fun read that is likely not ‘high’ literature (and thus – dare I say it? – I recommendable to ALL) is Waiting for Columbus.    And for my Oh-WOW-OH-WOW book(s), I’m going to cast a tie with To the Lighthouse/V.Woolf and Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy.

The STARTLING realization that comes to mind when I look over my top twelve (which you can see, I hope, by clicking on this goodreads link) is that I really like quiet, in-the-head, crazy-beautiful prose books.      So let’s lump The Sea into my top 12 13 books, shall we?

One easy way to help me decide a favorite is whether or not I really want to read MORE by that particular author and I think Simon Van Booy is tops there.

As to the MANY books I rated FOUR Slices of Pie (27 or 38%), do any shine?    Yes – Oryx & Crake* by M.Atwood, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – all authors I look forward to reading more.    My “Books I’ve Read” Page has the links to my reviews or you can just enter in the search box upper right.

Least favourite?

My least favorite of the books I couldn’t even stand to complete:    North Dallas Forty.     It was all get-drunk-screw-complain, repeat.    But of the books that I read in entirety:  Without a Trace by Colleen Coble.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?

Oh yes!   I DNF’d a few and don’t feel guilty.   Ok, yes I do.  A bit.     I include the ‘DNF’ on titles on my Books Read page by month if you care to go see.

Oldest book read?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, also a DNF but I got 2/3 through it.    I actually think I might attempt this one again and it’s rating might go up because of its importance and amusement-factor.   I was listening to this one and the flowery speech and incredulousness got to me and I had to go to something else.    Shameful, really – it is a short book in pages.


The newest book I read was published in October 2010:   A Secret Gift by Ted Gup, for a TLC Book Tour.    I read TEN books that were published this year!   THAT is amazing and quite unlike me.

Longest and shortest book titles?

Longest NF title was Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down:  A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. (I have yet to review this one.)

I think it is a tie for novel:


The shortest title is my current read (which I really really REALLY need to go devote some time to!) is The Sea.   It’s short but it’s slow – very provocative and sharp smart use of language – I’m savoring it.

Longest and shortest books?

I read more chunksters this year!   Yay me.      Looking at my stats chart, it amazes me that the most-pages book I read was Gaiman’s American Gods. That it is a chunkster does not come to mind when I think of this book.

Shortest book is debatable but then so is this question since it so depends on format.    I read quite a few books under 100 pages.  I’m going to say Ethan Frome was my favorite of the SHORTs.

How many books from the library?

Eek –  I didn’t do a good job of tracking this and now I can’t remember:  and some were audio’s to accompany a book I own…    I think it is around 6?    I’ve also done a poor job of keeping track of all the ways I got books AND where I sent them.

Any translated books?

Another “uh oh”. I think only ONE book this year was translated into English:   Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazeretti/Swedish.  OK, not impressed with myself on this.

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?

My most read author in PAGE COUNT is Neil Gaiman!   Woo hoo!   I read two:   Neverwhere and American Gods. I read two books by the following authors:    Virginia Woolf (meant to read 4 plus a bio!), Dashiell Hammett, John Green, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.    I increased the number of books read over my lifetime written by Tracy Kidder to FIVE.   I’ve read FOUR total books each by Jennie Nash and Neil Gaiman.   Fifty-tw0 authors were new to me, most of the others were a second time.

Any re-reads?

Here is a category that shows improvement; spurred on by my accepting to do the Flashback Challenge.   I re-read 4 books!

Favourite character of the year?

Hmmmm.    Nothing.  I got nothing…

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?

I only visited 14 countries this year which is down from last and a personal disappointment.   I was heavy/heavy in my own country;  I *saw* 14 specifically identified US State places in my reading this year.    My Reading Globally Challenge was not successful.      I only read one book set in Africa, one in Japan, one in fantasyland South America (Herland) and one Afghanistan.   The rest were England, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Germany and Sweden.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

I love this question!   I can blame a bunch of books on other bloggers and a few real-life friends.   It’s too numerous to count but the most different and unlike-me book would probably be Overboard!, a scary true account of disaster AND survival at sea.    It traveled around our dock at the marina.    I blame Marsha.

Which author was new to you in 2010 that you now want to read the entire works of?

I’ve already addressed this but to pick ONE?    ok, a few?    Anna Quindlan, Elizabeth Taylor and Simon Van Booy.  Oh!  and Diana Wynne Jones!

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read?

Where do I start?    A whole category of other-country round-the-world books comes first to mind.   More translated works – which likely overlaps that other-country thing.     I’ll address this more when I do my 2010 Challenge Wrap Up post.

I didn’t get to ANY Ian McEwan!  What’s UP with THAT!?   I’ll  fix that in 2011.

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

I will state that my DELIBERATE Plan was a success:   I had addressed the question of “Which 3 books do I really hope to read in 2010?” by choosing Watership Down by Richard Adams – I’m so glad I read this one!    and anything/something more by Neil Gaiman (accomplished) and at least one of the four I own but have yet to read by Tracy Kidder.     I will review Among Schoolchildren in January.
Any HIGHLIGHTS from 2010?
The Book Blogger Convention in NYC in May was SUPER FABULOUS!    I got an iPad, which is really cool for ereading.   and just getting to know many of you better and still having the motivation to read and chat about books online through this blog have been WONDERFUL.  Thank you!

STATS:    71 Books / RATINGS:  12 FIVE 17%, 27 FOUR 38%, 20 THREE 28%, 9 TWO 13%, 3 ONE 4%

PAGE COUNTS:   19,732 which averages to 278 per book.   [HA!   Last year’s page total for 87 books was 24,186 which also averaged to 278 per book.]

1001 Books To Read Before You Die:   9

Chunksters (over 450 pages): 9

Male Female Ratio   35 : 36

Short Story Collections:   2

Unintentional Themes:   Pets – 4 Dogs, 1 Cat

By Decade:   in 2010 – 10, 2000 – 31, 1990 – 6, 1980 – 3, 1970 – 7, 1960 – 3, 1950 – 2, 1940 – 0, 1930 – 1, 1920 – 3, 1910 – 1, 1900 – 1, 1890 – 1, 1860 – 1, 1810 – 1

New to Me Authors:   52

Nonfiction:   22

Fantasy:  7

Debuts:   at least 2 that I know off the top of my head…

postscript: This is my 2009 WrapUp.

* Just realized that my goodreads has 4 stars for Oryx & Crake but my Books-Read list shows 5…   and I am in such a hurry to post this I will just not worry about it right now…


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I Hereby Commit Myself… part 1?

I hereby commit myself to the following reading challenges in the year 2011:

The 2011 Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Booklover Book Reviews. I will be a TOURIST and read 3 books which are unknown to me at this time.

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The Kiwi YA Challenge hosted by Maree at Just Add Books.     I will read three books which is the requirement for the lowest level.

The Murakami Challenge hosted by Nat at In Spring It Is the Dawn.   The button here will take you directly to the site for the challenge:   Maree and I will be reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, no time frame figured out yet but others are invited to read along.

I’m IN for the What’s in a Name 4 Challenge – love this one!     I’ve selected Think of a Number by John Verdon for the NUMBER category, Cat in a Diamond Dazzleby Carole Nelson Douglas for GEM, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green for SIZE, Dead Man Walking for MOVEMENT, Killer Angels for EVIL, and my **true** challenge since I’m tried once will be Midnight’s Children for LIFE STAGE.   Always fun.

The CARE Personal Challenge (perhaps I should reverse that and call it the Personal Care Challenge?  hee hee) where I focus on books that I keep saying I want to read and yet just haven’t.     I will commit to reading the book that has been on my in-house tbr shelf the longest:    The Exotic Works of D.H. Lawrence.   I will finally read something by Rosy Thornton, as well as a novel by Thomas Hardy.  And I forget what else at this time, but I know I have more.   Yes!   Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.  (If I have commented such at your blog, pls remind me?)    I will create and update my challenge page soon.

I will continue the John Cusack (now) PERPETUAL Challenge and again, invite anyone to join me for any/all of these:

In house and scored off bookmooch.com:    Bob Dylan’s Chronicles : Vol One &    The Great Thoughts / compiled by Geo Seldes (this isn’t actually a ‘story’, btw.   More reference?)

Still need to get:
The Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein
Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
Rites of Spring – Modris Eksteins

And, what else?  I’m sure I’ll do RIP again in the Fall.    I hope to do more readalongs, too.      How about you?   A big year for challenges or are you saying NO?

Part 2 will list any more challenges I sign up for.  I’m sure there are more I can’t think of yet or I have yet to discover.



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A Snowy Distraction

I feel like all my reviews lately have been negative and this makes me sad.    I really need to write a review of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (TSCYaYFD) by Anne Fadiman and …   huh – I thought there was another but I guess not. OH!  I want to write a personal wrap up of my Women Unbound Challenge Experience and a Year End Overall Challenge Summary.  Someday soon.

So, please indulge me and

1)  go visit Bonnie’s Women Unbound post –> here <– She has some QUESTIONS to ask EVERYONE who participated and I think it also may help spur ideas on what to say in your wrap up post if you haven’t written one already (thank you!),

2) know that I really learned a lot by TSCYaYFD I have no idea how to review, I turned down so many pages (that most of you books-are-sacred people would be nauseous and appalled), and I enjoyed it very much.    See Kim’s Sophisticated (and not really) Dorky review – I had to link because she is possibly worried about my reaction and I want her to know I am working on it.   *wink*   OH – and if you are in my book club and read my blog — please go read Kim’s review.   Thanks,


3)   It snowed yesterday.   Here’s my abominable snowdog Esther enjoying her first snowy experience:

The photo doesn’t quite do justice to how snow-covered she gets!

Til I get all my $%& together and write more posts, enjoy.     Have you gotten any snow yet?    They say we got 6 inches…


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A Dog’s Purpose

Thoughts   A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce Cameron,  A Forge Book/Published by Tom Doherty Associates LLC, 319 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:    I love dogs.  ✫   I have a blog-crush on Nancy the BookFool.  ✫  Nancy has cats.  ✫   SO the fact that Nancy raved about a book about dogs REALLLLY caught my attention!    Not that I mean to imply that if you love cats, you must hate dogs but still.    SO when my friend REE was raving about a book that Nancy also raved about, I had to say yes to it.   Ree loaned me this book and I thank her for the opportunity.  THANKS REE for loaning me this book.

All dogs go to heaven…  unless they have unfinished business here on Earth.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS if you dare to read further…

WHAT its ABOUT:    This book follows the one soul and many lives of one dog.   I think.   I have written and rewritten and destroyed many a sentence to explain and I just don’t know (and don’t care to consult the book jacket) of how to explain it.     We meet a dog and his life as a feral pup and then he dies and is reborn as another pup and then this life dies and he is reborn as another pup  – its all familiar to him now – except this time he is a she, and then…  ONE MORE TIME.

WHAT I LIKED:   I was quite impressed with how the author was able to weave in a few dog handling tips (the importance of neutering, positive reinforcement training) and  a few other ideas that sound good yet are difficult for humans to ‘get’.  Since I have a puppy in my house, this book was extremely timely for me to consider and remember that dogs think ‘dog’.   Dogs are NOT humans.    This book attempts to explain dog-think in human terms and it’s in novel form which makes it impactful, relatable and memorable.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:  The second life in this series of lives that this dog soul gets to experience crap that was hard for me to read.   In fact, I skipped over most of it!     It involves unpleasantness and I just couldn’t deal. I felt the bad stuff was just a set up for lots of horrible crap, if that  makes any sense (hey – that’s why I call these THOUGHTS and not ‘reviews’).    I’m very glad that I decided to be selective because I adored the third life of the dog when ‘she’ becomes a search and rescue dog.   I particularly was impressed with the descriptions of how she was trained and how much she appreciated having a meaningful job.

When the final life experience referenced the part that I skipped over, I was happy to find out that it didn’t really matter to how the rest of the story unfolded or maybe it was my ability to sew together the right pieces of the story.

OVERALL:   I enjoyed this book     I love dogs.  This is a pro-dog story and even dog-ambivalent people can enjoy it.    Or at least, I think so.   Read Nancy’s review if you doubt me.    I personally love the idea of reincarnation and how it was used for this story.

RATING:    I am rating this a 3.5 slices of pie rating.

LINKs HERE to MORE REVIEWS via the Fyrefly Book Blog Search Engine.


*  I wonder if my pup Esther is on her first ‘life’ or her fifth.    Considering the 6+ minutes battle of wits I just had with her, I’m thinking she is on her second life.  She’s STUBBORN;  smart but stubborn.


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Persephone Secret Santa

I am participating in this year’s Persephone Secret Santa exchange and had SUCH FUN sending snail mail clues to my giftee!    I wonder if she figured it out…

Well, today being UNVEIL DAY, I announce to my giftee KAREN at Karen’s Books and Chocolate that I am your Secret Santa!    Has the book arrived?   Did you get my clues?  (I sent three, but screwed up the last one…)     Did you figure it out?

Happy Persephone Holiday! Happy Reading!

I know I am looking forward to reading my very first Persephone book.   Thank you Claire at Paperback Reader for organizing!


and a BIG THANK YOU to Nat of In Spring It Is the Dawn for being MY Secret Persephone Santa!    Here’s the package I received last week:

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

Thank you!   I’m very excited to read my very first Persephone! I hope to have it be the first book of 2011.    Or after I read The Sea by John Banville and Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls- both to complete the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge and something* by Tracy Kidder to complete my personal Year of Reading Deliberately Challenge.

I’m looking forward to getting to know Nat and Karen both a bit better in the coming year, too.    Friend me in goodreads!?!?!  🙂

I have in house Kidders’s My Detachment, Among Schoolchildren and Strength in What Remains to choose from.

* and aHIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

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A Book Society Choice, shortlisted for the Femina-Vie Heureuse Prize, the second D__ W___ novel* P___ publishes is also wonderfully well-written in a clear and straightforward style; yet ‘this real treat’ (“Sunday Telegraph”) is far more subtle than it at first appears. The BlaKes are an ordinary family:  Celia looks after the house and Thomas works at the family engineering business in Leicester. The book begins when he meets Mr K_______, a financier as crooked as any on the front pages of oUr newspapers nowadays; and tracks his and his family’s swift climB and fall.Part of the cause of the ensuing tragedy is Celia’s innocence – blinkered by domesticity, she and her children Are the ‘victim of the turbulence of the outside world’ (Postscript); but finally, through ‘quiet tenacity and the refusal to let go of ceRtain precious things, goodness does win out’ (Afterword). And the “TLS” wrote: ‘The portraits in the Book are fired by Mrs W___’s article of faith – the supreme importance of pEople.’

The above paragraph is the final clue I sent to my Persephone GIFTEE for the Secret Santa Persephone Book Exchange.   It is the description of the plot that I borrowed from goodreads.com.     If you follow the bolded purple letters, you will see that they spell


However, this is the FIXED version.    I just opened the file that contained this and realized that I screwed it up!    The version I sent highlighted the wrong letters and I only today realized it.    OOOOPS!    What my giftee found was this:


I’m so sorry!   and embarrassed!   Oh well.   Either she figured it out by the lobsters and the Griff photos or she didn’t and will find out today here if she finds this or will tomorrow when I do the BIG REVEAL.

My Griffs:  Esther and Oscar – I had made a PhotoStamp of this pic…

*  They Knew Mr. Knight by Dorothy Whipple


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Holiday Crafting

Photo Wednesday!   Today IS Wednesday, yes?    At lunch yesterday, Hub and I made plans for a ROAD TRIP for TODAY and then by dinner, it all fell apart.   And I’m sad.    SO now the day will end up wasted, sort of.   I intend to fill it with blogging and laundry and puppy training.   Maybe I’ll clean out a closet.

So while I bemoan my change in plans – I was SO looking forward to hours in the car* chatting and viewing new territory, let me share pics of what I did last night!   I made a Holiday Box Elder (I think that’s the plant?!) Tree**:

With flash…    Of course, I made a PURPLE one.    I’m not much of a photographer.

With Esther Pup.

To match my big purple Christmas tree…  Yes, it’s set up in the dining room.

And finishing with a photo of Oscar and Esther – kids are precious when they sleep, yes?


And if you are wondering about my lobster tree, you will have to refer back to last year’s photos.    And thus I’m reminded that I need to get out my Holiday Lobster Flannel PJs…

*   Hub and I are good travelers together and always have fun on road trips.    So, yes, I really was looking forward to this little day trip.

** Thank you Jody for inviting me to CRAFT NIGHT at the local Florist and thank you to Kate (Cate?) for showing us how to make this tree.   I had fun.    AND to make this book-related, we talked a LOT about books and bookclubs.    Woo hoo!


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A Secret Gift

Thoughts   A Secret Gift by Ted Gup, The Penguin Press 2010, 346 pages

***   Please click on the book cover image or this line to go to the TLC Book Tour‘s dedicated pages ***

MOTIVATION for READING:     I responded to a Twitter request for tour hosts.      Timing was good for me to read this by today (except I had Dec 12 in my planner – why did I have that?!  oh well.)   I was ready to read more about the Depression era and it truly was a well-crafted memoir exploring family, a town and a particular challenging piece of history:  the Hard Times.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    Mr. Gup was given an unusual piece of luggage that had belonged to his grandfather and he wondered about it.   I do that a lot;  WONDER about stuff, especially items that have been passed down through my family and also about buildings.   But not buildings that have been passed down through the family – I don’t have any of those.   (These points ARE related.)      But I do wonder…   “How did this one item come to be in my grand_____’s possession?   What were her thoughts on it?     Did you know it would come into my hands?     Was it special to her in some way?”     I’ll never know.    It’s too late to find out.

But Ted Gup, being a skilled professional researcher, investigative journalist and writer was able to find out SO MUCH!

The suitcase contained letters and newspaper clippings from 1935 that told a story of one man giving away money to hard-pressed families in need and keeping it all secret.   These letters were  addressed to a name Gup didn’t recognize; fortunately his mother did know the name but not much else.  He had to dig and find exactly what this collection was about and thus unraveled a mystery and triggered the project idea for this book.   (Though I don’t think at that time he had a book in mind.)    He was just hoping to learn more about his grandfather.


WHAT I LIKED:    One of the best things about this book was personal for ME.    My mom and dad were here for Thanksgiving and my mother hijacked this book (while I was in the middle of it!) and she liked it, too.   But the BEST THING?   We talked about OUR HISTORY.   What she could remember about her parents and the Depression and how people DIDN’T REALLY TALK ABOUT IT and how each generation has a different approach to learning about this time.   It was all quite fascinating.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:   Can’t think of a thing!   I loved the fact that it had photos.  I appreciated that Mr. Gup was honest about exposing some truths he found about his family that may not have been positive.    I admired the look into religious animosity and how the gift transcended that.

MORE ABOUT BUILDINGS:   I wish I could say I knew Canton, Ohio which is where Gup’s grandfather lived at the time.   I really enjoyed the descriptions of the town and buildings, then and now.   This is one of those things I wonder about – I love old buildings and like to imagine when it was built, who enjoyed it, etc and then some.      The book doesn’t go into too much depth but I’m glad it was included.

The stories of the people who asked for the cash and what happened to the families since were wonderful.  Some were sad, some were happy and it was just.  INTERESTING.  I’m glad I read this book.

RATING:    FOUR SLICES OF PIE.    My mom gave it 4 stars, too.


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