Tuesday, January 3, 2012

End-of-Year Bookish Survey

Finally I have access to a computer!  I always seem to forget that my kiddos dominate the computers when we are away from home.  December seemed so non-bloggy...hoping January is different!

For some reason, when scrolling through this year's list of books I've read, I felt rather ambivalent. I'm hoping that will change as I begin to answer some of these questions. I know I read some incredible ones...

2011 in Review: 125 books read

Best book?  Without a doubt, A Long Long Way (Sebastian Barry).  One of the best books of all time.  In total, I rated 11 books as 5 stars (9%) and another 12 books as 4.5 stars (10%) for a total of 19% amazing reads.

Worst book that I actually finished?  Remember Me (Deborah Bradford) Why oh why did I read the whole thing??  I thought I'd learned better than that. It was a standout though, since I only finished 6 books that I ended up rating 1 or 2 stars (5%).

Most disappointing? Lord of the Flies! I thought this was a classic...meaning I'd be able to find something to appreciate, right???  Yeah, no. This is one of the 5% I was just talking about.

Most surprising (in a good way!) Apart from many of the classic novellas I read in August, I'd say either The Art of Fielding (Harbach--a sports book enjoyable? amazing!) or The Sea Captain's Wife (Powning--for a book that took place mostly on the ocean, this was surprisingly pleasant)...or maybe The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (O'Farrell--I was expecting standard fare and got something written in a unique, effective voice.)

Favorite new authors I discovered? Sebastian Barry, Maggie O'Farrell, Alexander Pushkin.  I want to read more of all of them.

Most thrilling, unputdownable book? Tales of Belkin, Alexander Pushkin.  There were more, of course, but this one actually had me out of breath a some points!

Favorite Cover?  I can't pick just one, I like the modern stuff and the vintage stuff...

Most memorable character? My first reaction was to say Christy Moran and Willie Dunne from A Long Long Way, but I also loved Mike Schwartz from The Art of Fielding, of course Anna Karenina was filled with them, and then what about Miss Pettigrew when she lived for a day?

Most beautifully written? A Long Long Way (Sebastian Barry) Incredibly amazing.  Filled to the brim with beautiful language.

Book that had the greatest impact on me? A Long Long Way (Sebastian Barry) Like I said, incredibly amazing.

Book I can't believe I waited until 2011 to read? The Giver probably wins this award.  Everyone seems to have read it when they were young except me.

Book that had a scene in it that had me reeling? A Long Long Way (Sebastian Barry) In a book that basically kept me reeling throughout, there were a few stand out scenes as well.

Book by an author who should be more well-known? Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates)  While the characters may be frustrating, his writing is fresh and unique, even decades after it was first published.

How many re-reads? 4: Persuasion, O Pioneers! Anna Karenina, The Great Gatsby

Book I read in 2011 I'd be most likely to re-read in 2012? Safe From the Sea (Peter Geye) and  A Long Long Way (Sebastian Barry).  The first because I feel like I read it too fast the first time, and the second because it has taken me weeks to get over the feeling that it was the only book I ever wanted to be reading.

Most books read by one author? 3: Sebastian Barry: The Secret Scripture, A Long Long Way, On Canaan's Side and Leo Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilych, The Devil, Anna Karenina, and also Willa Cather: April Twilights, The Troll Garden and Others, O Pioneers!

Favorite Passage/Quote?  Serious? WAY too many!  But since I've been gushing about A Long Long Way, (and goodness just re-reading the quotes is making me teary!) here's a taste of that beautiful writing:
Like an old ash-tree he feared he would slowly hollow out, the rot taking him inwardly ring by blackened ring, until the winter wind came and blew him down.
and one more from the same book:
Since the things he had wished for were no more, he wished for nothing. He breathed in and out. That was all. That was where the war had brought him, he thought.


  1. I remember loving Lord of the Flies but it's been years since I've read it. I plan to reread it this year. It will be interesting to see how I like it now.

  2. I haven't heard of a Long Long Way but I can tell it affected you in a great way.

    Happy New Year

  3. The Art of Fielding surprised me as well. I really wasn't sure if I would like a novel that revolved around baseball but it turned out to be fantastic.

  4. Wow. A Long, Long Way has got to go on the list. The quotes are amazing.

  5. Also added A Long Long Way to the wishlist.

    I'm planning to read Lord of Flies this year. I felt the way you did about The Scarlet Letter.

  6. Happy New Year! Oh, that's too bad about Lord of the Flies. I read it in high school and thought it was good. It's hard to say if I "liked" it given the subject matter but it stuck with me. To go along with Ti, it may have a different effect if I read it now.

  7. I haven't heard of A Long Long Way before now but it's gone on my wishlist :)

  8. Definitely agree that Richard Yates deserves to be more widely known. Have read 4 of is novels plus Blake Bailey's bio - a real treat.

    So you liked A Long Long Way, huh? ;-) It's on my list for the TBR Double Dare.

  9. Yay! Sebastian Barry! I have a huge crush on the man. Met him at a book signing and WOW the performance he gave for his reading... He also sent me the sweetest email at the holidays, so much do I blog about him. Read 'On Canaan's Side' if you liked (did you?!) A Long Long Way. It was a Booker longlist book and it's even more beautiful, in my opinion, than Long Long Way. And Long Long is also part of a series of books, by the way...

  10. Ti, I didn't read it in high school, but I have a feeling that I would have like it much more then. The thing that really bugged me was how preachy and blatant it was. I couldn't really enjoy the story because the authors agenda was too apparent.

    Marce, it really did...I wish I could predict or figure out why, but I suppose that's part of the magic of literature. Thanks for stopping by.

    Brenna, quite often it seems like having low expectations works in my favor. I'm so glad that you liked The Art of Fielding. It seemed so normal...and yet so wonderful.

    Heidi, you have to read it. It's so thoughtful and beautifully written. I'm sure that my interest in WWI and Ireland helped, but the relationships made it universal. I'd love to hear your reaction to it.

  11. Alex, I was disappointed by The Scarlet Letter too--and in a very similar way! I felt like the story itself wasn't bad, but how it was told ruined it for me. All the same, good luck with Lord of the Flies!

    Teacher/Learner, like I mentioned to Ti, I really think that where you are at in life (maturity, as well as what you're used to reading) will affect your opinion of this book. I really didn't mind the story line, but the whole "His arm was conditioned by a society..." really bugged.

    Sam, I've enjoyed a few of Sebastian Barry's books this year, but the others were slightly more plot focused, where this one was more about the writing and the themes. It was absolutely beautiful.

    JoAnn, I'll def. be reading more Yates this year. I have the bio on my wishlist, but don't know if I'll get to it this year or not. I do hope you enjoy A Long Long Way. Read it when you're ready to reflect on life. :)

    Lisa, so good to meet a Sebastian Barry fan! I read On Canaan's Side after reading A Long Long Way (and have Annie Dunne on my shelf.) What set A Long Long Way apart for me (from The Secret Scripture and On Canaan's Side) was the language and themes. I just loved reflecting on the historical period--it was more than just a story to me. I'll have to check out your blog!


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