My main year end post was really a “favorite reads” list, and those are kind of predictable, aren’t they? Is anyone surprised I didn’t have a New Adult romance on my list, for instance? So here are some quirkier things about my reading year, in no particular order, as well as my I Refuse to Call Them Goals for reading and blogging in 2014.
Probably My Favorite Literary Novel Read in 2013: Glaciers, by Alexis M. Smith
Three Reasons I Love My Job: The novels I chose for my Children’s Literature class were so good, it was a pleasure to re-read them preparing for class. I have assigned Kit Pearson’s Awake and Dreaming before, so this term was probably at least my eighth read-through of the book. I still love and admire it, and it makes for such rich discussions. New to me were Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Merrie Haskell’s Princess Curse. Loved these, and the discussion they generated, as well. In fact, Haskell’s middle-grade fantasy featured one of my favorite romances of the year.
All of these books are interesting to think about in terms of “craft” issues (structure/form, narrative voice, intertextuality) as well as thematic ones. In my view, they disprove any idea that literature for children is “lesser.” And they tell good stories. All of these could have been on my “best of” list, but I left them off Because Work.
Favorite Re-“Reading”: I have always been a re-reader–for work, of necessity, but I also turn to old favorites in times of trouble, and/or because there is something in those books that speaks deeply to me, and that I want to experience again. In recent years, as I’ve had or made less time for reading, my re-reading has become mostly audio. There are certain books I listen to over and over often as I’m falling asleep or when I have insomnia, because they help stop my mind from racing; if I drift off it doesn’t matter, because I know them by heart. (This is probably bad for my sleep habits. They were never great).
As a result, what I re-read has changed. Less children’s literature (good audio of Madeleine L’Engle, LeGuin’s Earthsea books, or more Diana Wynne Jones would be awesome; I did enjoy re-visiting Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain via audio).
Still lots of Heyer. It was great to have the unabridged Naxos recordings of The Grand Sophy and Sylvester show up at Audible. Fingers crossed for a good Venetia. Elizabeth Peters’ Crocodile on the Sandbank is another favorite re-read I’ve moved from print to audio, and this summer I listened to several other books in the series as well.
What I (re)listen to the most, though, is probably Jayne Anne Krentz/Jayne Castle, especially the Harmony novels, and I have only read one of her books in print. (I’d listen to more of her Amanda Quick books, but I dislike the narrator; I like Barbara Rosenblatt, who does some of the earlier ones, but don’t enjoy those books as much). I can’t really explain this affection since I think they’re kind of silly and mostly “just OK.” I find the futuristic world-building pretty shallow and the books often lack the energy of her earlier efforts. But I like the narrators (Tanya Eby, Joyce Bean), whose lower voices and rather deadpan style I find relaxing; the books are escapist for me in part because they aren’t that emotionally engaging; they are light romantic suspense–not plots that keep me up all night, but problems/mysteries the couple has to solve together, a romance trope I love; they’re smoothly written and I trust there’s nothing that will drive me nuts; I have a soft spot for the pets, especially the Harmony dust-bunnies. I guess they are my “Calgon-take-me-away” books, and I love them for it.
Favorite Narrator Discovery This Year: Definitely Juliet Stevenson (loved her as an actress already), who is going to add Austen and other 19th-century favorites to my re-read in audio list. (Although why no unabridged Pride and Prejudice?) Looking forward to hearing more Austen, North and South, and Middlemarch! Hmm, maybe Lady Audley’s Secret too.
More Non-Fiction: This is another way audio works for me. I often don’t have the patience to devote days of limited reading time to a fat non-fiction book, but for some reason days of listening is another story. Non-fiction in audio started working for me when I gave up expecting of myself the kind of detailed attention I bring to research reading: it doesn’t matter whether I get every point.
Favorite Blogging Things of 2013: Definitely various book discussions, even when they got, as my family would say, “a bit vigorous.” The informal ones were the best–when a bunch of people happened to be reading the same thing and wanted to talk about it in more depth. I still like SonomaLass’s On the Same Page idea. Not too much like homework, but more in-depth conversation than Twitter allows. I’ll be looking for more opportunities for such discussions.
Directions for 2014 (Maybe)
The thought of goals and rules makes me restive. But here’s what 2014 might hold for me:
- More variety to my reading (living up to my blog name). It was romance-reading that made me a blogger, and I’m not quitting romance fiction by any means, but increasingly I find myself frustrated by romance just because it can’t serve all my reading needs, which is hardly the genre’s fault. More speculative fiction, more literary fiction, more non-fiction, more “classics.” MORE! (Famous last New Year’s Eve words).
- More books by and about people of color, especially but not only in romance. I ended my year enjoying Suleikha Snyder’s Spice and Secrets and Karyn Langhorne’s A Personal Matter, and want to keep that trend going.
- More review/reflection posts on particular books. I think it’s inevitable that I tend to circle back and back to certain topics that interest me, but I’m finding generalizations on these topics (from me and others) disheartening and frustrating. Going back to specifics is a good way to start asking new questions or to throw new light on old ones.
I wish you all happy reading and book-talking in 2014!