Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Reflections on a year of reading

So here we are on the last day of 2012.  Unlike other bloggers, I won't be posting a Top 10 list for the year; I tried coming up with one, but I was unable to narrow it down past 16 or 17 titles, which all stood out for different reasons, and many of which were previously reviewed on this site.

I've been tracking my books on Goodreads (please follow or friend me there if you'd like!) and had set myself a goal of 85 books for 2012.  Until this recent holiday break, I wasn't sure if I'd make it, but a last-minute reading sprint put me over the top at 89.  With the library closed over most of the last two weeks, I haven't done much aside from read, proofread (the Historical Novels Review's Feb reviews are due soon), eat, sleep, and write.  With some shopping and one very slow day at the reference desk mixed in.  I wrote up four reviews for HNR, mostly of UK titles I'd bought and which the publishers didn't send, and will be reprinting them here after they're published in February.  It's been nice... I don't usually have this much time available at a single stretch.

During the last year, I completed the Chunkster Challenge with many titles to spare - at least a dozen in all. Although I don't plan to sign up again next year (I want to give myself a break!) I thoroughly enjoyed participating and am pretty amazed I managed to get so many 450-plus page books read.

I've also gone back and forth about activating/deactivating the captcha for blog comments.  Personally I think it's a pain, but I turned it off for a time and was getting dozens of spam comments a day.  It was too much, so I added it back (sorry; I hope people will still comment anyway).

Instead of publishing a Top 10 (or Top 17 or whatever) list, I thought I'd mention some novels I read in 2012 and didn't end up reviewing here, but which I'd highly recommend:

Enid Shomer, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile.  I reviewed this for Booklist; it's an exquisitely written intellectual adventure about Florence Nightingale, Gustave Flaubert, and what might have happened had they met while journeying down the Nile separately in 1850.

Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist. Set at the turn of the 20th century on a large orchard in central Washington State, "Coplin’s mesmerizing debut stands out with its depictions of uniquely Western personalities and a stark, gorgeously realized landscape that will settle deeply into readers’ bones" (quoting from my Booklist review).

Selden Edwards' The Lost Prince, which I also covered for Booklist. The entire review isn't online, but it's a very worthy sequel to his excellent, time-bending The Little Book. From my review:  "Moving from America’s Gilded Age through WWI’s aftermath in Europe, Edwards’ delightfully imaginative second novel follows a courageous woman’s singular accomplishments and their far-reaching effects on history."

James Long, The Lives She Left Behind.  If you read and loved Ferney but haven't picked up the sequel yet, what are you waiting for?  It continues the story of Gally, Ferney, and Mike some 16 years later, answering the question posed by the final, devastating line of the first book (the title is apropos).  I won't say more than that, other than I felt badly for Mike, finding himself enmeshed once again in the same painful triangle, but it's a very satisfying read. 

Christopher Tilghman's The Right-Hand Shore. In 1920, a prospective heir to Mason's Retreat, a once-prosperous Maryland estate, learns about his distant relatives, the Masons and Baylys, and their complex relationship with the land and the black families who lived and worked alongside them over the previous 60 years.  Beautiful and elegiac, it addresses the perennial topic of race relations in American history but is not your typical plantation novel.  You don't need to have read Mason's Retreat first (this is a prequel)I hadn'tbut it's on my list now.

What's up for next year?  Well, I've nearly made it through the to-be-reviewed pile, at last, but plan to approach the next year somewhat differently... reviewing more of my own books and making requests from publishers myself.  I also hope to diversify my selections, featuring more books set outside Europe and America, and from non-Western writers.  I have the 12 titles from the TBR Challenge to look forward to, and I'm also debating doing something for Small Press Month in March, maybe focusing on reviews of small press titles.

What books are you looking forward to the most in 2013?  If you need ideas, check out the Historical Novel Society's forthcoming books list, newly updated through next fall (compiled by me and Sarah Cuthbertson).

Thanks for following this blog and reading along with me over the last year!  I wish you the very best for 2013, with lots of good reading ahead.

22 comments:

  1. I keep hearing about The Twelve Rooms of the Nile. I may have to move that up my list!

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    1. Yes - Twelve Rooms has been making the rounds of book recommendations! It's a gorgeous novel.

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  2. Anonymous1:41 PM

    On a very personal level, I'm looking forward to Susanna Kearsley's FIREBIRD, a sort-of-sequel to THE WINTER SEA. It is set in early 18th century Scotland and Russia (thus continuing the boomlet of THE WINTER PALACE, THE MIRRORED WORLD, and Massie's bio of Catherine the Great). It's not Stateside until June so I will probably have to order from the UK.

    I am also looking forward to more 17th century novels, two of which I just got from Book Closeouts - THE KNOT and THE NOBLE ASSASSIN.

    Plus, anything else I come across which looks interesting. Probably NOT anything Downton Abbey redux . . .

    Sarah Other Librarian

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    1. Ah, I didn't realize Firebird was related to Winter Sea, but now that I read the description, that looks to be the case. The sequel to Winter Palace will be out soon too, though I haven't seen a date yet.

      I've been continuing to see Downton readalikes and may have enough for a 2nd preview. Having just finished Passing Bells and Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child, though, I need to give the topic a rest before I pick up another.

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    2. Anonymous3:18 PM

      Please let me know if you come across any review copies . . . ;-)

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    3. I haven't seen it available yet for US readers, although I know an Aussie blogger who's reading it now.

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  3. I didn't realize there was a sequel to Ferney so I'll look out for that one. May have to reread Ferney again first.
    Happy New Year!

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    1. Happy New Year to you too! I reread Ferney a little over a year ago, so the story was pretty fresh in my mind. The new one did everything a sequel should, imho, continue the characters' story and resolve lingering issues, of which there were some biggies.

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  4. Thinking of recommending The Orchardist to my book club. A good selection?

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    1. If they enjoy literary fiction with a vivid sense of place, yes. It has interesting characters and a strong storyline but little dialogue (and the characters' speech, when it occurs, isn't marked as such; some readers may not be used to that). The novel brings up many issues that could make for a worthwhile discussion.

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  5. Thank you for featuring such wonderful books on your blog, it's been one of my favorite places in 2012. :) Have a FANTASTIC 2013!

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    1. Thank you! I hope you have a great New Year, and I look forward to following along with you on your blog. You have some great titles picked out for the TBR Challenge!

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  6. Looking forward to reading Charles Dickens in Love.

    But I mostly came by just to say Happy New Year to this site. Your work is appreciated. So many books!

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    1. Happy New Year 2013 to you too! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  7. great titles!
    you will find my list in this post:
    http://wordsandpeace.com/2013/01/03/year-of-reading-2012/

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    1. Nice! And we both have 89 books. I didn't do any audiobooks or ebooks so it's not quite the same, but...

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  8. The Orchardist was a book on my sites in 2012, I took it out from the library, but never got a chance to read it. Hopefully this year, nice to see it so highly recommended.

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    1. I do that a lot... our library's bestsellers have a 1-week checkout, and I rarely get to finish a book in that time. I still remember The Orchardist very well, some months after finishing it... a good sign.

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  9. You read some really great books in 2012! I hope 2013 is a wonderful reading year for you!

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  10. I've just finished The Orchardist and it was fantastic, best book I've read in ages.

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    1. I'm so pleased to hear that!

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    2. I tried to comment on your review but am not sure I clicked on the right thing :)

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