What Have I Read This Year?

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Every year, I look back at my reading, trying to find patterns, failing every time. It’s an eclectic assortment of contemporary fiction, classic fiction, science fiction and fantasy, nonfiction, and tons of graphic novels.

According to my lists at Goodreads, I have read 252 books this year, 48 “real” books, and 202 graphic novels.

Every year, I try to sample classics I’ve missed along the way and this year’s offerings included Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1, edited by Robert Silverberg. For Dickens, I knew and loved the 1968 Oliver! And now realize how much was excised in the adaptation. And I continue to plug gaps in my Golden Age of SF reading by finally reading classics I’ve always heard about. The other notable entry here is The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, derided by many critics but clearly a labor of love. This one, I listened to via the always-wonderful CraftLit, so Heather Ordover’s commentary was most helpful.

New-to-me-authors is a goal I set and happily, this year, I have read quite a few for the first time. Highlights include YA goddess Nicola Yoon’s Instructions for Dancing and Emma Straub’s All Adults Here. Others were interesting but nowhere near as compelling or entertaining. One of the year’s last reads was Kate Atkinson’s Shrines of Glory which started off slowly for me, but got increasingly interesting.

Many other first-timers could be found in our selections for the Faculty Book Club. The most serious misfire of the year was Emily Henry’s People we meet on Vacation, which I know was on the bestseller list, but why escapes me. More successful was Robert Dugoni’s The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. The head-scratcher was Colleen Hoover’s Verity, which had one of the best plot twists I’ve ever encountered, then watched it diluted with her tacked on “final”
chapter for the hardcover, which actually followed the trade.

Several sequels arrived and while Rebecca Roanhorse’s Fevered Star was good, it didn’t prove as strong as the first volume. More satisfying was N.K. Jemisin’s The World we Make, the concluding volume in her current duology. I listened to this one, and Robin Miles’ narration made it even better.

On the nonfiction side, Brent Spiner’s thinly veiled memoir was entertaining while Robert Iger’s The Ride of a Lifetime was very much an American Dream story from a very smart man. That he was returned to run Disney is not at all a surprise after reading this. Speaking of the Dream, Ron Chernow’s Grant was enlightening, a strongly-told tale with keen analysis. At 48 hours, it weighs in as my longest listen.

I did manage to read works from several friends and was very happy with J. Michael Straczynski’s Together we will Go and Fabian Nicieza’s The Self-Made Widow.

Of course, none of this covers the newspapers, magazines, and individual comic books I have read in addition to books. Deb and I continue to luxuriate over coffee and the Washington Post each weekend, as I try to read most of the paper during the week. I continue to keep abreast of the world through Time, The Week, Smithsonian, and Vanity Fair. Then there are the education-related professional publications, so my eyes are kept pretty busy. And let’s not start in on the blogs, news, pop culture, and sports websites I read.

The TBR shelf continues to groan and the Kindle library of unread works grows as well. I love reading and finding the time to sit with a hot cup of coffee and a book remains a struggle during the school year. Every year I resolve to do better and every year, fail. At least I won’t want for good reading whenever I retire.

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