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3rd January
written by Steph
By now I’m sure everyone has read more than their fair share of recaps of 2009 reading across the book blogosphere; apologies for being late to the party, but the holiday time in Toronto left little time for perusing the internet (and even less for reading or composing my own posts).  I admit, it was nice taking a mini-break from blogging, and the time away readily filled itself with great meals, movies, shopping, sight seeing, and best of all, time spent with family and friends.  I won’t get all contemplative on all of you here, but prior to my trip home I was rather fraught with ennui – missing home, but worrying that I’d get off the plane in Toronto and fail to feel things click back into place.  Spending two years away from the place you grew up is really hard, and I don’t think I realized how much a part of me was missing until I did get home, and suddenly all the tension and stress and malaise I’ve been carrying evaporated.  That’s not to say I returned to Toronto with unchanged eyes – the city has changed (heck, my family’s home has changed… my parents now sleep in what was my bedroom!) and so have I – but no matter how much it changes, no matter how long I’m away, whenever I hit Canadian soil, I really do feel like I’m coming home. As ironic and paradoxical as it may seem, it’s this prolonged absence away from home that has helped me to better appreciate and understand the place that I’m from and how integral and important Canada as a country is to who I am as a person and how I conceive of my identity.  I mean, I may be able to hear everyone else’s Canadian accent now, and it sure is weird when I hear my own, but I can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard I try.  Canada is truly a part of me. But, this post isn’t really meant to be a reflection or musing on national identity or my time spent at home (there will be another post on the latter, at the very least… and that one will include pictures!).  No, this is supposed to be about books!  Well, you’ll note that in terms of the various activities I mentioned engaging in whilst in Toronto, one of the things that did not feature (along with blogging) was reading.  Despite the best of my intentions, I probably only did about an hour’s worth of reading while out of the country, so although I had hoped to finish Northanger Abbey before ringing in 2010, it didn’t happen.  However, I’m not going to spend my time lamenting the lack of Austen in my 2009 reading, because as you’ll see from the graph and my rundown after the jump, there was still plenty to celebrate (and really, kicking off 2010 with Jane?  Not a bad way to start the year, am I right?)… The Big Stats
And the longitudinal study continues...

And the longitudinal study continues...

In 2009, I read 70 books (not including the 3 books that I abandoned, but still wrote about. I probably abandoned more than 3 books over the course of the year, but in many cases these were books that I swiftly realized I wasn’t in the right state of mind to read at the time but do intend to read in the future… so I don’t really consider those “abandoned”… more like a “temporary hiatus”…).  As compared to last year (when I read 44 books), that means I read 59% more books this year as compared to last year.  Now we all know I’m a number geek and that’s really why I share and document these kind of things, but at the end of the day I realize that it doesn’t really matter how many books I read any given year, and so I never really have any hard goals set when it comes to how many I would like to read.  I think I had the number 50 in mind, because it’s a nice round number and there are plenty of “50 Books In One Year” challenges out there, and it certainly seemed doable given how many books I plowed through in 2008.  So, needless to say, when it comes to the total number of books I read this year, I have to say that I’m happy with what I accomplished in 2009, and it was nice to see that I clearly made reading a priority. But, the probably the more important number to look at is not how many books I read, but how much I enjoyed what I read.  2008 showed an increase in both the number of books I read as well as how much I liked them as compared to years past; unfortunately, 2009 did not show the same trend – although I read more books in 2009, I actually appeared to enjoy what I was reading, on average, less than in 2008.  Sad!  In 2008, my average rating was 3.69, but this year that dropped to 3.5 (out of 5).  I don’t actually track my mean rating during the year, instead waiting until all is said and done, and I have to say I was sad to see this was the case.  After all, what’s the point in reading more books if you like them less? The Nitty Gritty Of the 70 books I read this year (of which only 1 was a re-read… oy!), I read 64 unique authors. Moreover, 31 of the books I read were by women, while the remaining 39 were by male authors (44% vs 56%).  Last year I had a similar trend of slightly favoring male authors as compared to female authors, but by and large, it would seem that my reading is fairly evenly distributed across the two sexes, which pleases me.
And once again, America has to have the biggest piece of the pie...

And once again, America has to have the biggest piece of the pie...

Another thing worth noting is that I made a concerted effort to diversify my reading in terms of its international scope.  My reading is predominantly skewed towards British and American authors (and to a lesser extent, Canadian ones), but in 2009 I worked to broaden my literary horizons on a global scale.  This year I read literature from 9 different countries.  This doesn’t make me a literary globetrotter by any means (and you can see my reading is still heavily biased to the usual suspects), but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  The countries I visited through the pages of fiction were: Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom (perhaps not technically a country, but for better or worse, this is how I categorize UK fiction… for now), Australia, France, Germany, Norway, South Africa, and Japan. The Winners Despite a somewhat humble 3.5 mean rating, I read a lot of books that I enjoyed.  There were, however, a few standout novels that completely knocked my socks off, books that made me think, feel, and that challenged the way I see the world and the way that I read fiction.  Y’all know that I love books, but I’m very stingy when it comes to handing out that coveted perfect score.  The few books that managed to nab 5 out of 5 from me were: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, Generation A by Douglas Coupland, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte.  All of these books are very different from one another, and yet they all managed to encapsulate the power of the novel and embody exactly why it is that I read.  Disgrace left me emotionally gutted but was one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read; Generation A amused and amazed me with its biting insights and its clever narrative; Golden Pavilion read like the best kind of poetry, and managed to be both very beautiful and very dark; and Jane Eyre was just so much fun (and romantic!) and reminded me why classics need to feature more strongly in my regular reading repertoire. Apart from these fab four (all of whom were new to me, even if I did go into Jane Eyre thinking I had read it before), I discovered several other new authors this year who made deep impressions and who I’ll be feverishly seeking out in the future: Toni Morrison, Tana French, Richard Russo, Victor LaValle, Graham Greene, P.G. Wodehouse, and Paul Auster (to name a few). The Losers With the highs must come the lows, and I read a few clunkers this year.  I would say the book I enjoyed least but finished (and which I gave the lowest rating, the dreaded 1 out of 5) was Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single by Heather McElhatton, which I found hateful and not nearly fun enough given its chick lit roots.  That said, I also was not a fan of A Partisan’s Daughter by Louis De Bernières (which I gave 1.5 out of 5), which I thought was pointless and a waste of time.  Obviously I also did not dig A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, Eve: A Novel of the First Woman by Elissa Elliott, or A Theory of Clouds by Stéphane Audeguy, as these were the three books I abandoned for good.  Also, I suppose it should be said that 2666 by Roberto Bolaño was something of a failure for me as I stalled out partway through Section 4 (The Part About The Crimes) and just never got up the cojones to give it another go. 2010 Readolutions? I’ve spent some time mulling over what I’d like to get out of my reading this upcoming year, which hasn’t been an easy task.  I’m an avowed “intuitive reader” and don’t like to put many restrictions on myself when it comes to this kind of stuff – no challenges or hard set goals for me.  However, there are a few things I’d like to take away from my 2009 year of reading:
  • Quality NOT Quantity – I am happy with the number of books I read in 2009, so I am definitely not going to aim to read any more in 2010.  If I happen to read 70+ books?  Great.  But if not, that’s fine too.  [I would like to try to read at least a book a week, so hopefully I won’t drop below 50 books in 2010.] Instead, I’d like to focus on thoughtfully selecting each book so that I’m maximizing my enjoyment each and every time I pick up something to read.  I think that part of the reason why my average book rating went down is because I was picking books that I knew I could read quickly so that I could get reviews up on the blog.  In 2010, I think I will worry less about posting reviews at a breakneck pace, as there’s plenty of other content (bookish and otherwise) for Tony & me to post here on S&TI!  Lots of you fellow bloggers have mentioned “reading deliberately” as a goal for 2010, so I don’t think I’m alone on this one.
  • Make More Time for ReReads – As 2009 began to wind down, I realized that I tend to prioritize new books over old books, and to some extent this clearly makes sense, but there are a bunch of books sitting on my shelves that I love but haven’t touched in ages and it’s a shame that they’re just gathering dust.  While I love the thrill of discovering a new favorite, I think there’s a lot to be said for making time to revisit old ones.  This also extends to reading more of authors I’ve previously read and enjoyed – this year nary an Austen, Marquez, or Saramago was in sight, which is a real shame!
  • Rediscover the Classics - When I was a teenager, I was all over the classics and wouldn't touch contemporary literature unless it was assigned reading.  Somewhere along the way, I got out of the habit of reading these great books and years of distance have made them seem intimidating once more.  Every time I read a classic, I remember how good they can be, how rewarding it can be just to read for the sake of enjoyment, for a really good story, for fun.
  • Continue to Armchair Travel – I’m pretty sure 2009 was a record high for me when it came to literary globetrotting, and that’s something I want to make sure I continue to do in 2010.  I already have a bunch of books lined up for a South African/Apartheid mini-theme read I intend to do at some point this year, but I’d like to explore other parts of Africa through fiction, and I’d also like to read more Asian fiction.  Also, for someone who loves magical realism, I pretty much read nothing from Latin America in 2009, which makes no sense!  I made good strides in ’09, but it’s time to break away from Europe this year, I think.  I actually have some very specific countries in mind, but I’ll post about that in detail at a later date…
  • R my TBRs – I’m pretty sure every book blogger resolves this every year, so this is probably something you all can relate to.  I know myself well enough to know there’s not point actually banning myself from buying books because that just won’t work, but I would like to make an honest effort to read through the books that I already have on hand, rather than just endlessly adding to my book piles around the apartment.  I know I have plenty of good stuff here just waiting to be read, so maybe I should actually, you know, read some of it!
And those are really the five things that I would like to try to achieve in terms of my reading for 2010.  It’s nothing groundbreaking or wildly life changing, but I think that’s why I’ll actually be able to do it!  At the end of the day even if 2010 winds up being EXACTLY the same as 2009 reading-wise I think I’ll be plenty happy.  At the end of the day, while my holiday at home was a wonderful and restorative experience, January finds me raring to go and eager to share another year of reading with all of you.  It’s been so wonderful reading through all of your posts celebrating your past year of reading as well as your hopes for the new year, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the year unfolds!


  1. 01/03/2010

    I LOVE your “readolutions”. Happy reading in 2010, Steph!

  2. 01/03/2010

    It will be interesting to see where so many of these blogs go in 2010, since so many people are trying to read more deliberately.

  3. Laura

    ONLY you would think of presenting your reading data in graphs! I love it!
    It was great seeing you two in TO. (You should see all the stickies in my LP book already!!)
    Happy New Years!

  4. 01/03/2010

    Hi, Steph —

    I think your post is another sign from The Powers That Be that I need to reread Jane Eyre–it’s one of my favorite books, but I don’t think I’ve read it in the past, hm, four years. Eep.

    Also. Good to know you want to broaden your horizons, re armchair travelling. 🙂 If I may suggest some local (I’m from the Philippines) authors? But For The Lovers by Wilfrido Nolledo, beautiful language, and a healthy dose of magical realism. It’s frankly a trip, haha. And Miguel Syjuco’s ManAsian Prize-winning novel Ilustrado is coming out soon, methinks. 🙂

    Happy 2010, Steph! To reading! 🙂

  5. 01/03/2010

    @ Nymeth: Happy reading to you too! I think I haven’t resolved (readolved?) to do anything that’s unreasonable or too difficult so hopefully I’ll be able to stick to these guidelines! 😉
    @ Amanda: Well, given how many blogs there are out there, even if we all cut down our posting by 50% I’d still have tons to read in my Google Reader each day! And perhaps reading more deliberately will simply lead to people posting more mid-read thoughts (sort of as I did with Jane Eyre)?
    @ Laura: I’m so glad we were able to get together (and that we did so before I fell grossly ill a few days later!) and that you are enjoying the LP book – I knew if it would inspire anyone, it would be you! 😀
    @ Sasha: Thanks so much for the recommendations! I don’t think I’ve read any Philippino literature so it’s nice having a place to start!
    And Jane Eyre really was awesome, whether I had read it before or not! I would definitely say you’re ready for a reread!

  6. 01/03/2010

    I love the line “In 2010, I read 70 books (not including the 3 books that I abandoned, but still wrote about.” You are so much farther ahead than the rest of us!!! :–)

    Happy reading for the “rest” of 2010!!

  7. 01/03/2010

    I love your colorful graphics to match your statistical numbers! I would say you had a wonderful 2009.

    I like the idea of focusing on the R in the TBR pile 🙂 and I too want to start to re-read some favorites from the past. I have never considered re-reading a book, as there are so many wonderful “new” books waiting to be discovered; but I think there is also a comfort in rediscovering an old favorite, and the possibility of digging deeper and gaining more with subsequent reading.

    I am glad you had safe holiday travels, and I look forward to reading your posts in 2010.

  8. 01/03/2010

    Happy 2010 Steph! I love the graphics. Yea for more Tana French and Richard Russo in 2010! And also yea for quality not quantity…I am right there with you. I only read 52 books in 2009, but I felt for the most part like they were books I wanted to read, and didn’t feel too rushed. I’ll be happy to continue that trend.

  9. 01/03/2010

    I moved to Montana and then went to school back East three weeks later. I never thought Montana would be home, but once those airplane wheels hit the ground, I had the same feeling you did. I just felt like every bit of stress had evaporated and weights had been lifted off my shoulders.

    Love the title “readolutions”!. It seems quite a few, myself included, are planning on reading more classics. I hear you on quality and not quantity. I got too wrapped up last year on reading loads of books so I could always have a review to post on my blog, but I was reading loads of bad books that I should have abandoned or not picked up at all.

    Happy New Year, Steph!

  10. Eva

    Welcome back-I missed yoU! 🙂 And ya for starting the new year off with Northanger-one of my fave Austens!

    I find your comparison of quantity and quality fascinating. In 2009, I really pushed myself to read broadly, both geographically-speaking and genre-speaking. And I think that resulted in more duds than I’d usually have, simply because I was constantly pushing myself out of my safe zone, so I didn’t have many authors I could rely on. I’m not sorry about that, because I discovered many wonderful new writers in the process, but this year I want to give up broad reading and go for a deep approach: reading more books by authors I already love, reading more classics, etc. I’m pretty excited about it!

  11. 01/04/2010

    @ Molly: I’m sure we’re not alone in needing to focus on the “R” in TBR! I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to say that I have too many books, but if ever such a thing were possible I’d probably be approaching that point! 😉 And I’m glad you enjoyed my geeky graphs! 😉
    @ Priscilla: I’m super excited that the new Tana French is due out in July… I can’t wait! And I have another Russo here just waiting to be read, so hopefully in my bid to read more of authors that I already know I like it will get read!
    @ Christina: I really think that returning home is a great example of absence making the heart grow fonder… when you’re in the midst of living your day-to-day life in a place, I think it’s hard to appreciate just how much the world around you shapes you. After two years without setting foot on Canadian soil, it was definitely cathartic to be somewhere where I felt I unquestioningly belonged!
    I think I was pretty good about dropping books I really wasn’t enjoying in 2009, but I did certainly gravitate towards “disposable” reads – ones that I knew I could power through quickly and/or was unlikely to want to keep so I could get them out of the apartment (which really meant going to the used bookstore to trade them in for yet more books!). Definitely want to focus on picking books for less superficial reasons this year!
    @ Eva: It’s good to be back (even if I do have a cold!), and yes, starting off the year with an Austen is the way to do it!
    I think, as you say, there’s a lot of good reasons to push oneself and read outside of one’s comfort zone – it’s how we evolve as readers and it’s how we can discover new authors to love and enjoy! But, as great as it is to keep an open mind and try new things, if we do this at the expense of our own enjoyment, that’s no good either – clearly a balance needs to be made. I think I can continue to try new authors and read globally but be more thoughtful about it. As book bloggers we’re inundated with hundreds of books each day, all that look good… I need to take more time to consider whether the next big thing is really the book for me, or whether obscure international author is touted for having the merits that I value in fiction, rather than just frantically reading everything that crops up in my Reader! 😉

  12. Quality of quantity is a good goal. I think it’s easy to get sucked into feeling pressure to post frequently, which means reading a lot, but in the end it’s more fun to enjoy what you’re doing not feel worried about what to post. It’s something I’m still working on too! Good luck 🙂

  13. you’re HIRED. seriously. you could consult for me and put together all these fancy graphs based on what i’ve read! it will be fun, i promise!

    seriously, i loved reading your year-in-review–one of the best ones i’ve seen–and have been inspired to emulate your charts next year. (i didn’t do a full year review because i started BL&S in march. lol.)

  14. 01/04/2010

    I’m glad that your trip home was so wonderful for you and that you felt right at home from the minute you got there. I also think that all your reading resolutions sound very much like things I want to accomplish for myself this year. I am pretty much in the same place you are regarding the past year’s reads. Although I read more, I enjoyed less, and it makes me kind of sad that I wasted so much time and effort on things that I couldn’t really enjoy. This year I aim to read more of what I know I will like and stop trying to take forays into questionable material like I did last year. I think it’s pretty sad to say that the last five books were a disappointment to me, and hope that streak doesn’t continue! I also have taken your recommendation for Austen into account, and will be planning to read a couple of hers this year. It’s funny, but I have kind of been rationing the Austen, since there’s no chance of there ever being more. I also love your mathematical break down of your reading and the graph as well. I hope you have a very good reading year this time around, and I am anxious to see your photos of the trip back home!

  15. Sorry to come to this post so late – I’ve been struggling with flu for the last few days.

    It is really interesting to see your books broken down this way. I have thought about reading The Golden Pavilion for a while, but I think I’m going to have to seek it out after seeing it on the top of your list.

    I do think it would be nice to see you broaden your armchair travelling. You seem to read very Western books at the moment and there are lots of great books out there written by authors from other countries. Hopefully you’ll find a few in 2010.

    Have a fantastic 2010! I look forward to sharing many great books with you.

  16. 01/05/2010

    @ Kim: I have long felt that reading goals that involve meeting a specific number of books read are kind of silly (what does it mean if you read 54 books instead of 53?), but they seemed harmless all the same. And then I realized that perhaps I had been sacrificing reading books of quality and substance to some extent in my desire to be reading quickly and I felt pretty bad about that because I don’t think of myself as that kind of reader. I like to linger over books and take my time and enjoy every book I pick up. 2010 is all about taking a step back and realizing that if I only post one book review per week, I’m not going to lose readers – they’ll probably thank me for highlighting better fiction!
    @ nat: So glad you enjoyed the charts and graphs. They’re hella geeky, I know, but if you give me a pile of numbers, my default is always going to be to give you a visual representation of them (blame my background as a psychology grad student!)… can’t wait to see your own figures at the end of 2010! 😉
    @ Jackie: No worries about tardy comments – I’m battling a flu/cold myself, so I totally get it! I am definitely hoping to branch out and read more Eastern books (Australia not included, because I actually read a respectable amount of Aussie fic)… of course such a resolution might run somewhat counter to my goal of reading the books I already own, since I’m sure it’s no surprise that most of my books are American/British… so those books might crop up later in the year once I’ve made a dent in my pile!

  17. 01/05/2010

    I LOVE your graphs. That’s a great idea. I have tons of numbers to put together (just haven’t added December yet). And I love your resolutions too. I completely hear you about quality and not quantity. Wouldn’t it be great to have both?! I hope you find it.

  18. 01/08/2010

    Goodness, graphs and charts – aren’t you the Miss FancyPants! 😉

  19. 01/09/2010

    @ Rebecca: I’m glad you enjoyed this post so much! If I could read tons of books and have them all be winners… well, that’s the dream!
    @ Lesley: Hey, I love me some graphs & charts… hope others do to (otherwise this isn’t the post for them! 😉 ).

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