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31st December
written by Steph
Wheee!  I'm my own longitudinal study!

Wheee! I'm my own longitudinal study!

2008 was ostensibly my best reading year in a long while, and I’d say this was true not just in terms of quantity, but also quality!  I started to keep track in earnest of the books I was reading in 2007 (I began my listkeeping near the tail-end of 2006, but it was already too late by then to remember everything I had read that year).  I think this exercise has reinvigorated my interest in reading, and by tracking what I read, I’m finding out how to get the very most out of my reading experience.   This year, I read 44 books, which is just slightly more than double the books that I read in 2007 (20 books), and likely far more than I read in 2006 (13 books recorded).  I definitely feel as though this year a made a conscious decision to devote more of my personal time to reading, and that is certainly a decision I have not regretted.  Perhaps more significant is that I didn’t just read more books this year, but I appeared to read books that I enjoyed more overall (after all, what’s the point in reading more, if you’re enjoying the books less?).  My mean book rating this year was 3.69, which is an improvement over 2007’s mean rating (3.52), and an even greater increase when compared to 2006 (3.31).  See plot for geekish visual exploration of my reading trends.  Further in-depth evaluations of my reading habits of 2008, as well as the complete list of what I read, after the jump.  I promise there will be no more graphs.  Probably. I read 35 unique authors this year, of which 19 were male and 16 were female; not a bad division.  I guess when it comes to reading, I’m all for equality of the sexes!  I renewed my love of the detective novel this year, and also discovered that I really like books with a magical realist flavour to them; apparently, I enjoy a little bit of fantasy in my novels, which is not something I would have predicted about myself.

The Winners

Of the 44 books I read this year, only 7 were re-reads; unsurprisingly, these re-reads were some of my most enjoyed books of the year.  However, I had a few standout “new” reads that have earned the title of recently discovered favourites.  These were (in the order I read them): I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garciá Márquez.  All of these books received the coveted 5-star rating in my book log (unfortunately, we hadn’t started our site yet, so I don’t have any reviews written for these books… you’ll just have to trust me!).   I Capture the Castle was a delightful, heartwarming read; Then We Came to the End was a powerful debut that was both funny and sad; Huck Finn was smart and funny that was both amusing and poignant; One Hundred Years of Solitude was a magnificent epic with lush and provocative language that demonstrated how masterful a storyteller Marquez is.  All of these books will be read again. This year, I also discovered a few authors who excited me and who I will definitely seek out again in the future.  In particular, I look forward to reading more by: Joshua Ferris, Gabriel Garciá Márquez, Mark Twain (even if he did hate Jane Austen!), Jacqueline Winspear, and José Saramago.

The Losers

I only abandoned two books this year, one for being atrociously written (Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi) and one for making my eyes cross due to the density of the prose and philosophical meanderings (The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco).  I did not include these books on my list, as I did not consider myself to have actually read them.  Instead, they will merely be eulogized in this paragraph of woe.  Not all of the books I read this year were ones that I enjoyed.  I would say my least favourite read of the year was The Accidental by Ali Smith, which I expounded about here.  Other books I read in their entirety but rated poorly for various reasons: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, Case Histories by Kate Atkinson,  Remainder by Tom McCarthy, The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer (all three books that were published at the time… yes, I read them all despite not really liking them!), and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

2009 Readolutions?

I’m a reader who chooses books on a whim, so I’m not good at saying I’ll read certain books in case I shouldn’t feel like it and then feel stuck.  I will say that in 2009, I’d like to try to hit at least 40 books again.  Furthermore, I’d like to try to make at least half those books I already own, since we all know I sure have enough books at my disposal at the moment! 😉  Hopefully I’ll be able to balance classics, light fiction, and contemporary reads in 2009.  I’d like to explore more foreign-language authors, especially those from Latin America.  But so long as I’m reading, I’ll be happy!

The Full List

Below is the entire list of books I read this year.   I’ve starred those that I enjoyed the most, those that are new- or old-found favourites, and those that I thought were truly exceptional works of writing and literature.  All books that have been reviewed on this site have been linked accordingly. 1.    Cloud Street by Tim Winton 2.    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly *3.     Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood 4.    Case Histories by Kate Atkinson 5.    Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis 6.    The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie *7.    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith *8.    The Road by Cormac McCarthy *9.    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Re-Read) 10.    Remainder by Tom McCarthy *11.    Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear 12.    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova *13.    Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (Re-Read) 14.    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer 15.    New Moon by Stephenie Meyer *16.    Life of Pi by Yan Martel (Re-Read) *17.    Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris 18.    Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibson 19.    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers *20.    Emma by Jane Austen *21.    White Teeth by Zadie Smith 22.    Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear 23.    A Room With A View by E.M. Forster 24.    Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer 25.    The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte *26.    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain *27.    The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (Re-Read) 28.    Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie 29.    The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton 30.    The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie 31.    Candide by Voltaire *32.    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garciá Márquez 33.    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 34.    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark *35.  The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis 36.  The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart 37.    The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler 38.    The Accidental by Ali Smith *39.    Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J.K Rowling (Re-Read) *40.    Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Re-Read) 41.    Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski *42.    All The Names by José Saramago 43.    Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear 44.    The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling


  1. 12/31/2008

    Steph. you are crazy. a graph?! the mean rating?! oy.

  2. 01/01/2009

    I’m a grad student! It’s what I do! Nothing means anything without a figure!

    Just be happy I didn’t include error bars! 😛

  3. 01/03/2009

    This is a great post! I am tempted to start reviewing my reads this year (I’m not so sure I’ll do the graph, though!). Of all of your favorites, I haven’t read one (Ferris), so I’m going to start it ASAP.

    I can’t wait to read more reviews!

  4. Steph

    I love the graph, how awesome is that?

    If you like magical realism, and like urban fantasy, you might try Tanya Huff, especially the Blood series (vampire and ex-cop battle dark forces, they made a TV series out of it, Blood Ties) and the Keeper series.

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