So it’s probably a good thing I’m about to embark on library school, since my need to keep statistics on my reading is a growing obsession. Librarians, in case you didn’t know, are very into stats — we keep numbers on everything, from how many people come through the door to how many people use the public access computers and of course how many books of what type get checked out.
Last year, as I reported in this post, I read 62 books. That was a big jump over the year before and, I’m pleased to report, my reading rate keeps accelerating (although that is unlikely to continue what with that library school thing). There are a couple reasons for this big jump, which I may go into in another post. The short version is that a lot of what I read is what a lot of people would call junk.
In 2009, I read 80 books (or, to be scrupously honest, 79 3/4 — one of them, “Mistress Shakespeare” by Karen Harper, I wound up skimming because it just didn’t grab me but I had spent enough time on it that I felt it was OK to include on my list). The vast majority, 67, were fiction. I started working at the public library in late May; 35 of the books I read came from there. Ten, plus two interlibrary loan books, came from the college library, where I worked until May.
The first book I finished in 2009 was “The Private Patient,” a novel by P.D. James. The last was “Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife,” a work of nonfiction by Francine Prose. Both books came from the public library. This year was a big year for series for me. I read a couple in the Aubrey-Maturin series — I’m up to 14 now — and all five published so far in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik — the Napoleonic wars in an alternate history approach — with dragons! I also started the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell and have so far read four of them. I read all three in the Mistress of the Art of Death series by Arianna Franklin and the first three in Tasha Alexander’s series about Lady Emily Ashton. The fourth is sitting on my desk, courtesy of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program and I really need to get to it.
I also read quite a few kids’ books, one of the benefits of working at the public library. I re-read all of Lloyd Alexander’s Taran series and found, yes, they do hold up. I read the first two in Linda Buckley-Archer’s Gideon the Cutpurse series and like them a lot.
The best novel I read all year was probably “A Place of Greater Safety” by Hilary Mantel — which is one reason I’m very psyched to have “Wolf Hall” at the top of my current reading pile. A close second would be “The Magicians” by Lev Grossman, an especially fun read for anyone who loved the Narnia books and Harry Potter, too.
For the best nonfiction book I read last year I’m going to declare a tie between “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann, a book I reviewed for the Miami Herald about Amazon explorer Percy Fawcett, and “Something from the Oven” by Laura Shapiro about women and cooking and society in the 1950s — it’s social and cultural history for laypeople, done really well (and how psyched was I when a paperback copy of “The Can-Opener Cookbook” by Poppy Cannon appeared in the library — Cannon is a major figure in Shapiro’s book and one with whom I can identify).
What am I reading now? I just noticed “Remarkable Creatures,” the new Tracy Chevalier novel about fossil hunters in early 19th century Britain, come into the library and snapped it up. I like Chevalier a lot and this subject has interested me since I read Deborah Cadbury’s excellent history “The Dinosaur Hunters.” I’ve also started “Wolf Hall,” Mantel’s Booker-winning latest, which I’m especially excited about because of my longstanding Tudorphilia. I started that just as I was mainlining season 3 of “The Tudors” on DVD; gotta say I’m looking forward to Mantel as a useful corrective — “The Tudors” is fun in a silly, soapy way but Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has to be the most preposterous Henry VIII ever, especially as he is supposed to be getting older. I’m dipping in and out of “Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading” by Lizzie Skurnick (with contributors including Meg Cabot, Laura Lippman and Jennifer Weiner) and finding it fun. And soon, very soon, my primary reading will be “Foundations of Library and Information Science” by Richard E. Rubin. Doesn’t THAT sound like fun?