Book Rundown, 2013

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Welcome to the annual Book Rundown here at BookOuroboros, in which I would rather hang my head in shame than admit that to reading only eighty books this past year. Put it like this: I read fewer books in 2013 than I did in 2008, the year I actually wrote a book of my own, for crying out loud.

The main culprit was unemployment. During the twenty-three month lull between professional jobs, my book consumption plummeted. Being unemployed doesn’t mean you suddenly have lots of free time to read. It means you fill all your time with job hunting and with scrabbling together whatever odd work you can. Even when you do read, you feel guilty, because you know you ought to be looking for work.

Next year will be better. I said exactly the same thing exactly one year ago, and while I improved on last year’s pathetic showing, I think 2014 will see triple digits again, as I have a job now. Dear lord, it better get better. I am insufferable when I don’t read enough.

For comparison, here are the links to the previous years, so that you can see my shame writ large:

Total books read, cover-to-cover: 80

Age levels:

  • Adult: 64
  • YA: 13
  • Children’s: 3

Books read that were published in 2013: 17

Books read that won’t be published till May 2014: 1. That would be Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. It’s the next Harry Dresden book and it’s wonderful.

Nonfiction: 40. Holy cow. Nonfiction has never taken up this much of my reading pie. No wonder I’m cranky all the time. Nonfiction will never be as important to me as fiction.

Fiction: 40

Genres: (as some books have more than one genre, total exceeds 80)

Nonfiction:

  • Animal welfare: 1
  • Cookbook: 1
  • Economics: 1
  • Exercise: 1
  • History: 5
  • How-to: 1
  • Humor: 3
  • Medicine: 1
  • Memoir: 17
  • Parapsychology: 1
  • Psychology: 3
  • Science: 5
  • Social science: 7
  • Travel: 2
  • True crime: 2

Fiction:

  • Classics/Literary canon: 3
  • Crime: 1
  • Fantasy: 16
  • Historical: 3
  • Horror: 10
  • Literary fiction: 4
  • Mainstream: 3
  • Mystery: 3
  • Science fiction: 3
  • Suspense/Thriller: 2

Formats:

  • Audiobooks: I’ll always prefer print, but audio comes in handy when you’re chopping vegetables or toiling on the elliptical machine. I refuse to listen to fiction in audio — some things are too sacred — but certain types of nonfiction are palatable. In the first part of 2013 I lived in a pedestrian-friendly city, so I listened to more audiobooks than ever before, 29. Which goes a long way toward explaining why I read so many nonfiction books this year, now doesn’t it.
  • Graphic novels: Only 4, of which 1 was nonfiction. But you know what? In my new job, every single graphic novel the library acquires will pass through my greedy little paws. Expect this number to skyrocket next year.

Miscellaneous: 

  • Annual fat Russian novel: Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol.
  • Annual language book: How Not to Write Bad, by Ben Yagoda.
  • Re-reads: 8. Because some years you just have to re-read Harry Potter. And because you have to re-read The Shining in anticipation of its lovely sequel.

Authors: 76

New (to me) authors: 52

Best book of the year: The October List, by Jeffrey Deaver. Not the most affecting, not the funniest, not the most thought-provoking, but the most impressive. At this point I no longer read books by Jeffrey Deaver. “Reading” is an inadequate way to describe the experience. I strap myself in and enjoy the ride. This man is the Houdini of plotting.

Honorable mentions: 

  • My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Beckderf, a guy who was buddies with the serial killer in high school. Regrettably, no one seems to want to read it. I know it sounds gross but it’s very respectfully and thoughtfully done.
  • Born Round, by Frank Bruni. Unexpectedly funny memoir about a food critic who has always struggled with his weight.
  • Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi. The Manson crimes were old news before I was born, but it still reads like it’s fresh.
  • Skin Game, by Jim Butcher. Can’t talk about it yet, because it’s not published. I can smirk, though. That’s what I’m doing. I am smirking. Right now I am smirking.
  • Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala. Maybe the best grief memoir you’ll ever read.
  • Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. WHY HAD I NOT READ THIS BEFORE? (Thank you for my copy, Citizen Reader!)
  • Bossypants, by Tina Fey. Laugh-out-loud funny memoir. And since she’s a professional entertainer, it’s worth listening to the audio version.
  • The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. I have a fricking degree in Women’s Studies, so WHY HAD I NOT READ THIS BEFORE?
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen. Should have been a sad memoir. She managed to make it delightful instead.
  • Doctor Sleep and Joyland, by Stephen King: for my money, the best living storyteller in America.
  • Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Women’s issues on a global scale.
  • The Road to Wigan Pier, by George Orwell. I knew I loved his fiction, but his nonfiction was a lovely surprise. Best explanation of class in England I’ve ever read.
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris. Not his best collection, but David Sedaris on a bad day is still funnier than practically everybody on the planet. As with Tina Fey, it is permissible to listen to the book instead of reading it on the page.
  • Travels with Charley, by John Steinbeck. Same as with Orwell: I knew I loved his fiction, but the nonfiction blew me away.

Worst:

  • Nonfiction: Walk Away the Pounds, by Leslie Sansone. Turns out the book isn’t about walking. It’s about aerobics in your living room. It’s about aerobics in your living room with lots of bubbly life-affirming self-help bullshit. And lady, if I wanted a book about leading a religious life, I would go to the 200s. Get your church out of my exercise manual.
  • Fiction: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Okay. Look. I loved Sandman. I loved The Graveyard Book. But Neil Gaiman is hit-or-miss for me, and while the whole rest of the reading world heralded this book as the best thing since mint chocolate chip ice cream, I thought it was boring. Very moody, nice sense of atmosphere, but the tension never really built for me and I think it would have been a swell short story. As a novel? It wasn’t bad (I am being disingenuous by lumping it here in the “Worst” category) but it wasn’t great. So I suppose now I have to surrender by Fantasy Fan credentials.

And finally, all eighty titles, arranged by author:

Aaronovitch, Ben Midnight Riot
Anderson, M. T. Thirsty
Anson, Jay The Amityville Horror
Atkinson, Kate Life After Life
Backderf, Derf My Friend Dahmer
Banerjee, Abhijit and Esther Duflo Poor Economics
Baxter, Stephen and Terry Pratchett The Long Earth
Bering, Jesse Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?
Bittman, Mark How to Cook Everything: The Basics
Bourdain, Anthony Medium Raw
Bruni, Frank Born Round
Bryson, Bill Neither Here nor There
Buehlman, Christopher Those Across the River
Bugliosi, Vincent Helter Skelter
Butcher, Jim Skin Game
Cahalan, Susannah Brain on Fire
Coben, Harlan Shelter
Deaver, Jeffery The October List
Dederer, Claire Poser
Deraniyagala, Sonali Wave
Diamond, Jared Guns, Germs, and Steel
du Maurier, Daphne Rebecca
Egan, Timothy The Worst Hard Time
Ephron, Nora I Remember Nothing
Fey, Tina Bossypants
Flaim, Denise Rescue Ink
Friedan, Betty The Feminine Mystique
Gaiman, Neil The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Galloway, Gregory As Simple As Snow
Gogol, Nikolai Dead Souls
Hanagarne, Josh The World’s Strongest Librarian
Heinrich, Bernd Winter World
Hill, Joe Clockworks
Hill, Joe Nos4A2
Hill, Joe, Stephen King, and Richard Matheson Road Rage
Hodge, Chris and Joe Sacco Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt
Hornbacher, Marya Madness
Jamison, Kay Redfield An Unquiet Mind
Janzen, Rhoda Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
Jessop, Carolyn Escape
King, Stephen Doctor Sleep
King, Stephen Joyland
King, Stephen The Shining
Koch, Herman The Dinner
Konigsburg, E.L. The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World
Kristof, Nicholas D. and Sheryl WuDunn Half the Sky
Le Guin, Ursula K. A Wizard of Earthsea
Lee, Christopher This Sceptred Isle
Lukyanenko, Sergei Night Watch
Marra, Anthony A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Moss, Michael Salt, Sugar, Fat
Northup, Solomon Twelve Years a Slave
O’Nan, Stewart A Prayer for the Dying
Orwell, George The Road to Wigan Pier
Pratchett, Terry Nation
Roach, Mary Gulp
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Sansone, Leslie Walk Away the Pounds
Sedaris, David Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
Sijie, Dai Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Spinelli, Jerry Love, Stargirl
Steinbeck, John Travels with Charley
Stevens, Chevy Always Watching
Terrill, Cristin All Our Yesterdays
Trout, Nick Tell Me Where It Hurts
Vanderbilt, Tom Traffic
Vaughan, Brian K. Saga
Walton, Jo Among Others
Wasik, Bill and Monica Murphy Rabid
Weisman, Alan The World Without Us
Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray
Yagoda, Ben How to Not Write Bad
Yousafzai, Malala I Am Malala
Zusak, Markus The Book Thief
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9 responses »

  1. Jessca, at risk of seeming like this great post was read lightly, your buddy Tidewater Tom will congratulate you on the Orwell nonfiction discovery and grab some hot coffee to accompany a leisurely and carefully detailed perusal of the entire list during the day. Great reading for a new year! (ps: had you not admitted the Friedan Feminine Mystique oversight, I’d not have believed it.) HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

    Reply
    • We talked about Friedan all the time in my Women’s Studies classes, but she never did show up on the syllabus. I can’t say that I enjoyed the book in its entirety, but I’m really glad I read it. Better late than never.

      Reply
  2. I love reading your year in review…I have announced 2014 as the Year of TC Boyle. Going to read and read 10-15 of his books this year. Starting out with When the Killing’s Done and Budding Prospects.

    Happy New Year!
    twill

    Reply
  3. Based on previous reviews, I would have thought The Book Thief would have gotten higher praise from you. I have not read it yet, but I had a suspicion you had read it already. Was it worth it? I was thinking about reading and rereading all the banned books in 2014. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • I liked The Book Thief well enough, and can recommend it unreservedly. But it didn’t grip me the way it did a lot of folks. I think part of that is because I’m sick to death of reading anything set in WWII.
      As for banned books: go for it. That’s a great way to introduce yourself to some really excellent books. The most banned book of 2013, if I am remembering my sources right, is Sherman Alexie’s semi-autobiographical novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It is wonderful.

      Reply
  4. Reading 80 books in a year is definitely nothing to be ashamed of. It sounds like you read from a great variety of genres and authors. Unemployment is definitely a valid reason for reading less than normal.
    –JW

    Reply

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