Jan. 2nd, 2011

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I read 106 books, which does not count books that I started and gave up on or books that I read only portions of (sometimes large ones) for research. It also excludes my online and magazine-based short fiction reading, since the idea of discussing every short story I read in any sort of detail is overwhelming. It's not quite as many as last year, when I read 116; the main reason for that is probably that I was dating for a while this year, whereas in 2009 I didn't have much of a social life.

Last year I expressed disappointment at some of the books I hadn't gotten to during the year, specifically another Charles Dickens, and the Edith Grossman translation of the Quixote, and pledged to read both in 2010. I did read A Tale of Two Cities, and enjoyed it pretty well, though it's not my favorite Dickens; I also read (or re-read, though a different translation) the Quixote, and decided that it's my favorite book of all time, as of now.

This year I also started taking on particular writers as "projects" of a sort; it started with Walter Mosley (because I couldn't get enough of Easy Rawlins) and Robert Holdstock, who passed unexpectedly at the end of 2009, and who I wanted to revisit, because he had been so important to my re-conception of fantasy post-Tolkien, Lewis, etc. Both of those projects were rewarding in different ways. Mosley writes amazing noir with a convincing (and often depressing) depiction of racial dynamics throughout the forties, fifties, and sixties. Holdstock's strength is in the richness of his imagination and the way it blends with his research of legend and history to create a realistic and often frightening blend of horror and fantasy; his weaknesses (particularly characterization, and particularly of his female characters) are often easy to overlook--at least for me--because of how good he is otherwise.

The difficulty with those projects, I quickly realized, was that it was throwing off the gender balance of my reading that I had established in 2009; I didn't keep track of that as closely this year, but I made sure that after I finished Holdstock's Mythago Wood books and read as much Mosley as I dared without running out of some for later, the next two writers I tackled were women. I had never read Patricia Highsmith before, and not nearly enough Ursula K. Le Guin; working my way through the latter's books may be the highlight of this year's reading. I'm not nearly through with the work of either of those writers, so those projects will continue into 2011.

Other things I plan to read in 2011: another Dickens, The Canterbury Tales, and, for the first time in more than twenty years, The Lord of the Rings. Plus, hopefully, 100+ other books.

Here's the Top 16 (completely arbitrary number, and in no particular order; these were what jumped out when I was reviewing the list):

Lavondyss by Richard Holdstock
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley
Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel
All Star Superman by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak
Good News from Outer Space by John Kessel
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
A Life on Paper by Georges-Olivier Ch√Ęteaureynaud
The Poison Eaters by Holly Black
The Ant King and Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

On to 2011.


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