December Reading

For the first time ever I have kept a record of the books I’ve read this year. It’s made me realise that there are a lot of books I don’t tend to count normally, books for research, crime fiction, ordinary novels I simply forget about. I was under the impression I read about 100 books a year, but I turn out to have already read 120 with December still to go.

So my attention has wandered to the pile of books beside my bed. Every year there are casualties that make it to the prime reading location but never quite move on from there. For the most part, these are the books that send me to sleep. Not, you understand, because they are bad books, often far from it. But they require concentration and they have fairly dense prose. If I read them in bed, I’m sunk, or at least sleeping, in short order. Over the course of the year they pile up, and my good intentions to finish them remain constant, but theoretical. This is the pile at the moment:

From the bedside table

Obviously Musil is there because he is still ongoing  (and will be for some time). I was loving the Patrick Leigh Fermor but he is such a rich truffle of a read that I can only take a little at a time. Ditto the Sarah Bakewell. The tiny thin book is Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and they are there mainly so I have them close at hand, but still it would be good to reach the end. The Yourcenar and the Joseph McElroy you’ve already heard about. The non-fiction book on Titian was somehow bypassed. Anyway, I have a plan to finish off as many of these this month as possible.

But there are always other books calling for my attention, too. The next pile features some I’d like to read if I can. The Mirabel Osler book, The Rain Tree, is a memoir about growing up amongst some of the artists of the mid-20th century – Ford Maddox Ford and Stella Bowen particularly, and is quite the most beautiful hardback I’ve seen. Black Thunder is a crime novel I was sent for review, ditto the Camus biography, and Yossarian Slept Here, Erica Heller’s account of growing up with the author of Catch-22 as her father. I’d like to read Julian Barnes’ Booker prize winner, The Sense of an Ending, and Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is an overdue final read for the RIP challenge (am I the only one with several outstanding challenge books?). Elizabeth McCracken’s novel, The Giant’s House, was sent to me by a dear friend and looks wonderful. And I’m currently reading the Romain Gary novel on top of the pile.

Ooh, new, shiny!

I also looked back at my reading intentions at the start of the year. I said I’d read more Victorian novels, some YA, a handful of Japanese authors and some unusual biographies.  I’ve read lots of biographies, a couple of Victorian novelists, but only one Japanese novel and no YA at all.  So one of those might end up in the mix. I know if I try to tie myself down too strictly, I will end up reading different books entirely from the list I create – so contrary! – so I like to have some wriggle room and some choice. What’s everyone else reading this month?

25 thoughts on “December Reading

  1. 120 is impressive! My total is resting low this year and will probably end up around 80, which is still higher than during my final year of uni, so I count it as a successful reading year. It’s so hard to decide what to finish the year with. I’ve just finished ‘Even the Dogs’ by Jon McGregor (loved, very moving), but am not sure where to go next.

    I so know what you mean about books that send you to sleep. You start off so excited with the best of intentions, but they just can’t make it in the bedroom (if you know what I mean – nudge, nudge, wink, wink ;P). I find non-fiction so hard to fit in unless I’ve got a big space of time at the weekend.

    • 80 is fantastic – I honestly had no idea I had read so many (Mister Litlove is making grave faces, as he fears what this will mean for book buying…). I have a Jon McGregor book to read that I picked up cheap from the bookstore – can’t wait to read your review of Even The Dogs. Lol! for books that send you to sleep! I used to joke that I’d dozed off over Voltaire as a first year student at uni and he never forgave me (alas, I never got on with his books). And do agree about non-fiction – that’s got to be a spacious read or it just doesn’t happen.

  2. Reading intentions…gawd, I’m full of intentions that I almost never fulfill. I am so distractable, it’s embarrassing.

    What I’m reading this month? Currently, Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. A friend’s MS. After that, no idea – I have so many good books in my gigantic backlog that sometimes it makes me have a minor panic attack. But I was musing over Smollett’s Humphrey Clinker earlier…which probably means it’ll be at least 6 months before I’m ready for it. Sigh.

    • Lol! I do that, too! I have a sort of run-up time for a book, and I don’t think 6 months would be an unreasonable estimate. I’m glad not to be the only easily distracted butterfy minded reader. I haven’t read Villette, and ooh an original ms! Sounds most intriguing and hope it’s really good.

  3. What lovely piles of books!:) You’re night stand pile is much more impressive than mine is–though I totally understand that they do tend to sit there for a while (or even longer than a while). I gave up on my reading list months ago I’m sorry to say, though in the end I did read a few more books from it unexpectedly. The most books I’ve read in a year was 88–in preblogging days I managed about 50 or so, so you see what blogging has done for me. I don’t think I’ll achieve that many this year, but I might just get to 80 in the next few weeks. Someday I’ll make 100! I’m still trying to wrap up my German lit books–almost finished with Böll and am working on another novel by a contemporary writer (Wallner). I’m also reading the delightful Susanna Kearsley, which is total and complete escapism and just right for the coming dark days of December. I also finally decided on a humorous book–I’ve started the second Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich–which is really very fluffy but does elicit the odd chuckle here and there, with Miss Mapp on the pile for afterward! Enjoy those last weeks of reading for the year–can you believe 2012 is just around the corner?

    • I am always relieved to know other bloggers have nightstand piles too! And that you gave up on your reading list. I think the fun is in making the list, isn’t it? Well at least I have to think that as I never stick to my plans! I think it is a far greater achievement to read 80 books with a full-time job, than my pile when I actually have quite a lot of time on my hands (and goodness yes, I am sure blogging has upped my quota). Lovely to hear about your reading – must try Evanovich myself and do hope you like E F Benson. And oh no, where HAS this year gone? No, don’t answer that! I am sure I frittered this year away!

  4. Books that put you to sleep serve a useful purpose too! I just finished Snuff by Terry Pratchett and though it’s a new one and since his dx of Alzheimer’s, it’s classic Pratchett.

    • You know what’s really annoying? I never fall asleep over a book late at night. Then I’m wide awake! It’s if I get back into bed after breakfast (which I often do in winter because it’s the warmest place in the house) – this can lead to disaster! I have never read Pratchett although I know he has legions of fans – should give him a whirl one of these days.

  5. I signed up for the German Literature Month in November, without managing to read any of the books on my list!!! (instead I found myself stuck in lots and lots of obligatory work and reading…). So now I would really love to find time for the Germans in the weeks to come.
    I also just received “Marking the Hours. English People and their Prayers” by Eamon Duffy. Its a book I bought primarily because its beautiful illustrations, but the history part of it is also very interesting. I also have Sara Bakewell on my desk, its a book I read in bits and pieces – I like it a lot!
    On my Norwegian review list I’ve got to artists biographies, two novels from China (Chan Koonchung & Yiyun Li), and a novel by Linn Ullmann (daughter of Liv Ullmann & Ingmar Bergman).

    • Sigrun – how about that – I know Eamon Duffy. For a couple of years we were at the same Cambridge college. He is a lovely man, incredibly well-read and intelligent, very shy and charming. And oh wonderful someone else transfering German Literature month to December! Would love to know what you make of the Bakewell when you finish it – do review it, won’t you? And the novel by Linn Ullmann sounds very intriguing.

      • Ha! How strange is that?! Duffy’s book is really beautiful and very well written. (I have to look up a lot of words, but in a way its all right – its almost as if one was meant to read this text slowly…). Maybe I’ll write about Bakewell as I read her, a bit here and a bit there…?
        And about Ullmann; I know her book has already got an English title, its called “The Cold Song”, it should be out on the UK market sometime soon.

  6. I’ll be reading classics. I’ve already almost finished three and start a forth. One is French, one Brazilian, one Russian and the forth will be English. The last is the most difficult as it’s not chosen yet. I think I will read Sense and Sensibility but I didn’t want to let the year end without reading my first Thomas Hardy. I don’t know why I still think I will not like him.
    But I’ve also a few books that came out in 2011 that I would have liked to read this year. The Night Circus among others. I wanted to read more YA but think I’ve read only two or so. The month is young and I’m off work as of December 15. I realized I have a pile of books I’ve read but not written about. This month’s readalong book must be read as well, of course, it’s Cold Mountain.

    • I have never read Thomas Hardy and have always steered clear of him, thinking I would not like him, too! You go first and tell me what you think, and then maybe I will be brave and follow. Nice to have some Christmas holiday to look forward to, and wonderful books for it, with all those classics. And The Night Circus, which has been everywhere on the blogging world. I’ll be very intrigued to know what you think of it.

    • Yes! La vie devant soi, and loving it. He is such an amazing writer. Between the two of us, we are going to get him a little better known around the world, aren’t we?

  7. I’m trying new things this month! I vote for Yossarian Slept Here — I always love knowing what it’s like being in other families than mine. 😛 It must have been frustrating being Joseph Heller post-Catch-22.

    (Also, Stardust? Not Neil Gaiman’s best effort.)

    • I am reading that one, actually! Although I haven’t reached the post-Catch-22 part yet (although I think you will be proved right). I never know which Neil Gaiman to start with, but I ended up with a copy of Stardust, so I guess that’s where I’ll begin. Have you got a suggestion for a second novel? Always interested in recommendations.

  8. I’m checking my total and seeing that unless i read 3 books a week, I might just miss my total of 100 books read this year – I’m currently at 85. This is the best I’ve done in years! so blogging is helping me read more.

    I like your pile of books by your bed. I tend to keep poetry and writing books by my bedside, so I can dip into them right before sleep. Hoping for inspiration, at the very least I get to look at something I like right before sleep.

    I was supposed to read 50 mysteries this year, a goal I set for myself, and that’s most of what I have piled up to try to read this month. I’m hoping for quiet festivities this year!

    • Well done to you for reaching your highest reading total in years – that’s wonderful! And 50 mysteries sounds like loads to me. Mind you, I can get on a crime fiction kick and it takes a while to wear out. Quiet festivities with lots of reading are my favourite kind, so I hope that’s exactly what you get. Poetry is a nice idea to have by the bedside – might make for some delightful dreams!

  9. Oh, I so love seeing your piles of books! I didn’t even come close to reading the number of books you did though I did buy an alarming nmber of books, that’s for sure! I want to finish up The Marriage Plot, start Nikoulaus Pevsner: The Life by Susie Harries, start What is Madness? by Darian Leader, finish up Purgatorio, and maybe–just maybe–start Daniel Deronda and The Great Frustration by Seth Fried (which was recommended over at The Millions). These are quite ambitious goals for me, to say the least.

    • Let’s not get into how many books I bought this year! That’s one total it is probably a good idea for me not to count up, and definitely not to show to Mister Litlove! 🙂 I’m looking forward very much to hearing what you make of The Marriage Plot, and I’d like to read that Darian Leader myself. As for Daniel Deronda…. hmmmm, I was thinking I should read another Victorian novel. I might keep you company with that one.

  10. I’ve been given The Sense of an Ending recently, and would really like to read it. I believe you are the one who first introduced me to Barnes, and I’ve collected a little stack of his books but with so many other projects going on, haven’t started him yet. It seems a little backward (for me), but I may start with this latest and move backward through his work.

    • Backwards seems a perfectly good way to tackle Julian Barnes! 🙂 No but really, I don’t feel there’s any particular progression to his work, so it doesn’t much matter which order you move through his writing. Do hope you will let me know what you think of him, though!

  11. I knew you read a lot of books but I hadn’t realized just how many! Before bed reading does require a certain kind of book doesn’t it? It can’t be so dense that you fall right to sleep nor so engrossing that you can’t put it down. I joke with my husband that the shelf next to the bed is where my books go to die. Some of them have been sitting there half read for years and will very likely continue that way until I get tired of looking at them and replace them with other books I won’t finish. As for the rest of the year’s reading, I have a little vacation coming up and plan on a huge binge.

    • Oh your comment did make me laugh – that description of the bedside table being the place where books go to die is SO true for me! The book on the top makes it through – the rest underneath are in dire straits. I hate to say it but something similar happens with food in tupperware in the fridge. Mister Litlove takes it out, looks sternly at me and says, is it dead enough yet for me to throw away or are you incubating it a bit longer? Oooh nice to know you have vacation coming up, and when it’s cold outside – and snowy for you – there’s nothing nicer than being warm and cozy indoors with good books.

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