12 Months Reading the Why

In the last 12 months, I read 56 books and 5 short stories. Here is what that looks like as a graphic:

๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–
๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–
๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–
๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–
๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–
๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“„๐Ÿ“„๐Ÿ“„๐Ÿ“„
๐Ÿ“„

Of the 56 books,ย there were 37 novels (including 3 short novels or novellas), 1 book of short stories, 6 graphic novels, 11 non-fictions titles, and 1 epic poem:

๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜
๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜
๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜
๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“˜๐Ÿ“™๐Ÿ“•๐Ÿ“•
๐Ÿ“•๐Ÿ“•๐Ÿ“•๐Ÿ“•๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—
๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“—๐Ÿ“œ

Of the 37 novels,ย 24 were general fiction, 9 were science-fiction, and 4 were crime:

๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช
๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช
๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿ‘ช๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš€
๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ”

I borrowed 32 books from the library, 9 from friends, and 8 of them were mine:

๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š
๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š
๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š
๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ“š๐ŸŽ’๐ŸŽ’๐ŸŽ’๐ŸŽ’๐ŸŽ’๐ŸŽ’๐ŸŽ’๐ŸŽ’
๐ŸŽ’๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ 

Of the authors, 25 were American, and 10 were British. Included in that were 2 Canadian-Americans, 1 Russian-American, and 1 British-American. There were also 2 German authors and 2 Italian authors, as well as one each from Russia, South Africa, Pakistan, South Korea and Belgium:

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธflaguscanflaguscanflagusrusflagusk๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง
๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ฆ
๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด

11 of the authors were female, 33 were male:

๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘ฉ
๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ
๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ
๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ
๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿ‘จ

And 21 were still alive, while 22 were dead:

โค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ
โค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ
โค๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธ
โ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธ
โ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธโ˜ ๏ธ

Also, 9 of the authors featured multiple times:

โญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธ

What does all this tell me? 1. My reading is very Anglo-American-centric (and US authors dominate), not a big surprise as I am a native English speaker who dislikes reading in translation. 2. I know, I know, I need to read more female authors!

-Reading the Why

 

[P.S. You may have noticed that the counting is off. If you want to go through my posts over the past year and tell me what I missed, be my guest. I’ll send you some chocolate as thanks. But what I really want is someone to write a program that will input all the books I’ve read and turn my reading history–my reader’s ‘fingerprint’–into a cool graphic. There’s a description of what I mean,ย here.]

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Foundation by Isaac Asimov

I call myself a science-fiction fan and I haven’t read Foundation! I feel I should stop right here, just shut up, and go read!

Alright, just a quick word and I’ll go. I don’t think there are too many gaps this big in my sci-fi education. I mean, there are obviously thousands upon thousands of titles that I haven’t read but I feel I must have struck (at least close to) most of the big ones. Here’s to closing this Bildungslรผcke.

Hope to feel more ‘real’ afterwards.

-Reading the Why

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Not wanting to talk about the political and social horrors (which are also political horrors, and vice versa) going on in the US right now is, tragically, the reason why I’ve had Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here for so long and not read it, though I wanted to, because I felt I would have to talk about it, the shitstorm that’s been American politics especially over the last couple of years (but actually going back much much further), which, of course, is the whole reason titles such as this one, and Philip Roth’s The Plot against America, and all the other alternate history dreams of fascist America have been in the public eye again of late. So I’m going to stay strong. Having said that, I will say no more. All you need to know here is why I’m reading this book, and now you know.ย I have a different blog for the political stuff.

-Reading the Why

[End of Part Six]

 

First among Sequels and One of Our Thusdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

The story is this: We were in Scotland, which is in the UK, meaning High Streets and charity shops with lots and lots of cheap secondhand books. Our kind of paradise. And having lived for the past 8 years in a non-English speaking country, a little like seeing the daylight upon being rescued from your evil stepfather’s basemen–no, not quite that bad. Maybe more like being released from prison after 10 years, only without the blood debts and the samsara of criminal entanglement… also no? I know: its like coming out of your log cabin at the beginning of Spring and seeing the snow melting away and the crocuses pushing through. Okay? Okay. Suffice it to say, we visited a lot of them, Oxfam, Cancer Research, Heart Foundation, and all the others jostling for attention, and every one eerily identical.

We were in a dedicated bookshop by Oxfam and had stumbled upon First among Sequels and One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde but weren’t sure if we should/could take them as we were travelling light, First among Sequels was in hardcover, and I was already carrying 6 vintage cardboard world globes, almost exactly the sort of design thing you don’t want to fall in love with when backpacking Scotland (or anywhere else) when a girl came down the aisle, espied the books in our hands and exclaimed, ‘Damn! If only I’d been here 2 minutes earlier!’ after which of course we had to buy them, and with a guilty tickle.

First among Sequels is the fifth book in the Thursday Next series. The book before that, Something Rotten, is actually one of my favourite books and I have no excuse for why I never sought out the sequels except maybe we all sometimes just want to hold on to that special, perfect feeling after reading a really good book and not risk breaking the spell. It’s stupid but also real, so maybe not so stupid?

-Reading the Why

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Still haven’t decided if I like Jonathan Lethem. Motherless Brooklyn is my third. Is it strange that I keep reading him until I do?[1]

Sometimes I feel like I waste my time reading books that aren’t great,[2] but can we really only read books we love? Even if I were to always read exactly what I want, unfettered by what I have access to and/or can afford to buy, I still wouldn’t be able to avoid reading bad books. I could certainly weed out books I’m more likely not going to enjoy but that’s a broad brush as often wrong as right. Because, ultimately, there’s only one way to know if you like a book, and that is to read it. Or maybe, to paraphrase Billy Preston, if you can’t read the book you love, love the book you read.

-Reading the Why

[1] And by that, do I mean until I decide, or until I like him?
[2] Don’t repeat that too loud, I don’t want the people who shake their head at me for always finishing the books I start to feel vindicated.[3]
[3]ย And that’s not the problem anyway; how many times have I hated the first 150 pages of a book and ended up loving it?

 

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Packed Matt Ruff’s[1]ย Lovecraft Country for my trip to Scotland, a present from a friend who had a voucher she didn’t know what to do with. The book, not the trip. We’re going for a week, a couple days each in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and we’re also taking the Harry Potter train at Fort William. But the trip’s still two days away, not enough time to start and finish something else, but I also don’t want to take two books with me or be left stranded with nothing to read half way through the trip. What do? Eternal conundrum!

So today, while hesitating over what to do, I made my single greatest discovery since getting a smart phone: there’s a Project Gutenberg app! The rest of the night burnt through as I greedily downloaded one epic poem after another: Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Divine Comedy,ย nothing that I can see myself sitting down and really ‘reading’, (I may force myself though some difficult and/or horrid books, but this is another level entirely), but I figure if I had it on my phone, I would be able to dip into it every now and then when I’m, say, waiting for the M29 bus, digest a verse or two at a time. I decided it probably wouldn’t be part of Reading the Why, more something I return to over the weeks and months, background music, so to speak.

Now it’s two days later and, surprise! I’m actually 15 cantos into Dante’s Inferno. Like I said, I never thought this stuff was readable, palatable, stomachable, in anything but small doses, one or two verses at a time, once or twice a week, but actually it is. It’s not easy, mind you. I’m reading two translations simultaneously–switching back and forth whenever I get bogged down in the language–plus using Wikipedia for an arching overview. But I’m actually enjoying it! Though it does feel like I’ll lose the thread if I stop and have to start again, so what does that mean for Matt Ruff?

-Reading the Why

[1] In my opinion, a hugely underrated author.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The friend who lent me this book said she read it knowing nothing about the book beforehand, not what the book was about, not where the author was from, not even if the author was a woman or man, and she suggested I do the same. But its not that easy with books, even if I were more inclined to blind dates, which I am not. It’s not the same as sitting down on front of the TV with a bowl of pot noodles and catching a random movie 10 minutes in. You have the title. You have the author’s name and immediate associations. You have the blurb and decontextualised praise from newspapers or other authors, the choice of which says much and influences your expectations. There’s the cover design, the colour and presence or lack of glitter. Plus, of course, working in a bookshop, and generally being interested in books, its difficult not to have heardย something about books worth reading; and if its not worth reading, then why bother at all?

So while I know very little about The Vegetarian and Han Kang, I have heard of it, I know it’s by an Asian author (Korean?), I don’t know if it’s a him or her, and I know its about family dynamics bigger than just the fact that the protagonist has decided to become vegetarian. The cover is pretty. There is minimal glitter.

-Reading the Why