Reading Challenges

December 31, 2011

2011-A Reading Year in Review:

Happy New Year, everyone! May your 2012 be filled with wonderful reads! A few thoughts on my reading this year as 2011 draws to a close:

Total number of books read: 58

Favorite new-to-me contemporary authors: toss up between Mario Vargas Llosa (The Storyteller) & Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair).

Favorite new-to-me historic authors: Wilkie Collins (whose The Woman in White left me page turning into the wee hours of the morning), Emily Brontë (how sad that Wuthering Heights was her only novel--I enjoy her sisters' writing very much as well, but Emily's work is the strongest and most interesting conceptually) and Horace Walpole (The Castle of Otranto may date back to the 18th century, but this Gothic novel is as fresh and entertaining as ever).

New genre of reading explored: graphic novels. At my husband's urging, I picked up a few graphic novels this year. At first, I was dead-set against it and I couldn't imagine that it would be an enjoyable experience. I grew up in the US where comics are not exactly respected for their intellectual content, but since my husband was raised in France, he views comic books, like the rest of the nation, as a serious art form whose text and drawings may cover a range of subjects, be them philosophical or on the lighter side. Although graphic novels are still not my favorite genre, I have learned to appreciate the diversity of the authors and artists, particularly Belgian and French, but even a few Americans! In short, I may not be the world's greatest comic collector, but I have come to respect the potential this form holds and may search out a few new titles in 2012, much to my husband's glee. 

New way of reading: My husband gave me a Kindle for my birthday in August and it has completely revolutionized my reading. I absolutely love it! For one thing, I'm not restricted by budget, as classics, a large number of the books I read, are available for free. In addition, when I travel (which I do frequently), I can have an entire library with me in one light easy-to-transport device. In the past, I used to agonize over which books I'd pack, not to mention how heavy those guidebooks get when you're visiting more than one country. This backpacker thinks the Kindle is worthwhile just to have for traveling, if not for everyday life. But oh how I love it in everyday life too! Once again, having so many books in one light place is amazing! The multiple dictionary function is wonderful, as well--makes reading in multiple languages a breeze (FYI, if you've never used a Kindle, the dictionary function allows you to click on a word to view its definition at the bottom or top of the page you're reading. When you're done, it disappears and you never have to leave the page you're on). I also enjoy the possibility to make notes on my Kindle, bookmark pages and highlight passages. 

Worst read of the year: Ick. Just thinking about it makes me groan. I read La Sorcière de Portobello (The Witch of Portobello) by Paulo Coelho. A number of people had urged me to read it because the book deals with several locations that I've travelled to (Romania and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in France) and that are special to me. Indeed, I'm interested in Roma (Gypsy) culture, but this new-age know-it-all novel is not for me. Not by a long shot. It felt like reading one long cardboard cliché after another (you know the sort: "Love is the answer. Love makes the world go round. Love is bright."--okay, you get the picture). Blehhhhh. 

Current reads that will overlap into 2012: The Iliad (Fagles' translation)--rereading for the first time since high school in preparation for a trip to Greece, The Blue Fairy Book compiled by Andrew Lang (I'm having fun reading a story at a time in conjunction with the Sisters Grimm books I've been reading and the television shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time).

Ongoing projects that will overlap into 2012: The Arabian Nights (begun while in Morocco in February 2011, halfway completed--will reference in conjunction with folklore/mythology research), The Bible (King James version, referencing the JDP version from time to time as well)  in conjunction with a DVD course analyzing the Bible as literature, and completing War and Peace, initially begun as a chapter-a-day read along. 

Reading Goals in 2012: In addition to my above projects that will overlap into 2012, I'd also like to take the opportunity to read sequels or additional works by authors whom I've read only once. I'm really looking forward to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, a book I loved, but whose prequel has been sitting on my TBR shelf for an entire year. I also want to read in preparation for my trip to Greece and Turkey. I plan to reread a lot of historical and mythological texts that I haven't covered in quite some time, moving on to contemporary literature from each respective country. Other than that, I'm going to try not to get too bogged down with reading goals like I did last year. I'll only set myself up for some silly disappointment if I promise to read 100 books. Obviously, I didn't and that's okay. Here's a list of what I did read in 2011:

1.) In Arabian Nights- Tahir Shah
2.) Grave Sight- Charlaine Harris
3.) Napoleon's Pyramids- William Dietrich
4.) Real Murders- Charlaine Harris
5.) A Bone to Pick- Charlaine Harris
6.) Persuasion - Jane Austen
7.) Pages from Cold Point & Other Short Stories - Paul Bowles
8.) The Julius House - Charlaine Harris
9.) Destination Unknown - Agatha Christie
10.) Hideous Kinky - Esther Freud
11.) Les Voix de Marrakech - Elias Canetti
12.)The Right Attitude to Rain - Alexander McCall Smith
13.)The Prince of Mist - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
14.) The Careful Use of Compliments - Alexander McCall Smith
15.) Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris
16.) Dead in the Family - Charlaine Harris
17.) The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith
18.) Sophie's World (second time) - Jostein Gaarder
19.) Eternal Chalice: The Grail in Literature and Legend - Monica Potkay
20.) The Storyteller - Marios Vargas Llosa
21.) The House Without a Key - Earl Derr Biggers
22.) Sur les Chemins de Glace (Of Walking on Ice) - Werner Herzog
23.) The Woman in White- Wilkie Collins
24.) A History of Insects - Yvonne Roberts
25.) Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
26.) The Railway Children - Edith Nesbit
27.) To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
28.) The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver
29.) La Sorcière de Portobello - Paulo Coelho
30.) Dead Reckoning - Charlaine Harris
31.) The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
32.) Peggy Sue et les Fantômes:Le Jour du Chien Bleu - Serge Brussolo
33.) Bard of the Middle Ages: The Works of Geoffery Chaucer 
- Michael Drout
34.) Myths and Mysteries in Archaeology - Susan A. Johnston
35.) The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
36.) Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
37.) Bleak House- Charles Dickens
38.) Hanoi Stories - Pamela Scott
39.) Portuguese Irregular Verbs - Alexander McCall Smith
40.) Lady Audley's Secret - Mary Elizabeth Braddon
41.) The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
42.) Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
43.) Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
44.) The Murders in the Rue Morgue and other C. Auguste Dupin stories - Edgar Allen Poe
45.) Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
46.) Louisa May Alcott's Christmas Treasury
47.) The Sisters Grimm-Fairy Tale Detectives - Michael Buckley
48.) The Sisters Grimm-The Unusual Suspects - Michael Buckley
49.) Spike-Brian Lynch
50 - 58): Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season 9, Volumes 1-8 (don't laugh until you've actually examined these books/show for its feminist slant, mythological exploration, etc.--good stuff!)


  1. Thanks for confirming my suspicions about Coelho - one of those writers that non-readers enthuse about. Now I don't need to bother.

  2. Yes, please save yourself the trouble!! It was an utter waste of my time. It's rare that I say that about a book; usually I'm able to find at least something of interest, but this one (and I suspect anything by Coelho) is rubbish.

  3. I really feel like I need to get in some Mario Vargos Llosa in this year!

    I, too, just received a Kindle and I'm amazed at the possibilities it's opened up for me. Have you registered at NetGalley yet? There are a whole slew of unreleased titles for your consumption there. Right now I'm reading The Vanishers (from NetGalley) and The Tiger's Wife.

    I'm so glad that someone else finds Coelho NOT the master of's odd that he has such a massive following.

  4. Lovely blog! Please follow my blog, it's new:

  5. The Kindle has changed my life too. I still like to be surrounded by books. My room is full of books, books on top of books. But the Kindle has a similar feel. I know my books are all in there. And, like you mentioned, many of the classics are free. Thanks for a great post.

  6. I would welcome a review of my books: The One-Page-Classics (philosophy and fiction), and Lessons of the Master (describing the life of a Chinese god). I have been interviewed by the Hartford Courant, and quoted in Book Forum. E-mail me if interested. I can send PDFs.

  7. Hi I'm looking for your contact info for a book review/post?
    Can you email me at EdenLiterary at gmail dot com

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