Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday Salon: Best of 2011, Thoughts on 2012

Happy New Year, everyone!

2011 was quite the year. I graduated from law school, passed the NY bar, couldn't find a job, moved back to Florida, started preparing to take the Florida bar in February, started this blog...the list goes on.

I'm hoping that 2012 brings some positive changes, especially in the career department. I'm not really setting specific goals or making resolutions besides resolving to "Live Thoughtfully." That's the motto for 2012.

I first realized that I needed to apply this to my reading. 2011 was the first year I kept track of the books I read. I like doing that, because so often I can't remember titles of what I've read or when I read something. I am awed by people who have been keeping reading journals for 10-plus years. I wish I'd start this a long time  ago. However, I got a little obsessed with numbers. I saw I was on track to read 100 books, and so in December I started an intense bout of reading to insure I met that arbitrary number. I ended up surpassing 100 by a fair margin - I finished the year at 112. Unfortunately, I was reading a little too much. Other things in my life got pushed aside, and I felt like I was just rushing through books.

Part of the reason I read such a large number of books in December was because I joined a reading challenge on Goodreads. It runs from December 1 through February 29, and to complete it, you have to read over 70 books. I never really planned on finishing the challenge, but I just thought it would be fun. I ended up getting caught up in climbing to the top of the leaderboard - those pesky stats again. I plan on continuing the challenge through February, but I won't be signing up for the next round. It's just too much pressure for me, and I'm not taking the time to appreciate what I'm reading.

This led me to the decision to "Live Thoughtfully." There are areas in my life I'd like to improve, and I think by applying this mantra I can be guided by what matters without setting specific goals that I end up scrambling to reach. I can ficus on the journey, not the destination. Appreciate the moment. Be happy with the choices I make everyday.

Okay, enough mushy stuff :-)

With all that reading, what rose to the top? Here are my five star reads of 2011 (in the order I read them).
All links are affiliate links to Indiebound.

1) Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel (graphic novel)
2) Visitation, Jenny Erpenbeck (translated from German)
3) The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
4) The Last Brother, Nathacha Appanah (translated from French)
5) A Happy Man, Hansjörg Schertenleib (translated from German)
6) The Phantom Tollbooth, Norman Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
7) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
8) A Mercy, Toni Morrison (audiobook)
9) Billiards at Half-Past NineHeinrich Böll

I'd also strongly recommend anything I rated four stars. The complete list of what I read is here.

And some statistics (I love statistics)

Total: 112 books
90 fiction                            80%
22 nonfiction                     20%
68 by female authors         61%
21 works in translation     19%


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I love your motto (mantra?) for 2012. I'm focusing on happiness, and part of happiness, for me, means being thoughtful. Though not so thoughtful as to constantly ruminate.

I think you will be glad you started keeping a list of the books you read. I'd encourage you to also write a short review of what you read, even if it is just a single sentence. I started doing that in 2003 and I'm happy I did.

Here are my Reading Resolutions for 2012.

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Great idea to show the percentages of books by female authors, etc.

I plan to do that this year.

Living Thoughtfully is a good goal! I like it....

Of your favorites, The Handmaid's Tale is one I enjoyed a lot.


Trish said...

Yes, the good and bad about keeping track of books. I went through the same thing two years ago and am trying to be much more balanced in life. Hope that you're able to acheive your goals in 2012!

Loved Fun Home! And I listened to Henrietta Lacks this year--such a fascinating story.

Happy 2012! :)

MJ said...

@Deb Nance: Yes, thoughtful, but not to the point it interferes with doing.

Before blogging I wrote down the books I was reading and a sentence summing up my thoughts. I think I'll do that again, in addition to the blog.

@Laurel-Rain: Glad you enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale. It's my favorite Atwood so far.

@Trish: Thanks! I loved Fun Home, too. I'm going to try to read more graphic novels in 2012.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Whereas Challenges will get you the numbers, when it is overambitious it becomes a disservice to the reader. I enjoy challenges but I'm wary of them too. Mine is half of yours and I love the numbers too. I want to say 'I read 100 books this year'. But more importantly, I want to understand the books. Thanks for sharing your readings with us.

Sherry said...

I'm collecting year end/beginning lists at Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books this week:
And as a bonus, I'm suggesting books for each blogger based on their list of 2011 favorites. You're invited to add a link to your list post if you're interested.

Vasilly said...

Fun Home is a great book. Glad you enjoyed it. I hope 2012 goes great for you. Happy New Year!

Melissa said...

Henrietta Lacks was such a fascinating tale; definitely one of my favs from 2011.

Here is my final Sunday Salon post for the year.

Eva said...

What a crazy year you've had! Your approach to 2012 sounds lovely. :)

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Sounds like a good plan - the best of luck!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was my best non-fiction of 2011. Read it in audiobook and it was a great experience. It might have kicked-off my infatuation with non-fiction that's reflected on a record 12 books read this year.