Wednesday, December 30, 2009

52 Books in 52 Weeks wrap-up and moving on

I did it!! Yay!! I read 53 books in the last calendar year!!! (Actually, I read more but didn't officially start counting "school" books until April)

I just answered some basic questions about the year on the Well Trained Mind forum but thought I should expand a bit here especially on the question of what I learned through all this reading.

It isn't surprising that my list is so eclectic as I'm a fairly eclectic person in my tastes and interests. My list reflects this as it includes everything from fluff to classics to science to biographies and history. I learned so much about the world, made new connections through studying the Iliad and Beowulf. I originally left "school" books off the list, such as Beowulf and Lord of the Rings, but I shouldn't have. Reading The Two Towers after studying Beowulf was an enlightening experience -- there, in Tolkein's work, were kennings and the details of heraldry that I had learned about through Beowulf. It wasn't simply description to skim over as it was when I'd read it before, it was there for a reason and evoked a long gone world. The Iliad has proven just as enlightening to me.

I learned that I'm still fascinated with China, and can easily re-enter grad-student mode. I finally read The Good Earth, which I can't believe I skipped while being a Chinese Studies major! I'd have to look at the book again to fully explain my reaction to it, but Pearl Buck definitely was pinning lots of positive Protestant qualities on the protagonist while yet painting an accurate picture of pre-revolutionary life in rural China.

I learned a great deal about science, thanks to A Short History of Nearly Everything, and Death By Black Hole and The Pluto Files. I learned about crazed and obsessive birders in To See Every Bird and The Big Year. I loved learning in Julie Andrews' memoir that she knew TH White because I had just finished Once and Future King and had really enjoyed it. I was intrigued my Maria Tallchief's life -- ballerinas are fascinating women.

I learned the beauty of listening to a good reader by listening to Nadia May's recordings of several Jane Austen books. I never laughed out loud when reading Austen to myself, but Nadia May made the dialog and comic characters come to life. I loved the narrators for Life of Pi and Citizen of the Galaxy. I crocheted an afghan and 5 scarves while listening to books!

I learned that many books are forgettable. There are books I know I enjoyed, but they left no lasting impression on me. I learned that I don't like mystery books featuring sleuths who solve the mystery by dumb luck. I want them to have some brains and a method. It took most of the Stephanie Plum books for me to realize that, but now I know.

I learned the joy of having a fellow reader in the house. My 14yo ds has been a great book-buddy as he recommends titles to me and loves discussing what we read and listen to.

As for next year? Well, I've got Julia Child's memoir about life in France, my ds really wants me to read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I want to read Marcel Theroux's Far North and I have a stack of books by my bed waiting for me to open them. I want to finally read Austen's Masnfield Park, but don't think Nadia May has a recording of that one -- egads I'd have to read it on my own! I'm going to read Kim with my ds and Book Thief, but haven't settled on a major classic to tackle in the spring semester.


  1. Sounds like a very enlightening, educational reading year. It is amazing how connections form from one book to the next. I'll be reading a few of Heinlein's books this year including The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (hubby got it for me for christmas). I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about the books your read for 2010. Congratulations and Happy New Year.

  2. How exciting! I can't wait to start. I'm going to have to comb through everyone's blogs so I can find great reads this year.

  3. Hi!
    I have read The Good Earth and really enjoyed it. Sons is on my list for this year. As well as The Life of Pi. Your and your son will love The Book Thief, wonderful book! Have a great day!

    Just Books