Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking Back - Looking Forward

Can you believe that 2008 is almost over already? I suddenly realized today that we have exactly two weeks to go and that got me to thinking about how my reading might change in 2009, what I've read this year, what I've missed, and what I wish I had done differently.

It's looking like I'll read something in the neighborhood of 140 books this year, down a little bit from last year's almost 160, but 2007-2008, taken together, will mark the first time that I've ever even come close to reading 300 books in any two-year period in my life. Honestly, that's not a reading goal I've held out for myself and it hardly seems possible even now that I'm this close to achieving it (295 books read with 2 weeks yet to go, and six books already at various levels of completion).

But the best part is that, even after those thousands of pages, I'm just as enthusiastic and excited about starting my next book as I've ever been in my life. In fact, I started Dennis Lehane's 700-page blockbuster, The Given Day, last night and I had to force myself to put it down and get some much-needed sleep. I hope the book holds up to the early promise of its prologue, describing a wonderful incident in which the 24-year-old Babe Ruth stumbles upon a pickup baseball game in an empty field while waiting for the train on which he is riding to be repaired. He manages to join the game being played by two teams of black players and what happens is remarkable and telling. If this prologue has not been published as a standalone short story, it should be. It is that striking.

2008 has been another year during which I've either failed at, or avoided, the book challenges that seem to be so popular all over the book-blogging web. I tried the Russian Challenge and failed miserably at it, but I've had better luck with the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, having read six of the required thirteen books with a little over six months to go (and I'm about to finish the seventh one). If I make it all the way to thirteen Canadian books, this will be the first challenge I've ever completed. Finally.

I'm working on a "Best of 2008" list similar to my "Top 15" from last year. I'm getting close but it's starting to look like I'll end up with a Top 20 that includes thirteen or fourteen novels and six or seven non-fiction titles. I'll probably break the list into two sections, ranking each type of book separately rather than choosing only one favorite book for the year.

My reading started pretty slowly this year because I ended 2007 in a bad reading slump and just couldn't get going in January when the calendar changed to the new year. I ended up re-reading a couple of old favorites and that finally got me going in what has turned out to be a fun year. I've really enjoyed discovering the work of new authors, getting to know a few of them, and reading the new work of a few authors I've been reading for decades.

And now Dennis Lehane has me all pumped up and ready to jump right into 2009 despite all the doom and gloom out there about the economy, crooked politicians, people who want to blow me up, and a 401-k that has become a 201-k and will force me to work several years longer than I had hoped to work.

Oh, well. I can still afford books so this old world is still a great place to be.

12 comments:

  1. Wow Sam! That's a lot of books! And you even had a hurricane you had to deal with. Looking forward to your list.

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  2. Wow, Sam, indeed! Thanks for the inspiration. I've hit a couple of reading slumps this year as well, and it's so frustrating. Can't wait to see your list.

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  3. While there's lift (and good books) there is hope Sam! It is incredible that 2008 is almost over, I'll be interested to see what you've most enjoyed reading this year though. I've been considering reading The Given Day, it sounds like it's another one for the TBR pile!

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  4. Will look forward to that list! As for challenges, will you take a look at mine? Only 6 books in translation in a year. http://nonsuchbook.typepad.com/lost_in_translation_readi/

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  5. It is wonderful to find someone who loves books and loves to read as much as I do. Thanks for all of your great reviews and information. Working in a library, I read many, many books bur only some stand out. My one pick for this year is " The Art Of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein. It is one of the few books I told everyone to read and that has stayed with me long after finishing. Sam, keep up the great blog!

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  6. Stefanie, I was really surprised the first time that I noticed I was approaching 300 books for 2007-2008. I'm still kinda shocked by the number. :-)

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  7. Mella, I'm getting real close to having my final list done - I'm waiting to read the endings of a couple of in-progress books right now to see if one, or both, of them managed to crack the list.

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  8. Hey, Sarah, "The Given Day" is holding up well. I like the set-up of alternating chapters between main characters. I'm always fascinated to see how the author finally brings all the storylines together. I think, from the first 125 pages, that you would enjoy this one.

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  9. Frances, thanks for the link. I will definitely take a look at the challenge this evening.

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  10. Anon, thanks so much for the kind words and the book suggestion. I plan, now, to find out about that one as it is a new title to me.

    As for the blog, it's become a true addiction for me because I enjoy all the personal record-keeping it allows and all the great fun of getting to know fellow book nuts.

    Book Chase will be two years old on January 20 - never thought I would have the energy to stay with it that long. :-)

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  11. My total will be just over 100 for 2008. I stand in awe of you. Rather I sit at my keyboard in awe.

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  12. Thanks, C.B. :-)

    It's just a matter of staying away from television...for me, anyway. Looks like I'll come in at something between 141 and 143 and that will give me just over 300 for the last two years, a first.

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