Wednesday 28 December 2011

End of Year Meme

Tonight I shall be doing a little variation the meme I've done for the last few years - which has been developed and expanded by various other bloggers - and getting a bit more specific.  But quite a few of the same questions will reappear...  (In case you missed my Top 15 Books of 2011, click here.) First, here's the books and authors I read this year, in a pretty word cloud:

Number of books read:
Only 106, which is the fewest for quite a few years, and doesn't bode too well for my A Century of Books project... still, it's not a bad number.  (I wonder how many I bought?)

Male/Female authors ratio:
36 by men, 65 by women, and 5 by both male and female authors.

Fiction and non-fiction ratio:
28 non-fiction, 77 fiction, and one volume of poetry which could be either.

Number of re-reads:
13 - including five in a row at the beginning of June - but it was late April before I re-read anything. 

Shortest book title:
Echo by Violet Trefusis

Oldest book read:
A re-read of The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare - but, the Bard aside, it is Mr. Dosteovsky and his 1846 The Double.

Newest book read:
Is, by the miracle of advance review copies, not published til 2012: Stop What You're Doing and Read This.

Books in translation:
Ten - which came under the names of Francoise Sagan, Violet Trefusis (x2), Wislawa Szymborska, Andre Maurois, Jens Christian Grondahl, Violette Leduc, Raymond Queneau, Adolfo Bioy Carlos, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. So, thank you Irene Ash, Sian Miles, Adam Czerniawski, James Whitall, Anne Born, Derek Coltman, Barbara Wright, Ruth L.C. Simms, and Constance Garnett for your translations!

Most books read by a single author:
4 by Edith Olivier; 3 by Richmal Crompon; 3 by Lynne Reid Banks.

Best non-blog recommendation:
Rhona, from my online book group, told me about my favourite book of the year, Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude.

Best blog recommendation:
Thank you to Rachel for encouraging me to read Gilead, finally.

Most unexpectedly good book:
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which I thought I'd hate.

Most unexpectedly bad book:
For some reason I was certain I'd love Violette Leduc's The Lady and the Little Fox Fur, based on the title, blurb, etc.  But, sadly... I didn't.   And then there was Hotel du Lac, which has put me off Anita Brookner for life.

Generally vilest book:
Wasted Womanhood by Charlotte Cowdroy.  1930s book about single, childless women. Made me want to go back in time and thwack her around her unkind head with her unkind book. 

On the other hand:
Live Alone and Like It by Marjorie Hillis, also from the interwar period and about much the same thing, was a thousand times nicer. 

Best oh-I-didn't-realise-you-wrote-other-good-books moment:
Who knew Stella Gibbons could write something like Westwood?  Very good, not remotely like Cold Comfort Farm.

Worst oh-I-wish-I'd-stopped-with-the-previous-book moment:
I thought I'd cracked Thomas Hardy last year.  And I drudged my way through The Return of the Native. 

The book which looked like it would be brilliant, but ended up having too many twists:
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.  Halfway, I thought it was book of the year.  And then the carpet was pulled from under my feet so often that I must have started on a pile a metre high.

I had no clue what was going on:
I love Muriel Spark, but Not To Disturb was incredibly confusing. 

Favourite character encountered this year:
If we're excluding a re-read of Miss Hargreaves (and we'd better) then it's got to be a late-comer to my 2011 reads: lovely Joe Gargery in Great Expectations.

Title nearest the beginning of the alphabet:
Articles not included, it's the wonderfully-titled The Amorous Bicycle by Mary Essex.

Title nearest the end of the alphabet:
Step forward, Without Knowing Mr. Walkley by Edith Olivier.

Misnomer of the year:
Jocelyn Playfair's A House in the Country does, strictly, include a house in the country, but if you're expecting a gentle tale of a summer garden party, you'll be surprised.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  (Yes, The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan is also possibly a misnomer.)

Title where I learnt a new word:
Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley.  Well, I say 'learnt', but I can't remember what it means.

Books with anthropomorphic animals:
Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt; Lady Into Fox by David Garnett (re-read); Jennie by Paul Gallico.

Other assorted supernatural/fantastic things which happened in novels this year (ask if you want to know the books!):
A man could miraculously heal people; a machine transcribes people's thoughts; a post-office filled with millions of letters is guarded by clay golems; a woman became a witch; a captured fairy helped unite an estranged couple; death started phoning the elderly; a wife kept shrinking; an ape learnt to talk; a man built his nephew from glass; a house tormented its occupents; a clerk encountered his doppelganger.  Oh, and Miss Hargreaves came along, of course.


  1. Lovelovelove this meme - we took a different tack over at GatheringBooks and listed our favorites based on our bimonthly themes (list of fractured fairy tales, wordless books, list of letter-themed books, etc).

  2. Wonderful recap of your reading year. As usual, I was lol over you wondering "how many you'd bought." :)

  3. Terrific meme. I love your take on these "end of the year" questions.

  4. Hi Simon

    I loved the Gilead based on your recommendation. I will put the Slaves of Solitude in my basket.

    Thank you for such an interesting post.

    Happy New Year.

  5. Esau sold his birthright for a 'mess of potage' - loosely translated by OV as red stew - a mixture of stuff from the Biblical equivalent of the fridge, cooked up for hungry hunters!
    (A bit like my post-Christmas risotto!)

  6. What a lovely way of looking at what you've read. Patrick Hamilton will definitely be on my 2012 reading list.

  7. Brilliant posting! I laughed and tried to imagine you travelling back in time to thwack the author of the Vilest Book! Sweet Simon, I can't really imagine you doing that!

  8. joan... what an interesting concept for a book, though. Travel back in time to set dead authors straight.

  9. Myra - I love how thorough your favourites list is! Definitely a very handy resource now.

    Susan - hahaha, I shan't even try to guess!

    Helen - Thank you, Helen! I do love the Hamilton, but I would also understand why some people wouldn't - I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Mum - thanks!

    Annabel - looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Hamilton! I took inspiration for a more varied post from Thomas's take on this last year. He's always so funny, and I wanted to emulate!

    Joan - haha! you might be right... but I was pretty riled! (I'd probably be reluctant to damage a book by using it to thwack...)

    Susan - now, wouldn't that be fun?

  10. Thanks for the recap! Loved it. As Susan in TX wrote, I was also wondering just how many books you'd bought - and cannot believe that you don't have a record of such, just as some people keep an ongoing list of what they've read.

    btw, I'm pleased that you did like A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I think your copy must also have the interesting story behind its getting published (introduction). I kept thinking he had his mother in mind when writing the about the mother in the book - well, that probably isn't so, but...

  11. I just wanted to say how much I loved Red Pottage. It's been years since I read it, but I was very impressed by it.

  12. I like how only book bloggers could possibly say something like, "I read only 106 books this year...". Personally, I'm more in awe of the diversity of the books you've read. You've got contemporary alongside classics, translations and nonfiction. Seems like even if there were a few duds (and alas, there always are...), at least you got to read a lot of good books as well.

  13. Nancy - One year I did keep track of what I bought, and it was too dispiriting... I suppose I could check LibraryThing... but I won't!
    Yes, the copy (which I borrowed from the library) had the story - his mum sounds incredible, to believe in him that much and persevere so.

    CBJ - yes, it is wonderful! Such an interesting mix of sensation novel and New Woman novel.

    Biblio - my brother did ask me if I were joking when he read that... but it is my fewest books read for years! I do try and be a bit eclectic - certainly more than I was a few years ago - but I have my comfort areas to which to return!

  14. I always find this sort of reading info fascinating--I'm much the same when it comes to reading more women authors than men and more fiction than nonfiction. I had to borrow a few of your categories...hope you don't mind!

  15. I didn't exactly do a meme this year, but brief notes on my year's reading and my Top Twenty are at:


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