And wrap up, because it’s over!
Novellas read: 13
Goodreads Challenge: momentarily caught up, already behind again
Five-star reads: 2
Since my last update, I read eight more novellas. In the spirit of #NovNov, here they are, very briefly reviewed:
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
I thought this was a book about race, but it’s really about the relationship between religion and race and America, all in about 100 pages. Continue reading
This post is inspired by Kerry at Pickle Me This, and by my own nosiness, because I want to know where your books come from too.
Join in! You can either list the last 30 books you read, as Kerry did, or calculate your stats for the whole year. I’ve done both.
The last thirty books:
- What Is Going to Happen Next by Karen Hofmann: Received from publisher
- The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy: Bought secondhand at Wee Book Inn
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson: Library
- I Am A Truck by Michelle Winter: Bought directly from the publisher
- 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster: Library
- Annie Muktuk and Other Stories by Norma Dunnning: Bought from Kobo, full price
- A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman: Bought from Chapters
- My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal: Bought from Kobo, on sale
- Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor: Library
- Brother by David Chariandy: Bought from Chapters
- The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis: Library
- Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel: Library
- Solar Bones by Mike McCormack: Bought from Book Depository
- Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai: Bought from Kobo, full price
- Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson: Bought from Kobo, on sale
- History of Wolves by Emil Fridlund: Library
- Flawless Consulting by Peter Block: Free from work
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Received as a gift
- Days Without End by Sebastian Barry: Library
- Shadow of Doubt by Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon: Received as a gift
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: Library
- Desperate Characters by Paula Fox: Bought from Amazon
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: Won in a giveaway
- China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan: Bought from Kobo, full price
- I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid: Bought from Kobo, full price
- House of Lords and Commons by Ishion Hutchinson: Library
- Dawn by Octavia E. Butler: Bought on Kobo, on sale
- Son of France by Todd Babiak: Bought from Chapters
- Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid: Library
- Tampa by Alissa Nutting: Bought on Kobo, on sale
And, of my 75 books read to date in 2017:
- 28 bought at full price
- 26 borrowed from the library
- 11 bought at significant discount (e.g. $1.99 ebooks, secondhand, or library sale)
- 3 received as gifts
- 3 part of training at work
- 3 from publishers
- 1 won in a giveaway
Or, put another way, I paid nothing for nearly half the books I’ve read this year. I paid full price for just over a third of them.
I thought I might be even heavier on library books, because I always have SO many checked out and on hold at any given time. Participating in After Canada Reads tipped me over the edge of half paid-for books (had to buy 5 full price books to mark up.)
So, I’m nosy: where do your books come from?
I would have announced this sooner, but I took at week-long internet break (inspired by Bookbii) and it was lovely.
Thank you to everyone who entered. I asked you to tell me about a great short story collection as part of your entry, and did you guys ever come through. Below is the full list of recommendations: Continue reading
Despite restricting myself to only 35 new-to-me books in 2016, I had trouble narrowing down a top and bottom five. I also set out to document my 35 books on Instagram but kind of failed… I managed to get a few decent pictures though!
Best books of 2016, in order of when they were read:
- Birdie by Tracey Lindberg: Like nothing I’ve read before. A travesty that it didn’t win Canada Reads, Alberta Reader’s Choice Awards, and wasn’t nominated for many others. If there ever was a book that Canadians need now, and that has literary merit and does something new with the novel. this is it!
- Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: Yes, we’re all mad at her right now. And this book, about how horrible women and girls are to each other, is perhaps fitting. I went through the strangest emotions while reading this: a mixture of sadness and relief that I’ll never have a daughter.
- After Claude by Iris Owens: So good I read it twice this year. So funny for the first two thirds that I forgot how devastating the last third is.
- The Diviners by Margaret Laurence: There are a lot of reasons to love this book. I’ll choose the fact that we witness the heroine lose her virginity in a scene where she is in total control, and she doesn’t 1) instantly orgasm 2) marry the guy 3) pay for it for the rest of the book. Sex positive CanLit circa 1973.
- Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys: Speaking of books that are ahead of their time! All these books are about strong women (but not “strong women”) and Sasha is the strongest and brittlest of them all.
Disappointing books of 2016, in order of when they were read. I don’t have pictures of all these, because, ugh.
- The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson: Read more like an educational pamphlet than a graphic novel.
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: I love an unreliable narrator. In fiction. In memoir, not so much…
- Bluets by Maggie Nelson: I just didn’t get it. Nelson is a writer I think I *should* like but just… don’t. And the fawning over her is just too much. I listened to her on a few podcasts this year and the hosts just grovel, Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy” style.
- In-Between Days by Teva Harrison: I didn’t connect with the drawing style. When you look forward to the text-only pages in a graphic novel, that’s not good.
- The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin: If Eat Pray Love was re-imagined as Eat Read Fuck. Which is funny since Crispin wrote a takedown of EPL (and even stranger, a defense of it six years ago.) This was my biggest disappointment. Crispin is an OG book blogger who’s gone on to be a respected literary critic. She is contrarian and sarcastic and smart. But this book swung between too show-offy and obscure and too juvenile (pretending not to know what the solution is to an affair with a married man that won’t leave his wife…) Won’t stop me from pre-ordering Why I Am Not A Feminist, though!
And now, the 2016 Reading in Bed Book of the Year:
You may notice something different about this year’s stats, compared to other years. Let’s see how long it takes to spot it…
- Books read in 2016: 35, down from 69 in 2015. That was on purpose, though. And I’m not counting rereads, kids books, or books I read for work.
- Shortest book: Bluets by Maggie Nelson (112 pages)
- Longest book: Cecilia by Frances Burney (1,056 pages)
- Format: 97% paper, 3% ebook, 0% audio (compared to a third of my reading on ebook and audio last year)
About the Author
- 100% female (58% in 2015)
- 34% person of colour (up from 20% 2015)
- 37% Canadian (same as 2015) 38% American, 11% British, and 1 each: Korean, Japanese, French, Filipino.
- Three Edmonton-area authors this year, being generous with one who moved recently!
… did you catch it? Yes, I did the #readwomen thing this year, and my experience will be covered in a separate blog post. Brace yourselves: unlike many who do this sort of thing, I did not come to any shattering realizations, and I *cannot wait* to read some dudes in 2017.
Genres and Lists
- 11% classics (same as 2015), 63% contemporary lit fic (about the same as previous years), 11% nonfiction (all memoirs), and a handful of erotica, poetry, and graphic novels.
- 2 1001 Books for a total of 127 read.
Probably gonna mix it up a bit next year, say, read some nonfiction that isn’t memoir?
- 17% were rated five stars (up from 11% last year), 49% were four stars, 23% were three stars, 14% were two stars and poor Nora Roberts gets just one.
- The most underrated book was After Claude, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.55 rating on Goodreads. Which I assume is due to people getting offended, which is the whole point.
- The most overrated book was The Liar, which I rated a 1, compared to average 3.94 rating. It was just bad.
- Headed for about 17,000 page views in 2015, down from 23,000 in 2015. And 11,000 visitors, down from 15,000.
- I’m not panicking, because my review of The Fault in Our Stars, which amassed 7,000 views in 2013-2015, was viewed just 400 times this year. Looks like kids writing papers have moved on to another book. Similarly, my review of Sleeping Beauty is not pulling the numbers it used to (nor am I seeing as much filth in my search terms). I think a lot of my traffic in 2014/2015 was artificial due to people landing on those posts – and quickly clicking away. They were never my readers anyway. The moral is: never review YA or erotica.
- An Oryx and Crake readalong recap from 2013 continues to perform, due to a post on a Something Awful forum which I’m sorely tempted to pay for so I can see what it is… anyone a member? Hit me up!
- On course for 45 posts this year, up from 39 posts in 2015.
- Most viewed post of 2016 is that mysterious Oryx and Crake one.
- Most viewed post that was actually written in 2016: Intro post of the Cecilia readalong, likely due to a little help from CBC.
- Least successful post in 2016: Short Story Advent Calendar Video Reviews. Same as in 2015, it’s a Booktube post. Okay, I get it, you guys don’t like the Booktube…
Stay tuned for best books, disappointing books, and 2017 plans, of which I have several!
I’m reading 35 books this year, as you may recall. I made a video about the first six.
- Asking For It by Lilah Pace, as recommended on Book Riot
- The Hunter and the Wild Girl by Pauline Holdstock, with thanks to Goose Lane Editions
- The Outside Circle by Patti Laboucane-Benson
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang
- Mislaid by Nell Zink
- In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
The first six of the year were a bit of a bust. The Vegetarian blew me away at first, but hasn’t stuck with me. Since then, I’ve read two phenomenal books, which you will hear more about soon: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg and Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood.
Top five books of 2015
Have I mentioned I’m in a bit of a slump this year? I read more than ever, and came home from Book Expo America with a bunch of hot new books, but only five books were good enough to get that elusive five-star rating. For fun, I’ve included the most ridiculous thing I did while reading each.
- The Bear by Claire Cameron (tried to describe it to my husband while out for our sixth anniversary dinner, ended up crying)
- The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth (read the first forty or so pages aloud)
- After Birth by Elisa Albert (… nothing much, but here’s a fun fact: Albert used to write the captions for A Baby Story, that ubiquitous 2000s-era Canadian reality show about birth. I hated that show because I had pretty traumatic deliveries, just like the main character in this book, and felt like it sugar-coated the truth. I guess Albert felt that way too?)
- Outline by Rachel Cusk (spent a Saturday night reading it with a mug of mint tea and whisky. Not that crazy, except I never drink whisky and I never drink alone.)
- The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (Told my family I was going to the grocery store, and read in the parking lot for an hour)
Yeah, but did I review them? Last year I was ashamed of the fact that I only reviewed one of my top ten books. I was also ashamed of the reason – I was afraid to write about race. I ended up reviewing The Bridge of Beyond in January and it is one of my favourite reviews. This year, I gave my all to The Bear – I didn’t do a traditional review, but I wrote about it here on the blog, and on 49th Shelf. I wrote a quick blurb on The Wake (but please note there is a 2,000+ word draft review in the works,) and nothing on the other three.
There isn’t anything in particular about After Birth, Outline, or The Days of Abandonment that made me skip the review. I’m not intimidated by the subject matter. I still think about them. I suppose that, compared to The Bear and The Wake, they are very specifically women’s stories (not for women… I mean about women, centred on women’s experiences, etc.) But I’m usually cool with that too.
Here’s my hypothesis: I read too damn much this year. I powered through all three of these books, because I had holds coming in at the library, and Book Expo books to get to before publication date (fail,) and a Forsyte Saga to get through before the end of the year (epic fail,) and an ever-growing pile of library sale books, and book swap books, and contest win books, and Canada Reads and Alberta Reader’s Choice and Giller Prize books. I had just enough time to register that hey, this book is amazing, before barreling on to the next.
Can you guess what’s coming next? Stay tuned for my 2016 plans post. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna KonMari my bookshelf or anything. KonMari is so 2015.
Honourable mentions where four stars on Goodreads means 4.5 or 4.9: Martin John by Anakana Schofield, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh.
Not “bad” books, so put your pitchforks away. These books did not live up to the hype.
- Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt (my review) I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I didn’t get it.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: The Franzen blurb got my hopes up, but by the end, I was so exasperated with everyone and everything. Great audio book narrator, though.
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: This book is a total Monet: great fun while reading, but a big mess if you stop and think about it for too long. Not to mention the most boring protagonists ever.
- City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallsberg: I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but when I wasn’t, I didn’t think of it for a moment. Hence I almost gave up twice. Sweet trailer, though.
And, finally, the 2015 Reading in Bed Book of the Year:
While my family enjoys the traditional new year’s eve feast of microwave popcorn and mini-watermelon slices (it was in our produce box this week!) I shall avail you of my blog stats. Stay tuned for my favourite books of 2015 and 2016 plans.
- Books read in 2015: 69, up from 64 in 2014 and 52 in 2013.
- Shortest book: We Should All Be Feminists (49 pages)
- Longest book: City on Fire (944 pages)
- Format: 64% paper, 20% ebook, 16% audio (which would be up from 0% audio in any previous year, and represents the biggest change in the way I read.)
About the Author
- 58% female (Same as 2014)
- 20% person of colour (same as 2014)
- 38% Canadian (down from 55% in 2014) 35% American 16% British and 1 each: Argentinian, Nigerian, New Zealand, Malaysian, Italian, Brazilian, Angolan, German.
- Six Edmonton-area authors this year, up from two last year.
I didn’t pay much attention to gender and race this year, but ended up with the same “diversity” stats as last year. I put “diversity” in quotes because these stats and challenges generally leave a bad taste in my mouth. (That’s a whole other post, but this or this can give you an idea why.) I was curious about how my reading fell out, though, so I did the calculation. I notice that I expanded the number of author nationalities (at the expense of #CanLit, oops) while still reading a large majority of Canadian, American, and UK authors.
Genres and Lists
- 10% classics (down from 19% in 2014), 51% contemporary lit fic (about the same as previous years), 14% non fiction (up a bit from last year), and a handful of YA, erotica, romance, memoir, graphic novels, and a thriller.
- 3 1001 Books for a total of 126 read – and reread two more.
I’m further and further away from the reason I started this blog. Not saying that’s good or bad… stay tuned for 2016 plans!
- 7% were rated five stars (down 13% in 2014), 41% were four stars, 36% were three stars, 16% were two stars. I DNF’d one book that was headed for a one-star rating.
This year is a bit of a slump. Only a few books blew me away. As usual, I tend to rate books lower than the masses on Goodreads:
- I rated 26 books higher. The most underrated book was The Bear, which I rated a 5, compared to average 3.31 rating. Yeah, I have a lot of feelings about this book.
- I rated 40 books lower. The most overrated book was We Should All Be Feminists, which I rated a 2, compared to average 4.44 rating. Not because I don’t agree, but because there was nothing new or challenging.
- 23,000 page views in 2015. About 50 fewer than last year, and about a thousand fewer visitors. So… things are a little stagnant around here.
- 39 posts in 2015, down from 52 in 2014 and 96 in 2013. Which might explain the stagnation.
- If I was an optimist, I’d calculate views per post, or views per visitor, but I’m not.
- Most viewed post of 2015: What’s the Deal With Infinite Jest? And I expect that to continue, as the 20th anniversary edition will be out soon.
- Most viewed post that was actually written in 2015: Book-loving hedonists and alienated intellectuals: why readers need to settle down about reading. This was my favourite post to write as well.
- Least successful post in 2015: Novellas in November 2015 wrap-up (video.) Seriously? I thought I was so hip and with it, what with the Book-tubing….
I’ve been posting daily videos for The Short Story Advent Calendar, and enjoying it so much that I made a video for Novellas in November. Check it out:
I read five novellas during the month. Here they are, in very particular order:
- The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrente
- Grandma Nineteen and the Soviet’s Secret by Ondjaki
- Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
- Blue Skies by Evelyn Lau
- The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
And please do subscribe and like and all that on YouTube, so my children stop making fun of my stats.
For my international readers, and Canadians who’ve been under a rock for the past couple of years:
The TRC is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The Commission will document the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience. – Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Before I read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report (the 350ish pages of its executive summary, anyway,) I bounced back and forth between believing that:
- That this document wasn’t for me, because I wasn’t one of those racist people who needed to be convinced that Indian Residential Schools were horrific or that they have a lasting legacy.
- That the above belief is extremely naive and I would likely have to challenge some beliefs and/or confront some ugly truths, and maybe I’m not ready.
As usual, reality was somewhere in between. The TRC is for me, as much as it is for you (Canadian readers, or really, anyone who lives in a country that’s ever been colonized.) There were plenty of things I already knew, but many I didn’t. Even if you’re familiar with the history, the first-hand stories are important to read, as are the calls to action, all 94 of them.
It helped that I found a reading group, which included an inter-generational survivor who was familiar with the report and its history. Most of you won’t have that much support, and this is a long, dense document, so here are some resources, tips, and recommendations for further reading.
How to read the TRC Report
- If you’re not Indigenous, and think this isn’t for you, read this essay at 49th Shelf.
- Choose your format:
- Read it in chunks. Our reading group took months to read, just a section or two per week. The sections range from pretty dry descriptions of legal proceedings to heartbreaking first-hand accounts of abuse. Take a break when you need to.
- Read it to the end. The calls to action are at the end, or you can read them separately here. You may feel hopeless that there’s so much to do, or inspired that there are so many places to begin, but this part is really important.
- Talk to people. A buddy read, a reading group, an online chat… lots of possibilities. I was lucky to have a ready-made discussion group. If you can’t find someone to talk to in real life, try #TRC on twitter.
What to read next: non-fiction
- For non-fiction recommendations, check out the end of that essay I linked above, or, check out this list at the Edmonton Public Library.
- This essay at The Toast about missing and murdered Indigineous women and girls was a more challenging read than the TRC, in terms of having to interrogate my personal beliefs and biases. Brace yourself.
- My picks, none of which I’ve read yet (non-fiction not being my forte…)
- The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter
- Up Ghost River, by Edmund Metatawabin. Article includes an extensive Aboriginal reading list.
- The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew, about his father’s experience with residential school. I’m going to see Kinew speak in just a couple of days. I can’t wait.
What to read next: fiction
- Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. I read this with a library book club where most of the participants are in their 60s or older. Many of them remembered residential schools as something that was known, but not known. They knew the schools existed, but not why, and certainly not what went on inside. An intense discussion ensued.
- Rupert’s Land by Meredith Quartermain (my review) about a residential school runaway and his unlikely friend.
- Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway, which I haven’t read, but has been recommended to me more than once.
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington. This one’s more hockey than residential schools, but there is a compelling minor plot about a survivor.
- The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and Black Robe by Brian Moore. These books are about first contact, but that history is important, too. Many of us read Black Robe in school, and I hope The Orenda will replace it in the curriculum one day. Black Robe really emphasizes the colonial perspective and frames Aboriginal people as “other” while The Orenda is a more balanced perspective.