Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: My Year in Books

First, some stats:

Total Number of Books Read: 155
Total Number of Pages: 45,408
Longest Book: Christian Theology, by Millard J. Erickson, 1,312 pages.
Average Book Length: 293 pages
Average Read per Day: 124 pages

Next, some categories:

Breakdown by Categories:
Miscellaneous Fiction - 31
Devotion/Theology/Religion - 31
Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy - 12
Miscellaneous Young Adult: 10
True Crime - 10
Classics: 10
Miscellaneous Non-Fiction - 8
History - 8
Biography - 8
Sci-Fi/Fantasy - 7
Western - 6
Poetry - 5
Youth Dystopian - 5
Humor - 2
Mystery - 1
Other - 1

Ten of Top-Read Authors in 2011:
P.G. Wodehouse - 11
Ann Rule - 9
Louis L'Amour - 8
Rick Riordan - 6
Suzanne Collins - 5
Jane Austen - 4
Georgette Heyer - 4
C.S. Lewis - 4
Terry Pratchett - 4
Connie Willis - 3

Newly-discovered Favorite Authors of 2011: Erik Larson,  D.A. Carson, Jon Krakauer.

Best Re-read of the Year:
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee - I first read this as a teenager, whipping through it in a couple of days and enjoying that dreamy, slightly-stunned and emotionally worn-out feeling one sometimes has after a truly profound reading experience. This time around, I thought that I knew what to expect and that it would be a nice trip down memory lane to read this again. I was totally wrong: this time (no doubt due to a measure of understanding and maturity on my part), the experience was even more deeply moving and profound. This book is surely one of the most important works of literature to be produced on American soil.

Most Surprising Reading Obsession: Books about Mormonism.
What began as some reading to cover a brief paper on the history of Joseph Smith and the development of Mormonism became a research obsession centering on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Before understanding the offshoot, I needed a grounding in the original religion itself. Including many, many media articles and volumes which I skimmed/read in part (including a very fascinating copy of the most recent Mormon missionary manual loaned to me by a friendly and helpful Mormon), my 2011 Mormonism research included the following books:

Under the Banner of Heaven: A History of Violent Faith, by Jon Krakauer
Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, by Richard Ostling and Joan K. Ostling
The American Religion, by Harold Bloom
The Mormon Mirage: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today, by Latayne C. Scott
For Time and Eternity, Allison Pittman (the only novel in this list)

Least Surprising Reading Obsession: Books about murder.
After having seen Ann Rule near the top of my most-read authors for the year, this really comes as no surprise. For some unfathomable reason, I find the recounting of true crimes and their ensuing investigations to be both fascinating and (don't ask me why) quite intellectually relaxing.  

Most Enjoyable Books of the Year:

Fiction: 
The Lonesome Gods, Louis L'Amour - Not only is this one of L'Amour's greatest novels, but it also makes perfect fodder for roadtrip reading while driving through the desert, which was what I happened to be doing at the time that I read this. "My name is Johannes Verne, and I am not afraid."

Friday's Child, Georgette Heyer - This may have been my third read-through of this one, and yet it still had the power to keep me up late on a school night, snickering at the sly humor and reveling in the deliciousness of the witty banter. I will be forever in Heyer's debt for making me conversant with Regency and Georgian-Era slang.

Son of Neptune, Rick Riordan - The popular Percy Jackson author amps up both the adrenaline and the emotional content in his spinoff series, Heroes of Olympus 

Non-Fiction:
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, Erik Larson - Larson's meticulous research pays off with a dark, fluid narrative that is accompanied with a ream of delicious endnotes.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson - Only Bryson could take so many seemingly-unrelated-but-still-fascinating facts and stitch them together with such precision and elegance.

Under the Banner of Heaven: a History of Violent Faith, Jon Krakauer - A recounting of the horrifying Lafferty murders of the 1980s is interwoven with an unsantitized account of the questionable roots of the FLDS church. Armed with his considerable storytelling abilities, Krakauer presents his overall narrative with a clear-eyed skepticism. Although he does not dwell unduly on the grisly details, he likewise does not seek to sugar-coat anything.

Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis - Lewis's literary bent toward Romanticism has never been so obvious as in the beautifully-crafted title essay, which is both artfully written and magnificently textured.

Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory, Peter Hessler - I continue to enjoy all of this man's narrative non-fiction work.

Books Which Let Me Down:

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins - Intended to serve as the capstone of a series with such a strong foundation, this book instead becomes an unspooling melodrama which collapses under the weight of its own tangled plot about half-way through and dribbles along to an emotionally-unsatisfying conclusion. Boo.

Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self, Marilynne Robinson - While her novels radiate warmth and light, I found her essays too ponderous for the likes of me.  Sad.

City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare - I should have known better than to randomly pick up a shiny-looking paranormal young adult fiction. But it was soooooo shiny. Bah.

My Reading Goal for 2012: 175 books.

You?


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