Friday, January 1, 2010

Reflections on Reading in 2009

I had originally thought of including this post as part of my statistical results, but quickly realized that it would be much too long to hold anyone's attention. I was going to title this post, Favorite Reads of 2009, but I decided that I wanted to include more of what I have learned as a reader this year, rather than just a list of books that I enjoyed. I hope you don't mind.

While I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it many times again, I am amazed at the comaraderie that I have found in this book blogging community. The simple comments left by total strangers take on a new level of friendship as the year progresses. I feel as though I can call many of you friends, even though I have never met you in person. I value and trust your opinions, I connect with you through the joys and sorrows of life, and I anticipate your posts the way I used to wait by the phone for my friends to call. I have connected with several of you who are considerably younger than I am, older than I am, live nearby in the central states of the U.S.A. or as far away as India, and yet we all have the love of books and good writing in common. The World Wide Web has definitely made this vast universe seem a little more intimate.

I have always enjoyed reading, although there have been times in my life when this hobby was pushed to the far back burner. When I started teaching British Literature 5 years ago, I had to educate myself in this area. I selected key classics to teach and then began reading and re-reading those few books, along with any critical commentary I could get my hands on. This eventually led me to the pursuit of a Master's degree so that I would feel more comfortable teaching the subject matter. At school that first summer I was introduced to others who loved reading, who were very well-versed in focused areas of study, but also well-rounded in their personal reading libraries. I came home that summer invigorated to renew my own passion for reading. It was shortly thereafter that I discovered Book Blogs and soon became totally addicted.

I have always enjoyed mysteries, but through Carl's RIP challenge I learned that I enjoy truly suspenseful mysteries, some that even border on the edge of horror. I am drawn to books of the Victorian time period by such popular authors as Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon --- but I also enjoy the neo-Victorian novels, like The Thirteenth Tale and The Lace Reader. I read Rebecca for the first time this year and want to read more Daphne duMaurier in 2010. I read Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and I enjoyed these so much that I have decided to re-read those each year during the month of October.

Through reading challenges I have been exposed to different genres and writing styles. Nymeth hosted the Try Something New mini-challenge this spring that paired bloggers together for the expressed purpose of reading outside their comfort zones. I was fortunate enough to be paired with Susan and we decided to read a graphic novel. Susan chose The Watchmen , but I simply could not get into that one, so I settled on the Manga Shakespeare of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Who would have thought that this English teacher would be enthralled with the manga illustrations of the Bard?! If it hadn't been for this blogging community and the challenge to get out of my reading comfort zone, I would never have had this marvelous experience.

Another genre that I have kept at bay until now is that of Fantasy. I am such a realist and any kind of book with such "outlandish" characters as fairies and wizards just did not compute. However, because of your fantastic reviews and gentle encouragement to take my blinders off, I have actually branched out. I read Inkheart and absolutely loved it! I was fascinated with the premise that fictional characters from a book could come to life and interact with humans. I hope to read more books like this in the future as I think they are starting to awaken my imagination which has lain dormant for far too long.


Not only has this blogging community helped me to branch out in terms of literary genre, you have also helped me to branch out in literary formats. I have tried in the past to listen to audio books with absolutely no success whatsoever. I assumed it was my learning style. However with the help of such avid audio bibliophiles (is that a real term?!) such as Candace, JoAnn, and Sandy, I was encouraged to try different narrators. OH my --- were they right! I decided to try the Harry Potter series with Jim Dale as the narrator and I must tell you that I am hooked! It is such an amazing experience to not only hear the story, but experience the different voices and dramatic interpretation. It is almost as if I am envisioning the scene as it is read to me. I want to complete the series in 2010 and then perhaps attempt some other books on CD now that my audio skills have improved.

In reviewing the list of 75 books I have read this year, I can honestly say that I have not read one that I hated. Of course, some books I enjoyed more than others, and some did not really resonate with me at all, but that is a result of personal preference rather than writing ability. I attribute this high rate of success to you and your totally honest, well-written reviews. I know I can trust your opinions, and I know my personal preferences. Those two combined help me to create a TBR list that will be enjoyed for years to come.

There are, of course, a few books that truly stand out from the rest. These are books that I continue to think about and ponder long after the review was posted. These are the books that when someone asks, "What did you read this year?" --- I immediately recommend without hesitation. So as a final posting to this reading reflection of 2009, here are my favorites:
I hope each of you had a joyous celebration last night, a relaxing New Year's today, and a prosperous 2010.

27 comments:

mel u said...

Great Reflections-I also read and loved The Thirteenth Tale-from it I also have a desire to read Rebecca-The Book Thief was wonderful-you might enjoy Daphne duMaurier biography of Bramwell Bronte-

Nise' said...

It is so true that their is a comaraderie in the book blogging community.

When I talk about my book blogger friends, my husband looks at me like I am crazy! He does not get it.

The Book Thief is on many favorite lists this year.

Happy New Year.

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

This was an excellent post - so well thought-out. I'm glad you recognized the pluses of the year and what you learned. I agree with you about the book blog community. It is so rewarding to "talk" to other people who love books.

Hope you are having a happy New Years Day.

JoAnn said...

What a beautiful post, Molly! I especially loved the sentence about anticipating posts the way you would wait for a friend to call - how true. Of your 8 favorites, I've loved 4, have one in my tbr pile and another on the wish list. Happy 2010!

Sandy Nawrot said...

What a nice post! I would echo your sentiments on the book blogging community. When I think about it sometimes, I get all gooey and emotional. Who would've known? I'm so glad you have discovered audio books. A friend of mine turned me onto them several years ago, and my life (and the life of my kids) has completed been changed because of them. I'm so glad to have met you this year Molly. Here's to a great 2010!

bermudaonion said...

You expressed my feelings for the book blogging community better than I could have myself! I've read 2 of your favorites and have 2 more in my TBR pile. Happy New Year to you and your family.

English Teacher said...

Molly,
I feel blessed to have found the book blogging community as well and your comments about growing friendships fit my sentiments exactly. Here's to a great 2010 and new book reading friendships.

Karen said...

I loved French Milk too! I read it before going to Paris in Sept but I think I would like to read it again now that I have been there myself.

dolcebellezza said...

I loved The Help, too, and Rebecca will always be one of my favorites. I think I'll go ahead and read that again in 2010.

Literary Feline said...

You didn't want to be like me did you? I really should have split mine into two. The best laid plans . . .

I am so glad I got to know you this year, Molly, and I look forward to getting to know you more this year. And can I just say how happy I am that you gave fantasy a try and enjoyed it? Yay!

Your favorite's list includes quite a few I want to read. My husband gave me a copy of Columbine for Christmas. I'm pretty sure it's because of you I asked for it.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year, Molly.

The Tome Traveller said...

I love reading your posts, Molly! I don't always comment but I always read them.

I'm with you, I feel so lucky to be part of this wonderful community.

Happy New Year to you!!

Carey

ds said...

Lovely post, Molly! I feel exactly as you do about the book blogging community--about blogworld in general. It is wonderful to have one's mind expanded by such great people. Happy New Year and happy reading to you; I think 2010 is going to be fun!

Alyce said...

I like your list of favorites - there are some fun books there. I know I really enjoyed reading The Help.

J. Kaye said...

Totally agree. The book blogging community is the best. :)

Happy New Year!

Anna said...

Glad to hear you liked Inkheart. I bought the series to share with The Girl after we saw and loved the movie.

Wishing you all the best in 2010!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Meghan said...

I'm so glad this year has had such a great effect on your reading! I too love the book blogging community, and I'm very glad you're a part of it. Happy new year!

Eva said...

I love your reflections on how commentators can become friends; it's so true. :)

My other two favourite du Mauriers are The House on the Strand (time travel!) and Jamaica Inn (another awesome gothic offering).

And yay for not hating any of the books you read!!!

Kaye said...

Another ditto for the book blogging community. It has become such a huge part of my life.

The books that come to mind instantly for recomendations are the truly stellar reads of the year. The Help is on my list of must reads too.

Wonderful post as always, Molly. Have another fantastic year in 2010.

fantaghiro23 said...

This is a great post, Molly. And this is why I love reading your blog--your posts are always so well-thought out and eloquent.

Have a great year ahead!

Lisa said...

I've been seeing French Milk on a lot of "best of" lists. I may have to add this to the tbr after all. It's one thing to see that people liked it but to know that it was one of their fav books, that really influences me.

Vivienne said...

It is lovely to see the whole year in perspective. I have developed a love for Victorian Gothic too this year. I blame Carl completely.

Beth F said...

The book blogging community really is the best! Glad to have helped you get into audiobooks. They are addictive.

Happy, happy new year!

kikiv68 said...

I have enjoyed your post so much...I totally agree, it's a community where you feel you know everyone although you may noy know them in person. In 2010, I am going to give audio books a try. I am a teacher and thought that it was not my learning style because my mind wanders...I'm worse than my students! But I'm going to give it another try with The Potato Peel Society book. Best reading wishes for 2010 and looking forward to keep following you this year.

Jenners said...

You captured exactly how I feel about the blogging community. It does feel like real friendships and connections ... no matter what my husband says. It makes the world feel a little closer!!!

And I'm so excited for the new adventures you've had in reading.

And I have 3 of your top 10 books on my reading list for 2010. Hurrah!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Wonderful post - I became a fan of audio this year as well and it is so true that the reader can make the difference!

I am anxious to listen to the Harry Potter books on audio as I have heard they are fantastic!

Wendy said...

I love this post, Molly - I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with you as I read. Like you, the book bloggers have pushed me outside my narrow view of "what I like" and gotten me to read a wide range of books. Before I became a book blogger I read almost all suspense-thrillers...joining this community opened the door for me to fall in love with literary fiction and historical fiction; learn to appreciate graphic novels; and discover an amazing array of new authors.

I've read (and loved) four of your favorites: The Help (which made my top ten this year), The Art of Racing in the Rain, Rebecca, and The Book Thief (which remains on my top ten books of all time). I will need to take a look at the others on your list!!

Thanks for a terrific post.

Laza said...

I love Shirley Jackson. The Haunting of Hill House was excellent too...but the movie was TERRIBLE!

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