It’s safe to say that 2011 has been my best reading year so far. By comparison, 2012 has been well toned down. I’ve read around 40 books (probably closer to 43) quite a step down from 2011 when I managed around 60 books. Not one to set a fixed number for a challenge, because I’d rather read when and what I like instead of trying to meet a quota, I won’t be challenging myself this year either. Reading is a pleasure and I don’t want it to change into a must. That being said, there are a few books I am excited to share with the world.
This was a difficult one to choose. I’ve enjoyed She, A History of Adventure, by H. Rider Haggard, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon as well as The Yellow Wallpaper and selected writings by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. All great books who kept me well anchored in the story and in whose company I spent many entertaining hours. However, if I must choose one, it’s going to be The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV. This book has the right amount of creepiness, an old castle, a love story and lots of secrets. Not to mention poems sprinkled here and there throughout the book.
Best short story collection
I had no trouble picking this one – The Vampire Archives is number one on my list. There were other worthy competitors in this category, like Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, and Songs of Love & Death, but this collection of vampire short stories starting from the 1800’s and going well into the 1900’s is one I would recommend to any fan of the genre.
There are two, and I like them both for very different reasons: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, for its elegant prose and the twist at the end, and A Widow for One Year by John Irving, for its meticulously crafted storyline, great characters and for teaching me patience. Some books just can’t be rushed. I just realized I forgot to post a review for it, but hopefully it will be done by the end of the week.
Best horror book
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was one book I was really anxious to read but in spite of its being a great story (and one involving the most famous of vampires, nonetheless), The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert was my favorite. In the pretty tight battle between vampires and ghosts, the latter prevailed this time.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction by William Zinsser is a book that was recommended to me by a friend, and one that was well worth reading. I love books about writing ever since I read Stephen King’s On Writing. Now that was a perfect little gem.
Despite trying not to get too caught up in the best-selling whirlwind, I did want to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and ended up enjoying it very much.
Other books I liked
When I saw the first two books in a new series by Anne Rice, I was very excited to read them. After all, The Lives of the Mayfair Witches was better than I had ever imagined, so I hoped of nothing less this time. The new series is called The Songs of the Seraphim, and the first two books are Angel Time and Of Love and Evil. Unfortunately, the heavy religious component was too much for me and it overshadowed everything else. The idea is interesting – giving up a life of crime in order to serve God by doing good things, and a fair amount of time travel – but this is done in such an overpowering and almost preachy sort of way that it put me off. A part of me understands the fervor behind it, and I think it’s so great when a writer’s passion drives them to pour their heart into their work – that is why I feel bad for not liking the books (I made it only halfway through the second one before abandoning it), but the way in which it was put across just did not click with me. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading Interview with a Vampire.
A friend of mine was really excited about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and so I gave it a try. Not an easy or pleasant task, and not because of the bleak story or the violence but mostly because of the language and the way in which it was written. The macho attitude of the storyteller, and the combination between Spanish and English just ruined the book for me. And that’s not because my Spanish is lacking. The only thing that saved the book from being a total loss was the multitude of references to The Lord of the Rings. Those were like a tiny glimmer of light in an otherwise disappointing book.
The shortest/longest book.
The Sense of an Ending – 163 pages
The Vampire Archives – 1034 pages
Last year I also participated in some challenges and read-alongs:
Three read-alongs (see one below, under “Dickens in December”) Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, Part I, Part II, Part III and one for The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.
For this year, I plan to join Fanda @ http://klasikfanda.blogspot.com/ for “Celebrating Dickens” an event that will take place in February. More details here. There will probably be more events and I will add them later on. For now I’ll just start small.