03 January 2014

Looking back on 2013

It's that time of the year again: Time to look back over the year that just ended, to give thanks for all the great books I read in 2013, bemoan all the potentially great books I planned to read but didn't and express regrets for the books I read that were not so good. However, I have come to the conclusion that one shouldn't have regrets about books not read and books read but not enjoyed. After all, the unread books might, once you actually read them, turn out to be crap, and the only way to find out that you don't like a book is to read it, so the time spent reading the "bad" books isn't really wasted time but rather invested. It's just that the time you invested in the books you didn't like hasn't paid dividends like the time you invested in the good, great and excellent books. Therefore I will not spend time discussing the negative points of my reading year but will let my comments in the monthly reading reports suffice.

As for the great, good and excellent reads: there were stand-outs for each month but there is no one book that I could nominate as the best book I read in 2013. I will go over those in a later post.

The tally of books I read in 2013 comes to 218, with 54592 pages read. These numbers should perhaps be higher, because I omitted some comic books I read online, but I don't consider either Gunnerkrigg Court or Bad Machinery to be a series of separate books but rather an ongoing story with chapters or episodes and I will not consider myself to have finished reading them until they come to an actual end. Therefore they don't go in the reading journal. Same goes for the comics that are ongoing stories without clear chapter divisions, like Questionable Content and Safe Havens. If that page count were to be added I think I would find myself having read considerably more pages than what my reading journal tells me. Whatever the real tally is, I think it is possible to try too hard to count everything and it will only cause headaches.

218 books makes 2013 a better than average reading year for me. However, I did do a considerable amount of rereading, and I find I generally read faster when I reread, especially if I have read the book several times before. This, as many rereaders will know, involves a certain amount of skimming between the good parts. I also (mostly re-)read a number of short books which push up the book count while contributing little to the page count. It is also questionable whether one should tally pages that are mostly pictures as read pages because although there is undeniably a considerable mental effort involved in looking at, digesting and appreciating them, looking at them still only takes a fraction of the time it takes to read a full page of text on the same size of page.

In other words: this shit is relative.

The average rating of the books I read was 3,4, which is about the same as in  previous years. Sometimes it's a bit higher, sometimes a little lower. It does look like there were slightly fewer 4+, 5 and 5+ rated books than usual, which is not surprising as I tend to give higher ratings to non-fiction books than to fiction and I read fewer of those than usual. My intake of non-fiction tends to fluctuate between years and maybe in 2014 I will manage to read more of them.

As for the plans I outlined in my Looking forward post at the start of 2013, I never got round to doing the What's in a Name Challenge. I'm ashamed to admit I forgot all about it, as it is always fun to do.

I fulfilled my resolution of reading 50 of my TBR books, and as a matter of fact I made it to 60. I also kept the book-buying resolution. I still bought books, but I bought them with the stated purpose, i.e. books I wanted to read but knew I was unlikely to find at the library, and books I knew I might want to keep once I had read them.

I failed in fulfilling my wish to read more in my native language, but did read a few books. For example I started making inroads on the numerous books left to me by my grandmother.

As for the books I specifically mentioned in last year's post, I finished none of them. The Pratchett book lies half-read in the stack on my bedside table - no surprise since I have actually read about half of the material elsewhere and I have not been much interested in short stories this year. Instead of Jón Árnason's folktale collection I went instead for folk-tales collected by his cousin and collaborator, Ólafur Davíðsson and finished three out of four volumes. I did start reading Ulysses, but other books intruded.

Taken all in all, 2013 was a satisfactory reading year: not outstanding but by no means bad.

For a visual overview of the books I read in 2013 (and mini-reviews of some of them), click here to visit my "Books read in 2013" Pinterest board, or click on the image at the start of this post.

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