A Year Immersed in Literature

Today is the last day of 2012 and it has easily been the wordiest 12 months of my 30 years, in terms of how many books I’ve consumed. I say “consumed” of course because many books were audiobooks during my daily 120 mile commute. I last updated on the progress of my resolution to read more back in June. Below is what’s happened in the last half of the year.

But first! Some 2012 totals.

Total number of audiobooks: 38.75
Total number of eBooks: 11
Total number of books: 11.5
Total number of books consumed: 61.25

Books Read or Listened To from July through December:
(for January through June, go here)

Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson
Seize the Day
by Saul Bellow
Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom

Little, Big by John Crowley
Rick Steves’ Rome 2012 by Rick Steves
Learn in Your Car Italian Complete by Henry N. Raymond (finished as far as I needed, again)
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield
I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour by Barbara Tuchman (only half)
The Devil of Nanking by Mo Hayder
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Argo by Antonio Mendez
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
The Fullness of Time by Kate Wilhelm
1Q84 (Book 1) by Haruki Murakami
Harry Potter & the Prisoner from Azkaban by JK Rowling

1Q84 (Book 2) by Haruki Murakami
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown, Ph.D, LMSW
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
1Q84 (Book 3) by Haruki Murakami
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom
It Starts with Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig

Most of those partial numbers in the totals above are attributed to starting an audiobook and then finding the content too difficult to consume by listening. A great example of that is the incredibly informative Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour. I loved the content and found it so interesting, but when I was simply passively listening to it while driving, my mind constantly wandered and I had difficulty focusing on what was being discussed. I made it halfway through before reluctantly throwing in the towel.

July and August were the sparsest months for books because we were insanely busy with wedding planning. Many times I couldn’t listen to a book while driving because I had so much to sort through in my head.

During these past 6 months I also began to actively seek out more award-winning or talked about novels. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex was so wonderfully in depth and detailed. Much loved author Haruki Murakami’s dense 1Q84 was, well, dense. Reading it sometimes it felt like a chore, and the ending was mildly disappointing, but I enjoyed the journey and the astounding creativity required to write it. Swamplandia! was delightful.

I had never even heard of the horror of the Nanking Massacre until I read the Mo Hayder’s historical fiction The Devil in Nanking. I learned so much about the atrocities in North Korea from the true story Escape from Camp 14. The same can be said about the famously loved (and critiqued) Three Cups of Tea, in regards to life and education in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I still haven’t seen the movie, but the first-person telling of the Argo story by Antonio Mendez was straight-forward and engaging.

I’m almost through all of the Richard Matheson audiobooks available for download through the Oregon library, and have finally started reading the works by the splendidly irreverent Neil Gaiman. I’m slowly working my way through the Harry Potter books. Each time I finish one, I get on the waiting list for the next. I should get the fourth book sometime in January.

Portland local Cheryl Strayed’s telling of her hike of the Pacific Crest Trail as a newbie has me now planning a much smaller PCT trek this next summer. I found Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly so moving and thought-provoking that I bought 5 copies to give as gifts this holiday season. Here’s her popular TED talk that addresses the content of the book for a sneak peek. I highly recommend watching that video at the very least, if not reading her book for yourself.

Two listens through Learn in Your Car Italian Complete allowed me to be more comfortable speaking Italian again when we were there for our honeymoon in September. Rick Steves’ Rome 2012 guide was invaluable to us during our few days in Rome, and his free audioguide app was absolutely fantastic when we toured through the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, and other Roman landmarks. His tips saved us time, money and we learned so much more than we would have without it. I recommend checking out the Rome portion of our honeymoon photo album for a complete regurgitation of the info we learned from Rick.

Overall, I have become a much more rabid consumer of information than I ever have before. I reconnected with the bookworm that I was as a kid, the one that five years of college crushed. Now, once I near the end of one book I start looking for what’s next in my queue. I have a pile of books on our coffee table waiting to be cracked open. I skip magazines because they take away from my book time. If the audiobook I’m listening to is particularly engaging, I plug in a pair of headphones and listen to it while doing dishes, folding laundry or gardening. Chores are tremendously more fun while listening to a book!

My long commute definitely makes the consumption of over 61 books in a year much easier. If for whatever reason I’m no longer driving for 2 hours a day, that number will fall drastically. I look at it as one of the few positives regarding my daily slog through the Gorge. If driving through such a beautiful area can be called that. I plan on continuing this trend, this obsession with literature, as long as I possibly can.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.


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One Response to “A Year Immersed in Literature”

  1. My Second Year Immersed in Literature | Madam von Sassypants Says:

    […] Last year I finished 61.5 books. I set a goal for this year to finish 75, which was pretty damn lofty. I should have done so with a bit more of an action plan in mind, because I realized too late in the year that to accomplish that I should have been selecting books based upon length more than I was. So how’d I fare? Here are the numbers. […]

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