2018: An overview of my year in reading

It is almost time to see the back of 2018 and the end cannot come too soon. If only I could have faith that 2019 will be better, but at long as it’s not worse I suppose we’re ahead of the game. Maybe.

The political year may have been full of not-great things, but my reading year was very rewarding. I read more books than I have in a very long time and I enjoyed a lot of them.

Challenges

I completed all my set challenges: PopSugar, Bookriot’s Read Harder, and Mt. TBR at the 24-book level. I enjoyed them for the most part. I was surprised at how few TBR books I read organically, since the only social media I participate in now for book talk is Goodreads, and I’m not nearly as active there as I used to be on blogs and Twitter. But I guess even a little bit of social reading is enough to get me to pick up plenty of shiny new books. On the plus side, that participation made fulfilling the non-TBR challenges easier. I had them both basically done by August.

Awards reading

I did a ton of longlist and shortlist reading this year, more than ever before. I read a number of books off the Tournament of Books longlist and shortlist in the winter. Then, in the summer I tackled the Booker Prize longlist, reading 12 of 13 despite having to order some of them from overseas. I really enjoyed reading them one after the other; unlike previous years I didn’t find it a burden as I went along. By the time the shortlist came out I only had a couple of them to go, which meant that the beginning of the school year didn’t derail me the way it often does.

I also read all the books on the Goldsmiths shortlist. That continues to be my favorite award and the one where I am most likely to find novels that are personally rewarding. There are also always new-to-me authors, and this year I discovered and loved Gabriel Josipovici and Will Eaves.

I read a handful of the Giller Prize longlist, with some of the books making it to the shortlist. As usual, I found a buried treasure: Our Homesick Songs, which didn’t make the shortlist but which was a lovely story about a fading culture in eastern Canada and how its inhabitants cope with the changes. I still have a couple of books in the TBR and look forward to reading them in 2019.

I read a number of the National Book Award short- and longlisted novels, including a handful from the re-established Translated Fiction category. The latter were uniformly good and there were some excellent nominees in the regular fiction list as well. I didn’t love everything I read but it was interesting to read them together and get a sense of the judges’ approach and interests.

Other reading

I also just read books! Some I heard about on Goodreads, others through reviews and comment threads at the Guardian Books site, others through the mainstream US and UK book review outlets like the NYT, NYRB, LRB, etc. In addition to all the literary fiction, I’m still reading romance, mysteries, and the occasional SFF novel. I didn’t read many newly released books in genre apart from some translated ones and my dwindling set of autobuy authors. But given the size of my TBR, I still had plenty to choose from. And I had a great buddy read with Sirius, where we read and talked about The Master and Margarita. We spread the reading and conversation over several posts at Dear Author, and it was a terrific way to appreciate it.

All in all I’ve read 118 books as of this writing and will probably add one or two more before 2018 is finally done with us. I can attribute a lot of that productivity to my decreased time on the internet, especially social media, as well as to long plane flights and other types of unplugging time. I’m still debating whether it’s too many books for a year. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think raw volume tells me much about value. I did have a lot of 4- and 5-star reads, because I usually knew what to expect going in. There were disappointments (The Overstory, I’m looking at you) but not many and there was almost nothing that I wished I hadn’t read.

Looking ahead to 2019

I doubt I’ll vary my reading approach much next year, but one thing I’ve decided on: no more category-based challenges. I’ve done one or another of them for four years now and while some of the categories are fun, others are just dumb or annoying to me at this point. And some, like “someone with your first or last name” are a PITA if you’re mostly reading in English and have a non-Anglo or non-standard name. And at least in 2019 I won’t have to dig through celebrity book club lists or find a celebrity memoir I’m willing to spend my time on.

My main plan, with two count-only TBR challenges to make it interesting, is to read a lot more from my TBR and to keep using the library. I did very well on the latter and not well on the former this year. And part of keeping to that plan is to avoid snapping up “it” books because everyone is talking about them. That has been fun in that it lets me join readalongs and various conversations, but it is the mostly likely way for me to read books that turn out to be pretty meh.

I’m not doing a “Best of 2018” list, since there are plenty of those running around and I’ve blogged about a lot of the books I loved over the year, but I may follow up with some numbers breaking down what I’ve read into various categories. In the meantime, enjoy what’s left of the holidays and I’ll see you in the virtual stacks.

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10 thoughts on “2018: An overview of my year in reading

  1. It sounds like you had a very satisfying reading year–in spite of that string of Booker nominees that you didn’t care for. I want to thank you for bringing ‘Our Homesick Songs’ to my attention. I loved it and I doubt I would have found it on my own.
    I met my goal of reading 100 new-to-me books this year. I’ll probably end the year at 105 or so. A hefty portion of those were mere brain candy (I don’t really watch tv anymore nor go to the movies that often, so reading these serves the same purpose). But there were enough books of substance mixed in and these have stuck with me. So, all in all, I’m happy with what I read.

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    1. You sound like you had a good year too! Like you, I watch very little TV these days and fewer movies than I used to, so there’s more reading time. When I’m on an airplane or have down time I read rather than surf the internet or watch TV, so the pages add up.

      I like reading brain candy books, too. I need time for my brain to digest the heavier ones. I can’t just move from one to another usually.

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    1. I have! And I’m pretty sure I have you to thank for some of the Irish books that I found and loved this year.

      I’ll be there for the 20 Books of Summer, and we can see how our TBRs do in 2019.

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  2. This sounds like a great year, full of reading adventures. I definitely had the same feeling about category challenges this year. Some of them felt like a pain to fill and at various points I wanted to venture out in new directions (like more translated books) but felt obligated to my challenge—which of course is silly. I did sign up for the Romance TBR challenge again, though I only did January last year. Because there is so much romance lurking on my ereader and I like the community of it. I bought very few books and made excellent use of my library this year, but I didn’t read a ton from my TBR. Hope to get in there more next year.

    And finally The Long Take and Milkman arrived from my library, though I’m not sure I’ll finish both before they’re due back, thanks to a cold that knocked out some of my holiday reading time.

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    1. It really was a rewarding year. I had forgotten about the Romance TBR Challenge; I might do that one informally, since I’m trying to whittle down the Harlequin TBR. I can’t believe I don’t have multiple options for each month!

      Colds in the holidays are the worst! I’m glad the books are finally in, though, and at least you can re-request them. They do reward closer reading, and I bet you can pick up where you left off without losing much. I stretched out reading both of them because I needed to let them sink into my brain.

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  3. Happy New Year to you and your family, Sunita.

    I enjoyed your post and sounds like it was a rewarding year for you. I owe you thanks for a few of my keepers this year.

    I hate that I didn’t meet one of my goals which was to finish the Victor Hugo but I’m at the halfway mark. Otherwise, I got to tackle some of the books I’ve always wanted to read like Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. It was a fun year reading wise.

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    1. Hey Keishon! Happy New Year back to you and yours. And not finishing Victor Hugo in one calendar year isn’t surprising at all, not for those of us who can’t read all day every day. You sound as if you’ve had a good year too. I loved the classics I read this year and have more cued up on the TBR for 2019.

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      1. I enjoyed about 90% of the books I read this year. Like you, I kind of knew going in that I’d enjoy it and knew what to expect. I only read about 12 books or thereabouts this year.

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        1. Yeah, but if those books include Wharton and Hugo, that’s the equivalent of several more normal books. 🙂 That’s why I think numbers are fine to keep track of, but they tell only part of the story. I plan to read some doorstopper books this year that I’ve wanted to get to, and I’m not going to rush through them.

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