The Reading/Writing Year in Review

The year is not quite over, so it is slightly annoying to see all of the ‘Best books of 2018’, as if there is no possibility of reading something amazing over Christmas. I, for one, am firmly convinced I will find a few corkers to keep me busy, entertained and enthralled over the holidays. However, I can share some stats about how I’ve fared this year in reading and writing, as not much is likely to change in that respect in the remaining 2 weeks. I will do a separate post on the exceptional books that I’ve enjoyed most, but closer to the very end of the year.

From Goodreads, I gather that I’ve read 128 books so far (and am likely to reach approximately 135 by the end of the year). That’s about 36,000 pages, with the shortest book being A Month in the Country (absolutely beautiful) and the longest Killing Commendatore (could have been much shorter). The most popular book I read (i.e. the one that most other people read) was I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (gripping and moving true crime account), while only one other person ever bothered to read Die Stille der Gletscher by Austrian writer Ulrike Schmitz.

There have been a few innovations for me in reading this year:

  • I joined the Asymptote Book Club and so was exposed to more diverse reading in translation. One example of a book that I might not have come across independently is Aranyak by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay. I also followed the David Bowie Book Club for a while, which also introduced me to new books, but it seemed to peter out in May or so, or else I was unable to keep up.
  • I’ve tried to cut back on reviewing and read more outside my preferred genre. In addition to my usual crime fiction, poetry and literary fiction, I’ve also read historical fiction (Ahmet Altan’s Like a Sword Wound), biography (Shirley Jackson‘s was particularly memorable), romance or women’s midlife crisis fiction (Marian Keyes), plays (Tales from the Vienna Woods), political essay (James Baldwin and Susan Jacoby), true crime (Michelle McNamara) and reportage (George Orwell).
  • I’ve discovered new publishers like Charco Press and Two Lines Press, as well as countless ambitious poetry publishers doing wonderful work with chapbooks, such as V. Press, SAD Press, Ignition Press and Midsummer Night’s Dream Press.
  • I discovered many new writers; quite a few of them have become names I will now look out for: Argentinian Cesar Aira, South African  Karin Brynard, Japanese Yuko Tsushima, Polish Olga Tokarczuk, German Wolfgang Hilbig, English Fiona Mozley.

However, when you read a lot, you also get a lot of dross. I’ve read more than my share of average books this year, if I’m being honest. Some proved disappointing, simply because I have high expectations of the author or the premise and reviews were too complimentary (Killing Commendatore, Conversations with Friends, Vernon Subutex). Others were quickly consumed and perfectly entertaining while reading them, but failed to make a lasting impression or stand out in a crowded field (most, though by no means all, were titles for review). I reckon about 35-40 of 130 books fall into this category, which is quite a high percentage. A couple of these quick reads every now and then is fine, but with such limited time, am I not better off reading books that will enhance my own writing or teach me something new or give me a frisson of pleasure?

Writing was nowhere near as fast, furious or voluminous as the reading. I did attempt flash fiction in an effort to get the creative juices flowing again. I’ve made a half-hearted attempt to put together a chapbook collection of my poems but haven’t sent it out yet. And I haven’t touched the novel with a barge pole. I’ve submitted less than a handful of poems (or anything, really), so it’s not surprising that I only have one publication in 2018.

Meanwhile, I’ve created over 200 posts and written over 103,000 words on this blog alone. If I were to add all the reviews I’ve done in other place, plus letters and marketing copy that I’ve created for Asymptote… I’ve been productive, yes, but not really on the things that matter most to me personally.

Even better than a triptych…

So there is one major lesson to be learnt from this year (even if it comes in a triptych format): time to focus on my own writing, time to read only things that nourish me and give me joy, time to cut down on my other commitments.

12 thoughts on “The Reading/Writing Year in Review”

  1. Very impressive reading stats over the year, but 2019 will be your year for writing the novel that burns within you. Reading is obviously still important, but you’ll need to share your time with the characters in your own book – I know you can do this. Thank you for sharing your very insightful posts. I wish you have a peaceful, fun and relaxing Christmas and a very creative New Year.

  2. I have trouble finding time to write too, so time to read is in very short supply. This has been the year when it has been proved to me so many times, that I cannot do everything… Wishing you the best Christmas…

  3. Such a productive year! I’m one of those ‘books of the year’ culprits but as an ex-bookseller I know they’re used for gift ideas and I can’t help hoping that some of my favourites might end up under someone’s tree.

  4. I agree, Marina. You’ve had such a wonderfully productive year that I don’t know which part of your year-end post to respond to. All the same, I’ll go with 135 books read during the year. That sort of thing impresses me right away — congratulations!

  5. I couldn’t agree more, Marina Sofia, about choosing how you’ll spend your reading time . There isn’t enough time to read it all, to do it all, etc.. Why use that oh-so-precious time to read and do things that don’t build you up? You’re wise to refocus, I think.

  6. A very impressive post Marina Sofia! I don’t track my reading and you’ve made me think I should, because it helps to take an overview like you have and see patterns that you want to change. Good luck with your triptych resolution, it sounds really positive 🙂

  7. Congratulations. The GoodReads Yearly summary is pretty good isn’t it. You’ve more than doubled my reading. GR says that I have read (so far) 15,041 pages from 63 books in 2018.

  8. Definitely a productive year Marina – and it must be hard to get the balance between reading and writing right. I’m not so organised with my tracking, but I do feel that most of my reading this year has been successful. There’s always a dud or two, but I try to avoid them….

  9. Do what you want to do in 2019! So on to more writing and reading very good books. And thank you for such an excellent and thorough blog. Have gotten some excellent reading suggestions here.
    Have a good new year!

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