Statistics from 2019 and Plans for 2020

According to Goodreads, I read 44,163 pages across 148 books – so went over my target number of 120. There were times during the year, however, when I fell quite a bit behind with my reading, so it didn’t feel like I read so much. The longest book was Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals at 732 pages, the shortest was a novella Christmas at the Chateau, written by Lorraine Wilson. The most popular book that I read was Meg Worlitzer’s The Interestings (which did not quite live up to my expectations) and the least popular was Denise Levertov: In Her Own Province, apparently read by only one other person on Goodreads (but well worth the effort of finding and reading).

I was lucky to have a bit of peace and quiet after the 22nd of December, staying alone at a friend’s flat just outside Geneva, so I read a lot for a week or so (my friend also has an excellent selection of books neatly lined up all over her flat). So that helped bring my total of books read in December to a wopping 17, quite a contrast to some previous months. This was a month of ‘free reading’, whatever catches my fancy. So I read 12 women writers, 5 men.

6 crime fiction novels (although two of those were unusual ones): Attica Locke: Heaven, My Home (nuanced and thought-provoking depiction of race relations, as usual); After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill (a clever, joyous metafictional romp); Katherine Bolger Hyde’s Death with Dostoevsky (a cosy crime on campus novel with a literary twist); Will Dean’s Red Snow (an immersive, glacial experience of Sweden’s far northern reaches, and a resolute, brilliant detective); The Raising by Laura Kasischke (another campus novel, looking at the dangers of the Greek societies); Sarah Vaughan’s Little Disasters (a drama which sounds far too plausible to any parents who have had to take their children many times to A&E).

3 non-fiction: Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie (a humorous, heartfelt description of Northern towns, although it feels incredibly dated at times – written in 2008, it refers to Boris Johnson as an aimable clownish politician, for example); Still Writing by Dani Shapiro (inspirational but very down to earth encouragement and advice for writers); Circling to the Center by Susan Tiberghien (the perfect book for when you need to take a step back and use writing, art, psychology to understand yourself and find a spiritual path, whatever way it might take).

2 books of short stories by an old favourite writer of mine, Helen Simpson: Getting a Life (about the slippery slope of motherhood) and Cockfosters (the even slippier slope of aging).

3 books about marriages (and their tensions): Madeleine St John’s The Essence of the Thing (written almost entirely in dialogue – sharp, bitter, spot-on regarding tone); Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson; Alberta Alone by Cora Sandel, although you could argue Helen Simpson’s books talk about that too.

2 seasonal books: one Christmas themed (although I tend to avoid Christmas themed books or films) but this one was in preparation for my Christmas on the Franco-Swiss border – Christmas at the Chateau by Lorraine Wilson (too brief to make much of an impression); and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution in 1989 – The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuiness

My favourite this month is probably the book that fits into none of the above categories: All die Nacht über uns (All the Night Above Us) by Austrian writer Gerhard Jäger. An apparently really simple story about a soldier on night guard at a border crossing in an unspecified part of (probably) Germany. As each hour drags on, he remembers scenes from his own life, his grandmother’s experience as a refugee, and struggles with his orders to ‘shoot with live ammunition’ if anyone tries to cross the border clandestinely. This impressive piece of work deserves a full review, once I get back home.

In addition to the books above, I’ve also found an edition of Montaigne’s Essays that I like (there are many, many editions available), some Alexandre Dumas for my boys and an unexpected fictionalised biography of Marina Tsvetaeva by poet and novelist Venus Khoury-Ghata.

However, these new acquisitions will not be my top priority at the start of 2020. I intend to take part in a TBR clearout, whether it’s 20 or hopefully more, and not buy any new books until I’ve significantly reduced that pile (there may still be a few late 2019 orders arriving in January, though). I also intend to continue with my geographical wanderings every month and January is for Japan, as is by now well-established courtesy of Meredith at Dolce Bellezza. I’m not quite sure which ones I’ll pick yet, but as soon as I get home, I will plan at least 3-4 reads or rereads from my fairly large batch of Japanese books.

I still have piles of Spanish and Canadian books waiting quietly for me, as well as Malaysian and Indonesian, so there will be many more countries to visit in the months ahead. Plus, a proper French read is long overdue, right?


15 thoughts on “Statistics from 2019 and Plans for 2020”

  1. I am so happy for you that you got some quiet reading time, Marina Sofia. After the past few years, you are long past due for a break! And, of course, lots of interesting books in your list, too. As for TBRs, I’m trying to work through my own. Trouble is, a couple of months ago, I got a list of excellent suggested titles to check out. Temptation I could not resist *Sigh.* May 2020 be a good year for you!

  2. 17 books is amazing Marina Sofia! I wish I could read so many in a month. I’ve read Le Grand Cahier in English translation – a brilliant book but a brutal one, I’m not sure I could re-read it. I’ll also be trying to reduce the TBR in 2020 – I wish us both luck 😀

  3. Wow, 148 books is a fantastic total well done. I found my own Goodreads stats oddly fascinating, despite missing my challenge total (again) by 2. I definitely need to do a tbr clearout. Well, I am going to make an effort to read a lot more before acquiring more. Hope 2020 is a good reading year for you.

  4. Impressive number of books read and the variety of authors. Can’t wait to read your reviews of Japanese, Malaysian and Indonesian books.
    Happy New Year in books, family, work and blog.

  5. I won’t comment on the stats but I will say that I for one will be interested in your Gerhard Jäger review. Good luck with your TBR clear out, how many unread books would you say you have?

  6. There’s a TBR list group on Goodreads. I’ve gathered momentum over the few years of being with the group.
    Goodreads is great for keeping all the stats but then it can become a bit nagging when you are behind on the number of goals you’ve committed to reading.

  7. Still amazed at the quantity of books you manage to read on top of life’s stuff.
    I loved The Essence of the Thing. I would love to meet Nicola is real life.
    Enjoy your TBR, that’s my goal at the moment too.
    To a happy new reading year.

    1. That is the main reason why I am a member of Goodreads – it is not always the most easy site to navigate, it looks a bit old-fashioned, but it helps refresh my memory…

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