Monthly Summary and Reading Plans for Start of 2022

You can see that December included holidays, a mood of hibernation and about 10 days without the children, because I read an inordinate amount of books and saw many films as well. I also managed to do some translating (about 28000 words, which brings me to just over a third of the way through the novel I’m working on). It was all rather cosy, but I hope to get more physically active in the New Year, as well as work on my own writing (no submissions at all this month).

Reading

18 books (although one was a DNF), of which:

  • 8 were for the Russians in the Snow theme of the month. I particularly enjoyed a return to the classics, such as Gogol and Turgenev, but I also enjoyed discovering new authors such as Victor Pelevin and Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. I’ve failed to review the Bulgakov short stories or the memoirs about Marina Tsvetaeva by her daughter. And who would have thought I’d also find a retro-detective crime series set in St Petersburg and written by a Russian?
  • Two books were for the Virtual Crime Fiction Book Club: Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, which I found rather harsh on the emotions, and John Banville’s Snow, which was not as cosy as I expected and just a tad overwritten.
  • There were several other books with a rather grim subject matter: In the Dream House (about an abusive lesbian relationship), Godspeed (about losing your youthful dreams and wasting your life chasing the impossible), mothers and sons and coping with lockdown in The Fell, and A Man (trying to disappear from your old life and forge a new identity). With the exception of the last of these, which felt rather stiff and pedestrian in its prose (not sure if that is the author himself or the translation), they were all very well written, which made the dark subject matter worth reading about
  • I tried to counterbalance this with lighter, escapist reading, such as Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee, The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis, The Pact by Sharon Bolton and The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden.

Overall, I read 170 books this year, which is perhaps understandable since I had nowhere much to go and a couple of weeks without the children. However, it’s not even in the Top 3 of my years of reading (since I started keeping track of the books on Goodreads in 2013). Top place goes to 2014 (189 books), followed by 2015 (179) and 2016 (175). Unsurprising, perhaps, since those were the three years of marriage breakdown and lots of anxiety about the future, so I was looking for escape in books. This year also had its fair share of escapist reading, but felt much more grounded in good literature, in books that I truly enjoyed or authors I wanted to explore.

Reviewing, Blogging, Writing

Needless to say, with so much reading, I was unable to keep up with the reviewing, especially since I went a little wild with no less than six different categories for Best of the Year summaries: Modern Classics, Rereading, New Releases, Newly Discovered Authors, Deep Dives into Favourite Authors, and Page Turners.

Nevertheless, I managed an astounding 180 blog posts this year, writing nearly 150,000 words in the process. As a friend of mine says: ‘Why do you waste so much time crafting blog posts instead of working on your novel?’ I suppose it’s the instant gratification of receiving likes and comments. That is partly the reason why I submitted various shorter pieces (poetry and flash fiction) – you win a few, you lose a lot, but at least you get feedback a bit more quickly than when you work on a novel in isolation for years and years. In February 2022 I will be coming up to ten years of blogging and maybe it’s time I thought more carefully about what I want to achieve with it and if it’s worth continuing (at this pace).

I submitted about 40-45 times this year, got 24 rejections and 8 acceptances, but I got very discouraged when my novel didn’t get long or shortlisted at any of the various competitions I entered, so stopped working on it for several months. I hope to come back to it in 2022 – and make it a crunch year. Either I complete the novel to my satisfaction and start submitting it to agents, or else I ditch it and get started on something else.

I’m also working on another translation from Romanian and find that it helps my own writing, because I keep trying to figure out sentence structures and how to make them sound more natural in English. Plus I keep wanting to edit other people’s work, as if I could do any better! 😉

Films

I can’t even begin to review all the films I watched this month – no less than 19 (and there might be 1-2 more before New Year). Some of them were rewatches, typical of the Christmas holidays, like My Fair Lady, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, L’Avventura and Desperately Seeking Susan. Others were family films to watch with the boys – a very few Christmassy themed, like Tokyo Godfathers or Klaus, but mostly just films that have become classics, such as Fargo or The Usual Suspects. I also had fun watching Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse or Vivo or Inside Out or Tick Tick… Boom! (I was not a huge fan of the music of Rent, but I liked what Rent set out to show, and the film itself about the constantly thwarted creative artist or whether art serves any purpose nowadays rang a lot of bells, of course!)

The two that surprised me most were:

1) West Side Story, the new version, which I had initially dismissed as an unnecessary remake and probably doomed to failure. However, I really liked the way it stuck to some of the most loved aspects of the original yet also brought in some new elements quite successfully.

2) Winter Nomads – a documentary about shepherds who practice transhumance over the winter months, when the fields lie fallow, in the Valais and Vaud region of Switzerland.

Reading Plans

I will continue my eclectic mix of approximate planning, yet leaving plenty of room for serendipity. I also plan to focus a lot more on what I currently have on my bookshelves, as I prepare to move abroad (and have a thorough clearout of my books) in a couple of years.

January will be dedicated largely to Japanese literature, as usual. I have already started reading in preparation for that (A Man by Keiichiro Hirano) and it will be a mix of old and new, perhaps a reread or two: Tanizaki Junichiro, Endo Shusaku, Nakagami Kenji, Yosano Akiko, Miura Shion, Murakami Haruki and Natsume Soseki.

February I am thinking of going to the southern hemisphere and reading mostly Australian literature (or NZ or Indonesia if I have anything from there). The list of authors is still to be determined, but at first glance I see I have one unread Shirley Hazzard there, plus Elizabeth Harrower, Romy Ash, Miles Franklin and Frank Moorhouse. It’s a part of the world about which I know very little, so it’s bound to be a surprise.

In March I will explore Italian literature – although I am learning Italian and love the country, language and culture very much indeed, I haven’t read all that much Italian literature. I have built up a small collection of modern classics and contemporary literature that I can’t wait to try: Massimo Cuomo, Claudia Durastanti, Andrea Bajani and Alberto Prunetti, as well as better-known ones such as Italo Svevo, Natalia Ginzburg, Cesare Pavese and Curzio Malaparte.

Finally, I want to read more poetry and weave it throughout everything else I do. Random opening of volumes of poetry, using favourite poets to ‘fortune-tell’ what my day or week might be like, close reading of an unfamiliar poem and discovering new poets: I want it all.

18 thoughts on “Monthly Summary and Reading Plans for Start of 2022”

  1. Very interesting Marina. Your dedication to reading and writing is amazing and something I share. I think I have really found my feet with blogging this year for AE. I would recommend My Brilliant Career and My Career Goes Bung for your Australian books slot next year. I found them liberating. Happy New Year!

    1. It has been lovely getting to know you better this year, Peter, and thank you for the Australian recommendations. I should add, however, that Villa Fiorita was beautifully written, but ultimately quite sad, so not as escapist as I had hoped.

  2. I’m in awe at how much you achieve while holding down a full-time job and parental duties! As for what you read this year, I enjoyed Godspeed but Butler still hasn’t matched Shotgun Lovesongs for me.

    1. This was my first Butler book, but I certainly want to read more by him. I saw him in virtual conversation with Willy Vlautin and they both struck me as incredibly thoughtful, empathetic people.

  3. I’m in awe of the number of books you’ve read, and of your plans too. I have no plans. Serendipity, and the recommendations of so many great book bloggers guide my choices!

  4. You’ve been so productive, Marina Sofia! And of all of the books you’ve read, only 1 DNF? I’m happy for you. I thought Snow turned out to be darker than I’d imagined, too, and I’ll be interested in what everyone says about it at our book club meeting. And I like your reading plans for the coming quarter I’m especially looking forward to what you think of your tour of Oceania.

  5. Sorry to have missed you at the Crime Book Club. I read the book, which I thought quite brilliat, but forgot the club. I did review it, but lost the draft in a computer crash! I might just try again in the New Year.

  6. My goodness, you have read a lot, and written so much. Congratulations. I am interested in what you say about blogging, I feel like I am writing slightly fewer posts and finding it a slog, I have been blogging a long time, so perhaps I am just jaded. I am impressed by your plans too, I really haven’t made any definite reading plans for 2022. I shall probably continue to be guided by my mood, though I do enjoy joining in reading events.

    1. I do occasionally wonder if it is worth the vast amounts of time that I spend on reviewing, to only have a few people reading and commenting (and it’s usually the same group of people – whom I love and appreciate). I enjoy it, but maybe it’s just because I miss discussing books with people in real life.

      1. Impressive stats! The one that caught my eye was all those submissions. I really struggle with that, and I don’t submit my work nearly enough. Then I feel discouraged that I’m not getting enough published… I’ll take some inspiration from you into the New Year.

        Like you, I’ve often struggled with the balance between writing and blogging over the years (plus all the other things I need to and want to do in life). I think your friend’s question implies that if you weren’t blogging, you’d pour all of that time and energy into working on your novel, which is probably not true. I’ve found that blogging supports my writing by keeping me in touch with the world of books and giving me an outlet for my thoughts on books I’ve read and on life in general. It’s also a great way to connect with like-minded people around the world.

        I blog much less frequently than you (only 26 posts this year), but it’s something I value, so I’ve kept doing it for almost 15 years now. I don’t think it’s ever really “worth” it in terms of tangible outcomes or rewards, but those benefits I mentioned are enough for me. If writing a new post feels like a chore (or if your writing time is really suffering), then it’s probably time to stop or cut back, but otherwise I’d say keep it going! Happy New Year!!

        1. Very good point, Andrew. I would almost certainly not be spending all my time writing, because I would be translating and working on the publishing side of things. I do occasionally feel that perhaps I have taken on too much, when my health starts suffering, like it did in November, but usually it is a welcome respite from the boring day job.

  7. Planning plus serendipity sounds a good idea Marina Sofia, I will follow your example! I’ll be really interested to read your Italian posts, I want to read more Italian literature.

  8. Always impressed by how widely you range in your reading, being overly insular myself! Glad to hear you’re going to get back to your novel next year – I’ve dusted off the empty space on my TBR shelf that I’ve reserved for it… 😀

  9. This is one of the times when I wonder whether I should read Marina *and* Sofia instead of Marina Sofia. I can’t see any other explanation as to how you manage to do so much! But I do hope you will continue to do it – so long as it is sustainable for you.

    1. I was feeling completely exhausted by the end of the year, although maybe catching Covid and a lot of other colds and flus had something to do with it too. And of course the day job makes me feel at times that it is unsustainable, but otherwise I love nothing more than to talk about bookish things.

  10. I love your phrase ‘approximate planning, yet leaving plenty of room for serendipity’ – something I try to apply to my own reading too, although I keep doing too much planning for myself. (Re-reading Sophie’s World for my Nordic month in Jan has been a slog over Christmas!)

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