Looking back at 2012 and contemplating 2013

Greetings to all readers and a happy new year! This is the point where it is natural to reflect on the year past and think about the year ahead.

In June 2012, I moved to a new apartment and for whatever reason, this coincided with a drop in my posts to this blog. I thought the opposite would be true. With my move, my commute was considerably shorter and also, I had no roommates. I had more free time. I thought I would post more but instead I posted less. I was still reading and would even mentally outline reviews in my head, but when it came down to it, I balked at the actual writing of them. It usually takes me several hours to write a review and that began seeming like ‘work’ to do, and not much like fun.

It has crossed my mind to stop blogging, but I still want to give it a go, and the beginning of a new calendar year still is enough sometimes to rejuvenate my interest in dormant projects. I want to change-up how I review books in some way that makes it more likely for me to post frequently, and the only idea so far is quite simple: write shorter reviews. This will be hard. When I was on my middle school newspaper staff, my contributions to the advice column answers were easy to pick out for how much longer they were than the others. I realize that it’s not every bloggers’ goal to write shorter reviews, and I do like reading the long reviews from other blogs, but if you have tips on writing shorter reviews, I’d be glad to hear them.

With that said, there are a number of books I read in 2012 that I never reviewed. I may still try to review some of them, but in case you are curious, here is a list of the unreviewed books I read in 2012: The Dam Committee by Earl Smith, Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne, The Shunning by Beverly Lewis, Ox Travels: Meetings with Remarkable Travel Writers, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death by Deborah Blum, Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis, Shoot to Thrill by P.J. Tracy, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Including re-reads, I read about 46 books this year. It’s definitely less books read than the past couple of years, but includes some chunksters.

I read some great books this year, but there are four that especially stand out:

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Tiina Nunnally

– This was definitely a transporting reading experience, thanks to Andersen’s storytelling gifts and Nunnally’s accomplished translation.

Here is Your War by Ernie Pyle

– An account of American troops in North Africa during World War II, written by the legendary war correspondent, Ernie Pyle.

Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne

Several years ago, Newsweek included this book in its list of “50 books for our times.” I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. I know many people – family and friends – for whom belief in the literal interpretation of the biblical creation account is considered essential to Christian faith.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A classic novel that depicts the coming-of-age of Francie Nolan in early 20th century Brooklyn. The poignancy of this story is unforced, and the sense of place is palpable.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I hope to be catching up on other blogs’ end-of-year lists but feel free to describe your favorite reads from 2012 in the comments or include a link to your post on that subject.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Looking back at 2012 and contemplating 2013

  1. Eva

    I’m naturally verbose & my health has made me write shorter posts, so here’s my advice:

    Keep on eye on your word count. WP keeps a running tally & since I tend to aim for around 300 words, if I’m at 150 and nowhere near halfway done I know I’m in trouble.

    I usually do 2 paragraphs with a loose structure. The first is a general overview of my reactions to the book. The second looks at the most important thing for me about the book, usually something more specific.

    Be brutal. Accept you can’t possibly talk about everything you’d like to talk about and just get over it. Even a 2,000 word post will leave stuff out, it’s the nature of things. This took me months & sometimes I still backslide. 😉

    Figure out a way to keep it fun. For instance, I love adding the suggested reads at the end of my shorter posts.

    Hope that helped!

    I’m a big fan of Nunnally, and having just read a travel book The Palace of the Snow Queen I want to revisist Hans Christian Anderson, so I hope my library has her translation!

    • Thanks very much for the tips Eva! I know I will probably keep the excerpts from others’ reviews – I like creating blurbs. I hope you do find Nunnally’s translation of Anderson. It is spectacular.

  2. I haven’t read any of your favourites, but A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has been on my wishlist for far too long. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it as much as you did when I eventually get around to trying it. Have a wonderful 2013!

    • I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I was a little worried at first because the prose seemed poised to slip into preciousness but as the story went on, I discovered a real grit to it all.

  3. One unasked for piece of advice: Give yourself a pass and don’t go back and review books from last year. It will just increase the chore feeling. Just move onto 2013. Unless of course you have something you really want to say about the books from 2012. I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The thing that surprised me most about it is how enjoyable it is. I think the fact that it is a “classic” makes people shy away from it.

    • Yeah, I had been considering not reviewing them at all, and it’s probably good advice because they are a bit daunting. I think I will choose the in-between option and just mini-review them in one post and be done. Glad you are also a fellow fan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

  4. I love that you called some of the books you read “chunksters” – lol!

  5. Writing shorter reviews, well, mini-reviews, was the only way I stayed mostly caught up. I love having a format for books I don’t have a ton to say about that leaves me more time to write about the books I do have thoughts on.

  6. I kinda like long and long-ish reviews, even though I sometimes only read the first and last paragraphs if I don’t recognize the book (because I’m spoiler-phobic), because I like getting into the details (and watching another reader do that too), but I don`t mind reading shorter ones either.

    But, if you like the blurbing, maybe that’s the answer, if that`s the funnest part for you? Maybe that would make it feel more like a conversation when you start with that idea, and you might find the stream of inward chatter loosens in a direction you`re not expecting. I hope you have fun with your experimenting and that, in the meantime, you’re still enjoying your reading, even if you’re not always chatting about it here!

    • That is a great idea! I usually try to not read others’ reviews before writing my own, but maybe if I did and I found some way to kind of dialogue with what others are saying, that would help stoke my review-writing.

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