I love to take some time in December or January to look back and think about the past 12 months. That includes the books I've read over the past year. 2010 was a particularly good year for me, readingwise. I'm not thinking of numbers (although I did read over 90 books this year! which may be a record for me) but in terms of quality and enjoyment.
For some reason, I really made an effort to expand the type of books I read this year; instead of mostly escapist mystery novels, I read lots more fiction (contemporary & classic), some memoirs, nonfiction, even some science fiction/fantasy stuff....and I found that reading a wider variety made me enjoy everything more. Note to self: don't get stuck in a rut.
I also made an attempt to read some of the books that I'd been meaning to read for a while but never did, for no apparent reason. Again, I found this very satisfying. The vast majority of them were books I really enjoyed -- books like My Antonia, Cold Comfort Farm, Wolf Hall, and Fahrenheit 451, to name a few. (Interestingly, a few that I thought I'd enjoy -- The Time Traveller's Wife, and The Glass Castle come to mind -- left me cold. You never know.) Note to self: stop procrastinating.
I also learned to keep an open mind about books that I didn't think I'd like. The Hunger Games trilogy comes to mind; I really didn't find the premise of the books appealing, but once I started them, I raced through them and heartily enjoyed them. Ditto for The Graveyard Book and Olive Kitteridge. Note to self: don't judge a book by its cover.
One development which I enjoyed a great deal was bookswapping with Elvis, my thirteen-year-old. When his English class read The Outsiders, I decided to read it myself on a whim. It was excellent, and it was fun to have that point of commonality with my kid. He read The Graveyard Book and highly recommended it, and I loved it, so when he assured me that The Hunger Games wasn't too bloodthirsty for me, I followed his advice and, again, really enjoyed it. Note to self: the kid's got good taste in books.
Having had such a good book year, and being the kind of person who thinks too much, I started wondering what influenced me to pick this crop of books to read, and to finish and enjoy so many of them. I got a Kindle for Christmas last year, and perhaps the novelty of reading books on it gave my reading a kickstart; I also believe that being part of the Amazon Vine program (where Amazon sends you free advance reader's copies in exchange for doing reviews of the book on its site) gave me the luxury of picking books that I might not have purchased for myself (i.e., books by authors I wasn't familiar with, or with topics/plots I wasn't sure I'd get into). Finally, I think that belonging to Goodreads.com helped. It provided lots of suggestions for books from friends, and keeping public track of what I was reading encouraged me to stick with books and finish them (unless I absolutely loathed them). Who knows: maybe knowing that other people would see what I read also provided a subconscious boost to expand my reading choices.
We're well into January now, and I'm keeping the lessons I learned last year in mind as I pick books to dive into. Just this week, in fact, I read a young adult novel that my kid read and liked, on his recommendation -- and once again, I heartily enjoyed it.
Here's to another year of good reading. I'll keep doing my monthly book reports and I hope you'll keep chiming in with your opinions, suggestions and recommendations.