2013 book round-up & 2014 reading goals

Inspired by my amazing friend Lachlan, i kept a log of my reading last year. this has been something i’ve been aiming to do since i was a child, and have consistently failed at.  the fact i managed to do it, as much as it sounds like a very small personal achievement, is actually a significant change for me, and is indicative of a lot of things that i’ve been working on for the last few years.  there was a lot of hard work for awhile – mostly 2011 and early 2012 – and for the last few years, i’ve been reaping the benefits of really working hard to take better control of my life, and to seriously take responsibility for myself and my actions.

it might seems silly that this manifests in the fact i managed to keep a list of my reading for a year, but to me, it’s probably the most sensible and best result, given my passion for books.

on saying my passion: the first note is that i read 20 novels this year. this list is just about fiction – i tend towards dipping in and out of the non-fiction i read, which is mostly either Baudrillard, feminist texts, gardening books, or archival theory at the moment.  because i try and focus my blog closely, i don’t really talk about the feminist thoughts i have on here, mostly because i try and keep my blog quiet, and garden focussed – sorry, i am sure you are all desperate for my insight on contemporary feminist discourse – and my post-structuralist dreams are altogether recreational and quite dull! i have plans for an archive/information management blog, but i first want to see where this year takes me for a bit – i’ve got a work trip to Boston early in March, which is taking a lot of reading and prep, so it could be either a useful tool for reflection, or a terrible tool for procrastination.

SO: to the books.

Burmese Days George Orwell 1/13/2013
Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour book shop Robin Sloan 1/18/2013
the tree of man patrick white 2/17/2013
Forecast: Turbulence Janette Turner Hospital 2/23/2013
An Empty Room Mu Xin 2/23/2013
Runaway Alice Munro 3/8/2013
The Sheltering Sky Paul Bowles 3/31/2013
We are not the same anymore Chris Sommerville 4/7/2013
Steeplechase Krissy Kneen 4/14/2013
the year of living dangerously Christopher Koch 5/24/2013
Highways to a war Christopher Koch 5/27/2013
the body artist Don Delillo 6/13/2013
floundering Romy Ash 6/22/2013
a wrong turn at the office of unmade lists Jane Rawson 6/25/2013
mateship with birds Carrie Tiffany 6/30/2013
questions of travel Michelle de Krester 10/6/2013
something i’ve been meaning to tell you Alice Munro 10/30/2013
the love of a good woman Alice Munro 11/2/2013
beyond binary ed. brit mandelo 11/3/2013
voss patrick white 12/30/2013

apologies for the terrible formatting. you get the idea.

my reading was pretty quiet when we moved – it was exhausting, and spare time was for NAPS, and nothing else.  then, the habit was lost for a little bit.

My highlights were easily The Tree of Man, and Voss.  i feel baffled by the resistance to Patrick White – he is bold and brave and warm and huge, and his words are tremendous creatures.  Voss was more of an effort – i started it in August, and just finished it by the end of the year, but the Tree of Man was an effortless piece of beauty.

The Alice Munro was all powerful stuff, and I am glad i finally started reading her work.  my main excitement now is that she has a significant back catalogue to work through – which is tempered with the sadness that it will one day all be finished.  this is something i only rarely feel overwhelmed by – Richard Yates is probably the last writer that filled me with that feeling as i hungrily dug my way through everything he wrote, feeling empty and broken when it ended.

the two Christopher Koch novels were very important to me, as i had the privilege of spending some time with him through my work.  he was an incredible man, and Australia, and the world, is a poorer place for his passing.  I also loved them, and they provoked a lot of thought in relation to the nature of overseas journalism and colonialism.  his art is story-telling, and his narrative is powerful and heady.  they are page turners, but deeply literary ones.  the context of having read Burmese Days earlier in the year was another factor in deepening my appreciation for his work, as there was just an undercurrent between the two writers – a dialogue between their work, that really touched me.

I read some really fun stuff – Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, and Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, that left me delighted and smiling wide.  Mateship with Birds was a similar feeling, only less bold, and more intimate.

i read some disappointing stuff  – The Sheltering Sky captured me as i read it, and left me dusty after, and i was underwhelmed by The Body Artist – Delillo was one of my 2012 addictions, so i was let down by this one. Questions of Travel was readable, and very very well written, but something about it, that i cannot define, put me off.

Mu Xin’s & Janette Turner Hospital’s short story books are linked in my mind, because i read them over a day when i was at the coast.  very different – hugely so, in fact, but they were deeply satisfying works, and i am really heartened to find a new writer to discover more of in Xin.

i did a binge on Australian works this year – i enjoyed all of the other ones listed above, but don’t have any insightful commentary to add, that far more erudite writers have contributed out there.  My gender balance was 50-50, which i am pleased with.

this year i have some reading goals.  yeah, sounds a bit nutty, but i like to have focus, and i don’t mind if i fail to meet them. they are:

Independent People – Halldor Laxness. i’ve been looking forward to reading this for a long time, but it’s big. and a lot of work. work i am excited about though! and i know a few people who are going to be excited about me reading it too!

Life: A User’s Manual – Georges Perec.  i started reading this years, and years, and years ago, and got stuck halfway through.  not through a lack of pleasure – just the sluggishness that happens sometimes.

The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass. similar to Life, i started this in 2011, and never finished it. i did recently get a new translation which is supposed to be better though? it was simply a ‘life got in the way’ distraction, because it is easily one of the most incredible things i’ve ever read, despite not finishing it.

Alice Munro. just, more of her work.  MUCH more.

at least ‘cannon’ australian women writer. i was thinking maybe Henry Handel Richardson, or Miles Franklin? Maybe Elizabeth Jolley?  there are a lot to pick from.

Australian ‘classics’ in general. This year, i got two done – Christopher Koch & Patrick White.  the previous point will help with this goal, but i want to pick out a few more writers and make sure to at least try a few books. i have a copy of an anthology by Meanjin (seriously, everyone who reads this, you should subscribe. do it now).  it had the most astonishing collection of writers, and opened me up to a lot of possibilities.

more international writing. i read a lot of contemporary australian novels last year, which was excellent, due to my bias towards international literature in the past.  but this year, i’d like to get back to a bit more broadness, while i focus on australian classics.  i would like to get through a few more USA Great Novels and Novelists, and some more Icelandic books, as i’m planning a trip there in the next 18 months.  I’d also like to read a few more Mu Xin novels if i can find translations – there’s been talk of spending next christmas in Shanghai (FINGERS CROSSED!) so some Chinese novelists are in order too.

the Miles Franklin, Stella, (Aust) Prime Minister’s, and Pulitzer winners.  the three australian awards for an idea of what’s happening in contemporary australian literature, and the Pulitzer because it’s great.  i hate, hate, hate Booker winners as a rule.

this year’s nobel winner (if it’s not Murakami).  at least two previous years’s winners which i have not already completed a novel by. The Tin Drum covers one, but i’ve previously read some Laxness, ruling Independent People out.  my dollar is once again on Gerald Murnane or Don Delillo for this year.  after my successful inclusion of Alice Munro, i am optimistic. or Les Murray! oh Les, what a dreamboat. he’s the best.

finish at least one Gerald Murnane novel.  he intoxicates, and terrifies me, and takes a lot of strength for me to get through, and it is always worth it.

these goals are definitely not something i’m wanting to self flagellate over – just things i’d like to work towards, and tick off.  I’d also really like to work harder at blogging about my reading as i go.

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About elizabeth

various things.
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6 Responses to 2013 book round-up & 2014 reading goals

  1. Vivzilla says:

    My goal is reading more books and more widely. I was pretty shocked with myself when I finally crunched the numbers on my goodreads and how white and male it actually was.

    And there is always the “read all the books I own” resolution which I make and fail.

    • veritas says:

      i had the exact same realisation with my own reading – it was so overwhelmingly male for a long time. due to my love affair with Japanese novels, it would be a bit broader, but still nowhere near as broad as it should be.

      read all the books i own… oh sigh. the ultimate impossible dream….

      • Vivzilla says:

        Although I wonder if the bulk of Enid Blyton/sweet valley/babysitters club books from childhood even out the gender ratios. Besides Morris glietzman and Paul Jennings I don’t even know if I read any dudes before I moved to Serious Grown Up Books.

        (Although Enid does double down on other problematic things so maybe it cancels out)

    • veritas says:

      i view Enid as her own unique critter that was a product of her times. plus, SCHOOL STORIES> MIDNIGHT FEASTS.

      the babysitters club is also one of my favourite things. definitely counts. (responding here, because i can’t reply to the last message in the thread. dunno why).

  2. Pingback: Ten bashful mermaids | Sonja Barfoed

  3. Pingback: Watched and read list of 2014 | Sonja Barfoed

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