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Reading Summary of 2009 - Mo's Journal
January 6th, 2010
09:17 pm

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Reading Summary of 2009
In general, 2009 was a lousy year for me. I ended it pretty much broke, long term unemployed, and living in a hugely hostile environment, treated like an invader in my own home. On the other hand, it was a good year for reading.

2009 was the first year I tracked all the books I read. Or at least I think I did - I sometimes didn't write them down for weeks at a time and then tried to reconstruct. I think I got them all, or close to.

Before doing this, my general impression was that I read about a book a week on average, with occasional dry spells when I'm not reading and occasional voracious spells when I read a couple books a week. But my guess has always been that I read about 50 books a year. In 2009 I read...

57 books. There are 58 listed in my Library Thing "your books," but one was not completed in 2009. I don't know whether tracking affected how much I read (which would be sort of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Reading). I also don't know how unemployment affected my count. Commuting is my most constant reading time and the first few weeks of unemployment between having my routine disrupted and being so miserable, I barely read at all. However, since then I've been reading a lot, so I don't know what the net effect was.

Of the 56 books, 16 were non-fiction and I think that's probably representative of my reading in general. I'm much more of a fiction grrl.

Some notable and recommended books I read last year:

Searching for Schindler - Keneally's account of the writing of Schindler's List and the making of the movie. I did a write up on the book here.

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer - a really chilling look into what happened to this country under Bush/Cheney.

Far North by Marcel Theroux - a beautiful, lyrical novel of the post-apocalyptic fiction genre. The first I've read where the apocalyptic event was global warming. It's sort of picaresque in scope and often brutal in description but ultimately uplifting in a very genuine way.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving - his best book in many, many years. This one is very much about writing process as well as about the characters and the story it tells and that adds something to it for a reader such as myself who also writes. But even without that, the characters are compelling and believable and the story really grabs you. The ending is a bit weak, but it's a lovely book.

Get Real by Donald Westlake - the last Dortmunder book, published posthumously. This one is about reality tv. I've never seen a reality show and I found it hilarious fun to read - I bet it's even more so if you know reality television, since Westlake was a great researcher as well as writer.

The Jews of the United States by Hasia Diner - Hasia has a talent that not all historians possess. She can do serious history while also being a great story teller. This book reads as page-turningly :-) as any novel, without falling into the trap of inventing dialogue or jumping to unsupported conclusions that make for a better story.

Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan - I read this one at the recommendation of talktooloose, who said that the tone and humor are similar to Wodehouse. He's right - it's delightful in much the same way. And it's set in a world much more familiar to me than Bertie's and Jeeves's - gay/lesbian culture in NYC in the 1980s. LOL fun from start to finish.


There were a lot more worth recommending but those are the ones that come to mind.

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From:davidfcooper
Date:January 8th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
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I haven't read any of these. The only John Irving book I've read is "Widow for One Year" which I enjoyed; the first third of it was turned into the movie The Door in the Floor, which I loved. If the Diner book whet your appetite for American Jewish History try Howard Sachar's comprehensive 1072 pp. A History of the Jews in America.
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From:talktooloose
Date:January 8th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
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Widow for One Year haunts me since I read it last year. I still can't decided if it's a good book or nastily manipulative one.

I loved Door in the Floor unreservedly, though.
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From:talktooloose
Date:January 8th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you enjoyed Blue Heaven. There is a not-as-good sequel. I still quote the line (probably wrongly) about the teen who reportedly loved the words of Stephen Sondheim:

"Surprisingly, studies have shown that there are as many as 10 American teenage males who love the works of Sondheim and are also straight. However, nothing in Aaron's demeanour indicated that he was one of the 10."

Were you able to track down Maureen F. McHugh's "China Mountain Zhang"?

I'm so sorry things are so bloody hard. I hope 2010 brings good tidings and some peace. Happy new year, my friend.
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From:mofic
Date:January 12th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
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I haven't read the McHugh book yet.

Happy New Year to you, too. And thanks for the kind wishes.
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