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Sunday Salon: Reading From Year to Year

December 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon.com
A little late, but I’m finally doing a TSS post again! I can’t pre-schedule them like I can most of my other posts, which is why one hasn’t appeared in ages. That, and my reading slump kept re-appearing, so I didn’t have any books to talk about anyway. Fortunately, that problem finally seems to have disappeared, and just in time for 2011 to end.

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Which brings me to today’s ‘musing’ topic: how important is it to you to finish all of the books you’re reading by the stroke of midnight on December 31st? I tend to like things neat and tidy, so in the past this has been tremendously important: there’s no way I would start a huge book on the 30th, for instance. And I have many fond memories and staying up waiting for the new year while curled up with the last few chapters of a book. The exception would be in 2009: I started Moby Dick in December as part of a read-a-long (hosted by Ti) and thus didn’t finish it until 2010, since I was trying to match my pace to the group’s pace (except, I still finished it too quickly: I just loved it so much I couldn’t make myself stop reading). The world didn’t end, and it doesn’t bother me terribly that Moby Dick is on my ‘read in 2010’ list despite beginning it in 2009, but I’ve noticed with my reading selections this week that I’m automatically ruling out huge books until the new year. Old habits die hard, I guess, and I just like the ‘blank page’ feel of beginning a new year without any books half-begun. Plus, it makes it easier to know where a book ‘counts’ on my lists! Funnily enough, I don’t care at all about carrying over my reading from one month to the next; it’s just January 1st that seems to demand a new start. What do y’all think?

On a somewhat related note, a few days ago I felt a kind of panic thinking that I hadn’t read nearly enough, that I had so many more books I wanted to get to before the year was out, and that there just wasn’t enough time. I imagined writing a TSS post that captured that panic, except that it only last a couple days or so, just enough to kickstart my reading. Now I’m happily devoting as many hours to reading that I can find, but I’m not worried about falling short of half-conscious goals. Thank goodness! So I hope everyone else is enjoying their end-of-the-year reading, rather than trying to stuff in as much as possible.

And now on to the one-sentence book thoughts portion of the post!

Books I Loved and Found Every Page a Delight


Read Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse if…you love fin de siecle literature and wry humour.

Read Death of a Perfect Wife, Death of a Hussy, and/or Death of a Snob by M.C. Beaton if…you’re in need of a funny, comforting mystery series or love it when a main character has chosen a simple, quiet, umambitious life.

Reread Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier if…you’re curious to see how your perceptions of Maxim and the narrator can change as you age.

Reread The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins if…you want to re-visit one of his best novels and get happily re-acquainted with all of the characters, especially Miriam.

Books I Would Have Loved, Except for One or Two Little Quibbles or Books I Really, Really Liked


Read Weird Sister by Kate Pullinger if…you love pyschologically creepy stories or plots driven by everyday evil.

Read Maizon at Blue Hill by Jacqueline Woodson if…you love Woodson’s wonderful ability to create believable characters or just fiction set at boarding school and don’t mind a very short book.

Books I Definitely Liked, Although They Didn’t Blow Me Away or Books that had Great Points Counterbalanced by Not-Great Ones


Read The Dead Path by Stephen Irwin if…you’re in the mood for a horror book and can overlook a narrative voice that’s a bit off in favour of a strong plot.

Read The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff if…you want a classic ghost story (Ouija boards! students by themselves in an old dorm!) and don’t mind stereotypical characters and a kind of odd backstory to the ghost.

Read The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff if…you love haunted house books with some truly creepy scenes and aren’t concerned by characterisation that’s a bit flimsy and a plot that takes awhile to get going.

Books That Aren’t For Me but I Could Still See Some Good Points


Read The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, trans. by Betty Radice if…you have absolutely no expectation of romantic love letters but are instead curious about aspects of daily life for medieval monks and nuns.

Format Explanation: I’ve arranged my one-sentence thoughts into rough groups by how much I loved/didn’t love the book. You’ll notice that there are five groups, presented in descending order from most to least loved; remember that these represent a judgement of my reading experience, rather than the actual book (for a bit more detail, see my books read page). The first three (loved through liked) are all categories I would definitely recommend, more or less enthusiastically; the final two (didn’t really like and wish I’d abandoned), I’d (usually) still recommend but to those with different tastes than myself. I hope the new structure is helpful for anyone who wasn’t always sure how I felt about a title based on my one-sentence recommendation! :)

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2011 12:49 pm

    Most of the books you found every page a delight were old except for M. C. Beaton. Since you don’t reply to comments, I’m going to take that as you saying her books are equal to the classics and give them a try. And I really do need to get around to reading The Women in White. I haven’t read any Wilkie Collins yet. This year was my year for discovering Anthony Trollope. I absolutely loved The Way We Live Now.

    • December 18, 2011 1:20 pm

      I do reply to comments that include questions. :)

      As I say on my page, my rankings aren’t of the books themselves but of my experience reading them. I wouldn’t say the Hamish series is ‘equal’ to Woman in White, but I loved them both for different reasons. Does that make sense?

  2. December 18, 2011 1:36 pm

    I didn’t make it through The Woman in White this year. I got frustrated and gave up about 150 pages in. I have it on my list to try again next year though. The Sokoloff books both look good and with my love of ghost stories may be making in on to the list.

  3. December 18, 2011 2:03 pm

    I don’t try to make a point of finishing whatever I’m reading on Dec. 31, although the fact that I want to devote all of January to international crime novels means I won’t start anything between now and then that I don’t think I’ll have time to finish. If I finish something in the last few days of December, I’ll probably start the crime novels a day or two early. But part of me does like the idea of having a tidy theme month.

    I did make it a goal to read all the ARCs I had (mostly ones I picked up at BEA) by the end of the year, and It looks like I’ll do that, with the exception of a couple of crime novels I’m saving for January. At this point, I only have three left! The fact that several of the books I had weren’t worth finishing has helped me get through the stack more quickly :)

  4. December 18, 2011 2:09 pm

    I don’t know if I think about starting with a clean slate, but I’m definitely not tackling any chunksters for the end of the year, in particular 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I’m saving that one for the new year. Plus I still have to purchase it…probably after Christmas.

  5. December 18, 2011 2:44 pm

    I’ve toyed with the clean slate approach, but not sure how it’s going to play out this year. I do want to try to review all the books I haven’t yet before the year is ended. I don’t know if that will work out .. .

  6. Jenni permalink
    December 18, 2011 2:58 pm

    And I thought I was a perfectionist when it comes to books and reading… ;) But the part about having fond memories of staying up waiting for the new year while reading the last few chapters of a book sounds really tempting. Maybe I’ll try that this year.

  7. December 18, 2011 3:03 pm

    I not only feel the need to finish books before January 1st I expect to have all of my REVIEWS up and posted before the strike of midnight. Don’t even ask me how this can possibly happen. But I’m trying. This year. LOL, it might mean on 31st I post multiple reviews. We shall see. It’s just an ocd tick.

  8. December 18, 2011 7:15 pm

    I don’t usually bother about finishing books by the end of the year, although this year will be the exception: 2011 hasn’t been a great reading year and I’m hoping that starting the new year with a “clean slate” will help me kick-start a much better 2012. And it doesn’t hurt that my library books are all due back before the end of the year! If I get around to starting a reread (hopefully!) before the end of the year, I’ll that carry over, however.

  9. December 18, 2011 7:25 pm

    You’re right, that blank page feeling is a nice one once a year. I like it but I don’t stress too much if I have end-of-year loose ends, if that makes sense. This year I’m still suffering from Ye Olde Epic Reading Slump, so I don’t reckon it’ll be that much of an issue. :-P Here’s hoping for a reboot in 2012.

  10. December 18, 2011 7:26 pm

    I’m kinda jealous that you took the time to reread Rebecca….I feel like I’ve been meaning to due that for months :) I’ve missed these posts so I’m glad that you shared about the books you’ve been reading lately!

  11. Ruthiella permalink
    December 18, 2011 9:12 pm

    I usually have a few books going at one time and I don’t feel the need to have them all read by the stroke of midnight on January 1st. Generally, I count the book as “read” in the year I finished it, unless the majority was read in the previous year.

    I recently read Lady Audley’s Secret and it really gave me a hankering to re-read The Woman in White – one of my favorite books of all time.

  12. December 18, 2011 10:40 pm

    I’m glad you liked the Alexandra Sokoloff books enough that they made your definite like list! I think I prefer the second one to the first one. I haven’t read The Moonstone in years, though I do know that I enjoyed it very much when I did read it. I’ve also read Rebecca, many years ago.

    I try to read and finish books by New Year’s, though often I don’t manage it. If more than a third, say, of the book remains to be read at the stroke of midnight, then I consider that the book is read for the new year list. As you say, reading is for pleasure, and sometimes I can’t wait for the new year to begin to start reading my Christmas books! I think Hypothermia was like that for me last year, I love Arnaldur Indridason and started it before New Year’s, and finished it New Year’s Day. There is also something very satisfying about reading a book on New Year’s Day, no matter when it was started, I find.

  13. December 18, 2011 10:56 pm

    I don’t care so much finishing reading old books before the new year begins but I do care about reviewing old books before then! That’s definitely going to keep me busy for the next two weeks.

    Psmith is my favourite Wodehouse creation and Psmith in the City is my favourite Wodehouse book so I’m delighted to see you’re also enthusiastic about it!

  14. December 19, 2011 12:17 am

    Oh, the New Year has to be a new start – not only do I want everything read, I also want everything reviewed…

  15. December 19, 2011 7:26 am

    You went on a proper horror rip didn’t you?

  16. December 19, 2011 10:10 am

    I’ve been having that panicked urge to finish EVERYTHING (or at least a lot more) by the end of the year. However, with a toddler in the house, it’s just not realistic!!! I’ll have to settle with a low numbers reading year but GREAT quality. Seriously, one of the best ever.

    Thanks for a great bunch of mini-reviews. I see some horror goodness I want to read!

  17. December 19, 2011 10:48 am

    I am glad that you mostly enjoyed Weird Sister! Do you think it deserves to be on the list I made for Debi? Her other books are all entirely different from that one. There are a couple I still haven’t read yet, though.

  18. December 19, 2011 1:34 pm

    I’ve got Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton sitting on my TBR shelf, staring at me. Sounds like it might be a good idea to give it a go.

  19. December 19, 2011 2:02 pm

    I don’t understand why the end-of-the-year thing is such a big deal when, as you say, the individual months don’t bother me, but I really would like to have my logs magically transition from year-to-year without an overlap in note-taking/reading. First step in this would involve NOT having more than a dozen books on the go in an overlapping fashion, I know. ::sigh::

  20. December 19, 2011 2:28 pm

    A few days ago I finished my then current read and looked at my bookshelf thinking, it’s mid December and all I have left that interests me right now are tomes. As such I’ve not picked up a book since then. Since I’ve kept a list of books read I’ve felt the need to finish books by 31st December, mostly because otherwise I’d have to come up with another organisation system. Last year I ignored my family while I hastily completed a book, so this time I’m going to select one or two more books and read them quickly!

  21. December 19, 2011 7:25 pm

    It has never even occurred to me to worry about whether I’d finished all my books by the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Huh. People’s reading habits are interesting.

    I agree about Psmith in the City! I love Psmith better than Jeeves.

  22. December 21, 2011 12:13 pm

    I did not read as much as I would have liked this year. But I’ve decided to let it go. I’m reading short stories till the end of the year. So no chance of starting a book and not finishing it by the 31st. All the best.

  23. December 21, 2011 8:03 pm

    I tend to like finishing books before the year turns as well and avoid the bigger ones. Though, I tend to do that a lot, avoid the big ones that is :) Also, I know what you mean about the stress of not having read enough!

  24. December 22, 2011 10:42 am

    I set myself a challenge to read 100 books in 2011 and, being a little up against it, am only reading short quick books at the moment. So I quite specifically plan to start reading a big giant book (Murakami’s IQ84) on 30th (or whenever I hit my target). And I’m looking forward to it!

  25. December 22, 2011 12:38 pm

    I’ve never thought about finishing all of my books before the stroke of midnight but now that you mention it, it would be nice to start the new year with a clean slate of reading. Also wanted to comment on your thoughts on Rebecca. I have read the book several times in the last 30 years and I can say in my case that my viewpoints on Maxim and the narrator have changed quite a bit as I have aged!

  26. December 24, 2011 1:32 am

    It’s also really important to me to finish all my books by the end of the year (I say by the time I go to bed on the 31st/1st rather than the stroke of midnight). I’m reading East of Eden right now (600 pages). The downside is that all the other books I intended to read got pushed aside. But I don’t mind…Steinbeck is worth the trade off! :)

    I really, really need to read Daphne du Maurier once and for all. I can’t believe I haven’t yet!

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