At the beginning of every new year, I look at my stack of as-yet-to-read books and think, “Man, that 52 books in 52 weeks will be a breeze this year.” And usually, it is. I’m an avid reader. I hate going to bed without reading anything. So 52 books in 52 weeks is generally no problem.
Alas, I fell well short of my goal this year. According to my count, I only managed 38. What a sad little number.
In my defense, this was the year I took on all five of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. With nearly all five books topping 1000 pages or more, I maintain that they should count for at least two or, in a couple of cases, three books apiece. Still, even by that count, I’d still be short by about half a dozen or so books.
I used to include graphic novels in my book count, once upon a time. But for the past couple of years, my interest in manga has dropped dramatically. I think I only read four manga this past year. In fact, I think my reading of American-produced graphic novels heavily outweighed the Japanese manga, what with finally getting all of Buffy season 8, Angel season 6 and a handful of Firefly graphic novels. I even borrowed a New Teen Titans book from my brother a couple of months ago. But I did not add them to my yearly count. (If I had, I would have blown past the 52-book mark.)
So I guess I can take comfort in the fact that I’m not reading less, I’m just reading a lot of non-traditional books. The time I spent reading graphic novels and mega-books was time I couldn’t spend reading other books. In other words, I’m placing all the blame on George R. R. Martin. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
2011 was the year of undiscovered series — the aforementioned A Song of Ice and Fire as well as two young adult dystopian series. I’ve no idea why I had never gotten into any of these (well, Martin’s books looked really daunting when I picked up the first one), but I am so glad I did. I also revisited an old series and picked up the latest installments by some of my favorite authors.
I began the year off by discovering, devouring and becoming a die-hard Hunger Games fan. Futuristic dystopias do not interest me, in general. I remember seeing a mini book review in Entertainment Weekly for the final book, Mockingjay, and wondering what the series was about. I looked up the first book and found that Amazon was selling it for only $5 on Kindle, so I took a chance. I think I only put the Kindle down to go to work and go to sleep after I started the trilogy, and I protested both interruptions. It only took me less than a week to finish all three books, and I was left wanting more. Only the thought of the movie adaption (please don’t screw it up, Hollywood!) made finishing the trilogy bearable.
After finishing The Hunger Games, I decided to revisit an old favorite, Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortalityseries. I LOVED these books when I was in high school and read several of them so many times, the spines were falling apart. Sadly, I had not reread them in over a decade, and to my dismay, the series does not hold up well. I guess I’m just a little more grown up than I was when I enjoyed them. In fact, some of the ideas presented were a little… creepier and more disturbing than I remember them. The curse of growing up, I guess.
After The Hunger Games, I went looking for something in a similar vein and found Matched by Ally Condie. The first book had a lot of promise and I really enjoyed it (despite the fact that it felt more like Twilight than The Hunger Games). The second book, Crossed, was released this past fall and I found myself struggling to get through it. I am hoping the next book will be better.
HBO’s new series, “A Game of Thrones,” prompted me to try slogging through the five-volume epic, which I did in about three months. Seriously, the series is totally engrossing, but it does take some time to get through them all. I did learn a valuable lesson: don’t get too attached to characters. I also learned not to write off other characters as a waste of ink. Never in a million years would I have dreamt I would come to love Jaime Lannister as I did ’round about book 3. Not quite my favorite character, but he ranks just under Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark. I’m glad I started reading the series just before book 5 came out. I can’t imagine having to wait six years between A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. I only hope book six doesn’t take that long! Having read the series now, I am looking forward to season two of the HBO series.
I picked up the latest releases by some of my favorite authors: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris, the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel and always a fun romp; Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey, another epic at over 600 pages; Changes by Mercedes Lackey, an eager return to her Valdemar series; Ghost Story by Jim Butcher; and Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey.
But this year was a little different in that there were some new releases by favorite authors I chose to skip. I did not pick up the latest Anita Blake book, Hit List, by Laurell K. Hamilton; Undead and Undermined by MaryJanice Davidson; or anything by Rachel Caine or Sherrilyn Kenyon. I’m starting to feel burnt out on a lot of these series.
Currently, I am working my way through the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I’ve just finished The Golden Compass and am one chapter into The Subtle Knife. The jury is still out on this series at the moment.
And now that I’ve rambled on for, like, ever (OMG), I will present my sort-of annual Top Five Best Books of the Year. These don’t have to be books that came out this year, just ones I’ve read. Also, they’re in no particular order, because I just can’t pick an ultimate favorite.
1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
OK, maybe I can pick a favorite because this book was epically AWESOME. Anyone who grew up in the ’80s should read this book. You will not be able to put it down.
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
The plot seems so implausible, but Collins makes it work and reels you in, hook, line and sinker, for three novels.
3. One Con Glory by Sarah Kuhn.
I swear, it’s like Kuhn was living in my mind when she wrote this little tale of a con-going girl geek.
4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.
If you read this, buy the actual book, not the Kindle version. The photographs make the story.
5. Changes by Mercedes Lackey.
Lackey’s Valdemar series is one that does hold up to the years. I have read and reread every book in the series countless times over, which spans about 3000 years or so in the kingdom of Valdemar. I love each and every new adventure in this series and eagerly look forward to more.
You can see a complete list of the books I read in 2011 here.
2011 was a good year for reading. I hope 2012 brings about more exciting book discoveries!