Hello again! Over the last week (which has felt so much longer) I’ve finished cleaning, packing and finally moved to our temporary new home in a little cottage (with no bathroom or kitchen) on my parents’ acreage (out in the tiny hamlet of New Norway, Alberta, Canada for the curious). I’ve also survived visits from and to various overly chatty relatives and a trip back to Calgary, to get my husband’s medication and on that trip, we also survived spinning our car around on the ice several times in the middle of a busy highway. So life has been a bit chaotic lately, we still have clutter lying about our little place (literally two rooms and no more), the only tidy spot is these bookshelves! Somehow I didn’t think I could post sooner until I had a good bookshelf picture to share…
I’ve been busy rereading an absolutely wonderful book, that is becoming even more of a favourite than ever. If you want to know what it is, the opening sentence is my post title and it’s missing from its proper spot on the bottom shelf… I’ll write more about it when I’m finished, but I will say that The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller, my last read of 2010, helped me understand the Romance and fairy tales and all the things that went into it so much more (I admit to skipping a few parts on my first reading, but no more!) and all I want to do is relax into such a rich book, which I simply grabbed off the shelf on New Years’ Eve, but there are so many other things it seems I have to do, even on holidays.
I’ve also been putting off making a post until I could think up some sort of clever best books of 2010 list, so forget that, here’s a simple top ten, in order of when I read them:
- The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins (both read pre-blogging)
- Henrietta’s War, Joyce Dennys
- Miss Buncle’s Book, D.E. Stevenson
- Marie Therese:The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter, Susan Nagel (two partial reviews there)
- Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
- Villette, Charlotte Bronte
- Tea With Mr. Rochester, Frances Towers
- Howards End is on the Landing, Susan Hill
- The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, Laura Miller (not properly reviewed yet)
What most surprises me about this list is that it has three non-fiction titles on it, one biography, a literary memoir and a mixture of literary memoir, biography and criticism. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction (although 7 this year is more than usual) but all were fascinating and well written in their different ways. I was also surprised that as I pondered my list, I finally decided Villette belonged on it more than any of the three more comfortable Elizabeth Gaskell novels I read (and loved, let it be added) this year. (The only author I’ve read more of this year is Jane Austen at four novels and again, none of them are on the list either, they’re too familiar now.) I found Villette difficult going, it reminded me too much of a very depressing and lonely summer in university, it was not at all comforting like the Gaskells and Austens. But I also found myself thinking of it more than those other books, long after I had finished it, not about the story, but the overall richness of the language and the power, strength and raw beauty in it. It has made me want to read more rich books and not just stick with what is comfortable, like Jane Austen’s sparkling social comedies. In fact, this year I want to reread Austen less often (or finally read a biography of her instead) to make way for more reading and rereading of other favourite authors I might get something new out of. Charlotte Bronte is definitely on this list, along with George Eliot (despite my best resolutions I never did read her in 2010), Oscar Wilde, L.M. Montgomery, E.M. Forster, A.S. Byatt and more.
Related to that, the reading challenge I got the most out of in 2010 was a personal one: to read more deeply, specifically, to read authors that I’d really admired from one book of theirs but had gone no further with. I didn’t get to all the authors I originally thought of, but I did read 2 Virginia Woolfs this year, 3 Gaskells, 1 Bronte, 1 Wilkie Collins, 1 Sarah Waters, 1 Elizabeth Bowen, 1 Nancy Mitford, 2 Frances Hodgson Burnetts, 2 Dorothy L. Sayers, and 2 Anthony Trollopes, whom I’d never read before and wanted to finally try. I also decided to reread more books this past year (20 all together) and found a lot of pleasure in that, so I will definitely continue both of those reading habits, along with focusing on anything Victorian: novels from the time period and historical fiction, even poetry and maybe plays; also fantasy and fairy tales and the type of imaginative literature inspired by fairy tales, like Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.
It’s going to be an exciting and magical year for books, I’m already feeling more passionate about my reading and less dutiful. I ended up reading 71 books in 2010, this year I’ve thought of trying for more or alternately, less, so that I focus more on quality and worry less about numbers, but all I really want is reading experiences that are rich and that matter intensely on a personal level. No more following reading trends just to be like everyone else — actually, moving from a big city library to a very small one has relieved me no end, I finally can just read from my shelves with no pressure to rush to check out all of the latest books everyone is raving about (in fact, when I left my job at the library, one of the shelvers joked that with me gone, their circulation stats would go down drastically!). I want to take the time this year to read the longer books I tend to avoid, the harder ones that are deservedly satisfying classics, instead of filling up on so many sugary lightweights. My favourite unfinished book of 2010 is Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, what richness there as well and how I would like to finish it, perhaps this year. I’d like to finish more of what I start this year in general (I have a whole list of books abandoned last year) and focus more on one book at a time, rather than frantically trying to read it all at once. I want to read more personally or closely I might say, thinking less about how I will write the review and more about the art of the language, the way the symbols echo through the book, what it means to me. I want to read books not as a competitive sport but as a meditation, holding them close to my heart, hearing the music sing on inside me.