To the New Year, untouched and still possible

Hello, dear readers,

It is time to leave this year behind. Let’s look back over the books we’ve read in 2017 and pick our favourites.

But first, some Stats

(If you prefer, you can skip the stats and jump to my best reads ;))

According to Goodreads, this year I’ve read 110 books, comprising a total of 28.431 pages.

Month Number of books Min of Pages Max of Pages Sum of Pages Percentage
jan 7 240 606 2369 6,36%
fev 8 134 436 1949 7,27%
mar 6 160 666 1967 5,45%
abr 15 90 494 3655 13,64%
mai 11 119 546 3246 10,00%
jun 7 112 432 1842 6,36%
jul 11 141 464 2967 10,00%
ago 11 86 400 2036 10,00%
set 12 112 304 2475 10,91%
out 12 88 581 3343 10,91%
nov 5 140 352 1167 4,55%
dez 5 160 431 1415 4,55%
Total 110 86 666 28431 100,00%

Most of the books were backlisted titles, published in the 20th and 21st centuries. By publication date, The Sarashina diary, by Sugawara no Takasue no Musume (1060) was the oldest book I finished this year.

Publishing date Number of books Percentage
<1900 8 7,27%
1900-1909 2 1,82%
1920-1929 4 3,64%
1930-1939 5 4,55%
1940-1949 6 5,45%
1950-1959 12 10,91%
1960-1969 4 3,64%
1970-1979 2 1,82%
1980-1989 5 4,55%
1990-1999 10 9,09%
2000-2009 11 10,00%
2010-2019 41 37,27%
Total 110 100,00%

I had 58 four-star and 28 five-star reads, which makes for a very good reading year.

Rating Number of books Percentage
1 2 1,82%
2 5 4,55%
3 17 15,45%
4 58 52,73%
5 28 25,45%
Total 110 100,00%

The longest book read, Goodreads tells me, was Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995, edited by Avril Homer and Anne Rowe (2015, 686 p.)

Number of pages Number of books Percentage
<100 3 2,73%
100-199 37 33,64%
200-299 32 29,09%
300-399 26 23,64%
400-499 8 7,27%
500-599 2 1,82%
600-699 2 1,82%
Total 110 100,00%

I read books from 24 countries, mostly European:

Origin Number of Books Percentage
Africa 2 1,8%
  • Algeria
1 0,9%
  • South Africa
1 0,9%
Asia 7 6,4%
  • China
1 0,9%
  • Israel
1 0,9%
  • Japan
4 3,6%
  • South Korea
1 0,9%
Europe 59 53,6%
  • Austria
2 1,8%
  • Belgium
1 0,9%
  • France
4 3,6%
  • Germany
5 4,5%
  • Greece
1 0,9%
  • Ireland
8 7,3%
  • Italy
1 0,9%
  • Portugal
1 0,9%
  • Russia
3 2,7%
  • UK
32 29,1%
  • Ukraine
1 0,9%
North America 30 27,3%
  • Canada
7 6,4%
  • United States
23 20,9%
Oceania 1 0,9%
  • Australia
1 0,9%
South-America 11 10,0%
  • Argentina
1 0,9%
  • Brazil
8 7,3%
  • Chile
1 0,9%
  • Venezuela
1 0,9%
Total 110 100,0%

More than 80% of the books I read were written by women:

Gender Number of books Percentage
Female 93 84,55%
Male 17 15,45%
Total 110 100,00%

25% of the books I read were non-fiction books:

Genres & Literary Forms Number of books Percentage
Fiction 82 74,55%
  • Novel
63 57,27%
  • Short-stories
9 8,18%
  • Play
1 0,91%
  • Poetry
9 8,18%
Non-Fiction 28 25,45%
  • Essays
13 11,82%
  • History
2 1,82%
  • Literary Criticism
4 3,64%
  • Memoir/ Literary Criticism
1 0,91%
  • Philosophy
5 4,55%
  • Religion
1 0,91%
  • Biography
6 5,45%
  • Diary
4 3,64%
  • Letters
2 1,82%
  • Memoir
3 2,73%
Total 110 100,00%

More than 50% of the books I read were physical books, 25% of which I borrowed from my local library:

Format Number of books Percentage
Audio 8 7,27%
  • TBR
8 7,27%
Ebook 31 28,18%
  • Review copy
12 10,91%
  • TBR
19 17,27%
Physical 71 64,55%
  • Library
27 24,55%
  • Review copy
1 0,91%
  • TBR
43 39,09%
Total 110 100,00%
Events & Projects

This year I took part in many delightful reading events and challenges! In January, Jane hosted Margery Sharp Day, and I read Cluny Brown (1938). For #ReadSoulLit, in February, I read and loved The Street, by Ann Petry (1946). In March, Cathy and Niall hosted Reading Ireland Month, and I read five Irish books:

  • The Visitor, by Maeve Brennan (2000, originally written in the 1940’s)
  • Miss Emily, by Nuala O’Connor (Nuala Ní Chonchúir, 2015)
  • Living on paper: letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995, edited by Avril Horner and Anne Rowe (2015)
  • The Lesser Bohemians, by Eimear McBride (2016)
  • Maeve Brennan: Homesick at The New Yorker, by Angela Bourke (2004)

In April, Karen and Simon hosted the 1951 Cluband I loved the book I read for the event: A Game of Hide and Seek, by Elizabeth Taylor (1951). For Elizabeth Gouge Day, I read The Rosemary Tree (1951). During Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon (April, 29th), I completed The Enchanted April, by Eizabeth von Arnim & First Love, by Gwendoline Riley.

In June,  Jane hosted Margaret Kennedy Day, and I read The Constant Nymph (1924). From June, 1st to September, 3rd, Cathy hosted 20 Books of Summeran event which already belongs to my literary calender. I managed to read 13 of the books on my list:

  1. Hot Milk, by Deborah Levy ✓
  2. The Gambler, by Dostoyevsky ✓
  3. Mariana, by Monica Dickens ✓
  4. The Snake Pit, by Mary Jane Ward ✓
  5. Hetty Dorval, by Ethel Wilson ✓
  6. Fever Dream, by Samanta Schweblin (2017), translated by Megan McDowell (Distancia de rescate, 2014) ✓
  7. Ladivine, by Marie NDiaye ✖
  8. Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor ✖
  9. The Fire-Dwellers, by Margaret Laurence ✓
  10. The Constant Nymph, by Margaret Kennedy ✓
  11. After Henry, by Joan Didion ✖
  12. See What I Have Done, by Sarah Schmidt ✓
  13. Nine Continents, by Xiaolu Guo (finished later) ✖
  14. The Beautiful Bureaucrat, by Helen Phillips (finished later) ✖
  15. Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich ✓
  16. The Doll’s Alphabet, by Camilla Grudova ✖
  17. The Virago Modern Classics Book Club choice for June (UPDATE 29/06: The Charioteer, by Mary Renault) ✓
  18. The Virago Modern Classics Book Club choice for July (UPDATE 03/07: Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery) ✓
  19. The Virago Modern Classics Book Club choice for August (UPDATE 02/08: In a Summer Season, by Elizabeth Taylor) ✓
  20. Free choice!

From June, 1th, 2017 to January, 31th, 2018, we had the traditional Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted by Dolce Bellezza, and I read Masks, by Fumiko Enchi, tr. Juliet Winters Carpenter (Onna Men, 1958). In July, Meytal over at the Biblibio blog hosted Women in Translation Month 2017, an event for which I read two versions of the same book: The Sarashina diary: a woman’s life in eleventh-century Japan, by Sugawara no Takasue no Musume, tr. Sonja Arntzen & Itō Moriyuki; and As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams: Recollections of a Woman in Eleventh-Century Japan, by Lady Sarashina (1975, tr. Ivan Morris).

From September 1st, through October 31st,  Estella’s Revenge and My Capricious Life hosted R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril  XIIand I read:

During the month of October, Kate Howe, Katie from Books and Things, Ange from Beyond the Pages, and Lucy the Reader hosted Victober, a celebration of Victorian Lit. For the event, I managed to read The Blood of the Vampire, by Florence Marryat (1897), Agnes Grey, by Anne Brontë (1847), Jane Carlyle: Newly Selected Letters, by Jane Welsh Carlyle, edited by Kenneth J Fielding & David R Sorensen (2004), and Miss Marjoribanks, by Margaret Oliphant (1866). At the end of the month, during Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon (October, 21st), I finished Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926). From 30 October to 5 November,  Karen and Simon hosted The 1968 Club, and I read Eva Trout, by Elizabeth Bowen (1968).

In November, Lizzy and Caroline hosted German Literature Month VIIanother reading event I make sure always to take part in. This year, I read Swallow Summer, by Larissa Boehning, tr. Lyn Marven, 2016 (Schwalbensommer, 2003), and The Weight of Things, by Marianne Fritz, translated by Adrian Nathan West, 2015 (Die Schwerkraft der Verhältnisse, 1978). For Nonfiction Novemberhosted by Katie over at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness,and Julz at Julz Reads, I read Oriana Fallaci: The Journalist, the Agitator, the Legend, by Cristina de Stefano, translated from the Italian by Marina Harss (Other Press, 2017. First published in Italian as “Oriana, una donna”, Rizzoli, 2013); Useless Joyce, by Tim Conley (2017); After Kathy Acker, by Chris Kraus (2017); and I reviewed The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present, by Ronald Hutton (2017).

During the year, I took part in many readalongs. For The Virago Modern Classics Book Club, we read:

For Virago Author of the Month (at the LibraryThing  Group), I managed to read the authors selected from January to July:

  • January: Vita Sackville-West
  • February: Rebecca West
    • The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West: A Biography, by Lorna Gibb
  • March:  Edith Wharton
    • No gifts from chance: a biography of Edith Wharton, by Shari Benstock (1994)
  • April: Elizabeth von Arnim
    • The Enchanted April
  • May: Willa Cather
    • A Lost Lady, bv Willa Cather
    • Willa Cather, a critical biography, by E. K. Brown (1953)
  • June: Margaret Laurence
  • July: Rumer Godden
    • Black Narcissus
  • August: Christina Stead
  • September: Nina Bawden
  • October:  Margaret Kennedy
  • November: Margaret Atwood
  • December: Sylvia Townsend-Warner

For The Mad Woman’s Book Club, I read & loved The Snake Pit by Mary Jane Ward. During the year, Caroline hosted the Literature and War Readalong, and I read three fabulous books:

  • February, Tuesday 28: Magnus by Sylvie Germain, 190 pages, France 2005
  • April, Friday 28: La douleur – The War by Marguerite Duras, 217 pages, France 1985
  • October, Tuesday 31: Suite Française by Irène Nemirovsky, 432 pages, France 1942

Finally, for the local book club I take part in, I read 10 of the 12 books we discussed:

  • The Assistant, by Bernard Malamud
  • A Room With a View, by E. M. Forster
  • The Brooklyn Follies, by Paul Auster
  • The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
  • A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Door, by Magda Szabo
  • The Gambler, by Dostoyevsky
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
  • The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud
  • Sleepwalking Land, by Mia Couto
  • Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  • The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink
I will Fail better

I am still to begin My Year of Pilgrimage and I never posted my reviews for The Year of the Star. I did not read one single book for the ‘Reading Susan Sontag’ project, and I am still reading the first book for the Iris Murdoch Readalong. Contrary to my plans, I did not manage to review every book I read this year:

Review Number of books Percentage
No 73 66,36%
Yes 37 33,64%
Total 110 100,00%
A glimpse into 2018

Inspired by Liz Sarah and Jane, I will persevere with Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage. I will also take part in Virago Month, Reading Ireland Month, Women in Translation, 20 Books of Summer, Victober, RIP Challenge, and German Lit Month. Ali will be hosting a Muriel Spark Readalong, so I will try to read at least one book for the event. Karen and Simon will be hosting the 1977 Club in April, and I will also try to catch up with The Great Iris Murdoch Readalong!

The good, the bad, and the ugly

My best reads (in no particular order):

  1. The Street, by Ann Petry (1946)
  2. The Fire-Dwellers, by Margaret Laurence (1969)
  3. A Game of Hide and Seekby Elizabeth Taylor (1951)
  4. Good Behaviour, by Molly Keane (1981)
  5. Mariana, by Monica Dickens (1940)
  6. My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier (1951)
  7. Novel on Yellow Paper, by Stevie Smith (1936)
  8. The Vet’s Daughter, by Barbara Comyns (1959)
  9. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather (1923)
  10. Suite Française by Irène Nemirovsky (written in 1942, published in 2004)

Best re-reads:

  • Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys (1966)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson(1962)
  • The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
  • La douleur – The War by Marguerite Duras (1985)

Favourite contemporary novels:

Favourite short-story collections:

  • The Springs of Affection, by Maeve Brennan (1996)
  • Where Europe Begins, by Yoko Tawada (tr. Susan Bernofsky, 2002. Originally published as Wo Europa anfängt, 1991).

Favourite poetry collection:

  • ComeThief: Poems, by Jane Hirshfield (2011)

Favourite novels in translation:

  • Fever Dream (2017), by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell (Distancia de rescate, 2014)
  • Masks, by Fumiko Enchi, tr. Juliet Winters Carpenter, 1983 (女面, Onna Men, 1958)

Favourite Non-Fiction books:

Favourite Classics:

Disappointments:

  • Incest, by Christine Angot, tr. Tess Lewis, 2017 (L’Incest, 1999)
  • First Love, by Gwendoline Riley
  • The Extraordinary Life of Rebecca West: A Biography, by Lorna Gibb
  • Oriana Fallaci: The Journalist, the Agitator, the Legend, by Cristina de Stefano, translated from the Italian by Marina Harss (Other Press, 2017. First published in Italian as “Oriana, una donna”, Rizzoli, 2013); Useless Joyce, by Tim Conley (2017)
Thank you

Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog. Our blogging community is a source of joy to all os us. May the new year be gentle on us; may we be generous towards one another.

I leave you with the hush of a new morninguntouched and still possible:

“To the New Year

                              – by W. S. Merwin

With what stillness at last

you appear in the valley

your first sunlight reaching down

to touch the tips of a few

high leaves that do not stir

as though they had not noticed

and did not know you at all

then the voice of a dove calls

from far away in itself

to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you

here and now whether or not

anyone hears it this is

where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

untouched and still possible”

(Source: Present Company, 2005)

Yours truly,

J.


Eugène Delacroix, “Study of Flowers, 1845-1850.
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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Simon T says:

    I love reading stats, so I lapped all of these up! And your best reads are a delight – either books I’ve already loved or those I’ve got on my shelves. With the exception of Novel on Yellow Paper, which I stalled with this year… I will finish it, but I don’t think it’s quite clicked with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Simon! I was having difficulty with Novel on Yellow Paper at the beginning, but later I fell in love with its voice 🙂

      Like

  2. heavenali says:

    My goodness, how long did it take you to work out those stats? You have done well, I don’t think I shall ever manage to read 25% non-fiction.
    I also read The Fire Dwellers and The Vet’s Daughter this year, both excellent.

    Like

    1. I kept a spreadsheet where I registered my reads during the year 🙂 Thank you, Ali! I wish you a new year full of good books!

      Like

  3. you really had a fruitful year with books this year it seems, and i really discovered many great literature just by clicking and surfing through your blog thanks to your amazing insightful and witty reviews.
    I hope this year also becomes another fruitful year for you and that you discover many great books

    Like

    1. Thank you for reading my scarlet letters! 🙂

      Like

  4. Caroline says:

    I love your list. I noted down a few titles, some are already on my piles and others might get there soon. 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you, Caroline! Hope you enjoy 🙂

      Like

  5. Love your writing, your reading, your lists, thank you for sharing them with us, so inspiring.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for you lovely words, Claire! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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