Friday, December 31, 2010
2010 year-end wrap-up
Wow! What a great year! I liken my year to that of the San Antonio Spurs regular season in the National Basketball Association this year. They started the season publicly recognizing that their star power forward was slowing down and that they were going to take the season with a more relaxed approach. And yet about a third of the way through the season, they have the best record in the league. Similarly, after my second-half letdown last year, I decided [url=http://olmansfifty.blogspot.com/2010/01/2009-end-of-year-wrap-up.html]to take it easy with myself this year[/url] (as it says above "reading for pleasure in 2010") and make no reading commitments. And yet somehow I managed to catch fire and record my best reading year since I started counting.
One of the lessons I learned and applied is to avoid the spring time meltdown. In my poor-performing years, I often stopped reading in March and April, probably caught up in the excitement of springtime. So now I make an extra effort in those months to stay diligent, which in turn increases momentum for the summer months. This year, I had a two-week honeymoon to the Galapagos in February, with lots of time on a boat and in airports, which gave me a huge boost.
Another factor is that I cut way down on participating in the gaming world. I still play once every two weeks with my regular group here, but I just lost interest in staying up to date on the hobby and marketplace, arguing with people about history and theory of tabletop roleplaying games. That took up a lot of time much of which I spend reading now.
Once I saw that I had a good pace going, I started to get obsessed with the idea of making up for years where I didn't make the goal by trying to get to an average of 50. This obsession got me tracking and calculating, which in turn, increased my motivation. Finally, in the late summer, our "free" cable got cut off, which definitely got the pages turning.
As far as content, it was quite a varied year, though with an emphasis on crime fiction as usual. Aside from my continued re-reading of the Parker series (each of the three books of which I read this year were as fulfilling and probably more rewarding this time around—I can't wait to get my hands on "Memory" which everyone is talking about), I had four standout reads this year:
The Porkchoppers by Ross Thomas
The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
The Engagement by Simenon
The Porkchoppers makes me particularly happy because not only was it a great book, but it's opened up an entire ouevre by a skilled author who talks my language. It is so nice to know that there is still more to discover out there!
The Red Right Hand is just totally fucked out. I'm usually not a fan of books where the author is messing with the reader, but this one is just so well done and so creepy that I couldn't shake it from my mind. Also, that it was written in 1945, and yet there is nothing today that exceeds it in terms of pure dark craziness I find strangely comforting (or the opposite, depending on your view of humanity).
Barchester Towers met my hopes (and exceeded them in that it was much easier for me to read than I had thought) and has opened the door for me to read much more Trollope going forward.
The Engagement sealed the deal for me with Simenon's romans durs: if I find one used, I will pick it up. This is a masterpiece of noir, guilt, crime fiction but also of depicting a sense of place.
Another enjoyable element of 2010 was hooking up with some of the other book bloggers out there that are outside of my initial group of 50 booker friends (who are still plugging away, with a nice resurgence at the end of the year, despite the imposition of family values and multiple responsibilities getting in the way of reading). Louis XIV of Existential Ennui, Trent at The Violent World of Parker and The Book Glutton have created a little corner of nerdy obscurity and intelligent discourse that has brought me a lot of enjoyment this year. Thanks for that!
A special note to the book blog of my lovely wife, who has also had a record-breaking year and whose choice of books keeps me aware of segments of the market I like to know about and whose much more diligent and disciplined approach to her posts keeps me from being totally lazy with my own writing.
It's always hard to say what 2011 will bring. I am going to take it easy on myself, but I definitely want to hit 50 this year. The on-deck shelf has swelled over xmas break and there is a nice list of intriguing books and authors awaiting me. Reading is good! Happy New Year everyone! I wish you all a rocking and well-read 2011!