“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” — C. S. Lewis

I love this quote.  It’s so very true.  Is anything more delightful than curling up with a big mug of tea and a brand new book on a rainy day?  And sister, let me tell you, I know from rainy days around here lately.  You know that old song “It never rains in California”?  Well, it’s been just like that here, only opposite.  We have smashed records for rainfall and it’s been so gray and dreary.  Not cold, more like an never-ending early November here.  No winter, just endless autumn.  And there’s a reason the The Beach Boys didn’t have a number one album with that title.  Yuck.  But it has been conducive to the above mentioned reading, and reminds me that it’s been another year and it’s time for me to round up my success or failure with last year’s reading resolutions. I would not describe it as a complete triumph.

We've had to light a candle AND curse the darkness around here lately.
We’ve had to light a candle AND curse the darkness around here lately.

As we may recall, I had not reduced my number of unread books over the previous year, despite my promising so faithfully to cut back on buying new books until I had read more of the extant books.  I seem to also recall some sort of lame promise to only borrow 2 books a month from the library.  A pie crust promise I’m afraid.  Because here are my numbers:

Actual books read:  approx. 60  (I don’t put them all on goodreads, where I keep track, but it’s a fairly accurate number. )

Books borrowed from library:  14 physical books, 31 e-books

SO:  if we do some simple math we have:

Previous number of books on shelves:                 106

books read in following year:                                  <60>

books left on shelves (theory)                                    46

add back:  borrowed from library                             45

add back:  purchased on Kindle  for b/g                    4

total books on shelves:                                                95

Ok, not that great, but an improvement, yes?  Except, no.  No, that’s not the number left on the shelves.  That number would appear to be closer to (whisper whisper whisper).  What, you couldn’t hear that?  Um, closer to 135 books.  Ahem, 135 books.  Which means that I came into possession of 40 new books in the course of the year.  Oops.   Although, to be fair, a number of those books were gifts.  Some.  Maybe 5-10.  So, instead of pledging to cut back on books, it seems more like I double-dog-dared myself to increase my books by about a third.  Yikes.  Well, apparently I’m always up for a challenge.  Just might not be the one I should be taking.

Where did I buy all of these books?  Well, you know some came from Amazon since I have made it abundantly  clear that I have no self control and you can just click that little button, but the bulk of them came from physical bookstores.  A few from our local Barnes & Noble, but mostly from local independent book stores, my favorites.  We are lucky to have a number of great ones nearby.  The exact same day I posted on my blog about cutting back on buying books last year, we drove up to Bellingham for a day trip, and visited Village Books in Fairhaven.  I may have bought four new books.  The very same day!  Bless my heart.  But two were on sale so I think they count as half.   Anyway, it’s three floors of books so what anyone wants from me I can’t imagine.  It’s a charming little spot to visit, and the Chuckanut Drive is gorgeous.  I’ve never been to Moonraker Books on Whidbey Island without getting at least one (or a couple!) new book(s).  Small but obviously owned and run by a true book lover.  Plus Langley is delightful and, mussels!  The same is true for Edmond’s Bookshop in Edmonds.  About the store and about buying.  It’s also in another charming town with a view over Puget Sound.  I think where I did the most purchasing this year, though,  is Powell’s City of Books in Portland.  It’s I-don’t-know-how-many levels of books and book related things.  Heavenly. The newlyweds moved there this summer, and I may have bought so many books in early December that I qualified for a “free” book bag. (I did much better in February, where I only bought one book – what willpower! –  but since I had actually already purchased it in December – oops – I’m not even counting it as a purchase.  But don’t tell Mr. Wow.  I don’t think he uses the same counting system I do.  Anyway, I donated it to the library so I did a good deed.)

What did I read this last year that I can highly recommend?

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Oh, everyone should read this book.  I’m not terribly science-y, but the writing was such I was able to follow the medical info.  It’s a compelling story of a poor black woman from the 1950’s whose ovarian cancer cells were taken without her consent (or payment) and used to help develop so many treatments for so many diseases.  It touches on race, ethics, loss – really can’t say enough about this book.


The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga by Sylvain Tesson

I wish I could say that I read this in the original French, but I’m afraid that would ne pas être vrai .  But the translator did a fantastic job on this meditation of solitude and  nature (both outside the cabin and his own.)  I can’t say that his descriptions of snow camping or walking for days inspired me to try the same, but his descriptions of his time spent pondering and alone were inspiring.  But I don’t think I’m cut out to drink vodka with Russians.


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

What a great thriller.  It was taut, suspenseful, and very compelling.  The main character is a messy, semi-tragic figure that nevertheless inspires sympathy despite her constant bad choices and downward spiral.  Can’t say too much as I don’t want to give away any hints, but it was a great read.


The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

Read this book by the fire one frosty December day.  It was a slim but lovely story of a young man still suffering the loss of his beloved older brother in the First World War.  He travels to France for a change of scenery after time in a sanitarium, and lands in a small forgotten village after a car smash-up in the snow.  Lovely, understated, atmospheric and touching, I really enjoyed this one.

And four books queued up on my table:

current books
Current books – and that large cup of tea!

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth  (from my own stash!)

A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman  (from my own stash!  I’m so commendable!)

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout (from the library – book group pick)

How to be Danish: A journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark by Patrick Kingsley (from my own stash!  Hoping to host a Danish exchange student next school year.)

 

 


Speaking of book group, a little shout out to our little book group!  Our book group had its 11th anniversary just last week!  I started it soon after moving here – as a way to meet other like-minded women who were not being fulfilled by reading “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” ten times every day.  (That adorable teen-ager was only four.)  Four of the five of us are original members, and the “new” member has been a part of the group for coming on ten years! We’ve read some great books, some terrible books, and lots of them in between, but it’s such a great fellowship and a great opportunity to try new books in genres that one might never pick up otherwise.   A few of my very favorite books have come about because of book groups.  But, I don’t know what it means when my “adorable” teen-ager gives me this ornament for Christmas:

I can't imagine what that cheeky girl was trying to imply!
I can’t imagine what that cheeky girl was trying to imply!

 

Do you have any favorite books to share from the last year?  Book group stories or book ideas?  Favorite book stores I should visit?  Here’s to another year of wonderful reading.  I don’t even know what to try to promise for next year – except that I’m going to try to read more (we had the wedding and visitors this year and it cut heavily into my spare time :P).  Remember, you can’t read all day…(if you don’t start in the morning!)

you_cant_read_all_day_if
Even if I’ve never liked The Hobbit!

 

 

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