Ringing out 2020 and ringing in 2021

My final tally for 2020 stands at 203 books and 63,225 pages. When I initially set my Goodreads reading challenge, I chose 150 books as the goal for the year. Since 2013, there has only been one year – 2018 – when I read fewer than 150 books. That year clocked in at 134. Because of the early spring lockdowns, I met that 150 book goal in August, and upped it to 200.

Aside from the overall challenge, I didn’t participate in any specific reading challenges except for a small genre challenge in one of my GR groups. I don’t do a lot of tracking of my reading – every year I see people make awesome graphics about their yearly reading by things like publication year, male versus female authors, genre, etc., and I am always jealous. But, by the end of the year, the prospect is really too daunting to accomplish.

One thing that I did do this year, that has been really interesting, is that I’ve kept track of how much money I’ve saved by checking out books instead of buying them. I acquired a library card when the pandemic started and have been extensively using the electronic hold system to request ebooks – to the point that I have saved $568.81 by not buying a number of the books I read this year. This doesn’t even begin to account for the number of books that I checked out, decided I actually wasn’t interested in reading right away and returned them unread to be re-requested later, if the mood strikes me.

I have added a couple of challenges to the wheelhouse for 2021, most particularly the Back to the Classics challenge. But, aside from that, I intend to continue essentially as I have been doing: reading a lot of vintage fiction, a lot of golden age mysteries, checking out books (especially more recently published books) from the library, and reading as my fancy takes me. Fingers crossed that 2021 is a better year altogether than 2020, even if it means that I read fewer books!

 

Reading plans for 2021

It’s that time of year again – I start thinking ahead to next year’s reading plans and goals. I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I had hoped in this year of reading, although I read a lot. I started with a goal of 150 books, and have increased it to 200 books. I am sitting at 187 right now, having just finished rereading Gaudy Night.

I’m really excited about my plans for 2021. My favorite Goodreads Group is trying something new with some selected quarterly “authors-in-residence.” The schedule is:

First Quarter: Alexandre Dumas & Stella Gibbons
Second Quarter: John Steinbeck & Ursula LeGuin
Third Quarter: Virginia Woolf & Philip Roth
Fourth Quarter: Mrs. Oliphant & Isaac Asimov

In addition to the authors-in-residence, I will be reading a number of books by John Steinbeck, since I have adopted him as my next author study. I am still not quite finished with Willa Cather, but I’m so close that it’s time to pick a new one. Fortunately, he managed to make it into the second quarter author-in-residence slot, so I can do double duty.

I will also be continuing with my Agatha Christie monthly reads:

January: 1924 The Man in the Brown Suit
February: 1925 The Secret of Chimneys
March: 1926 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
April: 1927 The Big Four
May: 1928 The Mystery of the Blue Train
June: 1929 The Seven Dials Mystery
July: 1930 The Murder at the Vicarage
August: 1931 The Sittaford Mystery
September: 1932 Peril at End House
October: 1933 Lord Edgware Dies
November: 1934 Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
December: Murder on the Orient Express

On the Agatha Christie Centenary Celebration group on Goodreads.

I am not sure if I will be doing any blog challenges or not. For years, I did the Back to the Classics challenge on my blog, and I’ve sort of gotten out of the habit. I’m not even sure if the challenge will continue in 2021, but I’ll try to track down the information when it gets a little bit closer.

I will update my plans as I develop them further!

2020 Reading Journal and other thoughts

If you aren’t interested in my personal thoughts on the U.S. Presidential election and the pandemic, skip to where it says TL/DR for the book commentary.

Like many people in the U.S., I’ve been struggling a lot with the two (related) calamities of 2020: the pandemic and the Trump administration. I am not a fan of President Trump (to put it mildly) and watching him weaken, and in some cases dismantle, government institutions that I naively believed to be bulletproof has been extremely disillusioning. The last few months have been a roller-coaster ride. I had hoped for a resounding and thorough pummeling of the authoritarian agenda being pushed by a Republican party that is in thrall to the maintenance of power over all other agendas, including that of saving American lives.

There was no resounding and thorough pummeling, although there was a solid Biden win that has, since, been continually undermined by Trump-style Republicans in the weeks since the voting concluded. My obsession with the election results and my dismay over the behavior of professional men and women who have decided to prey on the partisan gullibility of a group of Americans in an effort to overturn a legitimate election is just overwhelming. And the utter failure to meaningfully address the pandemic on a national scale is frankly unforgiveable.

This isn’t a political blog and I don’t want it to become a political blog. I will delete comments posted in an effort to defend Donald Trump because I’m not interested in a political debate here – there are a lot of places I am happy to engage in political debates. This isn’t one of them. I’m only including these first two paragraphs by way of a lead-in to the rest of this post and to explain my state of mind. Because my state of mind is…not good.

I’ve thought a lot about how to deal with my negative state of mind. A plan to completely ignore the world is both unrealistic and, while it would be possible for me to do this, is only a possible plan because I am an incredibly privileged person. So, I will not be taking this route. Having said this, I cannot continue to mainline dysfunction. I’ve put into place the following guardrails for myself: I have set up monthly donations to various organizations, including Planned Parenthood and Stacey Abram’s Fair Fight organization in Georgia which is working to turn out voters for the Senate run-off elections in January, and the Yellow Hammer Fund, which is an abortion access fund in Alabama; I have renewed my subscription to The Washington Post, and I read The Guardian as well, to get an overseas perspective. I am going to be turning off television news, and I am stepping away from social media for a few months. I did this last year and it dramatically helped my mental health.

TL/DR: the state of American politics and the unrestrained community spread of Covid is getting me down.

Now, on to books. My plan is to engage in some bookish hibernation this winter. Every year in September and October, I focus my reading on books that are atmospheric for the spooky season – mystery, suspense, horror, and supernatural. That time of year is over, however, and I’m ready for some bookish comfort reading. So, I’m going to indulge myself.

Right now, I’ve decided to revisit the Harriet Vane cycle of the Peter Wimsey books. Gaudy Night, third in the sequence, is one of my favorite books of all time! I started Strong Poison last night, and it’s already provided me with a figurative shot in the arm. I’m not sure I’ve ever read Busman’s Honeymoon – if I’ve read it at all, certainly I haven’t it read more than once.

My comfort reading is older fiction. So my plan includes reading some titles that have been published by Dean Street Press and that have been sitting on my kindle for a while.

In addition, I plan to dive into a few new projects very soon, including a Stella Gibbons project. This is fortuitous because, as it happens, DSP is reissuing five previously out-of-print books in January. One of the wonderful things about DSP is the price of their kindle editions. The typical price point is $3.99 a book, which is just incredibly affordable. I literally want to buy them all.

Look at those beautiful covers!

On top of those Furrowed Middlebrow titles, I will be dipping back into my collection of vintage mysteries, which are also comfort reads for me. There are a number of British Library Crime Classics that I am excited to read. I am also want to get back into my collection of Patricia Wentworth mysteries – I’ve read the first 18 Miss Silver mysteries, and I’m ready to move onto The Ivory Dagger. I have several of Wentworth’s standalones available on my kindle as well. And, of course, Agatha Christie’s mysteries are a perennial source of comfort for me – it’s all rereads at this point, but when all else fails, the Queen of Crime usually succeeds.

Posting to this blog can be very helpful to my emotional well-being, and when I stop posting for long periods it is usually a sign that things are not going particularly well with the various aspects of my life. We’re all struggling right now. I hope that everyone who reads this is finding a way to cope.

Sunday Post 5.17.2020

Sunday post (1)

I’ve been working on getting my old year-by-year lists moved over here, which has been a bit of a project. I’ve finished 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as 2019 and I am current on 2020. That leaves me with 2016, 2017 and 2018. It’s been a lot of fun looking over my past years reading and I can see how my tastes have changed over time. It’s the 30,000 foot view of my reading for the past seven years, and I only wish that I had been tracking for longer.

What I am reading:

I finished The Body in the Dumb River and made quite a bit of headway on Lost in a Good Book. I can’t find my copy of Mrs. McGinty in Dead, so I need to track it down so I can finish it. I haven’t quite made up my mind what to read next – there are several possibilities: Barbara Pym, Angela Thirkell or one of the Furrowed Middlebrow titles that I already own on my kindle, maybe. It’s also been a long time since I reread Harry Potter, so I’ve been thinking about that as a possibility.

What I listened to this week:

I’ve almost finished the episodes of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text that deal with the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.

What I watched this week:

So, I’ve been intentionally not watching the most recent Sarah Phelps Agatha Christie adaptation because I knew it would piss me off. Except that my daughter really enjoys watching Christie adaptations and it’s something that we share, so when we were talking about getting together for a movie afternoon, this is what she wanted to watch.

So, I was at least partially right with my plan to not watch. The Pale Horse pissed me off substantially less than the Phelps adaptation of The A.B.C. Murders, which made me lose my ever-lovin’ mind, but it still wasn’t good. Sarah Phelps knows how to tell a story, and her productions are frankly beautiful.

But she is incredibly disrespectful to her source material. The Pale Horse had about three things in common with the novel: the specific poison used; the presence of three “witches” and a character named Mark Easterbrook. Aside from that, it bore no resemblance at all to Christie’s mystery, which was, honestly, a bright spot the novels that she published during the 1960s.

Another major issue that I have with the Phelps adaptations (one of many) are her endings. Good lord, how her endings suck. The ending of Ordeal by Innocence was awful; the reveal at the end of The A.B.C. Murders basically left me in a fetal position on my couch whispering “no, no, no, no, no.” And the ending of The Pale Horse? There are no words. It was incomprehensible and stupid, simultaneously.

Why does the Christie estate keep greenlighting her projects?

Non-bookish stuff:

Mr. ATVL bought a new pellet grill, which was delivered on Thursday. He just put two racks of pork spare ribs on for a slow smoke, and my daughter & her husband are coming over for a BBQ at around 2:00.

In addition, we have been talking about a new family dog since our elderly Golden Retriever – our beloved Jackson – had to be put down last September. We finally took the plunge and will be welcoming a puppy into our lives in late June or early July.

So, there will be less reading and more puppy fun this summer!

2020 Reading Journal #1

As I’ve said, I’ve decided to stay away from “reading challenges” this year. I still have some ongoing reading projects, including my second round of classics club books, the Patricia Wentworth project, and my Century of Women blog project. I also have a massive tbr, both physical and ebook.

I decided to use my TBR cart to focus my 2020 reading. My plans – subject to change, of course – are to read at least one print book for every two kindle books that I read, selected from the cart. I am free to add a new book to the cart when I remove a book, and there’s no requirement that I finish, or even start, a book in which I’ve lost interest. But there are some books on the cart that I’ve been looking forward to reading for a long time. Sometimes years!

Top tier (from L to R):

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Mrs. Ames by E.F. Benson
A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
Troubling a Star by Madeleine L’Engle
Down Among the Dead Men by Patricia Moyes
Penguin Classics WWII Stories
Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson (a lovely gift from BrokenTune)
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson
The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson
My American by Stella Gibbons
Death of a Fool by Ngaio Marsh
Tied up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh (a Christmas mystery that I didn’t get to this year)
Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh
The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith
Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey (buddy read!)

Middle tier:

Possession by A.S. Byatt
A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor
The Glass Devil by Helene Turston
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Sleeping Beauty by Ross MacDonald
Beloved by Toni Morrison (evidence of my Halloween Bingo group read failure)
The Flemish House by George Simenon (oops – I already need to substitute. I’ve read this one – I know that I have another Maigret I haven’t read)
Good Evening, Mrs. Craven by Mollie Panter-Downes
Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple
The Salterton Trilogy by Robertson Davies
Mariana by Monica Dickens
The Semi-Attached Couple and the Semi-Detached House by Emily Eden
An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym
Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim
The Cellars of the Majestic by George Simenon

Bottom Tier:

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott (4 book series)
The Maine Massacre by Janwillem van de Wettering
Westwood by Stella Gibbons
Faithful by Alice Hoffman
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

I’m going to try to remember to post a new picture at the beginning of each month to chart my progress, to post “reading journals” from time to time to just talk about what I’ve been reading, as opposed to a full-blown post about a specific book.

Reading Plans for 2020

For the first time in ages, I’ve decided that I am not going to participate in any yearly challenges, and I’m just going to read what I want, when I want. I wasn’t particularly successful with last year’s challenges – and I haven’t posted to this blog in more than six months.

I still generally love the kinds of books that are the subject of All The Vintage Ladies, though, and I’m going to move forward with my existing reading projects, so long as they fit into what I want to read! I will keep plugging away at the Century of Women project, and I’ve whittled down my new Classics Club list to 75 women authors. I will start the clock ticking on 1/1/2020, and aim to finish by 12/31/2024.