So, 2019 has officially started. With the new year comes new and endless possibilities. It also represents a fresh start, 365 fresh blank pages which we are going to fill with memories, with experiences, and of course, books read. It is also a time to set goals for the coming year. It is in this spirit that I have set my 2019 reading goals and resolutions. You can check my reading goals and resolutions here: My 2019 Reading Goals and Resolutions.
In a nutshell, my goals in 2019 are basically the same from the previous years, only that I quantified my goals, e.g. set my reading goal at 50 books. Perhaps, the biggest addition to my 2019 resolution is the beat the backlist challenge. I admit, I am a bit of a book hoarder, or as the Japanese calls it, tsundoku; I do buy more books than I can read. To give you a picture, in January I bought 10 books while completing a measly four books. See the disparity. Haha. Oh yeah, did I mention that I do have over 150 unread books. That ought to keep me busy in 2019.
In line with my 2019 goalsetting, I have come up with several lists to guide me. Here are these lists:
- My 2019 Top 20 Reading List
- Beat The Backlist (2019 Edition)
- My 2019 10 Books I Look Forward To List
Before I lose it, here’s an overview of the books I have read in January 2019:
Middlemarch by George Eliot
In the same manner that I started 2018, I opened my reading year with an English classic. But reading this book is like hitting three birds with one stone (at least in the perspective of my 2019 Reading Goals and Resolutions). First, I got to tick off another book in the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Second, I got to remove the book from my backlist (yeah, I bought the book like 2015). Third, I started the year right with a (English) classic.
On the other hand, the primary reason I read this book is because it has been gathering dust in my bookshelf. It is your typical English classic story: (fictional) small town setting that highlights a plethora of subjects. Embedded in the story are studies on provincial life, marriage, and feminism. To sum it all up, it was a very English way to start the year.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
When I picked up the book a little over a year ago, it was the book’s title that really captured my interest (as it always does!). Ultimately, it was curiosity that killed the cat. I wouldn’t say that I was totally disappointed with the book; it does have its promises. Immigration, racism, accidental death (or murder) laced with romance. These are interesting elements to mix up. I did feel, however, the book a little too predictable.
On the other hand, Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars is an interesting breather after some heavy hitting novels. It is the kind that gives you a badly needed break. Neither impressive nor loathsome. Ironically, I had no inkling on what the book was about but I really had high expectations of it, especially after a promising start. Unfortunately, it didn’t keep up.
99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai
Okay, I included this book in my 2019 Most Anticipated Books List. It didn’t escape me that it had very low ratings in Goodreads. Nevertheless, the premise of the story piqued me: a dog got lost in war-torn Afghanistan. A group of kids go after him. As I have said, while researching books for my 2019 Most Anticipated List, that often times, the most interesting reads come from the most eccentric (and unusual) plots. Honestly, it was. Although I must state that I really do love books written by Afghan writers (Khaled Hosseini and Nadia Hashimi for instance).
It didn’t have much bite the way Hosseini’s The Kite Runner had but for a debut work, 99 Nights in Logar is a promising work. It was filled with the elements that I like about Afghan storytelling. It is not altogether perfect; it had serious flaws. But still, Kochai kept me hooked with his unusual coming-of-age story set in Afghanistan. It was alive with colors, pumped up with an inconsistent energy that goes up and down in a rollercoaster ride which, for the most part, was thrilling and scintillating.
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
It was some time since I have read one of John Irving’s works (A Prayer for Owen Meany in 2016) that I kind of forgot the way he plays with words. Owen Meany was a little on the eccentric side already, but I never thought that he had a work more eccentric. The book, also a part of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, is another one of Irving’s tribute to New England (at least literary-wise); the book was set in Maine and a dreary picture he drew.
The eccentricity of the story doesn’t lie on the way it was written; the writing was pretty standard. The novel’s principal subject knocked me off the ground. The subject is a large social taboo but Irving was unpretentious in his stance on the subject of abortion. At the onset, Irving already splashed his readers with a cold bail of water and kept pounding. However, it started mellowing and middling as one digs deeper into the narrative. The story was memorable for all the things that it never was: pretentious.
That is the summary of the books that I have read in January (plus some of my mini reviews). Personally, I think I am off to a very good start – I had generally great reads and I got to enjoy them (which is the most important thing). I am slower than my normal pace but that is the entire point: savoring the narrative, no pressures and all (that is why I set my target to a manageable 50 books for the year).
In all of these, one thing is pretty certain, I am lagging behind again in my book reviews. A part of my 2019 reading goals and resolutions is to publish the book review within a week of completing the book. It is already February but I am still to compose even just one review from the four books I have read in January. (Here comes the excuse). It was just that I had to complete my 2018 book reviews first before starting with my 2019 reviews. I promise to catch up in February! I swear (fingers crossed).
Yes please, readers, do watch out for my extended reviews for the four books in the coming days. Here’s to a good start for all our reading journeys for the year!