2019 Goodreads Reading Stats
Favorite Read of the Year: The Travelling Cat Chronicles, Hiro Arikawa
Least Favorite Read of the Year: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris
Most Common Subjects: World War II and War; Mental Health
Most Common Genre: Historical
With the momentum I have gained in 2018, I managed to complete total of 56 books in 2019, seven less than the previous year but six books more than my original target of 50. One factor, I surmise, that helped me complete as many books is my long six month period of unemployment. Whilst it was not an accomplishment I relish, it afforded me the time to do more things that I have been meaning to do, such as reading and writing.
With 2019 drawing its curtains, it is time to look back to the year that was, in terms of reading.
2019 Top 20 Reading List
Since 2017, I started my reading year by forging a list of 20 books which I aim to complete during the year. These lists are composed of books from a wide spectrum of genres. I failed my 2017 target (missing the target by one book: James Joyce’s behemoth of a work, Ulysses) but thankfully, I was able to complete my 2018 list. To be honest, it took some scrambling just to finish it. What is important is that I completed my goal.
Just like in 2018, I prepared my 2019 reading list with haste. The goal, however, is to cover as wide a range of genres and subjects as possible. As such, my 2019 list had popular contemporary works such as Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians, timeless classics such as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and literary behemoths such as Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. The list also included some of the most renowned reads there is such as Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and Jane Austen’s Emma. I can’t help but gleam with pride at the diversity of the list that I have prepared for myself in 2019.
Unlike in 2017 and 2018, I immediately started digging into my 2019 Reading List with vigor. My journey started with John Irving’s The Cider House Rules. It was a book that has pleasantly surprised me. Despite taking on some discomfiting subjects, it was an out-of-the box literary piece that is worthy of inclusion in my reading list.
Unable to take advantage of the momentum I gained earlier in the year, my reading started slowing at the middle of the year at least in the perspective of my 2019 Top 20 Reading List. At one point, I have concluded that I might not be able to complete all the 20 books. With utmost haste, and for the fear of failure, I went back to the drawing board and slowly but surely made progress during the last quarter of the year, completing ten in a blur of speed. But hey, I was able to complete all 20 books, which is the original goal anyway.
With three years of doing a Top 20 Reading List, I am slowly getting the hang of it. As of the moment, so I am currently working on my 2020 Top 20 Reading List. Right now, I am staring at a very hefty pile of nearly 200 possible candidates lying on my bookshelf. Now I just have to downsize and check which are aligned with my 2020 reading goals (which I am about to finalize in a couple days).
One of the positive reading developments I had in 2019 was joining reading challenges. The first reading challenge I joined was Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge, my second time participating in the challenge; I passed my 2018 target with flying colors. I set my target to a very conservative number of 50 books. Thankfully, I was able to achieve it, with a few more books to spare. For 2020, I am upping the ante as my goal is to complete 60 books. This is still a conservative number because I know I am capable of reading more than 60 books in a year but I want to keep my goals realistic, and well, achievable.
I also signed up for another reading challenge in 2019 – the Beat the Backlist Challenge 2019 Edition. This was supposed to be in my favor because I am more of a Backlist reader than a currently-published type of reader. As I have a long list of books to choose from, I listed 15 books from this pile. Unfortunately, I only managed to read a dismal six books. This is really a bummer as I could have made a headway into ticking off more books from my (burgeoning) book pile. I will sign up again for the 2020 challenge but will limit my goal to a more realistic number – 12 books, one book for every month.
On top of the Goodreads and the Beat the Backlist challenges, I am looking at signing up to more reading challenges in 2020. I have already encountered two reading challenges that I manage. The first one is the 2020 Year of the Asian Reading Challenge. Being a Filipino, I’ve always been fond of Asian works, having dedicated at least one month in the past two years to reading works by Asian authors (I even had one Japanese literature month in 2019). My target is the Philippine Tarsier, reading about one to ten books. I can do better but I have other goals in 2020 which might be affected by this. For now, I’ll stick with a realistic (again) number.
The fourth reading challenge I have signed up for the year is the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. The task is simple and surprisingly manageable, you just have to complete reading a book from each category in a list of ten categories such as a book in translation, a debut novel and a book recommended by a source you trust. This should be fun.
Book Reviews and Book Blogging Activities
When I started my blog, it was supposed to be a merge of three things I love – reading, travelling, and writing. However, towards the year, it was increasingly becoming more of a book blog. It is not a bad deal really (although I am looking at catching up with my travel blogs this year). I have become active in book blogging, especially during the second half of the year.
Apart from writing book reviews, I started doing regular book blog posts. My participation in these book blog updates is mainly due to my fellow book bloggers. My first regular book blog post was WWW Wednesday, which is basically a weekly reading update. From that, I branched off to First Impression Fridays, Top Ten/Five Tuesdays, and the latest, Goodreads Monday. With all of these regular updates, I already am looking at a very busy blogging year. Not that I am complaining though. Bring it all in 2020!
Whilst this part of my book blogging venture has become quite a success, the other parts had to suffer, particularly on my book review composition. I am really lagging behind; this is always the case during the last quarter of the year because of the Holiday rush I guess. I still have about 10 books up for book review and I am at a loss on how to shorten this list. To think that part of my 2019 reading goals and resolutions is writing a book review IMMEDIATELY after finishing a book. *Chuckles*
On a brighter note, my book review endeavors have evolved yet again during the year. As the old mantra goes, “change is the only thing constant”; I can be such a cliched writer at times. On this front, there were two significant changes. First, I started rating books by the percentages, from the original star ratings, to give a more accurate gauge of the book. I also started to minimizing personal points-of-views on my reviews. There is lesser “I’s” in my book reviews now although I still insert a personal opinion at the end of each review. There might be further changes again in 2020. Who knows? We can only flow with the times in order for us to grow and improve.
War, Historical Fiction and Mental Health
If there is a particular genre that defined my 2019 reading journey, it would be historical fiction. My 2019 reading year was subconsciously designed as such. It was without design but I ended up reading as many works of historical fiction as I can. Some of the standouts include Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Lisa See’s The Island of Sea Women, and Dasa Drndic’s Trieste. There were other well-written prose from this genre that redefined my year in books.
For the third year in a row, wars and their impacts are recurring themes and subjects in the books I’ve read. The reverberations of wars stretched to different countries such as Albania (Ismail Kadare’s The General of the Dead Army), Germany/Poland (Gunther Grass’ The Tin Drum), Syria (Zeyn Joukhadar’s The Map of Salt and Stars) and Nigeria (Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun). War remain integral in fiction as humanity constantly places the proverbial microscope on its consequences. From its evils and its vestiges (and its semi-permanent place in history), we try to take as much as we can so that we can prevent another one from percolating.
Another prevalent theme and subject in 2019 was mental health. With the rather fast-paced development, the discussion surrounding mental health has become timely and of utmost importance. Through literary works, the stigma surrounding it is slowly being broken down and the general public is being educated on its various manifestations and behaviors. We cannot stress enough the importance of being healthy, physically and mentally.
2020 in Perspective
Reading is a journey, a perpetual adventure in the world of written language. This is something I have learned in my many years of reading. We can never be sure of the final destination but it is sure lurking over the horizon. It is just up to us to be brave enough and venture beyond our comfort zones. The higher the risks, the higher rewards and it sure is.
In 2020, there are a lot of things I want to achieve and there are a lot of books I want to read. My venture into the diverse and the undefinable made me a better and more critical reader. With the reading momentum I have garnered over the years, I am moving into 2020 full of hope and expectations. My literary journey is still out-of-shape but it sure is gaining more shape and form as the years go by. I have made strides in 2019 and I am looking at breaking even more barriers in 2020.
2020 holds a lot of promise. A new year. A new decade. There are just so many things to look forward to. I was propelled into the deeper world of literature in the late 2010s, now I have to make good of the journey and dig even deeper. I am looking forward to losing myself in the company of printed words and be transported to fascinating worlds and dimensions as only good books can.
Here’s to a toast to an amazing 2019. I am looking forward to a great 2020 reading journey! I hope my fellow readers will have the same too. Happy reading!