Three years of recording my reads! It looks so satisfying.
ahh my Elizabeth Hoyt and Sherry Thomas binge in 2016
I did not, regretfully, hit my goal of 150 books this year – I really tried, but came in at 148, 2 books short. To reframe: I read 148 books this year! I’m going to celebrate that.
This is the breakdown of my book reading by month. September is my most consistent month, apparently. This year, I read the fewest books in July (7)! and the most books in March and December (17). July makes sense to me – I was travelling for quite a chunk of June and July, and there were significant family events happening. As I was reminded recently – people are more important, and more joyous, than paper.
I wanted to chart my overall reading as a pattern, but while 2016 and 2017 sort of mapped quite nicely onto each other, I don’t see that corresponding picture in 2018, other than in November, where book reading dips only to climb back up in December. That might be all iterations of Past Kat trying to hit book reading goals. High five to all of us!
I continued to read mostly female-authored books. I did not read any poetry anthologies in 2018! I did read 2-3 graphic novels, and about 27 “world” texts, including Bruneian and other Southeast Asian novels.
Following the Money
In 2018, I spent about 2500BND on 193 books, an average of approx 200BND a month and ~12-13BND per book. I thought this might be a little inflated because of March expenditure, when I bought some (expensive) academic texts – but when I took that month and those texts out of the equation, it worked out – to almost exactly the same, actually. So statistics works.
Takeaway: Books are expensive, there was a steady downward expenditure towards the end of the year (I’m not sure why, maybe I was working through the backlog of books I’d already bought rather than buying new ones), and this will be helpful for understanding my budget going forward.
I also tracked where I was buying books: no surprise that almost half of my money in 2018 went to Amazon UK and Kindle ebooks. I spent a lot of money at overseas bookstores and on book depository, and very little, relatively, at Bruneian bookstores.
Books I’m Still Thinking About
Taylor Jenkins Reid The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – I read this towards the end of the year, and I totally get the hype. An Old Hollywood superstar finally chooses a journalist to reveal all her secrets to, and it was wonderful. Wise and pragmatic, glamorous and dramatic, and very compassionate. Would recommend!
Pat Barker The Silence of the Girls – This wonderful review calls it a feminist retelling of Homer’s Iliad, and “a version of the story that shifts our attention from the angry, des-tructive, quick-footed, short-lived boys to the raped, enslaved, widowed women, who watch their city burn and, if they are lucky, get a moment to bury their slaughtered children and grandchildren before they are taken far away”. I loved this book and it broke my heart.
Julia Alvarez In the Time of the Butterflies – this was a Feminist Book Club read, and we had a fantastic time discussing which of the four revolutionary Mirabal sisters we would have been. I didn’t expect to like this because revolutionary novels set in dictatorships (in this case, the Dominican Republic during Trujillo’s time) are not my leisure jam, but this was the most female one I’ve ever read, and a lovely counterpoint to the only other Dominican (-American) writing I know – Junot Diaz’s.
Mary Robinette Kowal The Calculating Stars and its sequels – The Lady Astronaut of Mars series…wow. Fantastic world-building of an alternate Space Race (involving more women) after a post-WW2 meteor renders Earth predicted as uninhabitable in a slow-burn matter of decades. I read it shortly after reading Hidden Figures, and they were wonderful companion books.
Alfian Sa’at Malay Sketches – vignettes of Singaporean Malay life. This was poignant, far-reaching, and told the truth with tenderness and precision.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland – I don’t know if this was objectively good, but it’s a book I keep turning over in my head. Three men stumble across a female society in the deeps of the Amazon, which has been populated exclusively by women (divine births) for generations and generations, and the way the ideas of religion, education, development and family are developed is amazing.
Naomi Novik Spinning Silver – I had been looking forward to this meaty fairytale since Uprooted, and it didn’t disappoint. Fairytale logic – cruel and arbitrary and sharp – is spun relentlessly around this retelling of Rumpelstiltskin imbued with Jewish mythology.
Meena Kandasarry When I Hit You – This memoir-non-memoir was unforgiving and unflinching.
Cheryl Lu-lienTan Sarong Party Girls – Jazzy, the exuberant, headstrong protagonist, wants what she wants and the way she begins to question what she wants throws a hard light on ang mohs, social class and mobility, and Singaporean culture, Funny, fast, Singlish.
Zen Cho Spirits Abroad – This was the collection of short stories that I wish I was gifted and wise enough to be able to write. Malaysian spirits, Malaysian humans, at home and abroad. Whimsical, warm hearted, just a delight.
Imogen Hermes Gowar The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – I read this at the beginning of the year and still remember it, this story of class and struggle and choices in Victorian England.
Special mention to Phillip Pullman’s The Book of Dust (yesss back in Lyra’s Oxford, with an equally wonderful protagonist), Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures (just a phenomenal piece of determined history-making), Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic (like Zen Cho, I wish I could write this kind of magic).
In 2019 I would like to keep to about 144-150 books (12 books a month-ish). I don’t think I can feasibly do more, and I marvel at readers I’ve seen who do! I think this amount works for me and my lifestyle, and gives me time and space to read longer texts at my own pace.
So far in 2019 I’ve read two books and am working through The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (I have thoughts)…and Katherine Arden’s The Winter of the Witch, which I pre-ordered, just downloaded itself neatly into my Kindle. Yay! Here’s to many many more books to love in 2019.