Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 End of the Year Book Survey.

The wonderful Jaime over at The Perpetual Page-Turner is hosting her "End of the Year Book Survey" for 2011. She started it last year and it exploded all over the place (click here for the big 2010 link-in post on her blog).

I like getting all nostalgic as it nears the end of the year, so before I even thought about my answers for this year's survey, I went back and read last year's. It seems like so long ago that I read some of those titles!

Anywhere, here we go with this year's survey and answers...

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

While I read many, MANY amazing books this year, my gut is telling me that my all-time favorite was The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, with Moby-Dick by Herman Melville in a very close second. POAL was simply amazing. It was well worth the read...and absolutely fabulous. I highly recommend it (my thoughts on it are still going up).

I also need to shout out about Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko-WONDERFUL.

I'm also in the middle of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton-it is definitely going to be a favorite for the year!

2. Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?

There are a couple I could mention here as being unimpressive. I wasn't as into Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys as I had hoped. I also wasn't the biggest fan of Dubliners by Joyce or Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor. None of those were bad, just not my favorites.

But my least favorite book of 2011 has to be Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Out of the 125ish books I've read thus far in my project, this has been my least favorite. That should tell you a lot.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

I was surprised by a number of books this year, but I feel like I need to give a nod to War and Peace and The Divine Comedy here. Both were far more accessible than I thought they would be!

I feel I also need to mention that both Oliver Twist and Hard Times by Charles Dickens ended up being really enjoyable!

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?

To be quite honest, I didn't lend out too many books this year to my friends and family that I recently read. I do remember having a lot of conversations about some titles as I read them. The Mill on the Floss came up in quite a few conversations with Jillian, as did Moby-Dick, The Portrait of a Lady, and The House of Mirth. I also convinced Trisha to read The Ranger's Apprentice Series, which she seems to be enjoying!

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?

I spent a few snow days last winter reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which I really enjoyed. Other than that, I really didn't read any series!

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

SO MANY! :) I feel like I can now add Tolstoy (War and Peace and The Death of Ivan Ilyich), Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White), DuMaurier (Rebecca), Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony), and Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) to a list of new (to me) favorite authors I discovered this year.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

You know, I honestly can't think of anything that was outside my comfort zone! I was a little apprehensive about starting War and Peace, but it was a much easier read than I thought it would be.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

I immediately thought of the first book I read in 2011-Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I read that book so fast because it was just THAT GOOD. I was also quite hooked on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?

I'm trying to think of a book I was really excited for, but since most of them grabbed me in some way, I am going to say Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I have read an Austen title the last couple of years around the holidays, and it is definitely a tradition I am going to keep up! Plus, Jillian hyped it up for me, and I scored a beautiful new edition for review!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?

I'm going with two (because I can)-a classic and one of the handful of books NOT on my list that I read this year:

First up is the classic, Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. When I found this edition neglected on a bookshelf, I grabbed it. The cover is just so simple and pretty (it is absolutely gorgeous in person).

I also really loved the cover of Nina Sankovitch's Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. This was a book about the power of reading, and who doesn't like a big comfy chair when they read?

I also read a few more of my Penguin clothbounds this year, and you all know how much I love those covers (I read The Woman in White, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Treasure Island, Dracula, Sense and Sensibility and A Christmas Carol all in their clothbound glory this year)!

11. Most memorable character in 2011?

Adam will probably laugh at me, and/or harass me for saying this, but John Galt from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand will remain forever etched in my memory (I read that book 1 1/2 times this year).

I'm also going with Isabel Archer from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, and Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I told my husband I want to name a future daughter Scout. I think he thought I was joking...)

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

I have to go back to the first three books I mentioned in question 1: The Portrait of a Lady, Moby-Dick, and Ceremony.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?

I got incredibly sappy and loving after I finished Jane Eyre. I even read a passage to Matt. :)

I threw Atlas Shrugged a few times when I was reading it, I let my cat sleep on it, and I fought it more than any other book this year. I call that a reaction.

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch had me feeling very introspective. It also made me tear up a few times.

Ceremony also broke my heart a bit. And I cried a little when I finished The Portrait of a Lady. Matt laughed at me. :)

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?

Jane Eyre!!! I held out against a lot of peer pressure to read this one...and it was worth the wait. Such a wonderful, beautiful book!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?

From Jane Eyre:
“I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest - blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward's society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together. To be together is for us to be at once free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character - perfect concord is the result.”

From The Portrait of a Lady:
“I always want to know the things one shouldn't do."
"So as to do them?" asked her aunt.
"So as to choose." said Isabel”

From Moby-Dick:
"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago- never mind how long precisely- having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."

16. Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012?

I am actually going to reread War and Peace in the first six months of 2012. I read it very quickly last year and want to savor it a bit more this time around!

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

Portrait of a Lady had me on the edge of my seat by the end. I had to tell Matt all about it when I finished.

I had a huge WTF moment when it came to the SUPER LONG John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had me in stitches...and then in a deep stupor after I finished it (all in a good way-what a fabulous play).

Then there is THAT scene in Jude the Obscure. If you've read it, you should know exactly what scene I am talking about! OMG.

Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2011

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2011?

I really can't answer this question because I feel I would leave someone out. Let's just say that book blogs with a classic focus seemed to boom this year. I've met a lot of great new bloggers this year! I also developed my relationships with other bloggers-which I want to continue to do!

Thank you all for continuing to read about my journey!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010?

It is really hard to pick a favorite review. I really liked writing this post on the first piece of Moby-Dick. There is also this post on Tolstoy and Purple Chair that I had fun writing as well.

I don't think either one of those are my best posts, but they stick out more than others.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

This is an area I think I need to work on in 2012, but I did have a few posts that got the conversation going. I discussed in this post my observations about reading speed and there were some interesting things said in the comments. I also shared how I manage my book database in this post.

And while it wasn't a discussion themed post, I think that this post on my frustrations with my unemployment gave me a lot to think about (thanks to your comments).

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?

I really enjoyed this post by Jillian about the canon and reading canonical works. It gave me a lot to think about as a classics blogger.

I also loved this recent post (I'm still thinking of a comment to post) by Delaisse-a fabulous blogger, you all need to go visit. It is a great post about women and writing and Virginia Woolf and writing that has been lost. Go read it.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I participated in many, many events this year. I really like community events, so I tend to seek those out. Some of my favorite include the Classics Circuit, Dewey's Readathon, group reads and readalongs, and themed months (like the recent Transcendentalist Month). I like the idea of bringing bloggers together in a positive and meaningful way.

I also enjoy a few memes here and there-Top Ten Tuesday is a fun way to get some book recommendations.

I, sadly, didn't got to any signings this year. I had plans to head up to Lansing in October for the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour, but things came up and I missed it (I was bummed to miss Carrie Ryan, since I met her the year before and needed her other book signed).

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2011?

I have a couple of moments actually...

First, the amount of support I've received this year in regards to all the "outside, real world" stuff going on-from Matt's step-dad battling lymphoma, to my countless posts on being frustrated. Every time I feel a bit down, I visit some of those posts to read your comments. Thank you for that.

I also really enjoyed being a co-host for the April Readathon. I battled through while being sick, but I had a great time hosting and being involved in the community.

There have also been some other things that are special to me-like giving away books to fellow bloggers. I love being able to share books, so for all of you who have entered a giveaway, thanks for that! I love being able to send things to you through the mail!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

I went and looked before starting to answer this question. I find it hilarious that this post on the Percy Jackson series has had 2,000+ views this year. Really? I don't even think it is that great of a post (I read the series during "Snowpocalypse" in February).

Some other popular posts (with regards to hits this year) are a number of books that are generally read in school: Lord of the Flies (This post has over 4,500 views since it went up in 2010-INSANE), Catcher in the Rye, Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Umm, to be honest, I can't think of anything off the top of my head. Sometimes when I am writing a post I know that it isn't the best, so it never surprises me when some posts only get 1 or 2 comments and some get 15+.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I got Homer (my Nook Color) in July for my birthday! I never thought I would like an ereader, but I really love having it. I do need to read more on it, but it does tire my eyes out sooner than paper books (the screen is backlit). It is fabulous for reading magazines and such-or having twitter open while reading. :)

Since getting Homer, I have used Project Gutenberg A LOT to download some FREE copies of old classics. I am sure I will use the site more and more when books become hard to find (I still prefer reading a physical book).

It isn't a new discovery, but I also spent some time this year pondering a big trip to John King books in downtown Detroit when I finish my project as a celebration gift. I haven't made it down there in over a year, but John King is a HUGE warehouse FULL of used and rare books. Last time I was there, I bought a beautiful set of Austen titles. The bookstore was actually featured in this article by the Huffington Post about the WORLD'S five greatest bookstores. If you are ever in this area, you need to go (I'll go with).

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?


Some of you are going to laugh, but I failed miserably at the challenges I signed up for in 2011. I only completed one...so of course it makes sense I signed up for a lot during 2012, right? But, I am reaching the point where I have less...choice on my list now, so these challenges should be easier to complete...as least that's what I'm telling myself.

I also failed to read as much as I wanted to this year. I think I'll hit 82ish books for the year. There were years before I started this project where I was consistently reading 100+ books/year...but when I think about it, that included a lot of YA, fantasy, and other things that are easier to read. Say what you will, but it takes a lot more to read 1000+ pages of classic literature vs. 1000+ pages of YA. I think that the quality of what I read far outweighs the amount.

But, there were weeks at a time where I let other things distract me from reading. I am a much nicer and balanced person when I give myself the luxury of reading everyday. I need to remember that.

Looking Ahead...

1. One Book You Didn't Get To In 2011 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2012?

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. I never had the right timing to get to this one, so I made sure to put it on a challenge list for 2012.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. This was the title for the June readalong and I failed miserably. I got 150 pages into it, was loving it, and life got in the way. I kept meaning to come back to it, but never did. I will definitely read it this coming year!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2012?

I am really excited to read Clarissa with Jillian come April. It will be nice to have some company while tackling it (you are all welcome to join us!).

I am also excited for Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It was one I planned to read this year, but again, I ran out of time!

I'm also pretty darn excited to dive into some Shakespeare in a few days!

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2012?

I have a lot more specifics planned out in my resolutions post (will go up soon-Thursday), but overall, I hope to be productive. I crossed the halfway point in my project about 6 months after I had planned to. That isn't a horrible thing, but I want to make some steady progress this year. My number one goal is to get to Book 200 by this time next year. You all need to hold me to that!


  1. Heh, that moment in Jude the Obscure is exactly what I answered for that question. :D

    You make me want to give Henry James another chance. I wasn't a big fan of The Turn of the Screw.

  2. GREAT answers, Allie! This gives me some guidance as to where I'll go with my classics first in 2012. :D I tried reading Heart of Darkness when I was younger and could. not. do. it. We'll see if it happens in the future. Eeek!

    And I love that Tolstoy and the Purple Chair cover. Beautiful!

  3. Moby Dick! I have wanted to read that for FOREVER but I always come across people who hate it, so this survey pretty much says to me - 'those people were wrong READ MOBY DICK 2012'.

    Also, War And Peace -- GET IT GIRL! Seriously, I feel like War And Peace and Moby Dick are always portrayed as lofty books that are SO hard to tackle, but you read them both in one year and that is amazing.

    Also re: YA vs. Classics - I completely agree that it is much easier to read 1000+ pages of YA than it is to read 1000+ pages of classics. I think classics tend to have more nuance than the majority of most YA I read, and plus with some classics, I feel the need to read more slowly to absorb it.

    Here is to a wonderful year of reading in 2012!

  4. I'm reading Tolstoy and the Purple Chair right now. In fact, I should finish it this morning. I bawled when her sister died. Luckily, HB wasn't around to laugh at me. :-D

  5. You had a pretty awesome reading year! I'm really glad I read War & Peace this year too. It was much less scary than I thought it would be. Jane Eyre and Rebecca are a couple of my favorites as well. I'm glad you liked Portrait so much. Sad, but so good. And that moment in Jude, yup.

  6. I am most definitely enjoying the Ranger's Apprentice series! And I'm glad you like the Percy Jackson series; I really had fun with that one.

  7. I completely agree on the John Galt speech! And I'm glad to see you're finally warming to Dickens!

  8. SO MANY of the books I am reading in 2012 were inspired by you: Henry James, Melville, Edith Wharton, Jude the Obscure, -- well, you know what you recommended. I can't wait to get started, and I'm so glad I'm sharing this journey with you.

    (Thank you for the link!)

    I love that passage you quoted from Jane Eyre. Makes me want to reread!! I'm glad I had a hand in pumpoing you up for Sense & Sensibility! That's a turn, isn't it -- from last year when I disliked Austen and you encouraged me. :-)

    Cheers, and Happy New Year, Allie!

  9. I'm planning to read War and Peace next year. The fact that you're planning to read it almost immediately after reading it the first time is very encouraging. Henry James is a favourite? I've been a little nervous about reading him. Heart of Darkness is hard, but I felt like I'd accomplished something good once I was done with it. I won't be reading any more Joseph Conrad, though!

    Enjoyed reading your survey. :)

  10. Great post! Same for me with Vanity Fair (don't know what happened...but I own my own copy now so it's definitely on my 2012 list). War and Peace and other 'scary tomes' seem less scary after you've tackled some Tolstoy or other classics before. I'm sure it'll be really accessible once I get to it.

    You're right about classics being read slowly. That also depends on the plot, writing style etc. but YA is written for well...young adults. It's meant to capture their short attention spans with simpler plots and words etc. whereas what are you reading are intricate masterpieces usually written for intellectuals of that time (those who knew how to read at least). Not saying that YA is bad, just different (modern)!
    So don't worry about quantity, I read just app.50 this year (also had some important exams...) but a lot of Austen and Dostoevski etc.

    I'm sure that at this pace you'll reach your goal of 200 books next year :).

  11. I really enjoy these year-end posts! Sounds like it's been a great reading year, and 2012 will be great as well!

  12. Wow, you had a great reading year! And now you make me want to read A Portrait of a Lady. I've been avoiding it forever, and I'm not sure why, although I think it's because I saw a movie version when I was in high school that I thought was boring, maybe?

  13. Oops, hit publish too quickly--I also wanted to say that I'm really looking forward to Shakespeare month!

  14. Yay for a good reading year! I can't wait to read more from you in 2012.

  15. I say BAH! to John Galt. Memorable? I guess. But not in a good way.

    Also - really glad to hear how much you loved War and Peace, as well as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Two of my favorites. :)

  16. Bah. Heart of Darkness. I agree with you about that. Happy New Year! Good luck reading Clarissa. That's one I'd like to read in 2012, too.