Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020 Overview and Reading in December

I don't keep statistics as I go along during the year (although I may do that in 2021) but I was curious about my reading this year, so I looked at my counts for various genres. This year I read 113 books. I usually aim at 84 books in a year, which would be seven books a month. In 2019 I read 120 books, but that was an unusually high number for me.

My reading has always been focused on mystery novels, at least in my adult life. This year I read 75 mystery novels. That group includes any historical mysteries and spy fiction I read. Of that total, 25 were published before 1960, 24 were published between 1960 and 1999, and 26 were published after 1999. That seems like a good mix.

Other fiction reading was divided thus:

  • Science fiction: 5
  • Classics: 4
  • General fiction: 4
  • Historical fiction: 7

I read more short stories than usual this year, and ended up completing 6 books of short stories. I joined in on Short Story Wednesday at Patricia Abbott (pattinase) and sampled short stories from several anthologies. 

That leaves 18 non-fiction books, which includes 7 mystery reference books. 

And now, on to books read in December 2020... 

General Fiction

Little Women (1868) Louisa May Alcott

I think I read this book when I was younger but maybe I just remember what I saw in film adaptations. The story was somewhat familiar to me but my memories were garbled so that there were enough surprises to entertain me. See my review here.

The Queen's Gambit (1983) by Walter Tevis

I was motivated to read this book because of the new mini-series on Netflix. I still haven't watched the TV series, but I am very glad I read the book. Beth Harmon is an orphan who discovers she has a gift for playing chess, and becomes obsessed with it. The relationships in this book are fascinating.

Crime Fiction

The Absent One (2008) by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Translated by K. E. Semmel

#2 in the Department Q series. Set in Copenhagen, Denmark. See my review here.

Murder in Retrospect (1942) by Agatha Christie

Poirot is hired to investigate a murder that took place in the past. Carla Lemarchant's mother Caroline Crale was hanged for the murder of her husband. Sixteen years later, Carla wants Poirot to prove that Caroline did not commit the murder. This is one of my favorite Agatha Christie books of the ones I have read so far. This title was published as Five Little Pigs in the UK. 

Hickory Dickory Dock (1955) by Agatha Christie

Miss Lemon, Hercule Poirot's secretary, is obviously worried and he insists she tell him what it is. Her sister is the warden at a youth hostel. There has been a series of thefts and vandalism there. Poirot volunteers to investigate this issue. And then there is a death.

Sad Cypress (1940) by Agatha Christie

At the beginning of this novel, Elinor Carlisle is on trial, accused of the murder of Mary Gerrard by poison. The prosecutor alleges that she is the only person with a motive for this murder. Her engagement to Roddy Wellman had ended because he had fallen for Mary Gerard, the daughter of the lodge keeper at the aunt's estate. Poirot is hired by the aunt's doctor to look for evidence that Elinor did not commit the crime.

This month, I read three books in the Hercule Poirot series, and in October and November I read two each month. It is an interesting experience to read so many of the Poirot books so close together.

The Word is Murder (2018) by Anthony Horowitz

As soon as I started reading this book, I knew that I was going to love it. The premise is that the narrator is a writer who plans to write a true crime novel about a consulting detective who is investigating a murder. The narrator's name is Anthony Horowitz. It is very well done, and I am looking forward to reading the next one, The Sentence is Death.

Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries (2016) edited by Martin Edwards 

This is an anthology of vintage crime stories set around Christmas time. I wrote two posts about stories in this anthology, here and here.

The Beautiful Mystery (2012) by Louise Penny

#8 in the Chief Inspector Gamache series. This one is set in a monastery and eventually addresses some difficulties that Gamache has been having with his superiors in the Surete. 

What I will be doing in January:

I have signed up for one challenge already and I have about nine more I plan to sign up for. I don't think any of them will be a big strain and I will be using them as guidelines for my reading over the year, not something to stress about. 

In January I plan to read a book for the Japanese Literature Challenge at Dolce Bellezza.  Also Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian, Black Robe by Brian Moore, and at least a couple of books in the Hercule Poirot series. The Master and Commander read is intended to be a slow read (one chapter a week for about three months) for Nick Senger's Aubrey/Maturin Chapter-a-Week Read-along, but I may decide I want to read it faster than that. 


Cath said...

You have a very good reading year, Tracy! I certainly read more this year and I assume that's down to the strange year we had in 2020.

I too read more books of short stories than I ever have before in one year, eight. And now I quite like to have a book of them on the go most of the time. The book I'm reading at the moment actually comprises 4 short novellas so it's kind of the same thing.

Funnily enough we actually watched the first episode of The Queen's Gambit last week on my daughter's recommendation. I'll be interested to hear what you think if you get to it.

I tried to read Master and Commander some years ago and struggled with the sailing terms. I want to try again as so many people love the series and 'sea' fiction is one of my things. Again I'll be interested in your opinion.

Look forward to seeing what you read this year, Tracy. You're one of my 'go to' blogs for recommendations and so forth.

dfordoom said...

Also Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian

I used to love the Aubrey-Maturin books. At the time I thought they were even better than C.S. Forester's Hornblower books. Having recently re-read some of the Hornblower books I'd now rate them as being slightly better than the Aubrey-Maturin books but the Aubrey-Maturin books are still terrific.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm glad you like the Anthony Horowitz books, Tracy. I think he's really talented, and I look forward to seeing what he's going to do next. I see you read a lot of Agatha Christie in December, and in my opinion, it's hard to go wrong with a Christie. In my view, there are only a few of her novels that I'd consider weak. And 'weak' for Agatha Christie is better than many people's best efforts.

CLM said...

A great year of reading! I also read more than in normal years but a lot were children's books which are usually shorter.

I was so upset at the end of The Beautiful Mystery that I cried. Even though I got a little tired of the chant element, I still thought it was one of the best books I read last year but I am still figuring out my favorites. It didn't help to read one of the best on the last day of the year!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Cath. I used to avoid both short stories and novellas, because they were too short to develop a story. Not sure exactly why my tastes changed, but a good novella seems the perfect length now. I have always liked the Rex Stout novellas but they are really somewhere between short story and novella length (novelette?) and I already know the characters.

I think we will start watching Queen's Gambit soon. The book is full of chess terms, which I am not familiar with (except for basics). I am hoping that I can handle the sea terms in Master and Commander.

TracyK said...

dfordoom, I was just looking at some of your reviews of the Hornblower books and they sound interesting too. If I get on well with Master and Commander, I will try those too.

TracyK said...

Margot, so far I haven't read a Christie novel that I did not like. Some are better than others. I am trying to read all the Poirot novels before I watch the adaptation. Which means I am concentrating on Poirot right now. I did skip reading The Big Four and went ahead and watched that adaptation, but I will go back later and read that one.

TracyK said...

Constance, I was in a quandary what to read next after finishing The Beautiful Mystery, but when I realized I had the next book in the series, I started How the Light Gets In. So I just finished that last night (very late) as my first book of 2021. Those books are going to be hard to review, as they are linked.

I think I read more books in 2019 because I read a good number of graphic novels, which are sometimes faster reads. Although I usually end up reading them two or three times. I hope to read more graphic novels this year, both fiction and non-fiction.

Katrina said...

I've enjoyed the first three of the Aubrey/Maturin books, I don't think I could read them that slowly. I intend to sign up for a few more challenges but they will all feature books I intended to read anyway.

TracyK said...

I don't know if I can read that type of book so slowly either, Katrina. But I wanted to use this as motivation to read at least one of them, and maybe more. Most of the challenges I will be joining will be the types of books I want to read more of. That is even true of the Nonfiction reading challenge but that one will be harder.

bookertalk said...

I loved The Beautiful Mystery - when I was reading it I just wanted to listen to some of that chanting so I bought myself a CD to give me the right atmosphere when I opened the book

TracyK said...

BookerTalk, I have enjoyed the Inspector Gamache series more and more as I continue reading them. The setting in the monastery was perfect. I did wonder what the chanting sounded like. A sound track included with it would have been great.

col2910 said...

Late commenting - looks like you had a cracking resading year, Tracy. Hope you cross paths with some fantastic books in 2021!

TracyK said...

So far, so good, Col. I read a very good mix of books in January.