Sunday, January 9, 2022

2021 Overview and Reading in December


2021 statistics ...

In 2021 I read 105 books. I usually aim at 84 books in a year, which would be seven books a month. In 2020 I read 113 books.

My reading continues to be focused on mystery novels. This year I read 69 mystery novels, which is less than last year. That group includes any historical mysteries and spy fiction I read. Of that total, 27 were published in 1960 or before, 26 were published between 1960 and 1999, 12 were published between 2000 and 2018, and only 4 were published in 2019-2021. The mysteries were divided almost equally between male and female authors. 

Other fiction reading was divided thus:

  • Science fiction: 7
  • Fantasy: 2
  • General fiction: 8
  • Historical fiction: 11

All of those numbers are up from last year, and I am pleased with that. I would like to read more science fiction in 2022.

I continued reading short stories every month, but I only completed one book of short stories. I have sampled stories from a lot of short story collections and anthologies, and I need to finish more of them this year. 

My nonfiction reading was much lower than last year. I only read 6 books in that genre. Of all the books I read, only 6 books were from my Classics List. That is another area I need to improve on. 

And now, on to books read in December 2021...

General Fiction

The Last Noel (2002) by Michael Malone

This book was set at Christmas and has a definite Christmas theme. It takes place in the small town of Moors, North Carolina. Noni (real name Noelle) is the daughter of the Tilden family, a rich and privileged family that has lived in the area for many years.  Kaye is the grandson of the Tilden's black maid, who has worked for the Tilden family for years. Kaye and Noni's relationship is viewed through twelve Christmases, starting in 1963 and ending in 2003. See review here.

High Rising (1933) by Angela Thirkell

This was one of the books set at Christmas, at least partially. I have been hearing about the Barsetshire series by Thirkell for years. At first I thought that they were not for me, but recently I became curious and decided I had to read one and I wanted to start at the beginning. I am glad I tried it, it was an entertaining read. I hope to continue the series, but there are 29 books in the series, so maybe that is a bit much. I will try to get through the books written during the war years, which is about half of them. 

Historical Fiction

Rules of Civility (2011) by Amor Towles

This is not a Christmas book, really, but the main story starts on New Year's Eve in 1937 and ends with a surprise Christmas gift two days before Christmas in 1938, so it felt like holiday reading to me. I loved this book. See review here.

Crime Fiction

Spence And The Holiday Murders (1977) by Michael Allen

This is the first book in the Detective Chief Superintendent Ben Spence series. It was an enjoyable read, the type of book I enjoy now and then, but it was a pretty standard 1970s police procedural. But is was set in the UK and around Christmas time, so a timely read.

Murder in the Snow: A Cotswold Christmas Mystery  (1950) by Gladys Mitchell

This book was originally published as Groaning Spinney, and it was the 23rd book in the Mrs. Bradley series. I read it as a part of a group read hosted at Jason Half's blog; there is commentary there from the group in four parts. It begins here and the final post is here.

As the subtitle above indicates, some of the action takes place at Christmas, when Mrs. Bradley is visiting her nephew and his wife, but the Christmas festivities are over very quickly. The investigation continues for months afterwards. I love the setting in the Cotswold and there are treks through the rural areas there. My only complaint is that the investigation drags on and on.

Pictures of Perfection (1994) by Reginald Hill

The 14th book in the Dalziel & Pascoe series. Pascoe is sent to a small village in Yorkshire to investigate the disappearance of one of their uniformed officers. Coincidentally, Sergeant Wield had just a few days previously stopped in the village on the way back from vacation and had a mild altercation with the missing village policeman. When he gets back from vacation, he is also sent to investigate, but neither of them finds any evidence of what has happened to the missing man. This entry in the series is Reginald Hill's version of a village cozy, and has much more humor than usual. 

Fortune Favors the Dead (2020) by Stephen Spotswood

This was Spotswood's debut novel and the first in the Pentecost and Parker series. The author is a fan of the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout and used it as inspiration in coming up with this detective duo. Since Rex Stout is my favorite mystery writer, I had to try the series. Lillian Pentecost is a successful private detective in her forties but she has multiple schlerosis and her health is failing. She hires Willowjean Parker, a young woman who ran off to work in the circus when she was 15, to be her assistant and offers to provide training in many areas. They are the perfect pair, and I loved the story. 

My husband took this photo at Mackenzie Park in Santa Barbara. The photo at the top of the post was taken at Lake Los Carneros located near Stow House in Santa Barbara County. Click on the images for best viewing quality.


Cath said...

I love Glen's photos, especially the old tree at the start of your post. Beautiful.

Yes, there are a lot of books in the Thirkell series. I've read possibly 10 - 12 and they get stronger as they go along but I found that a lot were almost standalones apart from odd people that reappeared, Tony the annoying son for instance. And they're a bit samey. But I like them for their gentleness and their depiction of life in England before, during and just after the war. The social mores etc.

I can't tell you how much fun I get out of how many skulls appear on the covers of the books you read. LOL!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never feel obliged to read straight through an anthology of short stories. Especially ones by the same author. I think they are best spread out because there similarities can hurt your pleasure in reading them.

Rick Robinson said...

Very nice. I just about hit 80, more than expected but less than desired. That top photo is great.

TracyK said...

Rick, I hope you are feeling better, I have been worried about you.

I may slow down my reading so that I can review more, or I may up the numbers because I also hope to read more graphic novels. So many of those sit on my shelves unread.

That is a lovely photo and a lovely place to walk.

TracyK said...

Cath, I am glad you appreciate Glen's photos and my books with skull covers. I should have a skull cover of the month feature.

Re Thirkell's series, I was a bit dismayed when I realized the next story would not have the same characters but then I realized that could get tiresome. I think I will enjoy more of them, and especially the ones around the war years. I like the fact that you can count on a happy(ish) ending and not too much angst.

TracyK said...

Patti, you are so right about story collections from the same author, it is nice to spread them out. And sometimes that is also true about collections with one theme, even though the authors will approach it differently. And my favorite thing is starting a new story collection.

Sam said...

Tracy, you had a great reading year, so congrats on that. You, by far, read more books published mid-twentieth century than anyone else I know. I'm striving to get closer to doing that myself, but I always seem to fizzle out well before the end of the year.

As for short stories, I agree with Patti that reading collections by the same author and become a bit tedious sometimes. I read half a dozen or so short story compilations instead, most of them grouped by theme or purpose, and I really enjoy those.

TracyK said...

Sam, I am a believer in reading what makes you happy, so if reading newer books does that for you, I would stick with it. With the older books, I am much more tolerant because one element I enjoy is reading books set and written in earlier times. Newer crime fiction often has way too much violence for me. But I am trying to branch out to other types of reading myself.

This year I hope to do better tracking of the short stories I read and I would like to average one short story a day.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm glad you had some good reads in December, Tracy. You've reminded me, too, that I've been wanting to read more non-fiction than I have lately. It's funny how we get away from one or another sort of reading, isn't it? I'm hoping to do more of that this year.

TracyK said...

Margot, it is interesting how we can focus on one type of reading for a year, or give up on a genre for a while. Nonfiction is not usually as much of a relaxing experience for me, and that may be one reason. I do know why I read less non-fiction this year though. I got stuck in the middle of a long difficult book (Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution) and did not want to start any other serious non-fiction until I finish that one. I have over half of that book left.

Katrina said...

Thirkell's wartime books are my favourites, as she wrote them in real time I feel they really reflect how many people felt at the time. Of course we read the books knowing what the outcome of the war was but as she wrote the books she had no idea that all would be well in the end. She loves to have a rant at those in officialdom and that can be really funny.

TracyK said...

Katrina, I am glad to hear more encouragement for reading Thirkell's wartime books. I will have to start looking for a copy of Wild Strawberries soon.

CLM said...

I too have noticed Tracy's predilection for skulls and find it most entertaining! We should all keep track of the ones we find and recommend them. One of my favorites is this Catherine Aird: (hopefully this will show the right cover).

I am also a Thirkell fan and spent one summer reading every one. Then I collected all of them about 20 years ago when Moyer Bell did some nice trade paperbacks. I haven't read a ton of Trollope but I certainly watched all the BBC series so was familiar with the characters or at least their ancestors! There are several recurring characters one becomes fond of but my favorite books are The Duke's Daughter and the ones set partly in a boys' school. It is hard to keep them straight until one starts rereading. I was going to say I liked the war books like Katrina but then I recalled a tedious subplot involving refugees from made-up Mixo-Lydian. I am also a big Burne-Jones fan and Angela was his granddaughter.


TracyK said...

Constance, that is a very nice skull cover on A Most Contagious Game; I have never seen that cover. My husband and I each own an edition of that book, and mine has a skeleton lying on its back on the cover, and Glen's has a beautiful church and grounds (I think) on the cover (the Rue Morgue Press edition). I haven't read that book yet, and that is another one I should read this year.

I am looking forward to reading more books by Thirkell; I will find some online, but I can hope that eventually I will find several at the book sale.

Rick Robinson said...

No worries, just age and the usual potholes in the road. I have that book by Aird, will have to see what cover is on it.

TracyK said...

I am glad to hear that, Rick. I have been getting out in the back and front to take care of my badly neglected plants and ever-present weeds, and that is giving me an aching back, but nothing serious.

col2910 said...

We've just started watching the Dalziel and Pascoe series this month as they are airing on one of our satellite channels. It wouldn't hurt for me to try one of the books!

TracyK said...

Definitely, Col, you should try one of the Dalziel and Pascoe books. Maybe not this one (Pictures of Perfection) to start with, but other than that, any of them are good. I have only read them in order and someday I will finish the series. The characters are very good.