Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Books of the Year 2011

My goal for 2011 was to read 7 books per month, and to read more non-fiction books than fiction. I achieved my goal, with a total of 86 books read, or an average of 7.2 books per month. Of those 86 books, 49 were non-fiction and 37 were fiction.

While reading this much has been tremendous for speeding through my reading list, ultimately I found it to be a bit too much like "work." I often found myself rushing through books or pressuring myself to read books that I didn't really want to finish, just so I could achieve my goal.

So, for 2012, I am scaling back considerably. I want to regain my love for reading. I am hoping to read only 4 books per month. I don't care how many are fiction or non-fiction. If I read more than that, great.

That having been said, here are my top 5 books for 2011:

5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

If you're a book lover and you've never heard of this book, then apparently you've been living under a rock. It's about black servants and the white people they work for in the segregated South of the 1950s. Perhaps it's cliche to have this book on my list, but I really, really loved it. It's an excellent read.

4. American Lightning by Howard Blum

A non-fiction book about the 1910 bombing of the LA Times building. This book is fantastic! I think it particularly struck me because of how many parallels there are between what was happening in America in the early 20th century and what is happening now, exactly 100 years later. I cannot stress enough how great this book is.

3. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Holy cow, a second fiction book makes it into my top 5! This is a YA novel about a young man who is a ghost hunter, which isn't even remotely as lame as it sounds. This book is genuinely scary in parts (and I don't scare easily). It is also violent and beautiful and full of twists that I wasn't necessarily expecting. The author is female but the main character is male and I think she does an excellent job of portraying him. When the sequel (ohpleaseohplease) comes out, I will be on it like a ghost trying to rip the warm flesh from human bones! :)

2. The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell by John Cameron

One man's memoir of his time serving in Iraq. This book is raw and angry and visceral and real. And, oh god, is it good.

1. Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

It feels almost wrong to put a book about soccer as my top book of the year, mostly because I know that 99.9% of people who ever read this blog won't give a crap about soccer. But it's the first book I read this year and it remains my favorite as well. Part history of soccer, part history of South America, and part unashamed worship of the sport, it's as beautiful as the beautiful game itself. Mr. Galeano is truly a talented author.

A Resolution By Any Other Name . . .

It's a beautiful final day of 2011 in Austin, Texas, so I hope you'll indulge me a few ruminations before I get on to the business of listing what I hope to achieve in 2012. With my husband suffering what appears to be a rather nasty cold and fears that I will be soon to follow, I decided to take my best advantage of a lovely day such as this. After running a few errands and getting some breakfast, I grabbed a coffee and headed down to the river for a walk.

A lot of things went through my mind as I was out and about. In many ways, 2011 was a very difficult year. In many other ways, however, it was fantastic. It ended on a bit of a downer. December has been a hard month. My first Christmas without my mother, coupled with the return to yet another meaningless, pointless cubicle job, and capped with food poisoning for Christmas Day, left me in a bit of a funk.

As I spent some quality time with myself today, all I could think was: "So? What are you going to do about it?"

Recently I was reading Riane Eisler's The Power of Partnership. Frankly, I didn't get very far. Part of me liked it. Part of me found her a bit histrionic (her rant about video games making people violent had me rolling my eyes). When the return date came up and I wasn't done, I returned it without renewing it. However, I did really enjoy the first chapter of the book, about how important one's partnership with one's self is. I'd never really thought of it that way before. It made me realize how much work I still have left to do.

All that having been said, I came up with four goals for 2012. I don't really like to call them resolutions. Goal seems to be a better word. I don't necessarily expect to achieve all of these goals - after all, I didn't achieve all the ones I had for 2011 - but I think that it will be fun to try. What can be better than trying to live up to one's full potential?

So here they are, my Goals for 2012:

1. Keep up with my writing. Specifically, I'd like to start working a lot harder so I can finish my current story more quickly. I've got a lot of ideas kicking around in my head. It's time to start putting them to paper. Also, I have an idea for my blog that should have me writing on it once a week - consider this the promise of a nice surprise starting next week!

2. Start thinking more seriously about a non-profit I'd like to start. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I'm just still not exactly sure what I want to focus on. Have to have an idea before I can start working on it!

3. Be more mindful in my relationship with my husband. I want to have more intent in my interactions with him, to be more conscious of what I'm thinking and feeling when we're talking with one another. I don't think I'm explaining this one very well, but I know what I mean. I want to be more present in our relationship.

4. Be a better partner to myself. Specifically, I want to alter my eating habits (something I've already started), get more exercise/spend more time outside, and remember that liking myself is more important than anyone else liking me.

I think that I'm finally starting to become the person I've always wanted to be. It's been a long road, but I realized today that most of it has been incredibly fun. I enjoy being alive, even in the bad times. Life is too short to be unhappy.

I'm really looking forward to 2012. Let's see what kind of wild ride we get this time, shall we?