My year in books: 2019

I’m quite happy that 2019 is officially over. It wasn’t exactly an easy year for me in many ways, mostly personally (but what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger… right). However, I seem to have outdone myself with my reading goals. I’ve finished 30 books although I planned to tackle only 25. I hit the 10 000 read pages target (with the help of a couple hefty tomes). I participated in the ‘Back to the Classics Challenge 2019‘ and read 6 classics. I tried out new formats: 2 non-fiction books, 2 short story collections, a novella, and a poetry book (those who know me, know that I’m not a fan of poetry… but turns out there are exceptions). Finally, I kept up a good balance between books in English (22 books) and books in Latvian (I read 8 books in my mother tongue).

Books_2019

You know how there are always those books that you want to read but never really get around to reading. Well, this year I tackled two books that have been on my reading wishlist for a while. One was Gregory David Robert’s “Shantaram” and the other – Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose.” I have been planning to read something from Umberto Eco for at least a decade but the size of the volumes and contradictory reviews always scared me. But this year, the right book club topic coincided with the right timing and I went for the challenge. And it was great. Not easy, but great. I loved the attention to detail, the storytelling, the historical context… one can really learn a lot and crave for knowing more of the time period.

I also had a couple of firsts. It was the first time I didn’t finish a book. It was A.S. Byatt’s “Possession.” I and the author might have a birthday on the same day but we don’t share a common understanding of what is an interesting story (and a book full of poetry analysis is just not my cup of tea…). I also went to my first book opening, a poetry book opening which was a nice experience. I managed to read not one, but two short story collections (not my usual choice of reading material). It seems that if a short story collection has a good concept, it can be as enjoyable as a novel. And I dipped my toes in the non-fiction genre that I usually avoid like a plague (I read a lot of scientific articles as a part of my work so…).

If I had to pick books from the last year’s reading list that I could easily recommend, three books come right on top:

1. Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach” [full review in English]. Whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t a dystopian novel. It’s a heartbreaking story of the last months of humanity with a focus on a town in Australia where last human beings are waiting for the inevitable end. What would you do when you’d know there is no future? A question each of us can try to answer through this book.

2. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Children of Time” [full review in Latvian]. I read quite a few science fiction novels this year (it is one of my favorite genres) but I think I loved this one the most. It’s a masterfully crafted world with an amazing story focusing on the evolution of intelligent species (not human for a change).

3. Olga Tokarczuk’s “Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead” [full review in English]. It has become a tradition of mine to read something from the Nobel prize laureates in literature each year. After reading quite a few crime novels and so-called thrillers this year, Tokarczuk’s book was refreshing in its originality and its traditional ending (I really sometimes miss the ending that explains it all). It might bring out some controversial feelings to some but I don’t think anyone will regret reading it.

I can only hope that 2020 will be equally productive and interesting! Weirdly, I’m starting it with a short story collection from Stanislaw Lem that is proving to be quite a treat. I’ve set my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2020 at 28 books and I hope to reach the 10 000 read pages count again. I have no additional challenges at the moment but I’m sure the book club topics will work their magic and allow me to venture outside my comfort zone once or twice. Anyhow, I wish you all a great reading year! 😉

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