Well, it’s been an interesting reading year for me. I’ve read less than usual, but also more than usual in that what I have read has been far more wide ranging than what I have habitually picked up over the past few years. This change has been mainly influenced by my job; if I’ve got to teach it, I’ve got to read it, and usually what I have to teach isn’t what I necessarily want to read. This is sometimes annoying but most of the time very rewarding, as this year I have had the pleasure of immersing myself in many lovely stories that I would otherwise, through prejudice, ignorance or a mixture of the two, have let pass me by. Branching out of my comfort zone of middle brow and classic literature has led to a much richer and broader appreciation of literature across genres and time periods that has genuinely changed my approach to reading.
For starters, I’m actually glad that I was forced by my job to read more YA fiction. I have discovered some real gems that have given me both an enormous amount of pleasure and an education about a variety of historical events I would have had no clue about otherwise. Standouts in the YA genre were Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which is a heart-stoppingly good read, and The Hunger Games trilogy, which taught me that it’s OK to read what everyone else is reading…as long as it’s on my Kindle.
Secondly, I’m glad I tried out books by more current authors. My choices have ranged from Booker Prize nominees to YA series to chick lit. Many of these were novels that I would normally avoid like the plague, because I have many prejudices that are formed more from snobbery than experience. I have enjoyed having my expectations challenged and subverted by some truly excellent novels. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri was such a rich and evocative tapestry of cultural experiences. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys made me cry my eyes out. It’s been a positive change to have my finger on the pulse of what’s current in the literary world. Normally no one has heard of what I‘m reading, which can get lonely. As a teacher, it’s fantastic to be able to pick up the latest bestselling book a student has out on their desk and have a meaningful, informed conversation about it, even if I hated it!
Thirdly, as a compulsive completist, I’m really glad that I re-read Northanger Abbey ten years after first reading it. I can now comfortably discuss the plot of any Austen novel in minute detail, and am looking forward to when I get to go on a TV quiz show and win the big money by triumphantly identifying an obscure Austen character who featured in a Bath-based ballroom scene. This will happen.
Finally, and somewhat guiltily, I’m really glad I got a Kindle. Free classics at your fingertips are worth their weight in gold.
And my favourite book of 2013? All things considered, I think I’d have to plump for Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. I found it absolutely perfect in every way; no one should go through life without having read it. If you only get around to one book in 2014, Crossing to Safety should be it.
Happy New Year everybody! Thank you for reading, commenting and generally supporting me and my blog in 2013. I appreciate all of you very much and I look forward to more adventures in Book Snobbery next year!