A Year of Reading

If you could see a summary of the food you digested in 2014, you might find some surprises:  17 pounds of chocolate, 47 of bottles of wine, 5.7 servings of red meat a week, 1.3 fast food visits per week, the venial sin in this quarter is fried chicken or Five Guys burgers.  My bank sends a roll up of credit expenses grouped by category and it’s a useful tool. The report is a bit surprising and more candid than I might wish, but honest as a mirror or computer.

Americans consume 11.2 lbs/year; Germans consume 25.1 lbs/year

Americans consume 11.2 lbs/year and Germans consume 25.1 lbs/year, source International Cocoa Organization

In 2007, I started a book journal and have noted my reads now for eight years. This past year I’ve been diligent since publishing this letter involves writing book reviews. It’s worth annotating what you read; if you are what you eat, then certainly you are what you read, or at least many would agree to some degree, leave the specifics to the neurologists and psychologists and priests.

What is more insightful than an annual summary of your reading in this Age of Information and content-on-demand-24/7?

Typical American read 5 books last year, source

The typical American read 5 books last year, source Decline of the American Book Lover, The Atlantic

My diet consisted of 13 works of literature, 6 non-fiction books, 12 contemporary books, and 3 collections.  I gave each a rating and many I’ve reviewed in this letter over the past year.  By far, the genre with the best reward for my time was literature, classic literature that is, with six 5 star ratings for works like Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Turgenev’s masterpiece Father and Sons.

The only 5 star in non-fiction is C.S.Lewis’s Abolition of Man which contains three lectures I read every year.  It’s that good.  There aren’t many books I read more than once, but this one is worth your time.  I read Jane Austen every year as well. Pride and Prejudice may well be my fifth reading, Mark Twain be damned.  He didn’t care for Austen, though Churchill loved her.

I’ll focus on classic literature this year and perhaps more non-fiction.  I didn’t list all my non-fiction.  I often read the first chapters or the last and like bad food, sometimes you only need to taste it to know.  Or in other cases, you need only so much of a thing.  Some non-fiction I consult like references.

Numerous anthologies, collections, children’s works, especially picture books and fairy tales I did not include though I highlight those worthy on occasion.

You may ask why read a book when you’ve an endless stream of  digital content, print media, magazines? Books, literature specifically, offer substance, depth, emotion and the infinite examination of the human condition regardless of time period and culture. Hang out with the greats. Explore what it means to be human in different periods in history, in different countries, in different languages, translated of course.

So, if you’re looking for a book worth reading or wish to consider life’s ponderables and explore unanswered questions on our humanity, here’s a year of reading feedback for you.

*I highlighted the five star selections in red.  Many I’ve reviewed with links below if you want to learn more.

 

 

LITERATURE

 Rating out of 5 stars  Click on titles for review or analysis
Sweet Thursday John Steinbeck

3

Prince and the Pauper Mark Twain

4

Well written, quote worthy (sentence analysis in review)
In Our Time Hemingway

3

His first collection of stories
Old Man and the Sea Hemingway

5

Incredible read as an adult
To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf

5

Not easy to read, a sentence master
The Sibyl Par Lagerkvist

4

A fable, read my summary & review
Fathers and Sons Ivan Turgenev

5

Turgenev’s masterpiece, read review
The Ice Palace Tarjei Vesaas

3.5

Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

5+

Read Austen every year, always learn something, Read Austen link
My Antonia Willa Cather

5

Gorgeous writing, read my review
Invisible Cities Italo Calvino

4

Plays with words, “Constructs of the mind”
Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes

5++

Laugh out loud, master of wit and humor; Read my links
Beloved Toni Morrison

4

Banned, “Should books be rated?”

NON-FICTION

Hemingway on Writing Larry Phillips

4

Excellent insight on writing and his life
The Talent Code Daniel Coyle

3

Steering the Craft Ursula LeGuin

4.5

Exercises & Discussions on Writing
Bodhisattva of Compassion John Blofeld 4 Wow. Insights into mysticism, meditation, Buddhism; review
One Nation Ben Carson 3 Good ideas, inspiring life
Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis 5+ I read these 3 lectures each year

CONTEMPORARY

Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 3.5 Adult fairy tale, haunting and fun
Fault in Our Stars John Green 4.5 Death & cancer, cried and laughed, review
Looking for Alaska John Green 3
Heart of the Sea Philbrick 3.5 Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, review
Selection Keira Cass trilogy 3 Fun, young adult, page turner
Elite Keira Cass 3
One Keira Cass 3
Dark Witch Nora Roberts 2.5 Attempt at fantasy, falls short
The Name of the World Denis Johnson 4 Gorgeous writing, lyrical, powerful
Gold Finch Donna Tartt 2 Weak protagonist, study in victimhood, link to review, “Spew-litzer Prize”
Orphan Train Christina Baker Kline 3 Historical fiction – informative
Train Dreams Denis Johnson 5 Simple, potent, historical – link to my review; “Why I steal Books”

COLLECTIONS

Trouble With Poetry Billy Collins 4 Good stuff for everyone – link to review
Legends of the Iroquois Ray Fadden 2.5 Picked this up at museum – link to review
Dear Life Stories Alice Munro 3.5 A storyteller who makes you think

Jan 23, 2015

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

What Music Teaches Us About Writing

7 Min read The Music in Prose Creative Writing Forum, West Point Sentence rhythm, Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace Writer's Toolbox, Improve writing immediately * I met with the Creative Writing Forum at West Point to discuss what music can teach us about...

The New Words Are In, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

2 Min read 13 New words Late to Coffee with a Baker's dozen * New words are in. And, 370 words have been added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this September. You likely know many and below are some of my favorites. The editors break them down by category, but I...

Reading for Foodies

5 Min read 2 Book recs, memoir and craft Improve writing immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * "Buy me five, ten, okay? That's 50, make it a 100," my mother says, leaving a Ben Franklin on the counter with two packs of TJ's peanut butter cups.* I order the...

Bringing Writers and Readers Together: Why I Write

2 Min read Short Take Creative process For writers and readers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Maybe the better way to think of this letter is, why you read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it's about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same coin. I updated my site...

“Old Age is Not for the Young”*

6 Min read 2 Book recs, by elderly writers Serial comma 10,000-hour-rule Explicit language, 13 to 103 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * If you believe 10,000 hours of practice will help achieve mastery, say, on the violin or as a volleyball player, then the...

Books I Love

5 Min read 17 Books, 19.5 including mentions in footnotes Genres: Memoir, Essays, Fiction, Writing, Love, Poetry, War Toolbox, Texture in writing Contemporary and classic books from the top of my stacks, my more current reading. * The most common question I get is,...

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

7 Min read 2 Book recs Film rec Article abstract, on Virtue and Vice* Toolbox, Improve writing, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * What book would you take to a desert island? I didn't know and hadn't given it much thought until Saturday when I told my...

Topics

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.