Friday, January 6, 2012

A So-So Year

Last year, for the very first time, I tracked every book I read. Diligently gathering titles, authors, and thumbnail cover illustrations, I compiled the information into a 10-page word document. I thought about including a synopsis or review of each book, but ultimately decided against it. After all, I never forget a book I’ve read—right? But who knows how long that’s going to last? So this year I plan to write a few sentences after I finish each one.

With this list in hand, I sat down to write my first blog for 2012. First step: a catchy title. Unfortunately, I gave away a really good title to a friend who blogs on food—Eat, Blog, Repeat. Wouldn’t that have been just as great as Read, Blog, Repeat? Maybe even a little better because of the alliteration? Sigh. So here I sit, racking my brain, and coming up empty. Not an auspicious beginning to 2012. Eventually I decide on a riff on Russell Crowe’s, A Good Year, a gem of a movie that never received the recognition it deserved. It’s a lazy choice, as my parents just watched the movie on Netflix, but there you have it.

I type the words and then go back to my 2011 reading list. Then something unexpected happens. I realize the title doesn’t actually work with what I'm about to write. It wasn’t a “Good Year.” In terms of reading, 2011 was only a “So-So Year.” Which begs the question—why? To answer that, I’ll have to mine my data. So, here goes.

Last year, I read a total of 108 books—not nearly as many as I thought I’d read. On average, it’s only slightly more than 2 books a week. In my defense, I subscribe to two weekly magazines that I read from beginning to end—even if I wasn’t interested in the subject. Don’t ask me why. I blame it on my OCD tendencies. Once I start reading something, I find it nearly impossible to stop. But back to my list. After doing some data diving, I start to notice some trends.

Trend # 1: The Resurgence of Regency. I read a whopping 33 regency romances in 2011—by far the largest category. In fact, it was followed a distant second by historical romances, which I categorize as anything outside of the regency period. I read 17 of those. Regency and historical romances are trending hot in the publishing industry. Don’t believe me? Just take a walk down your nearest romance aisle. Unfortunately, I found many of the new regencies and historicals enjoyable but virtually interchangeable. The standout was new author Kieran Kramer, who I blogged about last month ( Perhaps that explains why I spent time re-reading some of my favorite regency and historical romances by Julie Garwood, who unfortunately has abandoned the crowded genre, and Suzanne Enoch, whose newest regency was the first book I read in 2012. I have my fingers crossed for new ones from Julia Quinn and Christina Dodd, which I have been saving for some uninterrupted reading time.

Trend #2: Vampires Still Bite. My next most popular choice of reading material was what I call “Romantic Fantasy.” I devoured 14 of them. While this category was still filled with fangs, I’m glad to report that I branched out with some witches, werewolves, dragons, demons, chimera, angels, warlocks, faeries, and one shape-shifter. How’s that for diversity? Unfortunately, like with Regencies, I found that many of the books I read last year came up short against ones I’d read previously. For example, while I still love the Jeaniene Frost series, I’ve only read the first three books multiple times. The notable exception was a relatively new author, Kimberly Frost, who I plan to blog about in 2012, so stay tuned.

Trend #3: It's Time to Re-brand Chick Lit. Apparently these two words have become a harbinger of doom in the publishing industry. Women find the words off-putting and demeaning; men are allergic to them. Then again, did the publishing industry really expect men to buy Chick Lit—literature intended to appeal primarily to women, especially books that emphasize human relationships and emotions rather than action or adventure, as defined by my brand-spanking new 5th edition of the American Heritage Dictionary? Maybe it’s me, but if men don’t like to talk about or share their feelings, why would they want to read about them? My advice for chick lit authors who want to attract male readers—play up the humor and the sex. And if there’s a girl-on-girl fight, you’re solid. Now, I adore chick lit, but it’s getting hard to find. Some of them slip in under the romance sections; others are lost in the overflowing fiction or literature section. And then there are those chick lit books that randomly appear on end caps or in the “New in Fiction” or “New in Trade Paperbacks” tables at my local bookstore. This likely explains why I only read 5 of them last year. Still, 4 of them were among the books I enjoyed the most. My takeaway: Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell need to write faster!

Trend #4: YA is the New A. As embarrassing as it is to write, some of the best books I read last year were categorized as young adult. The genre is red hot. And it’s also the first to make really good use of Q-codes, book trailers, and mainstream advertising. Check out Cassandra Clare’s book trailers for Clockwork Angel at: or City of Glass at: Like Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games series, the first book in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series has been made into a movie that will be released this year. And I’m sure that Veronica Roth’s Divergent series will likely follow. So, for all of the adult readers out there who like fantasy, action, and/or romance, I suggest trolling the YA section of your local bookstore. It shouldn’t be hard to find. My Barnes and Noble recently moved it from the back of the store (next to the Children’s section) to right behind the dreaded Nook section.

Trend #5: Re-reading Books. I approach this last trend with a somewhat heavy heart. On the one hand, it gives validity to holding onto your books. Personally, I have an entire room devoted to my books. Because they currently share space with a guest bed, I’m always looking for new places to store my books. Just yesterday, I found a cute little project table that is held up at both ends by bookshelves. If I only had somewhere to put this innovative piece of furniture...On the other hand, it makes me sad to write that the “older” I get and the more books I read, the tougher it is to find truly exceptional books. Sure I've run across plenty of books that I enjoy or even love, but it’s been a long time since a book has knocked me on my ass or, as the British like to say, knocked me arse over tip. But I am ever going to stop searching for those rare treasures? Not on your life. In fact, one of those exceptional books is on my 2011 reading list. Hands down, the best book I read in 2011 was Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. And I’ll be blogging on it next week.

1 comment:

  1. Another fabulous and informational blog. Thanks for the insight