Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 2010 In Books

Last year I did a post on my year in books. I enjoyed it so much, I'm going to do it again this year.

By midnight tomorrow night I should have read 91 books. Usually I get a little closer to 100. Though I enjoy obsessing as a general rule, those 9 books just aren't bothering me.

One of the big events of my reading year was learning the satisfaction of book series as an escape from hard times. In addition to polishing off all the Chrestomanci books, later in the year I read all nineteen of the Amelia Peabody mysteries. When I was much, much younger I was big on reading all the books in a mystery series, but then it was a matter of feeding compulsion and not getting away from suffering or--in the case of Amelia, whose adventures vary in quality--worry. Books can function like medication.

My nonfiction reading this year was nowhere near as successful as last year's. I read America, A History in Art but found it a bit disappointing. I ordered it through a book club and expected it to really be history told through a series of art work. There's much more traditional text than I expected with the art work functioning as illustrations.

I had to give up on reading Emerson's essays. Waldo is beyond me.

I'm about to finish Amelia Peabody's Egypt, a beautiful book that I received as a birthday gift. It's a series of essays on the various historical aspects of the Amelia Peabody novels. We're talking two levels of history here because the Peabody books are about Egyptologists working at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. So there are chapters on the "discovery" of ancient Egypt by Europeans and the history of the British in Egypt along with chapters on Edwardian fashion, popular literature, and childrearing--every historical element you can imagine, if you've read the books. What makes this collection particularly intriguing is that the authors of the essays maintain the fiction that Peabody and her husband Emerson ("the greatest Egyptologist of this or any other age") as well as the rest of their family and friends, were real people who knew real Egyptologists. Since some of these real Egyptologists (as well as other historical figures) also appear in the novels, you can find this whole mashup of fact and fiction either fascinating or frustrating.

If I read any other nonfiction, I'm afraid it didn't make much of an impression. But I have plans for next year.

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