30 January 2013

Mental health has been restored

I must admit that Simon T's A Century of Books challenge made me a little loopy last year. The point was to read one book from each year of the 20th century over the course of 2012. Since my reading pace was so slow last year I kept eyeing the end date and my slow progress and ended up obssessing over not only the fact that I wouldn't finish on time but also over what books to read and in what order they should be read. None of that was too hard to deal with, but what happened as the year went on was that I felt more and more like I couldn't read anything written before or after the 20th century  until I finished the challenge. And that, I am afraid turned the challenge into a chore.

But then the end of 2012 came and went without me finishing and suddenly I feel free to read whatever I want. The odd result is that I now feel even more committed to, and enthusiastic about finishing the challenge. Now that the yoke of the deadline has been lifted I am suddenly excited to tackle the list again. Unlike last year, I will not limit myself to the 20th century list, but will read whatever I feel like reading.

And Simon, don't feel bad, it has nothing to do with your specific challenge. My problem is with the mere existance of challenges.

It also helps that I finally finished a decade, in fact two: the 1950s and 1980s. If you had asked me which decade I would finish first I wouldn't have said the 1980s or the 1950s. I would have assumed the '30s or '40s. I am tempted now to read the rest in chronological order. I have made a bit of an attempt at that already. Let's see if I can keep it going.

It is doubtful that I will finish this list by the end of the TBR Double Dog Dare on April 1st, but it will be interesting to see how far I can make it. Maybe I could finish the list by midyear. That seems doable. With 62 years finished, that only leaves 38 to go. Hmm, 19 books each in February and March maybe I could finish by April 1st.

[Updated 07/24/13]

1900 - Claudine at School by Collette
1901 - Claudine in Paris by Collette
1902 - The Immoralist by Andre Gide
1903 - The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
1904 - Peter Camenzind by Hermann Hesse
1905 - The Duel by Aleksandr Kuprin
1906 - Young Torless by Robert Musil
1907 - The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (ML100)
1908 - Love's Shadow by Ada Leverson
1909 - Martin Eden by Jack London
1910 - Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett
1911 - Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (ML100)
1912 - The Charwoman's Daughter by James Stephens
1913 - T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett
1914 - Penrod by Booth Tarkington
1915 - The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
1916 - Under Fire by Henri Barbusse
1917 - Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
1918 - Patricia Brent-Spinster by Herbert George Jenkins
1919 - Consequences by E.M. Delafield
1920 - Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson
1921 - Dangerous Ages by Rose Macauley
1922 - The Judge by Rebecca West
1923 - The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy
1924 - Some Do Not by Ford Madox Ford (ML100)
1925 - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1926 - Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
1927 - Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards
1928 - Quartet by Jean Rhys
1929 - Passing by Nella Larsen
1930 - Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestly
1931 - The Square Circle by Denis Mackail
1932 - Year Before Last by Kay Boyle
1933 - Ordinary Families by E. Arnot Robertson
1934 - Burmese Days by George Orwell
1935 - A House and Its Head by Ivy Compton-Burnett
1936 - Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner
1937 - Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson
1938 - Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan
1939 - Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
1940 - Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
1941 - The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
1942 - Clark Clifford's Body by Kenneth Fearing
1943 - Gideon Planish by Sinclair Lewis
1944 - Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp
1945 - The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
1946 - Every Good Deed by Dorothy Whipple
1947 - Not Now, but Now by M.F.K. Fisher
1948 - The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
1949 - Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
1950 - Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
1951 - A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
1952 - The Far Country by Nevil Shute
1953 - Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
1954 - Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
1955 - The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
1956 - The Flight from the Enchanter by Iris Murdoch
1957 - Angel by Elizabeth Taylor
1958 - A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym
1959 - The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley
1960 - The Bachelors by Muriel Spark
1961 - Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (ML100)
1962 - A Clockwork Orange by A. Burgess (ML100)
1963 - The Old Man and Me by Elaine Dundy
1964 - The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble
1965 - Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Conner
1966 - The House on the Cliff by D.E. Stevenson
1967 - My Friend Says It's Bullet-Proof by Penelope Mortimer
1968 - Sarah's Cottage by D.E. Stevenson
1969 - The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble
1970 - 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
1971 - A Meaningful Life by L.J. Davis or My Own Cape Cod by Gladys Taber
1972 - Augustus by John Williams
1973 - After Claude by Iris Owens
1974 - House of Stairs by William Sleator
1975 - Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Crucial Conversations by May Sarton
1976 - The Takeover by Muriel Spark
1977 - Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald
1978 - The Sweet Dove Died by Barbara Pym
1979 - The Safety Net by Heinrich Boll
1980 - The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
1981 - Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (ML100)
1982 - Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar
1983 - Look at Me by Anita Brookner
1984 - Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
1985 - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
1986 - Anagrams by Lorrie Moore
1987 - Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
1988 - The Temple by Stephen Spender
1989 - Passing On by Penelope Lively and Summer People by Marge Piercy
1990 - Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
1991 - The Translator by Ward Just
1992 - Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells
1993 - While England Sleeps by David Leavitt
1994 - The Longings of Women by Marge Piercy
1995 - Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
1996 - Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
1997 - Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
1998 - The Book of Lies by Felice Picano
1999 - Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

27 January 2013

Best reading vacation ever

Remember when I was contemplating taking seven or eight books with me on our 14-day cruise? Well I ended up taking TWELVE books along for the ride, reading eleven of them and getting 150 pages into the 12th (Armadale, a 600-page Wilkie Collins).  We had such a wonderful, relaxing time. I spent almost no time on the Internet and we watched no TV except for a bit of President Obama's inauguration. So many warm, breezy, places to read, and all of them with an ocean view.

All of my choices conformed to the TBR Double Dog Dare and five of them are from my Century of Books list.

I wrote these little reviewlets out longhand right after finishing each book. Here they are in the ordrer I read them.

The China Governess by Margery Allingham
This is the kind of mystery I can like. To be sure, it didn't turn me into a mystery fan, but it did satisfy a need for a little whodunit in my reading. In some ways it reminded of Wilkie Collins, albeit superficially so. Low on descriptions of violence and lots of running around trying to figure out who did what when. And although the police and private detectives are involved, it never felt like one of those stories where a single, brilliant, mind figures everything out. Kind of odd for me to see it that way given that this is apparently one of many Allingham mysteries featuring a private dick named Albert Campion. Part of the reason I may not have noticed the focus on Campion is because there isn't really a single mystery that needs solving. The China Governess includes a paternity mystery, arson, acts of vandalism, a mysterious death, and an attempted murder. Have any of you read any Allingham? Are there others I should read?

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
This book starred Matt Damon and Gwenyth Paltrow. Since my only knowledge of Highsmith and Ripley is the film verion of TTMR, I couldn't help but see their images as I read. There is so much that terrifies me about this book. Beyond the violent murders, I am unsettled by following Tom, the murderer so closely. I don't want to sympathize with a murderer. It is always weird when an author makes you sympathize with the bad guy. You find yourself simultaneously wondering what it would be like to deal with the repercussions of having committed such heinous acts and rooting (routing?) for him to not get caught. It is comforting to know that I will never be in this situation. But still, makes for nailbiting reading.

The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble
When adultery happens in real life it seems to lead to divorce, or dishes being thrown across the room, or at least days of sobbing followed by years of distrust. But then there are those novels where it is treated as a bit of a parlor game. I can think of just about every Murdoch I have read and more than a few Drabbles that do just that. And so it goes with The Garrick Year. Emma Evans is already bored with her marriage when her actor husband announces that they will be moving from London to Hereford for a year. More boredom, followed by adultery (her husband's) and near adultery (hers) is followed by resolution in the form of emotional inertia. Despite the way it sounds, I did enjoy reading this novel. Perhaps because I kept expecting a personal transformation (which I love in a book) that never materialized despite Emma being run over by her almost lover. I couldn't quite tell whether  Drabble intended to make a comment on the London-centric, province-phobic nature of her characters, or whether she just wanted to know how much she (Drabble) hates Hereford.

Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
This one felt a bit like Man in the Dark Auster, rather than Brooklyn Follies Auster. Not much can be said about the book without giving too much away. The central conceit of the book didn't become clear to me until about halfway through. That isn't to say I was confused prior to that, but my reading satisfaction did pick up considerably once I figured it out. This is the kind of Auster where dimensions are bent. Not typically something I dig, but Auster always does it really well.

Passing On by Penelope Lively
Helen is 52 years old and living in her childhood home with her 49-year old brother. Given some of Lively's other works, I was worried that brother and sister were going to be a bit too close if you know what I mean. Thankfully this was not the case. The novel opens with the funeral of their short-suffering but long insufferable mother Dorothy. As with other Lively works, there are deep emotional and psychological issues at play. In some ways it reminded me of an Anita Brookner novel except instead of a sad protagonist, there were two. There was a bit more action than in a Brookner, but the end result seems much the same. (Delightful and depressing.)

The Immoralist by Andre Gide
One part travelogue, one part tuberculosis-logue. Everything fraught with deep meaning. Kind of enjoyable in a way but wold probably benefit fromo a close analysis rather than a casual read.

The 25th Hour by David Benioff
Monty is a 26-year old drug dealer who is about to report to federal prison to serve a 7-year sentence. Along the way we get to know about his life and his friends. Benioff does a good job creating believable, interesting, sometimes funny, and sometimes likable characters. I particularly liked the meek high school teacher who considers his greatest accomplishment to be his skills as a pedestrian--always thinking three steps ahead and knowing how to move most efficiently through the obstacle course of the Manhatten sidewalk. A man after my own heart.

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
I had high hopes for this one. British Foreign Office, sailing around northern Europe in 1903, routing out spies. But overall...eh.  Too much about jibs and tacking and masts and mainsails. Enough already.

The Blue Sapphire by D. E. Stevenson
A typical non-Buncle D. E. Stevenson romance. This one had a bit of everything to please. Fortunes earned and inherited; likable, selfless servants; a bit of intrigue; a bit of romance; and a pure, high-minded herione who would never knowingly do anything unethical or even unlikable. Loved it. But of course nothing beats Miss Buncle's Book.

Summer People by Marge Piercy
Like other MP novels, this one is a multigenerational family tale. Unlike most other MP novels, this one focuses on a menage-a-trois. The trouple lives on Cape Cod and consists of composer Dinah, Susan, a fabric designer, and Susan's husband Willie who is a sculptor and carpenter. I didn't feel like Piercy was as solid on her research and writing than she usually is. It was one of those situations where I was tempted to fact check some details. But unlike other authors (hello Julia Glass and Felice Picano), Piercy's missteps are neight so egregious nor so frequent as to mar one's enjoyment of the book. Published in 1989, Summer People provides an interesting picture of the late 1980s, including a reminder that personal grooming south of the equator was not as anti-hair as it is these days. (P.S.: There's sex.)

An Old Captivity by Nevil Shute
Typical, wonderful, corny, sexist, Shute. Aeroplanes, adventures, mishaps, romance. He is the boy version of non-Buncle Stevenson.

08 January 2013

I'm going to be hanging out with these guys

For the next two weeks I hope to spend a lot of time reading (and probably very little time blogging). Lucy and the house have a sitter, my steamer trunk is packed, motion sickness tablets are at the ready, and we are off to sail the seven seas. Okay, maybe not all seven of them but we do plan to see an awful lot of the Caribbean.

Until we went on our first--and so far only--cruise four years ago, we thought they were for losers. But then we found a ship that was actually kind of tasteful, had great food, and a really fantastic spa. When we pulled back into port in the U.S. we felt like seven days just wasn't long enough. So this time we are going for fourteen freakin' days.

And my favorite days are the days at sea (five of them on this cruise) where there is nothing to do but read, have massages, and sit on our verandah and stare at the ocean. (Of course there are many other things to do, but that pretty much sums up what I plan to do.)

Now the ship has a library that is bound to have one or two things that might be fun to read on vacation, but with fourteen days I can't really risk that. Plus I accepted the TBR Double Dog Dare, so until April 1st, I can only read books already in my TBR pile so the books in the ship's library are off limits. At least for anything more than browsing.

Will seven books be enough? Should I add an eighth just in case? I always overpack books, but, but, but, what if....?!

On my first round choosing I was only going to take books that are on my Century of Books list, but then I worried that I was setting myself up for trouble.  So I decided I needed to throw in a few things that uh, are, um, just plain old escapist.

So here is the breakdown...

The China Governess
by Margery Allingham
Normally I don't care much for mysteries or crime fiction. I tend to find them a little pat for my tastes. Everything falls into place too neatly. But there is something about vintage green Penguin that always seems to attract me when I contemplate vacation reading. So, fingers crossed on this one.

The Riddle of the Sands
by Erskine Childers
I will admit I bought this one at a remainders sale simply because I liked the cover and the author's name seemed vaguely familiar. Since then, some of you have said that this is a great read. It is a spy story which I can sometimes quite enjoy. This one is on my Century of Books list. More fingers crossed.

The Garrick Year
by Margaret Drabble
Margaret Drabble is a pretty reliable author for me, so I don't worry too much about whether or not I will enjoy it. I was having a difficult time finding something to read for 1964 when I stumbled across this one.

The Immoralist
by Andre Gide
I read this back in 1998, but I remember nothing about it. I must have liked it. I gave it an eight out of ten and it started off a mini-frenzy of Gide reading that year. Earlier this year when I needed to find a 1902 book for my Century list this is one that popped up in my search. So I am going to give it another go. My copy smells really good. Like a secondhand bookshop-but not the musty kind.

Passing On
by Penelope Lively
Although I have yet to find a Lively novel that lives up to the joy I got from my first Lively (Consequences), I still trust her to deliver the goods.

An Old Captivity by Nevil Shute
The decidedly old fashioned, sometimes hokey, Nevil Shute has never failed to entertain me--even when he made me sob for the last 30 pages of On the Beach. One could describe much of his work as action adventure romances for engineers and other eggheads. This one looks a bit different than most others I have read by him: "In the shelter of a Greenland fiord, shunned by their Eskimo helpers, an elderly Oxford don and his golden-haired daughter..."

The Blue Sapphire
by D.E. Stevenson
Looking at this atrocious cover, would you ever guess it was written by the woman who blessed the world with Miss Buncle's Book? Most of Stevenson's non-Buncle oeuvre are pretty typical romances of the NON-bodice ripping variety. They usually involve some sort of newly acquired real estate (cottages, house on cliffs, etc.). So far she has always entertained me. But this cover has me worried. It just looks sooo conventional.

Now what should I add for my eighth book? Must go look at the TBR pile.

06 January 2013

Everybody loves a before and after

Soon after we moved into our house two and half years ago we decided to paint the library. We knew we were going to make changes to it and the somewhat flimsy built-ins would have to be replaced but we thought it needed a paint job anyway. Inspired by Persephone grey I got a bunch of paint samples and slapped them on the wall to see which one we liked best. I even blogged about it (big surprise).

There was a bit of a delay actually getting around to the chore of painting. By the time we got serious about it, we felt that our plans for renovation might happen sooner rather than later, so why bother painting?  One thing led to another, or in this case didn't lead to another and here we are two years later with the same damn sample colors painted on the walls. And now we have delayed our project until about January of next year. So even though we have lived with the kooky library walls for two years, I decided I didn't want to look at them for another year.

So I got ambitious (while John is out of town) and finally painted the room.  If we weren't going to tear it up in a year I probably would have hired someone. I am not the neatest painter in the world. Plus I didn't feel like doing the ceiling or the windows or the main bookcase, so it isn't ready for Elle Decor to swing by.

But I think it will do nicely for 365 days. And it will give me the chance to determine if I want a dark color permanently in this smallish, north facing room.

Friday morning: Before (the walls have looked like this for two years)
Sunday morning: After (can't wait for those ugly sconces to be gone)
The NYRB Classics look good up there don't they?
The Virago tower (not sure where to put these permanently)
The Lucia set John got me for Christmas
My little-book collection (and a big crystal)
I have been waiting for a book like this for years. A really nicely done survey of the Queen's diamonds with great pictures of the pieces, their histories, pictures of the various members of the royal family who have worn them, etc. A really great book.
Some of my books on books leaching over to the right into my books on Britain.

05 January 2013

Did you know books were published in 2012?

Of course you know that. Sometimes I feel like I don't.

Long before I took up the challenge to read one book from every year of the 20th century, I found myself mainly reading books that couldn't really be described as new or recent. Since so much of what I wanted to read was already on the dusty side, it didn't seem like much of a challenge to focus on books from the 20th century. And with my usual obsessive flair I focused on them to the exclusion of most everything else.

Add to this self-imposed constraint, my inability to trust book recommendations from other people. The more I have immersed myself in the book blogging world over the past six years, the more I have valued blogger recommendations over the recommendations of people I actually know. (Of course I have met quite a few of you in the past few years so the real and virtual worlds have officially collided.) It also doesn't help that the corner of the book blogging world that most intrigues me is the one where Persephone and Virago and NYRB Classics are household names. So even if I did trust a real person's recommendation, I sometimes couldn't get over the fact that the book being recommended was written during my lifetime let alone in the past year.

So this Christmas day I opened a gift from two friends and it happened to be Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. My first thought was "But this isn't on my Century of Books challenge reading list." My second, perhaps slightly more embarrassing thought was "But Ian McEwan's newest book is called Solar. I've seen it all over the blogosphere." [Pause for laughter.]

That's right. I am so out of the loop with recent fiction that Ian McEwan managed to pop out a new, and I must say, stunning, novel that makes Solar old news.

I loved Sweet Tooth. I picked it up after finishing Catch-22. And I mean immediately after. I was so annoyed as I finished the last tedious word on the last tedious page of C22 that I needed something to prove to myself that reading can be enjoyable. [Interesting side note. I first attempted to read C22 about a fifteen years ago. Kind of enjoyed the first 100 or so pages and then started to get bored and never finished it. Well the same damn thing happened this time. I kind of found it amusing and interesting until about 150 pages in and then I couldn't wait for it to be over. But this time I forced myself to finish it. I don't think it was worth the effort.]

Sweet Tooth is the story of a young Cambridge graduate who ends up working for the MI5 in the 1970s. I was immediately taken in with Serena Frome's story and McEwan's writing. I love how McEwan manages to make this story cozy and subversive at the same time. Like the literary love child of Muriel Spark and Barbara Pym. I found the political background interesting, I was intrigued by the milieu of Serena's job, and I loved all of the literary allusions. In some ways this is a book about books for people who like books about books but want to read more than just some book about books.

The thing that so impressed me about this novel is the way McEwan weaves in three or four short story plots into the narrative--essentially Serena describes the stories she is reading. Normally this kind of story within a story annoys me. But McEwan executes them in a way that I found totally fascinating. The man knows how to come up with a good plot. And speaking of plots, I was never sure where Sweet Tooth was headed. There were many points where I thought I knew where things were headed only to find out that I was wrong. He manages to keep up the guessing game right through to the final paragraph.

I wonder if every novel published in 2012 is this enjoyable?

Probably not, but maybe I should make more of an effort to find out. Especially since I have heard rumors that more novels will be published in 2013.

01 January 2013

The first day of the rest of my life (and a Whipple giveaway)

Happy New Year.

We spent most of our NYE day organizing the library and doing a book cull. As we contemplate a house renovation--which is being delayed by about six months from the original start date in June--we have been staring at piles of books that don't have any room on our shelves. And even though we stand to gain about thirty linear feet of new shelf space as part of the renovation, we realized that without a bit of discipline we would have those shelves filled before they are even built.

The sort and cull in progress.
What to keep?
As usual, I have an ongoing internal struggle with trying to develop an acquistion and rentention policy that will satisfy my bookmania while recognizing a finite amount of shelf space. (Although I should note that John indicated for the first time that shelves of books might be tolerated in other parts of the house...) My biggest problem is trying to determine which books I want to keep. As far as fiction goes my tendency is to want to keep harder to find novels even if they aren't a favorite. I hate the thought of less than popular novels being lost in the mists of time. Sometimes I feel like I am running a one-person seed bank, except instead of heirloom seeds I am banking obscure, unloved books otherwise destined to be pulped. The problem with this approach is that one's library can become clogged with books that don't necessarily represent one's reading tastes and many of the covers look pretty ratty on the shelves. And then there are those books that I keep around just to prove that I have diverse reading tastes. If I didn't keep these one offs I would have a library filled only with prolific favorites like Atwood, Anita Brookner, Sinclair Lewis, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, etc. Those collected works can take up a lot of shelf space and crowd out any possibility for variety. 

Getting rid of a few gems
I did finally realize that I do not need four copies of Oryx and Crake. I decided to jettison the two signed British first editions and the signed Canadian first edition. In the first place, the pages of the British first editions are already starting to discolor like some seventy-year old paperback, and in the second place, I reasoned that even signed first editions of the late work of a very popular and proflific author like Atwood are unlikely to be worth much during my natural life.

I also decided I didn't need two copies of Dorothy Whipple's Because of the Lockwoods. For so long my desire to find non-Persephone novels by Persephone-published authors went unrequited that when I stumbled across a second copy of this one I bought it just because I could. Although to give me a little credit, I also bought it because of the aforementioned worry about books by obscure authors disappearing just because their fans haven't found them yet. I decided that I could also get rid of the old hardback copy of The Priory that I found. I love the Persephone edition, I don't need another.

The pile that is being donated to the Chevy Chase Friends of the Library
So...I have two Whipples to give away
The Priory will go to anyone living in the United States who really wants to read Whipple but is thus far, a Whipple virgin.  (My review is here.)

My extra copy of Because of the Lockwoods will go to the Whipple fan in the U.S. who would love to find a non-Persephone Whipple in a haystack but just hasn't found the right haystack. (My review is here.)

If you are interested, leave a comment and let me know which one you qualify for. (Remember U.S. addresses only, gotta use the media mail rate which only works in the U.S. Plus, I want to keep these on this side of the Atlantic where they are really hard to find.) I won't draw winners until January 31, 2013.

The book with the wistful lady on the cover the copy of Becuase of the Lockwoods
that I am keeping. The one with no dust jacket below it, is the one I am giving away.

My five-point book plan for 2013
I am forever making book plans for myself and then never keeping them or failing or, you know the drill, you are the same way. (Although I can think of a few bloggers who do seem to finish every plan/challenge/dare they start.)

1. Read only books from my TBR pile from now until April 1st as part of CB James' TBR Double Dog Dare. This one should be fairly easy for me. I have tons and tons of books in my library to choose from. I really like this dare because I always find some really great, long ignored, books on my shelves.

2. Finish A Century of Books challenge. Of course Simon finished all hundred of his with a day or two to spare while I sit here with forty-some to go. I would really like to finish by April 1st, but that may just be setting myself up for failure again. I do know that I will finish it by the end of the year, for sure. (Here is my latest list.)

3. Read at least 100 books this year. I think I have only cracked the 100 books mark once in my life. And 2012 was a really slow reading year for me. But the big research/writing work project is in its final throes so I should have a much easier time reading more this year. Plus, in an effort to encourage my friend Roz to reach her goal of 100 books for the year, I challenged her to a race: which one of us can get to 100 first (or who comes closest by December 31st). I've seen her play air hockey so I knew she was competitive. But now that the gaunlet has been thrown down, I realize that she isn't the only one.

4. Buy no books in 2013. I am not sure if I am really committed to this. I am not even sure I philosophically agree with it (I live to keep booksellers in business), but I am going to try. With renovation work in the offing I don't need to spend the money, nor do I need to add more books that will have to be boxed up and moved while the house is under construction.

5. Have a Pymtastic year. The centenary of Barbara Pym's birth is being celebrated this year and Amanda and I will be hosting a reading week in June. I also plan to go to Boston to the Pym Society's annual Pym conference in March. Cauliflower cheese is on the first night's menu (see Some Tame Gazelle). How could I not go?

Before and after the cull
I guess this is more during the cull than before, but it does show how untidy the library had become.

 All tidy and ready for a new year.