I first wrote about my ‘Half-George Vanderbilt’ Challenge back in June, and since then, I’m proud to say I’m about to finish just in time. I am one book behind, after having frantically read two books today to take some of the pressure off of tomorrow, when I’ll be frantically getting ready my New Year’s Day company.
Some of the books I’ve read this year have been better than others, as is to be expected. The one I enjoyed the least had to be Norman German’s “The Word on Words.” This book seemed to have all the elements that would make me love it: it’s about word origins and usage, but the writing style was so off-putting to me that I had to admit that I wasn’t enjoying it at all. The style was like a cross between a hokey, patronizing children’s book and a bad stand-up comedy routine; I wanted to stick it out only because I was so embarrassed for the guy.
Some books mired me down. I had to admit that I wasn’t going to be able to finish “The Count of Monte Cristo” without taking up an inordinate amount of my year, and so I went on hiatus halfway through. I fully intend to finish it, but I was having trouble getting through some of the slower parts since I already knew about the revenge plots to come. I suppose anticipation got the better of me in this case.
Some of the best books I read this year include “The Declaration” by Gemma Malley, “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot and “Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting” by Erica Hirshler. These were all books I couldn’t put down until I reached their respective endings, and they each reminded me of all the different things I love about reading.
I really admired Gemma Malley for her ability to weave an original plot out of other inspirations; I found elements of “Jane Eyre,” Charles Dickens and “The Handmaid’s Tale” in her book, but it somehow felt completely fresh to me at the same time. I admired Brené Brown’s ability to pinpoint the most vulnerable parts of human nature and make it ok to admit having those feelings. Rebecca Skloot blew me away with her research; I couldn’t fathom the lengths she went to and the time she spent inhabiting her subject matter. Erica Hirshler found a way to humanize the art history monograph; I don’t know that I’ve read a more enjoyable art book during all my years of study as an art history student and now as a museum educator.
My last book for this year will be David Sedaris’ newer edition of “Holidays on Ice.” I thought it would help me ring out the old year with a sense of humor and carry me into the next with a sense of perspective on my own holiday anxieties. To see all the books I read in 2011, friend me on Goodreads.
Happy New Year! Stay tuned for a new reading challenge in 2012. The insanity continues…