2011: The New Year's Aspiration Report Card

on Sunday, December 18, 2011
As 2010 drew to a close, I set myself five New Year's Aspirations that I thought might help in guiding me through the following twelve months. In June I revisited and was pleased to have been going quite well towards fulfilling them. Suffice to say I became rather complacent about the whole thing. Now, as we wave goodbye to 2011, it's time to see whether pride came before my fall. I'm ready to either pat myself on the back or flagellate myself with a stinging nettles while wearing rough hessian hosiery.

Read One Great Classic Per Month: Following a gung-ho first six months, I clearly slacked off in the classics department. I could try and fake it, having ripped through Struwwelpeter (which hardly even counts as an entire book), The Man Who Was Thursday, Molloy, The Quiet American, Peter Schlemiel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Great Crash 1929, but if I'm honest I have to admit than none of those could be considered amongst 'The Greats'. I offer only one book as the flimsiest of defences here: Ethics Of Our Fathers (with commentary), the greatest Jewish religious tract on the ethical relationship between humans. It technically doesn't get more classic than that. I went in hoping that it would never get too God-y. Alas, it did goshdarnit!

Read One Debut Novel Per Month: Big pat on the back in this department. Not only did I hit the mark, but I upped the ante to two or three. Some suffered from the obvious pitfalls of literary debuts, but others were really exciting. Of particular note was The Postmortal by Drew Magary, The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad, The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott, The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard and I Am Max Lamm by Raphael Brous. Plus I still have Eleanor Henderson's much-praised debut Ten Thousand Saints on my pile. A literary take on the early American punk scene? Hello Joey!!!

Read outside My Comfort Zone: A pretty decent effort, slightly exceeding my expectations. Non-fiction got a decent showing with The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson really standing out. Genre fiction was another big winner as I revisited my childhood obsession with crime fiction. As I mentioned in my last post, most of the 'new Stieg Larrsons' disappointed, but I did greatly enjoy The Man On The Balcony by Maj Sjowell and Per Wahloo as well as The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. Other 'uncomfortable' reading winners for me came from the world of graphic fiction (Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa), young adult fiction (The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Chrysalids by John Wyndham) and drama (Cormac McCarthy's The Stonemason). Terry Pratchett's Snuff is still on the pile so, if it turns out that I like it, I might deign to consider myself well-rounded (as opposed to well round, which I have conceded long ago).

Read More, Buy Less: Absolute fail. Enough said.

Read One Series In Its Entirety: I didn't really progress beyond my mid-year tally of the Cities of The Plain trilogy and the complete works of Jorge Luis Borges. I still hope to knock over the last two novels in Samuel Beckett's classic Molloy series but, with only 11 days and at least 4 other books to go, I'm not holding my breath.

All in all a pretty good, although not exceptional, reading year for me. As the new year approaches I'm beginning to compile the next set of aspirations. Suggestions are always welcome. And don't hold back; I intend on setting the bar much higher. Yep, I'm challenging the reading gods to a game of Roshambo!


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