‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things…
But mostly books…
We all know how this year has gone — what can I usefully add to what has already been said, and experienced, and suffered by so many? — so let me here consider positive things, like reading and stuff.
I’ve been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge since a couple or so years after I joined the cataloguing site. Each year following 2014 my book consumption has risen, from 26 to 27, 36 to 41, then 56 to 70. This year I managed eighty-four (84) books read and reviewed out of the modest sixty I’d set myself. It’s helped that self-isolating and a few lockdowns have left me increased leisure time to peruse and expound on all these titles in my posts (scheduled to appear at the rate of one every two days) — one small advantage afforded by the pandemic.
I’m still showing timidity in ranging geographically and culturally further afield from my home patch. Out of those 84 titles fifty-five have been from authors native to the UK, thirteen from the US, and three from Ireland. Finland’s tally is also three, with one each from Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Dominica, Iran, Japan, Malaysia and Poland, even though a few of these authors (Atiq Rahimi, Jean Rhys, Kazuo Ishiguro and Zen Cho) subsequently domiciled elsewhere. Note to self: must try harder to be more adventurous.
The male- to female-authored books ratio is again close to parity — 43:41 — which I’m pleased about. Have I noticed any difference in tone moving across the supposed gender divide? Occasionally, I suppose; but as I tend to go for fiction characterised by a particular sensibility it tends not to matter where the author may be located on that spectrum.
From the graphs attached to my WordPress stats I see visitors, views and likes have continued to rise since I began the blog in the spring of 2012; that’s no doubt partly due to my increased frequency of posting and not necessarily to the quality of my writing, but I would like to thank everyone who has liked and commented here: even if the majority of my 800+ followers are ‘ghosts’ there is a hard core of regular visitors, many from among the 80+ bloggers I myself follow, and I’m really grateful for the conversations.
Among the most viewed posts this year — rarely liked or commented on, however — were pieces on Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Mervyn Peake and John Masefield. A perpetual favourite for browsers was a review I did a few years ago of Lev Grossman’s Fillory fantasy The Magicians — partly boosted I suspect by an adaptation for the small screen — while a post on a painting of the 1903 Delhi durbar suddenly and unexpectedly shot to prominence when it appeared earlier in 2020.
I did a quick survey of what were the most popular posts this year in terms of likes and comments and, as expected, found the results to be a mixed bag. Unsurprisingly, the top two most liked were reposts of old reviews which had originally received only a handful of likes in the days when I had fewer followers than now. My review of Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop received 43 marks of approval in total and the repost of my critique of E Nesbit’s The Enchanted Castle garnered 42 — though neither post attracted many more extra comments. Books in the time of coronavirus and Outrage, my rants on the world, politics and everything but which also extolled the consolation of books, got 39 and 36 likes respectively.
The most commented on post, Telltale signs of a booklover, was a discussion of a meme which 38 readers liked, and drew a whopping 76 comments (including my replies of course). A short piece, Broken resolve, about New Year bookish resolutions going awry struck a chord with readers because 69 responses were recorded. This was followed by The Force of Destiny on the function of fate in fantasy (50), a rant on reading as a displacement activity called Errant (49), a review of the classic dystopian novel The Death of Grass (45) and my thoughts on a portrait in Bristol Museum which I titled The mirror not yet crack’d (44). Clearly you all like to add your penn’orths to my opinionated pieces!
Well, I’m afraid I’m all ‘ranted’ out. New Year’s Day will see possibly the biggest self-inflicted disaster to hit the United Kingdom in peacetime, made doubly catastrophic by a totally inadequate, maybe even criminal, response to the global pandemic by the UK government. (I can’t speak for other countries of course.) I therefore think 2021 will see me continuing to read more books, though whether I’ll continue to post at the same feverish pace is unlikely. We’ll see.
All I can fervently hope is that the future will surprise us in a nicer way than expected, and all that now remains for me is to wish you, one and all, a very Happy New Year! We definitely deserve it!