At at glance, 2013 looks like a less productive reading year. My 20ish titles that I listed on GoodReads as opposed to my 367 the previous year would suggest that I haven’t been reading. However, it is that my reading habits have changed. After my huge glut last year, I decided to stand back from recording every title I read. There are about 30-40 picture books that I have not listed this year. I have listed all the novels I have read, yet even these have dropped in number. This can be attributed to several things.
Firstly, my fiction reading has diminished considerably since I upgraded my Masters research to a PhD. It is hard to dedicate myself to hefty tomes when I need to read through the history of collection development tomes. To add to that, I haven’t included all my academic books. My list would be much larger if I did.
Secondly, I have discovered the heavenly world of fandoms and fanfiction. I say heavenly because a great fiction read invigorates me like no other medium but with time restrictions I have found that the short stories imagined out of previous fiction – regardless of the medium – has driven my reading year. The beauty of fanfiction being that each chapter comes through on a weekly or bi-monthly basis so as a reader I am unable to fool myself into “Just one more chapter before I go to study” . Also, to have finally discovered “Shipping” (derived from relationSHIPs for the uninitiated), it makes me wonder how I managed to keep my head buried in that commercial fiction sand for as long as I did. For a romance reader, fanfiction shipping and OTP (One True Pairing) fics are awesome! I’m like a pig wallowing in reader mud!
I blame Jane Austen. I would never have looked into fanfiction if I hadn’t been on the Pride and Prejudice panel discussion earlier this year. I reread the book, watched the movies, the mini-series and the web series adaptation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and I have now read over 1000 Pride and Prejudice/Lizzie Bennet Diaries fanfiction stories. This has given me some of the best reads this year.My favourite writer is KellyLiz and in particular her The Netherfield Dilemma.
Another fanfic which completely blew me away and changed my way of thinking of the original texts is My Queen by Sangerin. A femslash re-imagining of The Abbey Girls – a twee English girls own series with English folk dancing. I had managed to retain a rather innocent love for the Abbey Girls until @MerrianOW pointed me to this fic. It is rather benign unless you are a fan of the original text.
Of the many fanficiton sites, I prefer the Archive of our Own site and I have now moved on to reading Sleeping Hollow and Veronica Mars fanfiction.
Best Picture book:
Aaron Blabey’s Noah Dreary is a story about a boy who complained so much that his head fell off. Noah needs to learn how to cope carrying his head around and being headless and he is not happy about it. He complains. Until something happens…… Aaron Blabey’s stories are always funny and heartfelt. I love his art work and the expressions on his character’s faces when they first me Noah the headless complaining boy is stellar.
The End of Reading: from Gutenberg to Grand Theft Auto by David Trend. Not only is this a 2010 publication but it is also a reread for me. However, it has been a seminal read this year and it advised a large part of the research I am currently doing on children’s reading. It explores the changes in reading brought on by technology and how our literacy needs have shifted to include multimedia literacies.
“From movies and television to online envrionments and games, new forms of media envelop us. There’s just no getting around it. But rather than fretting that media may be encroaching on the written word, it seems healthier to recognize that visual and written materials now simply coexist. Our futures will not be enhanced by clinging to old standards of intellectual value or by replacing them with new ones, but by recognizing that thevery idea of standards is the issue. There is no longer one standard of literacy, or intelligence, or humanity for that matter. The challenge ahead lies in exploring the many kinds of reading that exist in our world.”
Reading has multiple manifestations and these need to be recognised by cultural institutions such as libraries. Reading has become a complex tapestry of hypertext and intertext experiences and The End of Reading defines our current stage of reading in history.
Sandra Antonelli’s For Your Eyes Only. An FBI agent in Los Alamos, New Mexico solves a case that has its root in a crime committed nearly twenty years earlier, inadvertently, by her friend on her watch. She solves the crime and also and gets the guy. I started following Sandra* on Twitter several years ago and she made her fiction debut this year. Her books are as funny as her tweets and are peppered with wonderful popular culture references. Lots of Brady Bunch and Bugs Bunny mentions.
*Disclaimer: I was ambivalent about posting this as my favourite fiction as Sandra has become a friend over the years. So yes – I may be biased but in my defense, I have quite a few friends who write and though their books are good I didn’t feel strongly enough about any of their books over the past few years to find myself in this dilemma. End story is that I really loved this book.
Best Mills and Boon
This one was a tough choice so I chose 2.
I loved Amy Andrews road-trip romance Driving Her Crazy. A road trip has so much promise. 4 days on the road leaves you a lot of time to connect with a person that you have just met. Journalist Sadie and photographer Kent have a trip across the Australian outback. This book has snark, hotness, body issues, disabilities and lots of relationship luggage but it all leads to lurve. I love Amy Andrew’s characters. They are realistic, relatable and her dialogue sizzles.
Conversly, was Lynne Graham’s convoluted, angsty A Rich Man’s Whim. I’m a Graham junkie and she always manages to stretch the believability of her plots and still deliver an emotional read where you want both the protagonists finding love ever after. Lynne Graham specialises in writing about virgins being romanced by the 1% billionaires of this world. A Rich Man’s Whim has Kat, a 35 year old virgin, attracting the attention of 30 year old Russian billionaire Mikhail. This book has it all. Yachts, manors, sibling love, angsty doubts. It is totally an Occupy Category Fiction read and I absolutely adored it.