Posted by: Sally Ingraham | January 2, 2011

Looking Back and Looking Forward

I have been spending an inordinate amount of time sleeping of late. My last bout of sickness in 2010 is my first cold of 2011 – nothing alarming, just a bit of a sniffle and a cough that startles my cats. I had grand plans to barrel through The Fugitive by Marcel Proust in the last few days of the year, and I got a good start on it Tuesday before being tackled by the sore throat and watery eyes that my co-workers had been passing around at the movie theater. Harumph. Since then I have been luxuriating in sleeping in very, very late and then dashing off to work, which leaves a pitiful amount of time for doing anything productive, like writing year-end wrap-up posts for example.

This morning I got an e-mail from WordPress that shook me out of my bleary dreamy fog and caused me to get out of bed and make a pot of coffee and sit down before my computer to examine my blogging life. The “stats helper monkeys” of the WordPress universe cheerily informed me that the health of my blog, according to the “Blog-Health-o-Meter” was in the green – the “Wow” green. Apparently I posted 95 times in 2010, and was viewed around 17,000 times. And what were my visitors coming calling for? This cracks me up – the search term that causes my blog to rise to the surface of the Internet ocean most frequently is “best Halloween costume ever”. A round of applause to that giant piece of popped corn that I adorned myself with in 2008!

Another stat is hopefully a better example of how my blogging life has developed in the past year: my busiest day ever on this blog was Jan. 15th, the day the discussion for Mrs. Dalloway began as part of the Woolf in Winter project. What fun that was! Hosted by Emily, Frances, Claire, and myself it was an experience that blew open Virginia Woolf’s doors to a whole slew of readers who had never dared approach her house before. It was an amazing thing to be part of, and it has figured on quite a few ‘best of 2010’ lists aside from my own. A wonderful start to a fantastic year of reading.

In 2010 I read 53 books, mostly fiction. 14 were translated works, 6 were graphic novels, 2 were works of poetry, 2 were collections of short stories. In addition, I delved into a few other collections of short stories but will complete those books at a future date. I read books by 28 male authors and 15 female authors.

Besides Woolf in Winter I participated in The Big Read V: The Woman in White which was excellent fun, and read The Brothers Karamazov with Bellezza’s encouragement. The only reading challenge I joined was the extremely self indulgent and devilishly enjoyable R.I.P. V hosted by Carl V.

While I picked up many books out of pure curiosity or personal interest or after a good recommendation, what lent the most structure to my reading year was The Wolves book group (formerly and ironically dubbed ‘The Non-Structured Reading Group’). At Richard’s prompting he, Emily, Frances, Claire, and I all picked a couple of books to read together after Woolf in Winter ended. This lead to one of the most rewarding reading experiences I have ever had. An eclectic mix of international literature, covering a broad range of topics and styles, the books we picked have challenged and thrilled each of us by turns. The discussions each month have been exciting, invigorating, and often hilarious. We’ve made new blogging friends and found new favorite authors. In fact we had so much fun that we’re continuing, under our new name – The Wolves – and with a new official member – the fabulous EL Fay of This Book and I Could Be Friends.

Since this post is already a tangled mass of random information, I may as well toss in The Wolves‘ very exciting reading list for 2011:

January – The Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska (EL Fay)
February – Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben (Emily)
March – Conversation in the Cathedral by Mario Vargas Llosa (Richard)
April – The Dodecahedron, or a Frame for Frames by Paul Glennon (me)
May – What Ever Happened to Modernism? by Gabriel Josipovici (Frances)
June – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Claire)
July – Snow by Orhan Pamuk (EL Fay)
August – The End of the Story by Lydia Davis (Frances)
September – Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (Richard)
October – House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (me)
November – The Planetarium by Nathalie Sarraute (Emily)
December – One Man’s Bible or Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather by Gao Xingjian (Claire)

Discussions for the book of the month will begin on the last weekend of that month (so we will be discussing The Bread Givers between the 28th and 30th of Jan., etc.). Any adventurous or otherwise interested readers are eagerly encouraged to join us!

What else, what else to examine in 2010? Favorite newly discovered author? Georges Perec, without a doubt. And Life, A User’s Manual could probably be called my favorite book of 2010. I’m still get giddy when I think about it. Author whom I read the most? Definitely Virginia Woolf, at 4. Authors who continue to impress? Shirley Jackson, Roberto Bolano, John Crowley. A book I’m relieved to have knocked off the TBR list? The Brothers Karamazov. A book I’m still working on knocking off the TBR list? In Search of Lost Time.

I could go on, but I’m ready to stop looking back (even if ever so fondly) and start looking forward to the new reading year. I haven’t quite formulated any specific goals beyond finishing In Search of Lost Time, and aiming to read more international literature, more Bolano, more Perec, more female authors, more of the classics, maybe something really, really old… One thing is certain – I’m going to have a grand time, whatever mischief I get up to in the new year!

Happy New Year once again to all my fellow readers, bloggers, and friends. I’m glad to be journeying on with you for another year. 🙂


  1. Congrats on the fun/personal enrichment you derived from your reading year, Sarah, much of which I enjoyed sharing with you! One oddity of the stats I’ve seen from the Wolves of late is that you and E.L. Fay were only one book apart in your number of books read last year–and I myself was tied with E.L. Fay. I still get giddy thinking about Life A User’s Manual, too, but A Void has tempered my enthusiasm for reading more Perec for a little while at least. Anyway, the still-formulating plans you mention at the end of your post all sound great!

    • That IS odd! And oddly cool. I would never have guessed it, especially since there are months in my year when I only got through two books. Another hope I have for the coming to year is to make more time to read!

  2. Sarah, that popcorn costume was the bomb! Lol! I remember Woolf in Winter so fondly. It was quite the experience. It was like the whole blogging world came alive those couple of months. I’m so happy to have you, The Wolves, as friends, even if I’m always late to the party (and sometimes absent). 😀 Happy 2011, here’s to many more books together!

    • Yay, I’ll toast to that! You’re right about Woolf in Winter – it was really a community event in so many ways. Very cool. Your idea! 🙂

  3. I just flipped through the photos of the giant popcorn Halloween this morning. Good times. And I’m impressed with your book list, as always. I was aiming to get in 52 reads this year, but perhaps 53 is a better goal! Thanks for the inspiration. Also, I received 4, maybe 5, new graphic novels for Christmas. I think you might be interested in one, or two. I’ll tell you about them later. Have a great day.

    • I like to aim for at least 50 books a year, so anything more than that is a bonus. As a kid I used to read closer to 100 a year – that blows my mind now.

      I can’t wait to paw through your Christmas loot! See you soon. 🙂

  4. Well you read great books that moved and inspired you, that’s what counts. I think I had many years in which I read tons but somehow nothing mattered. I don’t know if you saw it but I am organizing a Literature and War read along, would be great to have you for the one or the other book if you feel like it.

    • I saw that post and was intrigued. I need to go back through and really scope out the books. I would love you join you for one or two – and kudos for hosting a readalong!

  5. happy new year! hope the colds are done for the year and you have some fantastic reads ahead of you. the list for The Wolves looks really good. Will have to mark my calendar in reminder in October for Danielewski to hear the discussion on that particular book–one that I was glad to mark off this last year.

    funny about the costume! strange…


    • Thanks again for the inspiration to read the Danielewski. I am hoping I’ll have two picks this year that are enjoyed by The Wolves, instead of one that is enjoyed and one that is hated! I feel good about my picks for 2011 though and I’m pretty excited about everything on the list at the moment. Should be fun.

  6. […] I’ll pop back over here in a few days to write about The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames by Paul Glennon because it was exactly as much FUN as I had hoped and because no matter how delinquent my book blogging gets, I still love my Wolves! […]

  7. […] story, full of artists and musicians and writers who are fantastic and freaky. Several of my fellow Wolfish readers have responded to Josipovici’s arguments with intriguing and insightful comments of their […]

  8. […] was the June pick for The Wolves. Around the end of July we will be discussing Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. Feel free to join us if you […]

  9. […] oh, what’s this? my “unfinished reading list”? Ah, that’s right. Soon after cheering myself on with the enthusiastic cry, “more international literature, more Bolano, more Perec, more […]

  10. […] oh, what’s this? my “unfinished reading list”? Ah, that’s right. Soon after cheering myself on with the enthusiastic cry, “more international literature, more Bolano, more Perec, more […]

  11. […] I have a second chance to brave this book in good company. Richard of Caravana de recuerdos (and The Wolves, still my favorite book “club” ever) is hosting a readalong of 2666 during Jan. and […]

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