To understand my 2010 reading year, I have to think back to 2009. I’d started feeling driven to read; it had taken on the air of a chore rather than a pleasure. And so I declared 2009  “The Year of Reading Fun-gerously”.

In 2009, I set aside my reading lists. Not even a truncated Must Read list. I just read whatever I wanted to read, whenever I wanted to read it. Yes, I realize that this is “normal”, but I’ve made reading lists for many years (both of books that I wanted to read and books that I had finished reading); those habits are hard to set aside.

But I did read some good stuff that year nonetheless. Some fun books. Some forgettable and forgotten books. And some really great books, actually. But, at the end of that relatively free-spirited, unstructured reading year, I was thinking more about all the books that I hadn’t read than I was thinking about the books that I had read and enjoyed. Somehow the fun quotient didn’t weigh as heavily as I’d thought that it would.

Which brings me to 2010. I don’t know what to call this past reading year yet. Maybe that will come to me as I move a little further away from it. The Year of Reading Fiercely? The Year of Reading Furiously? The Year of Reading on Double-Time?

In 2010, I read more than 200 books. For me, that’s a lot of books (even with the kidlit, with the re-reads). Especially because I am reading a lot of other media as well, which mostly goes unremarked upon here. In my busiest reading years — when I was working only part-time — I might have managed 120-140 books, but I’ve never read this much in a single year before. And I was conscious from the beginning of the year that I felt like I wanted to “make up” for what I hadn’t been reading.

In 2009, I would never have dared to venture into the highly emotional territory inhabited by Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy. I would never have taken the time to read the whack of pages that comprises Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, or to have explored something like Ossuaries, the slim volume of Dionne Brand’s poetry (which, technically, I couldn’t have read, because it was published in 2010). I would never have bothered to track down all 12 of Robert Kirkman’s “Walking Dead” trilogy or have struggled through Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. Each of those reads gave me something, something that I felt that I was (mostly, anyhow) missing in my 2009 reading. I felt starved for that.

I wanted to fill the gap (whether perceived or actual) in 2010, and not just until I was full, but I wanted to stuff myself with great reads. And I did. I feel as though I stuffed every spare moment actually — and then some — with words. Which was just what I needed. Count me satisfied.

But looking ahead to 2011, I am aiming for something in between 2009 and 2010. I’d like to relax my pace a little. I’d like to pick up some of the other interests that were set aside last year because I couldn’t participate in them AND read at the same time. (I barely remember what some of those are, but I know that I have lots of books about them here to refresh my memory in the coming weeks!)

Teasers in advance of tomorrow’s summary post:

Longest Book:
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1865-67)

Shortest Book:
P.K. Page’s The Old Woman and the Hen (2009) Illus. Jim Westergard

Book read most solidly from start-to-finish, with the fewest pauses:
Erin Blakemore’s The Heroine’s Bookshelf (2010)

Book read over the longest period of time, with too many pauses to count:
Elizabeth Waterston’s The Magic Island (2008)
[Because I kept stopping to read the book she was discussing in each chapter.]

The book I probably should have gotten more out of:
Ray Smith’s Century (1986)[Maybe I was reading it “out of time”.]

The book that I was most surprised to get so much out of:
Kim Echlin’s Elizabeth Smart: A Fugue on Women and Creativity (2004)
[I was expecting more of a literary biography, but this book’s scope is startlingly far-reaching and well worth sussing out for those interested in the writing life and women’s creative work.]

Most memorable beginning-to-read location:
Starting to read Pat Capponi’s The Corpse Will Keep (2008), while waiting for a Margaret Atwood interview to begin, because only a good mystery could hold my attention in that state.

Most memorable last-page-turned location:
Standing in line at the bank with Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing (2009), which I thought ironic.

Favourite Spam Comments:
Being called “Dooood”
“nice post. i’m arrroused now. thanx.”
“Can you tell us, your fans, a little bit about your childhood? I’m interested!”

Here’s to great reading in 2011!