Last year, I started keeping track of how many books I’d read on an Excel spreadsheet. Much to my surprise, I’d read 120. Since I’m always trying to improve myself- especially when it’s fun- I thought I’d shoot for 200 books in 2012.

As of this posting, I’ve read 114, so I’m a bit behind schedule. I’m pretty confident I can catch up though, especially if I slack off in other areas of my life. This is after all, a worthy goal, right? Right!

One thing I noticed when I’m reading a book every few days is that I quickly forget details, so I thought I’d start reviewing at least some of the books just to help solidify the impression they made on me.

I have no real qualifications for this. I was never an English major, so I will not be doing any sort of literary analysis, at least not on purpose. I do however, read A LOT, and widely. It’s always been important to me.

Right now, I live in a truck, touring the country while my husband drives, and I have  more time to read than I have in ages. At first, gaining access to books was difficult, but that problem was solved once my husband got me a Nook. Now I can read anything, as long as it’s in digital format.

I like to read just about everything. I generally avoid romance novels, although I’ll make exceptions for social-phenomena like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey (which I’ll review someday soon). I’m not crazy about most genre fiction, partly because I’ve found it to be too predictable to be really interesting. I read a lot of literary and mainstream fiction, and a lot of classics. I don’t read a lot of scii-fi/fantasy, although some of my favorite series’ of all time include The Lord of the Rings, Dune, and Song of Ice and Fire. Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit in the Young Adult area as well.

I’m somewhat addicted to 19th-century British authors like Trollope, Eliot, Gaskell and Austen (the Brontes not so much). I like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton,  love Sinclair Lewis, and love/hate Henry James.

I usually try to read an equal amount of non-fiction, but this year I’m reading a lot more fiction, because it’s faster. I love history, especially military history of just about all eras (getting a bit burnt out on American Civil War and WWII) and all kinds of social history. I also like to keep at least one business book in the rotation, and sometimes add in some poetry or philosophy from time to time. I like interesting, general-knowledge type stuff, like Outliers, and Freakonomics.

I also like to read in German, so every now and then, I’ll throw a German novel into the mix. I usually stick to Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse and Günther Grass.

Even though I’m into politics, I avoid books on current events and politics. I’ve just had to many bad experiences with books that were poorly researched partisan screeds. In my experience, it’s difficult to accurately analyze current events when it’s been less than ten years since the event.  I do read The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Frankfürter Allgemeine and Der Spiegel fairly regularly. If I see something particularly awesome, I might link to it here.

Some of my favorite books of all-time:

Tolstoy- War and Peace

Tolstoy- Anna Karenina

Homer- The Illiad

The three above in particular have been my favorites since I was eleven or so, and I’ve never found anything better. I re-read each of them every few years.

Other favorites, in no particular order:

Gabriel Garcia-Marquez- One Hundred Years of Solitude

Salman Rushdie- Midnight’s Children

Mary Renault- The Charioteer

Thomas Mann- Buddenbrooks

Hermann Hesse- The Glass Bead Game

Sebastian Faulk- Birdsong

George Eliot- Middlemarch

Barbara Kingsolver- The Poisonwood Bible

J. R. R. Tolkien- The Lord of the Rings

George R. R. Martin- Song of Ice and Fire

Bernard Cornwell- Saxon Tales

Jane Austen- Emma

So, that should give you an idea of the kinds of stuff I’ll be reviewing here. I especially welcome suggestions (that are not romance novels), since I’m getting through my to-read list pretty quickly!

I’ll use a 5-star rating system.

1 star- you’ll rarely see this, because I usually reserve it for books I can’t finish. Sometimes, they’re not horrible- often it’s something like incorrect period language, or too many romance-y cliches.

2 star- I got through it, but just. Probably don’t recommend to anyone.

3 star- it was okay. At least somewhat readable. Sometimes I give a three to a book in a series that I otherwise love, when I feel like it doesn’t quite measure up to the others.

4 star- I really liked it, and will probably read more by this author.

5 star- Amazing. I’ll probably re-read it. Most of the classics get this rating. Also books I really liked that go above and beyond in terms of originality.

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