One moment. That title should actually read: My Year of (not reading) my NYRBs. Or mostly. I'm not sure what happened. I completely dropped the ball on my poor subscriptions this year. I love NYRB Classics. It's almost a given that whatever they publish I will love or at the very least really appreciate. I was so looking forward to my monthly NYRB parcels and I opened them with much happy anticipation. Last year I even managed to read a fair few of them (though not all). This year, well, only a couple. Distractions? A general state of being overwhelmed by life and books? Hard to tell. But this has been the year that was when it comes to the 2014 NYRB Classics Book Club:
January: The Human Comedy: Selected Stories by Honoré de Balzac. After reading Balzac's Père Goriot earlier this year, I was pleased to see a whole book of his stories. You know I love short stories, so what better combination> I started reading, but it is a hefty book and the stories are on the longer side. Okay, set this one aside until I have proper reading time to spend with it. (Proper reading time? When do I ever get that? It gets squeezed in every available moment, therefore is choppy at best).
February: On Being Blue by William Gass. A success! Or, was it? I love books about colors. I love the idea of the Gass book. But it wasn't quite like the other books I have read about colors. Gass is a novelist, essayist and critic. And, my failure, but I found much of the (very slim) book quite challenging. It just went over my head. I wanted to love it, but I feel like I wasn't up for the challenge. So I read it, but never got around to writing about it.
March: During the Reign of the Queen of Persia by Joan Chase. A success. A real success as I loved this one. I wrote about it for Shiny New Books and don't be surprised if it ends up on my best of the best list later this year.
I'll just own up to it--from here on out, I've not read any of the rest of my subscription books. I didn't even make an attempt. What can I say. I really have had an off reading year. It's not that the books don't look and sound good. I just got behind and that was that. But in case you're curious this is what the rest of the year looked like:
April: Shakespeare's Montaigne: The Florio Translation of the Essays, A Selection by Michel de Montaigne. This one seemed daunting to me, which is likely why I never did more than look at it admiringly.
May: Fear: A Novel of World War I by Gabriel Chevallier. Actually I have read a third of the book as it was one of the selections for Caroline's Literature and War Readalong. A bit harrowing but well done and I should really pick it up again and finish.
June: The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
July: The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette. French noir crime novel and a very short one. I should just go now and pick this one up and start reading.
August: The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914 by Bela Zambory-Moldovan. Another WWI book. As much as I love reading about this era, I think I just grew weary of war novels.
September: Totempole by Sanford Friedman. A coming of age story set in Depression era NYC. It's told from the perspective of a young Jewish boy and considering my reading lately this sounds right up my alley--another rather hefty read, though.
October: Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb. This is supposed to be really good and I was so excited to see it show up on my doorstep.
November: In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William Gass. Okay, I must confess I was a little disappointed when I opened this parcel just a few days ago. Another book by William Gass when I struggled so with the first. This is a collection of short stories and novellas, however, so maybe I am being too hasty? I did read that this is an early work by Gass and fairly straightforward in terms of writing style. I was sort of hoping that the book would be Tove Jansson's short stories, but I will buy it myself instead. And give the Gass collection a proper go.
And one more forthcoming:
December: Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdos. Ending the year on a good note as this is one I wanted, too!
So, now the question is, do I renew my subscription for next year? I really do see these books as an investment, worth having on my shelves and as part of my own personal library. Aside from the beautifully designed books which are high quality--they are, while often challenging, very much classic literature. I do like challenging myself and it's not really necessary to read each one the exact month it is released. I want to keep my subscription, so I think I will renew for 2015 and make a better attempt at trying to read more of the books sooner rather than later.
And now to appease my guilt (and just because this is the perfect excuse), I think I must pick up one of these to read before the year runs out.