Tag Archives: reading

Looking back at books of 2018

In 2018, I finished reading 56 books that were not picture/story books or board books. I do not know how many picture/story books and board books I read. My son owns 49 board books; I have read all of them multiple times this year. Of the non-board book picture/story books, I read 36, but we have more that I did not read. And there are the library books, books at other people’s houses, books at churches that I read along the way.

As usual, a book that I completed means that I finished the entirety of that which is bound between two covers. Some are books that I started before 2018. And many texts and books were read that were not read in toto. For example, none of Leo the Great’s letters are here because I did not read any of them bound together as a single volume. And many articles, poems, and other non-books were read.

The first book I completed was The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. 1 by R. C. Blockley. This is the introductory volume, not the texts with translation.

The final book I completed was volume one of the Loeb Classical Library edition of Claudian, ed. and trans. Maurice Platnauer.

Of the 56 books of 2018, here are the stats by category/genre:

  • Ancient texts in translation: 11, of which 3 were ‘patristic’
  • Ancient texts in the original: 1 — Horace, Epistles, Book 1, with commentary by Roland Mayer
  • Medieval texts in translation: 3, unless we count Pseudo-Dionysius and Justinian as medieval, then subtract two from ‘ancient’ and ‘patristic’, then add them to medieval.
  • Scholarly works about ancient subjects: 5
  • Scholarly works about medieval subjects: 6
  • Other history: 2 (The Mammoth Book of Pirates and Brand Luther by Andrew Pettegree)
  • Works about Christian theology/spirituality not already counted: 9
  • Memoirs: 1 (Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy MacLean)
  • Novels: 10 (this includes The Silmarillion to make life easier)
  • Young-adult novels (already counted in the 10): 3
  • Historical Fiction: 1 adult (Vindolanda by Adrian Goldsworthy), 2 YA
  • Books of non-ancient, non-medieval poetry: 1 (Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti)
  • Graphic Novels: 1 (Infinity War by Jim Starlin)
  • Souvenir guide books: 3 (+ a book about the Mildenhall Treasure already classed as ‘scholarly works about ancient subjects)
  • Books in German: 1 (Patzold, Steffen. 2015. Gefälschtes Recht aus dem Frühmittelalter: Untersuchungen zur Herstellung und Überlieferung der pseudoisidorischen Dekretalen. Heidelberg.)
  • Plays: 2 (Euripides’ Bacchae and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
  • Books that defy my classifications; 1 (Pieces from a Broken Land by Victoria Fifield; memoir? art? both.)
  • Books written by friends: 4 (including the above, 2 books by another friend, one of which is not yet in print, the other of which is Dayspring MacLeod, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel, and Aaron Pelttari, The Space that Remains: Reading Latin Poetry in Late Antiquity)

I turned 35 this year. The 35th book I finished was Mayer’s commentary on Horace, Epistles, Book I.

There are fifty-two weeks in a year. The fifty-second book I finished was The World of Medieval Monasticism by Gert Melville. I read another history of monasticism, The Story of Monasticism by Greg Peters. Melville’s is better in my opinion, but Peters’ is probably better for normal people.

Half of 56 is 28. The 28th book was Seamus Heaney’s translation of Aeneid, Book VI — I really, really liked it.

The rereads were The Lord of the Rings, read as three volumes (so counted as three books) and A. D. Melville’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I also reread the Aeneid, but this was my first time reading Frederick Ahl’s translation and Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book VI.

The most-read author was J. R. R. Tolkien (4) followed by Andrew Louth (2) and Dayspring MacLeod (2).

This was the year I finally read The Silmarillion and Pride and Prejudice.

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Reading better, not more

BooksSeveral months ago, I loaned my copy of Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas to a friend. One day, in conversation, she mentioned one of the sagas and what was happening. And I had no idea what she was talking about. I had read the book last year in Germany, but even now I can remember few precise details of the sagas contained therein.

The problem was that I had read it too quickly. I hadn’t digested it. I had read it with little attention, flitting through the German countryside on the train or sitting at Burger King in the Leipzig Hauptbahnhof waiting to visit the next city on my tour of German libraries. I hadn’t read it thoughtfully and carefully and reflectively.

This happens a lot, I think, especially to those of us who read a lot. Sometimes you don’t process everything as much as it deserves. You just plough on through even though you may not remember what you’ve just read by the next day or next hour, even.

Some of us do a roundup of how many scores of books we read each year. It’s sort of like back in junior high when readers would show off by discussing how long some book they’d read was. Or, if their own prowess was not enough, some guys would brag about their brothers. I remember one guy proclaiming with pride, ‘My brother has read Shogun!’ And that book clocks in at 1152 pages, according to Goodreads. So there. My brother’s a better reader than you.

But is he?

I think there’s something to be said for competently reading a long book. They tend to be more complex than short ones, athough some of them may just be one thing after another. But reading City of God or The Lord of the Rings is more complex than reading The Confessions or The Hobbit. That’s just the way a well-written long book is — it works out to be more complex than a shorter one by the same author, the space allowing for greater complexity.

But a careless reading of The Lord of the Rings is not necessarily better than a careful reading of The Hobbit.

And so I’ve been trying to become a bit more of a thoughtful reader, pausing between and during books. That’s why more Goodreads reviews have been appearing on this blog lately. I want to find articles and stuff online, too, if I have time. To really absorb and appreciate the books I read. I’ll probably end up reading fewer, but the ones I read, I’ll read better.