HUNT COLUMN: My annual book report

Published 2:54 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

By Cathy Hunt
Retired Troup County teacher and current school board member

Yes, it’s that time – time to hold myself accountable, as one who preaches the importance of reading, for my own dedication to broadening my horizons through the printed word.  

Being a member of Goodreads online makes it easy to keep up with my progress in any given year. It tells me that in 2023 I read a total of 40 books and 13,104 pages, and that the average length of my books was 327 pages.  

In many ways, the outcome was pretty typical for me, in that female authors slightly outnumbered the males, that my list was heavy on mysteries/thrillers and historical fiction, and that the number of authors new to me was higher than that of favorite authors I returned to. That last point was by design; I could easily stay in the realm of authors I know and like, but I think it’s important to mix things up. 

Authors I returned to included Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Harper, Maggie O’Farrell, Stephen King, Hilary Mantel, Khaled Hosseini, Justin Cronin, Tracy Chevalier, Richard Matheson, Paul Tremblay, Karen Joy Fowler, and Simone St. James. Two of those marked the completion of a trilogy: Mantel/ The Thomas Cromwell books and Cronin/ The Passage trilogy. Two authors of particular note that were new to me – better late than never — and to whom I definitely will return were Octavia Butler and E.L. Doctorow.  

As I tallied things up, I was a bit disappointed in myself to see that only four of the forty were by Black authors and only two were non-fiction other than memoir. But I did break some new ground when it comes to genre in that I read two graphic novels (the Maus duo), two memoirs, two “cozy” mysteries, and two books of inspiration. That’s two more of each of those than I would normally achieve! I met a couple of other goals as well: a re-read (Chiefs by Stuart Woods) and a classic I’d never read (Agnes Gray by Anne Bronte). 

Fewer than ten of my books were by non-American writers. They included writers from Australia, South Africa, Afghanistan, Scandinavia, and of course Great Britain. I tend to like those British mysteries. I also noted that I gravitated a little toward apocalyptic stories, Southern fiction, and tales of culture clashes. 

So what books distinguished themselves as superlative in my view? The longest book I read at 757 pages was also the densest and most intellectually demanding – The Mirror and the Light by Mantel. It’s not for the faint of heart but I do give it a big thumbs up. Other books I really enjoyed were Demon Copperhead (a modern retelling of David Copperfield set in Appalachia) by Kingsolver, The Institute by King, and Wild (a memoir) by Cheryl Strayed. But my favorite read of the year would have to be Booth by Karen Joy Fowler, an imagining (though well-researched) of the lives of the family of John Wilkes Booth. 

For 2024, I have started on the next book (World Without End) in the Kingsbridge trilogy by Ken Follett. Coming in at over 1200 pages, it will undoubtedly be my longest book of this year. I am also well into a biography of St. Paul (also dense but very enlightening). In addition, I’ll return this month to a childhood favorite with a re-reading of Charlotte’s Web (a quick read to offset that 1200 pager!). Clearview Elementary did a schoolwide reading of that classic in December and gave each student and teacher and school board member a copy. I’ll enjoy it and then pass it on through a Little Free Library.  

P.S. If you haven’t visited our refurbished Memorial Library, do so at once! Happy New Year, and Happy Reading!