It seems like most of the posts I've written over the past year have been about recovering from the MFA program in some way or another, like going through grad school was some concussive whack to my head and ever since, I'm just trying to figure out how to live a normal life again. It probably sounds that way because, to a great extent, it felt that way. Everything went back to normal, but I was not the same. It wasn't getting the degree so much as just the overwhelming experience of it, the constant "on" of reading and writing that both energized and depleted me. Grad school was like meth: while on it I felt this incredible sense of ability to do huge amounts of things. After it, I crashed.
After turning in my last bibliography, I felt a sense of freedom I hadn't in a long time. I could read anything. Anything I wanted. Good stuff, bad stuff, YA, non-fiction. I found myself not reading books solely because I knew I should read them. I should read this because the author is a friend of a friend? Not reading that! I should read this because all good writers read this? Nope. Not reading that either.
I also had the freedom to not finish whatever I didn't like. Isn't it funny how you never care about a freedom until you don't have it? Before this year, I rarely started a book and didn't finish it. If I started something, I always felt obligated to finish, and always hopeful it would turn out to be better than the first 100 pages. At the very least, I'd be able to say I'd finished it. This year I probably stopped reading more books than I have in the rest of my life combined. I'd read three pages and think, "This is not that good. I'll try something else." I'd read 100 pages and think, "This is not getting any better. I have 25 other books I'm interested in." I have left a slew of discarded stories in my wake this year, and I don't even feel badly about it.
But the ones I did read and finish... Wow. They are not the kind I'll read and forget. They are the kind that keep popping up in my head, stories and ideas and visuals and feelings they left me with that have become part of me. They are the ones I talk about, even a year later.
Here are some of my faves from this year:
The best book I read, though, is one that isn't due to come out until later this year. I've read that one three or four times. It is the kind of fiction I wish I could write.
I don't know what this year will bring. I have about 100 books on my Nook and to-read shelf. I'm trying to be better now about finishing ones I start, mostly because I'm reading my son's AP English reading list with him, and I know he doesn't have the option of putting them down if he doesn't like them. In the last month we've read 1984 and Brave New World together. I love reading the same thing as him so we can talk about them. I've missed the talking-about-books aspect of grad school. :)
So tell me about what you've read this year that sticks out, or what you plan to read in 2014. Anything I should add to my list?