This year has been disruptive: I had an operation, I moved to a new country for a job that overwhelms me most of the time. I have less time to read. I lost access to my personal library - or a decent library of any kind. I can buy books, yes, but I always ask myself: how am I going to bring the books home?
My life in Dubai is one I am not used to: I am constantly reminded of how I do not belong, how I am not here to stay. A simple decision to buy furniture leads to the question of: What are we going to do with it when we leave? This is why we have a relatively spartan apartment. We are avoiding being tied down by heavy furniture. It's hard to feel at home in this city when that's the mindset I have. Home is about being settled, about stillness. Internally I am still not at ease.
If anything, 2008 is a year that keeps reminding me of how things are never what we expect them to be. I was just thinking about this last night when I read what struck Ovidia during a talk she attended - about moving "beyond our static preconceptions to respond to novelty & the unexpected." It sums up what 2008 feels like to me - a year's worth of lessons in having my plans disrupted, and learning to adapt and work without.
It is difficult. I am only just coming to terms with the reality that I will not be able to make it home next February for Chinese New Year or the Ani DiFranco Singapore concert. But we'll see - nothing is what I expect anyway. So maybe something will change along the way.
Meanwhile, here is my 2008 Reading in review:
Number of Books Read: 34 (2007 - 51 Read)
Books in Translation: 3 (1 Swedish, 2 French)
Re-readings: 1 (Cyteen)
100 Books To Read: 18/100 (2007 - 24/100; 2006 - 44 /100)
Interestingly, I read 14 non-fiction titles this year. I read more essays collections - and in particular, I have started reading more food writings. I have grown quite fond of Ruth Reichl's writing - because she adds a dash of charm and a personal, emotional connection with her subject. She is also quite funny.
Travel writing - I read a few authors for the first time this year: Patrick Leigh Fermor and Colin Thubron - all wonderful writers. The writer who stands out most however, is Colin Thubron. Shadow of the Silk Road was a good blend of history and culture, but surprisingly, Thubron keeps himself in the background a lot of the time. He seems to be a writer who listens a lot, and who has this ability to get his subjects to talk about themselves no matter where he goes.
I need to read more Rebecca Solnit. But all my Rebecca Solnit books are at home. :(
Best Read of 2008:
I'm a little self-conscious about making a claim for "Best Read of 2008", because if you check out the list of books I read this year, it's only a modest 34, and I doubt I will finish anything before the end of the year. But there are some interesting reads among the 34 titles.
My most enjoyable fiction read for 2008 is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I am awfully cynical the media hype behind books most of the time, but sometimes, I get curious. The tattooed-hacker protagonist of the title is an intriguing character. She is obviously smarter and more observant than most people, yet too vulnerable to live in the real world. The book itself is character-driven and I found myself looking forward to coming back every night to continue reading. I am definitely going to read the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire next year.
A notable mention for Falconer: an astonishing story about disillusion, and finding redemption in the oddest of places: prison.
This is brief. I guess because I am still struggling with 2008, and it is going to take a while before I can reflect on the year with any kind of insight.