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text 2020-07-03 03:55
2020 Mid-Year Reading Review and Statistics
L'énigme des Blancs-Manteaux - Jean-François Parot
The Daughter Of Time - Josephine Tey
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett
Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo
Small Country - Gaël Faye,Sarah Ardizzone
Shakespeare's Local - Pete Brown
Love All - Dorothy L. Sayers
Green for Danger - Christianna Brand
My Beloved World - Sonia Sotomayor
Unspeakable: The Autobiography - John Bercow

What with the pandemic still very much ongoing, BL acting up again, MR's and Char's resulting posts re: BookLikes, the BL experience, and moving back to Goodreads, this feels like a somewhat odd moment to post my half-yearly reading stats.  I hope it won't be the last time on this site, but I fear that the community to which I've belonged for almost a decade -- longer than to any other online community -- and which, most recently, has played a pivotal role in making the Corona pandemic more bearable to me, is on the point of breaking up.  And frankly, this is making me incredibly sad.

 

Book-wise, too, the pandemic has had a huge impact on my reading; for three out of the past six months, I pretty much exclusively withdrew into Golden Age mystery comfort reads, because I just didn't have it in me to tackle anything else.  Though I suppose in comparison with others, who went into more or less full-fledged reading slumps, I can still color myself lucky.

 

That said, the past six months' reading highlights definitely included all of the buddy reads, both for the shared reading experience and for the books themselves -- as well as a number of books that I read either before the pandemic began or in the very recent couple of weeks ... though I'm tempted to list every single favorite Golden Age mystery that I reread during the pandemic, too; in addition to a whole number of new discoveries.  So, without further ado (and roughly in reverse chronological order):

 

Highlights:

The Buddy Reads:

Jean-François Parot: L'énigme des blancs-manteaux (The Châtelet Apprentice)

The first of Parot's Nicolas le Floch historical mysteries set in 18th century Paris.  Nicolas is a Breton by birth and, on the recommendation of his godfather, a Breton nobleman, joins the Paris police force under the command of its (real) Lieutenant General Antoine de Sartine, one of the late 18th century's most influential statesmen and administrators. --  Parot was an expert on the period and a native Parisian, both of which elements clearly show in his writing, and I'm already looking forward to reading more books from the series.

 

French-language buddy read with Tannat and onnurtilraun -- we're now also looking into the possibly of "buddy-watching" the (French) TV adaptation starring Jérôme Robart.

 


 

The pandemic buddy reads; including and in particular:

Josephine Tey: A Daughter of Time (with BT's and my individual add-on, Tey's play Dickon, written under the name Gordon Daviot, which likewise aims at setting the record straight vis-à-vis Shakespeare's Richard III) -- A Daughter of Time was a reread; Dickon was new to me.

* Georgette Heyer: No Wind of Blame (the first of the Inspector Hemingway mysteries -- also a reread);
* Agatha Christie: Towards Zero and Cat Among the Pigeons (both likewise rereads);
* Ngaio Marsh: Scales of Justice (also a reread; one of my favorite Inspector Alleyn mysteries);
* Cyril Hare: Tenant for Death (the first Inspector Mallett mystery -- new to me);
* Patricia Wentworth: The Case Is Closed (Miss Sliver book #2 -- also new to me; this isn't a series I am reading in publication order).


Dorothy Dunnett: The Game of Kings
(book 1 of the Lymond Chronicles

16th century Scotland; the adventures of a main character somewhere between Rob Roy, Robin Hood and Scaramouche (mostly Scaramouche), but it also features a range of strong and altogether amazing female characters.  Another series I'm looking forward to continuing.

 

The first buddy read of the year, together with Moonlight Reader, BrokenTune, and Lillelara.

 

My Individual Highlights:

Bernardine Evaristo: Girl, Woman, Other

Heaven knows the Booker jury doesn't always get it right IMHO, but wow, this time for once they absolutely did.  If you haven't already read this, run, don't walk to get it.  And though initially I was going to say "especially if you're a woman (and from a minority)" -- no, I'm actually going to make that, "especially if you're a white man".

 

Saša Stanišić: Herkunft (Origin) and Gaël Faye: Petit pays (Small Country)

Two autobiographical books dealing with the authors' genocide experience, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Burundi, respectively. Stanišić's account -- an odd mix of fact on fiction, which does lean pretty strongly towards the factual, however -- asks, as the title indicates, how precisely our geographical, ethnic and cultural origin / sense of "belonging" defines our identity; and it focuses chiefly on the refugee experience and the experience of creating a new place for oneself in a new (and substantially different) country and culture.  Faye's short novel (barely longer than a novella) packs an equal amount of punch, but approaches the topic from the other end -- it's a coming of age tale looking at the way our cultural identity is first drummed into us ... and how ethnic stereotypes and hostilities, when fanned and exploited, will almost invariably lead to war and genocide.

 

   

 

Josephine Tey: The Inspector Grant series, Dickon, and Miss Pym Disposes

Having already read two books from Tey's Alan Grant series (The Daughter of Time and The Franchise Affair) as well as her nonseries novel Brat Farrar in past years, and Miss Pym Disposes at the beginning of this year, I took the combined (re)read of The Daughter of Time and the play Dickon during the pandemic buddy reads (see above) as my cue to finally also read the rest of the Inspector Grant mysteries.  And I'm glad I finally did; Tey's work as a whole is a paean to her much-beloved England -- and though she was Scottish by birth, to a somewhat lesser degree also to Scotland --; a love that would eventually cause her to bequeathe her entire estate to the National Trust. -- Though the books are ostensibly mysteries, the actual "mystery" element almost takes a back seat to the land ... and to its people, or rather to people like those who formed Tey's personal circle of friends and acquaintances.  And it is in creating characters that her writing shines as much as in the description of England's and Scotland's natural beauty.

 

Pete Brown: Shakespeare's Local

Another book that I owned way too long before I finally got around to reading it; the discursive -- in the best sense --, rollicking tale of one London (or rather, Southwark) pub from its earliest days in the Middle Ages to the 21st century, telling the history of Southwark, London, public houses, and their patrons along the way.  The title is glorious conjecture and based on little more than the fact that the pub is near the location of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (combined with the equally demonstrable fact that Shakespeare loved a good ale and what today we'd call a pub crawl) ... so it's highly likely that, like many another celebrity over the centuries, he'd have had the occasional pint at this particular inn, the George, as well.

 

Dorothy L. Sayers: Love All

A delightful drawing room comedy that was, owing to its completion during WWII, only performed twice during Sayers's own lifetime and never again thereafter, which is utterly unfair to both the material and its author -- topically, this is the firmly tongue in cheek stage companion to such works as Gaudy Night and the two speeches republished under the title Are Women Human?  (I'd call it feminist if Sayers hadn't hated that term, but whatever label you want to stick on it, its message comes through loud and clear and with plenty of laughs.)

 

Christianna Brand: Green for Danger

One of the discoveries of my foray into the realm of Golden Age mysteries; an eerie, claustrophobic, psychological drama revolving around several suspicious deaths (and near-deaths) at a wartime hospital in Kent during WWII.  None of Brand's other mysteries that I've read so far is quite up to this level, but she excelled in closed-circle settings featuring a small group of people who all genuinely like each other (and really are, for the most part, likeable from the reader's -- and the investigating policeman's -- perspective, too), and in this particular book, the backdrop of the added danger arising from the wartime setting adds even more to the tension.  It's also fairly obvious that Brand was writing from personal experience, which greatly enhances every single aspect of the book, from the setting and the atmosphere to the individual characters.

 

Sonia Sotomayor: My Beloved World

Sotomayor's memoirs up to her first appointment to the Federal Bench.  What a courageous woman!  A trailblazer in every sense of the word -- a passionate advocate for women, Latinos/-as (not just Puerto Ricans), those hindered in their career path by a pre-existing medical condition (in her case: diabetes), and more generally, everybody up against unequal odds.  Fiercely intelligent and never satisfied with second best (for herself and others alike), she nevertheless comes across as eminently likeable and open-minded -- on the list of people I'd like to meet one day (however unlikely), she shot right up to a top spot after I'd read this book; in close vicinity with Michelle Obama.

 

John Bercow: Unspeakable

Bercow's time as Speaker of the House of Commons was doubtlessly among the more remarkable periods in the history of the British Parliament, both on account of his personality and of the momentous decisions taken during those years; and his unmistakeable style jumps out from every page of his memoir -- as well as every minute of the audio edition, which he narrates himself.  The last chapter (his attempt at outlining the odds for Britain post-Brexit) was already obsolete before the Corona pandemic hit; this is even more true now.  However, the vast majority of the book makes for a fascinating read, not least of course because of his insight into the politics -- and politicians -- of his time (he is neither sparing with the carrot nor with the stick, and some of his reflections, e.g., on the qualities of a "good" politician / member of parliament, would constitute ample food for thought for politicians anywhere).

 

Statistics:

As I said above, the one thing that definitely had the biggest impact on my reading in the first six months of 2020 was my three-month long "comfort reading" retreat into the world of Golden Age mysteries.  So guess what:

 

Of the 129 books I read in the first six months of 2020, a whopping 63% were Golden Age and contemporary mysteries -- add in the 10 historical mysteries that also form the single biggest chunk of my historical fiction reading, you even get to 91 books or 70.5%.

 

I am rather pleased, though, that -- comfort and escape reading aside and largely thanks to a number of truly interesting memoirs and biographies -- the number of nonfiction books is roughly equivalent to the sum of "high brow" fiction (classics and litfic).

 

Another thing that makes me happy is that my extended foray into Golden Age mysteries was not overwhelmingly limited to rereads; these accounted for only 28% of all books read (36 in absolute figures), a percentage which is not substantially higher than my average in the last two years.  At the same time, as a comparatively large number of Golden Age mysteries are not (yet?) available as audiobooks -- not even all of those that have been republished in print in recent years --, and as I have spent considerably less time driving to and from meetings and conferences than in the past two years, the share of print books consumed is higher than it was in 2018 and 2019.

 

 

 

Given the high percentage of comfort reading, it's no surprise that my star ratings are on the high side for the first half of 2020 -- the vast majority of the books were decent, if not good or even great reads.

 

Overall average: 3.7 stars 

 

However, my Golden Age mystery binge also had a noticeable effect on the two statistics I'm tracking particularly: gender and ethnicity.

 

As far as gender is concerned things still look very good if you just focus on the authors: 88 books by women (plus 5 mixed anthologies / author teams) vs. 36 books by male authors; hooray!  However, inspired by onnurtilraun, I decided to add another layer this time and also track protagonists ... and of course, if there is one genre where women authors have created a plethora of iconic male protagonists, it is Golden Age mystery fiction; and all the Miss Marples, Miss Silvers, Mrs. Bradleys and other female sleuths out there can't totally wipe out the number of books starring the likes of Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, Roderick Alleyn, and other male detectives of note.  Then again, the Golden Age mystery novelists actually were ahead of their time in not only creating women sleuths acting independently but also in endowing their male detectives with equally strong female partners and friends, so the likes of Ariadne Oliver, Agatha "Troy" Alleyn, and of course the inimitable Harriet Vane, also make for a significantly higher number of books with both male and female protagonists.  Still, the gender shift is impossible to miss.

 

  

(For those wondering about the "N / A" protagonist, that's Martha Wells's Murderbot, who of course is an AI and deliberately created as gender-neutral.)

 

And of course, since there isn't a non-white author to be found among the Golden Age mystery writers (or at least, none that I'm aware of and whose books figured as part of my reading during the past couple of months), the ethnicity chart goes completely out of the window.  Again, as long as you just look at the number of countries visited as part of my Around the World reading challenge (and if you ignore the number of books written by authors from / set in the UK and the U.S.), the figures actually still look pretty good -- and yes, the relatively high number of European countries is deliberate; I mostly focused on authors from / settings in the Southern Hemisphere last year, so I figured since tracking ethnicity was substantially impacted by the mystery binge this year anyway, I might as well make a bit of headway with the European countries, too.

 

Yet, there is one interesting wrinkle even in the comparison of author vs. protagonist ethnicity; namely, where it comes to the non-Caucasian part of the table: It turns out that the number of non-white protagonists is slightly higher than that of non-white authors, because I managed to pick a few books at least which, though written by white authors, did feature non-white protagonists.  Make of that one what you will ... 

 

   

 

Nevertheless, for the rest of the year, the aim is clear ... catch up on my Around the World reading challenge and build in as many books by non-Caucasian authors as possible!

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text 2020-01-07 22:15
2019 Reading in Review -- Nonstandard Edition, Part 1: The "Book Titles" Self-Interview

A few years ago, Olga Godim came up with a fun "reading year in review" version in the form of a self-interview, where the only answers permitted were book titles.  I instantly decided to copy it and add a few more categories of my own.  While I didn't have time to do this again in the more recent past, as my last "2019 in review" posts, I decided to undust it -- with yet more additions of my own --, along with another, similar questionnaire, the Bookish Academy Awards (posted separately).

 

(Note: For the more seriously-minded, my "real" "best new(-to-me) books of 2019" post -- with links to my reviews / reading status updates, where in existence -- is HERE.)

 

 

In 2019, what was / were your ...

 

Most Memorably Good Encounters?

Hogfather: Discworld, Book 20 - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie

Hard to beat -- every single year anew.

 

 

Most Horrific Encounters?

The Case of the Abominable Snowman - Nicholas Blake, Kris Dyer The Hollow Man - Peter Noble, John Dickson Carr The Monster in the Box - Ruth Rendell, Christopher Ravenscroft The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo - Clea Koff

 

 

Nicest Relations Met?

Beloved - Toni Morrison The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey, Derek Jacobi

 

 

Most Awful Relations Met?

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match - Wendy Moore, Rachel Atkins

The husband from hell.

 

 

Worst Person Met (overall)?

Evil Has a Name - Full Cast, Peter McDonnell, Steven Kramer, Various Authors, Paul Holes, Jim Clemente The Guilty Ones: A Jackman and Evans Thriller - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage Five Bloody Hearts - Joy Ellis, Matthew Lloyd Davies

Hard to think of anybody worse than a serial killer (both in real life and in fiction).

 

 

Best Vacation Spots?

Death In Kashmir - M.M. Kaye Murder at Mt. Fuji - Shizuko Natsuki Days in the Caucasus - Banine

Seriously, the locations were the best things about all of these books.  Though the mystery in Death in Kashmir was at least decent as well (and I'd advise you to give the audio version the widest berth you're capable of).

 

 

Most Exciting Adventures?

Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie

Well, duh. :)

 

 

Best Guided Tours?

The Good Thief's Guide To Paris - Chris Ewan The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry

 

 

Favorite Place to Visit?

Pyramids - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer

 

 

Least Favorite Place?

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood The Testaments - Margaret Atwood, Mae Whitman, Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Tantoo Cardinal, Derek Jacobi

I know I'm breaking the rules here because the answer isn't in the book names as such, but honestly, can you think of a worse place to be trapped in than a theocratic autocracy?

 

 

Most Embarrassing Memory?

Strangers on a Train - Patricia Highsmith, Bronson Pinchot Smallbone Deceased - Michael Gilbert

Tie between the chance encounter of an alcoholic psychopath and his future victim on the one hand and the discovery of a murder victim inside his own locked deed box at his lawyer's office on the other hand ...

 

 

Most Heartbreaking Memory?

The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Aminatta Forna

This book will slay you -- hide and hair.

 

 

Best Weather?

A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie, Emilia Fox

 

 

Worst Weather?

Raven Black - Ann Cleeves, Kenny Blyth White Nights - Ann Cleeves, Kenny Blyth Hot Sur - David Colacci, Laura Restrepo, Roxanne Hernandez

Tie between two extremes -- the rain-, snow- and-wind-chased Shetlands and tropical, hot and humid Colombia.

 

 

Scariest Event?

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie, Dan Stevens Earth-Shattering: Violent Supernovas, Galactic Explosions, Biological Mayhem, Nuclear Meltdowns, and Other Hazards to Life in Our Universe - Bob Berman, Peter Ganim

 

 

Funniest Moment?

The Murder of My Aunt - Richard Hull, Gordon Griffin

Pure slapstick.

 

 

Saddest Moment?

The Stolen Boys - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage

 

 

Best Food?

Chocolat - Joanne Harris, Gareth Armstrong, Samantha Bond The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Murder in the Mews / Personal Call - Agatha Christie, Ivan S. Brandt, Richard Williams, Full Cast The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding - Agatha Christie, Charles Armstrong Christmas Pudding - Nancy Mitford, Kristin Atherton

Chocolate, Butter in a Lordly Dish, and two versions of Christmas Pudding?  I'll take it ...

 

 

Worst Food?

Wine of Violence - Priscilla Royal, Wanda McCaddon Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay, Yael Stone The Shape of Water - Andrea Camilleri, Mark Meadows

 

 

Overstatement of the Year?

Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Martin Jarvis

Hey, it's the apocalypse ... we'll be having So. Much. Fun!!!

 

 

Understatement of the Year?

Another Little Murder - Lorna Nicholl Morgan

 

 

Best Animal Encounters?

Owl Be Home for Christmas - Donna Andrews, Bernadette Dunne Ladyhawke - Joan D. Vinge The Whale Rider - Witi Ihimaera, Jay Laga'aia Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life - Liz Kalaugher, Matin Durrani The Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers, Patrick Malahide

 

 

Scariest Animal Encounters?

The Speckled Band - Arthur Conan Doyle Raven Black - Ann Cleeves, Kenny Blyth The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie Track of the Cat - Nevada Barr, Barbara Rosenblat Krokodilwächter - Katrine Engberg, Dietmar Bär The Tenderness of Wolves - Stef Penney, Sally Armstrong, Adam Sims

 

 

Most Precious Acquisitions?

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle - Arthur Conan Doyle, Alan Cumming The Christmas Egg - Mary Kelly, David Thorpe The Golden Ball and Other Stories - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser, Christopher Lee Eternity Ring - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop The Ivory Dagger - Diana Bishop, Patricia Wentworth

 

 

Favorite Garments?

Monk's Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters, Stephen R. Thorne The Golden Slipper - Anna Katharine Green

 

 

Prettiest Flowers?

The Rose Rent - Ellis Peters, Nadia May The Apothecary Rose - Candace Robb, Derek Perkins Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lisette Lecat A Christmas Garland - Simon Prebble, Anne Perry

 

 

Favorite Visual Arts?

Still Life - Louise Penny, Adam Sims Photo Finish - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon

 

 

Favorite Music?

Son de Mar - Manuel Vicent

 

 

Best Parties?

Hallowe'en Party - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser Death and the Dancing Footman - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails - Sarah Bakewell, Antonia Beamish

If I had reread Gaudy Night this year, it of course would have been included as well.  As it is ...

 

 

Poshest Homes Visited?

The House on the Lagoon - Rosario Ferré, Silvia Sierra Mysterious Affair At Styles - Agatha Christie

 

 

Coziest Homes Visited?

South Riding - Winifred Holtby, Carole Boyd High Rising - Jilly Bond, Angela Thirkell The White Cottage Mystery - Margery Allingham, William Gaminara

 

 

Worst Homes Visited?

Crooked House - Agatha Christie In a House of Lies - Ian Rankin, James McPherson The Casual Vacancy - Tom Hollander, J.K. Rowling

 

 

Most Puzzling Questions?

Was It Murder? - James Hilton Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers, Mark Meadows Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - Emilia Fox, Agatha Christie Anna, Where Are You? - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop Why Shoot a Butler? - Georgette Heyer, Ulli Birvé

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text 2020-01-07 22:15
2019 Reading in Review -- the Nonstandard Edition, Part 2: The Bookish Academy Awards

The Bookish Academy Awards / Book Oscars is a questionnaire I found a couple of years ago on the Blogger blog of Ashley / Read all the things and decided to steal it for my then-recent and all-time favorites.  Most of my "all-time" answers are still true; however, here's an edition specifically for my 2019 reading (wherein "nonfiction" will not be limited to the specific "Best Documentary" equivalent category -- so expect, for example, my favorite / most respected "real life" people to show up amongst the "best protagonist" listings).

 

(Note: For the more seriously-minded, my "best new(-to-me) books of 2019" post -- with links to my reviews / reading status updates, where in existence -- is HERE.)

 

 

Best Director(s)
(This Year's Favorite Writers):

The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Aminatta Forna Beloved - Toni Morrison Hag-Seed - Margaret Atwood, R. H. Thomson The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood The Testaments - Margaret Atwood, Mae Whitman, Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Tantoo Cardinal, Derek Jacobi

Three-way tie between Aminatta Forna, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Atwood.

 

 

Best Actress
(Best Female Protagonist):

The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert - Gertrude Bell, Georgina Howell, Sian Thomas, Adjoa Andoh Becoming - Michelle Obama Excellent Women - Barbara Pym, Gerry Halligan, Jonathan Keeble, Alexander McCall Smith The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective - Catherine Louisa Pirkis
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie, Emilia Fox
Eternity Ring - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop Anna, Where Are You? - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop The Ivory Dagger - Diana Bishop, Patricia Wentworth

Favorite New Encounters:
The (unnamed) goddess / narrator of Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower
Gertrude Bell (Writings: A Woman in Arabia)
Michelle Obama (Becoming)
Mildred Lathbury (Barbary Pym: Excellent Women)
Loveday Brooke (Catherine Louisa Pirkis: The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective)

 

Favorite Repeat Encounters:
Granny Weatherwax (and Nanny Ogg & Magrat Garlick) (Terry Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters)
Miss Marple (Agatha Christie)
Miss Silver (Patricia Wentworth)

 

Honorary Mention:
Harriet Vane (Dorothy L. Sayers: Strong Poison / Have His Caracase / Gaudy Night / Busman's Honeymoon)
Can't officially include her because I didn't reread any of the Wimsey books featuring her in 2019, but hey, there is just no way she cannot be part of this list.

 

 

Best Actor
(Best Male Protagonist):

Interventions: A Life in War and Peace - Kofi Annan, Dominic Hoffman Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley
Hogfather: Discworld, Book 20 - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer
The Speckled Band - Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle - Arthur Conan Doyle, Alan Cumming The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle, Derek Jacobi His Last Bow - Arthur Conan Doyle, Derek Jacobi Sherlock Holmes: Three Tales of Intrigue - Edward Hardwicke, Arthur Conan Doyle
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers, Mark Meadows The Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers, Patrick Malahide The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth George
Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot's Christmas - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding - Agatha Christie, Charles Armstrong Mysterious Affair At Styles - Agatha Christie Hallowe'en Party - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser
Death and the Dancing Footman - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon Died In The Wool - James Saxon, Ngaio Marsh Vintage Murder - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon Photo Finish - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon The Nursing Home Murder - Philip Franks, Ngaio Marsh
Monk's Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters, Stephen R. Thorne The Leper of Saint Giles - Johanna Ward, Ellis Peters St. Peter's Fair - Johanna Ward, Ellis Peters The Virgin in the Ice: The Sixth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters, Vanessa Benjamin Dead Man's Ransom - Ellis Peters, Roe Kendall The Rose Rent - Ellis Peters, Nadia May The Hermit of Eyton Forest - Ellis Peters, Roe Kendall 

New Encounters with Long-Time Favorites:
Kofi Annan (Interventions: A Life in War and Peace)
Matthew Shardlake (C.J. Sansom: Tombland)

 

Favorite Repeat Encounters:
Hogfather (aka DEATH) (Terry Pratchett: Hogfather)
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy L. Sayers)
Hercule Poirot (Agatha Chistie)
Roderick Alleyn (Ngaio Marsh)
Brother Cadfael (Ellis Peters)

 

 

Best Supporting Actress
(Best Female Sidekick or Supporting Character):

Hallowe'en Party - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser Crooked House - Agatha Christie Photo Finish - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon

Three-way tie between Ariadne Oliver (Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot series), Josephine Leonides (the self-appointed kid sleuth in Agatha Christie's Crooked House) and the wife of Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn, painter Agatha Troy.  (All repeat encounters.)

 

 

Best Supporting Actor
(Best Male Sidekick or Supporting Character):

Pyramids - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer
The Speckled Band - Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle - Arthur Conan Doyle, Alan Cumming The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle, Derek Jacobi His Last Bow - Arthur Conan Doyle, Derek Jacobi Sherlock Holmes: Three Tales of Intrigue - Edward Hardwicke, Arthur Conan Doyle 
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers, Mark Meadows The Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers, Patrick Malahide The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth George
Mysterious Affair At Styles - Agatha Christie Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley
Hogfather: Discworld, Book 20 - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer

Favorite New Encounter:
You Bastard, the mathematical genius in camel clothes (Terry Pratchett: Pyramids)

 

Favorite Repeat Encounters:

Dr. John Watson (Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes series)
Captain Arthur Hastings (Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot series)
(=> The two original / quintessential sidekicks)
Mervyn Bunter (Dorothy L. Sayers: Lord Peter Wimsey series)
Jack Barak and Guy Malton (C.J. Sansom: Matthew Shardlake series)
From the Unseen University of Terry Pratchett's Discworld: Hex and the Librarian

 

 

Best Ensemble Cast:

Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Martin Jarvis

I know this isn't actually an Academy Awards category (only Golden Globes), but I've long felt it should be one -- and there are some books to which the same thought applies as well.

Three-way tie between Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, and Terry Pratchett / Neil Gaiman's Good Omens.

 

 

Best Original Screenplay
(Most Unique Plot or World Building):

The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie
Hogfather: Discworld, Book 20 - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie Pyramids - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Monstrous Regiment - Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer

Two-way tie between Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower -- far and away the most innovative world-building I've come across in a long time -- and, of course ... Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

 

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

In the original version of this questionnaire, "Best Adapted Screenplay" translates into "Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation".  However, I think in the book world (especially that of recent years) there is another translation which fits the purpose just as well; namely, "Best Pastiche / Series Continuation."  So I decided to go with both of them:

 

1 - Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation:

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie, Dan Stevens Hercule Poirot's Christmas - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding - Agatha Christie, Charles Armstrong The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle - Arthur Conan Doyle, Alan Cumming The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth George A Christmas Carol (Audiocd) - Charles Dickens, Patrick Stewart Little Lord Fauntleroy - Frances Hodgson Burnett, Johanna Ward

(Note: To correspond with all the other categories, this only takes into account the cases where I read the book AND also revisited the movie in 2019.  Which, as it turns out, boils down to not a whole lot more than my yearly Christmas favorites ...)

 

Non-Christmas story:
Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (2015 BBC adaptation)

 

Christmas stories:
Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1995, ITV David Suchet Poirot series)
Agatha Christie: The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (aka The Theft of the Royal Ruby) (1994, ITV David Suchet Poirot series)
Arthur Conan Doyle: The Blue Carbuncle (1987, Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series)
Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors (1974, BBC Ian Carmichael Lord Peter Wimsey series)
Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol (1999 TNT adaptation starring Patrick Stewart)
Frances Hodgson Burnett: Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980 adaptation starring Ricky Schroder and Alec Guinness) (note: no specific Christmas connotations in the book)

 
2 - Best Pastiche:

Jeeves and the King of Clubs - Ben Schott, James Lance

Ben Schott: Jeeves and the King of Clubs
Perfect pitch -- no contest.

 

 

Best Cinematography
(Best Plot Twist):

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie, Dan Stevens Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie Crooked House - Agatha Christie

The Fourth Friend - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage The Guilty Ones: A Jackman and Evans Thriller - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage The Stolen Boys - Joy Ellis, Richard Armitage

Dame Agatha still taks the cake when it comes to original plot twists (even upon the umpteenth reread), but I think Joy Ellis has recently given her a fair run for her money -- even if the final twists in none of her books that I read in 2019 caught me quite as "from left field" as did my first ever Ellis book, Their Lost Daughters, which I read in late 2018.

 

 

Best Makeup
(Best Book Cover):

The Raven Tower - Ann Leckie Thomas Cromwell: A Life - Diarmaid MacCulloch, David Rintoul
Gods of Jade and Shadow - Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Yetta Gottesman Three Daughters of Eve - Elif Shafak Another Little Murder - Lorna Nicholl Morgan
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie
The Christmas Egg - Mary Kelly, Martin Edwards Murder by Matchlight - E.C.R. Lorac Smallbone Deceased - Michael Gilbert The Division Bell Mystery - Ellen Wilkinson Scarweather - Anthony Rolls The Murder of My Aunt - Richard Hull The Belting Inheritance - Julian Symons The Secret of High Eldersham - Miles Burton

Book's Contents Lives up to the Cover's Promise:
Ann Leckie: The Raven Tower
Diarmaid MacCulloch: Thomas Cromwell: A Life

 

Cover Promises More Than the Contents Delivers:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Elif Shafak: Three Daughters of Eve
Lorna Nicholl Morgan: Another Little Murder

 

Best Series Covers:

Discworld "black background" hardback and audiobook covers

Brltish Library Crime Classics series

 

 

Best Costume Design
(Best Historical or Contemporary Setting):

Raven Black - Ann Cleeves, Kenny Blyth White Nights - Ann Cleeves, Kenny Blyth The Lewis Man - Peter May, Peter Forbes In a House of Lies - Ian Rankin, James McPherson The Good Women of China - Xinran
Beloved - Toni Morrison Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens, Cassandra Campbell Thomas Cromwell: A Life - Diarmaid MacCulloch, David Rintoul The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo - Tom Reiss, Paul Michael Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley
Monk's Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters, Stephen R. Thorne The Leper of Saint Giles - Johanna Ward, Ellis Peters St. Peter's Fair - Johanna Ward, Ellis Peters The Virgin in the Ice: The Sixth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters, Vanessa Benjamin Dead Man's Ransom - Ellis Peters, Roe Kendall The Rose Rent - Ellis Peters, Nadia May The Hermit of Eyton Forest - Ellis Peters, Roe Kendall

Contemporary:
Ann Cleeves: Raven Black and White Nights (Shetland series)
Peter May: The Lewis Man
Ian Rankin: In a House of Lies
(What can I say ... I just love Scotland -- and books set there!)

Xinran: The Good Women of China

 

Historical:
Toni Morrison: Beloved
Delia Owens: Where the Crawdads Sing
Diarmaid MacCulloch: Thomas Cromwell
Tom Reiss: The Black Count
C.j. Sansom: Tombland
Ellis Peters. Brother Cadfael series

 

 

Best Animated Feature
(A book that would work well in animated format):

Ladyhawke - Joan D. Vinge 
Hogfather: Discworld, Book 20 - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie Pyramids - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Monstrous Regiment - Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer

Two-way tie between Ladyhawke (Joan D. Vinge's novelization of the movie starring Rutger Hauer, Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer) and, you guessed it ... Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

 

 

Best Visual Effects
(Best Action in a Book):

The Girl with Seven Names - Hyeonseo Lee, Josie Dunn, John David Mann

Hyeongseo Lee: The Girl With the Seven Names
Seriously, with a real life story like this, who even needs thrillers anymore?

 

 

Best Original Score

Originally, "Best Original Score" translated only into "Best Book-to-Movie Adaptation".  But I think this is another case where an Oscar category is capable of two equally valid different interpretations in the book world, and again I decided to go with both of them:


1 - Best Book / Series Incorporating Music as an Important Element:

An Accidental Death: A DC Smith Investigation Series, Book 1 - Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson

Peter Grainger: An Accidental Death

 

2 - Best Audio Version:

The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna: The Memory of Love
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith's narration: Major goosebumps material.

 

 

Best Short Film
(Best Novella or Short Story):

Danger! - Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle: Danger!

 

 

Best Documentary
(Best Non-Fiction):

Thomas Cromwell: A Life - Diarmaid MacCulloch, David Rintoul The Good Women of China - Xinran The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo - Tom Reiss, Paul Michael Becoming - Michelle Obama

Four-way tie between Diarmaid MacCulloch's Thomas Cromwell, Xinran's The Good Women of China, Tom Reiss's The Black Count, and Michelle Obama's Becoming.  Four outstanding books that are as engaging as they are informative.

 

 

Honorary / Lifetime Achievement Award
(Overall Favorite Body of Work):

My Lady Ludlow - Elizabeth Gaskell, Susannah York The Casual Vacancy - Tom Hollander, J.K. Rowling In a House of Lies - Ian Rankin, James McPherson Tombland - C.J. Sansom, Steven Crossley
 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen, Juliet Stevenson The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey, Derek Jacobi
The Speckled Band - Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle - Arthur Conan Doyle, Alan Cumming The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle, Derek Jacobi His Last Bow - Arthur Conan Doyle, Derek Jacobi Sherlock Holmes: Three Tales of Intrigue - Edward Hardwicke, Arthur Conan Doyle Danger! - Arthur Conan Doyle
Whose Body? - Dorothy L. Sayers, Mark Meadows The Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers, Patrick Malahide The Nine Tailors - Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth George
Murder on the Orient Express: Complete & Unabridged (Audiocd) - Agatha Christie Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot's Christmas - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding - Agatha Christie, Charles Armstrong Mysterious Affair At Styles - Agatha Christie Hallowe'en Party - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie, Dan Stevens Crooked House - Agatha Christie The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - Emilia Fox, Agatha Christie The Mysterious MR Quin - Hugh Fraser, Agatha Christie
The Witness for the Prosecution: Agatha Christie's Short Story Read by Her Grandson - Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie Three Blind Mice and Other Stories - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser, Joan Hickson, David Suchet, Simon Vance The Golden Ball and Other Stories - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser, Christopher Lee The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories - Agatha Christie, Hugh Fraser, Joan Hickson, David Suchet, Isla Blair, Simon Vance The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Murder in the Mews / Personal Call - Agatha Christie, Ivan S. Brandt, Richard Williams, Full Cast
Death and the Dancing Footman - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon Died In The Wool - James Saxon, Ngaio Marsh Vintage Murder - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon Photo Finish - Ngaio Marsh, James Saxon The Nursing Home Murder - Philip Franks, Ngaio Marsh 
Eternity Ring - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop Anna, Where Are You? - Patricia Wentworth, Diana Bishop The Ivory Dagger - Diana Bishop, Patricia Wentworth
Monk's Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters, Stephen R. Thorne The Leper of Saint Giles - Johanna Ward, Ellis Peters St. Peter's Fair - Johanna Ward, Ellis Peters The Virgin in the Ice: The Sixth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael - Ellis Peters, Vanessa Benjamin Dead Man's Ransom - Ellis Peters, Roe Kendall The Rose Rent - Ellis Peters, Nadia May The Hermit of Eyton Forest - Ellis Peters, Roe Kendall
Hogfather: Discworld, Book 20 - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett, Celia Imrie Pyramids - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer Monstrous Regiment - Terry Pratchett, Stephen Briggs Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer

New Encounters with Long-Time Favorites:
Elizabeth Gaskell: My Lady Ludlow
J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy
Ian Rankin: In a House of Lies
C.J. Sansom: Tombland

 

Favorite Repeat Encounters:
Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility
Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time
Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes series, stand-alone story Danger!
Dorothy L. Sayers: Whose Body?, Five Red Herrings, The Nine Tailors
Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppence, and Quin & Satterthwaite series, And Then There Were None, Crooked House, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, and various short stories
Ngaio Marsh: Roderick Alleyn series
Patricia Wentworth: Miss Silver series
Ellis Peters: Brother Cadfael series
Terry Pratchett: Discworld series and Good Omens (co-written with Neil Gaiman)

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text 2020-01-04 22:12
2017 - 2019 Three-Year Reading Stats

Three years ago I took a look at my reading stats for the then-just-finished year (2017) and decided they were off in several respects:

 

* Too many rereads

* Too many mysteries

-- i.e., too much comfort reading --

* AND way too few books by female authors.

 

Also, the ratio of books read vs. new, unread additions to my "owned books" TBR was abysmal -- in 2017, I added almost as many books to my shelves without ending up reading them than I actually did read.

 

So, the first thing I did was join a challenge created by Awogfli and put together a Women Writers challenge in response, with the aim of enhancing the percentage of female authors I'm reading.  That project went rather well, all told, so last year I added another challenge level (to be continued in 2020): Use your reading to travel around the world, to as many countries as possible (while still giving preference to female authors).  That project, too, went better than I had expected in 2019.  And, hooray, I even got my "owned TBR" additions under control.  Well, sort of -- at least I reduced them by one half ...

 

With three years of reading statistics under my belt -- the initial ones from 2017 and those from the two succeeding years -- I think it's time to take a first comprehensive look at the last three years' developments.

 

So here we go:

 

 

The one set of statistics that doesn't look like it has greatly changed is the book format -- ever since I really "discovered" audiobooks in 2016, my audiobook consumption has been vastly greater than my print book readings.  However, this is actually in large part the reason why my owned and unread TBR has gone down, because very often I'll have both the audiobook and the print edition and I'll switch back and forth between them.  This may mean I'll eventually find a different way of charting these books, but so far I've counted them as "audio", and for consistency's sake I may just continue doing that after all.

 

Aaaand finally the genre breakdown: Still plenty of mysteries (even more if you take into account that the majority of my historical fiction reading consists of mysteries and thrillers / crime fiction, too), but another effect of my Around the World challenge -- as well as Moonlight's 2019 "crowdsourced" project / reading list! -- has been to diversify my genre chart (somewhat).  Mysteries (not even including historical mysteries) still account for a solid 50%, and that's fine -- since I'm also planning to continue my foray into the world of Detection Club /Golden Age crime fiction, it's unlikely that this percentage is going to drop significantly. But by and large I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out so far!

 

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text 2020-01-02 00:20
24 Festive Tasks: Door 22 - New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day: Tasks 1-3 AND Door 18 - Hanukkah: Task 1

UPDATED: Added Star Rating Stats

I can't believe I posted this yesterday without them!

 

 

2020 Reading Goals

Pretty much the same as this year: Read more books by women writers than by male authors, diversify my reading, and keep on exploring the world of Golden Age mystery fiction.

 

The Around the World reading challenge -- which is also to be continued in 2020 -- this year has taken me to places of the world that aren't exactly part of my normal reading fare, and I think visits to 46 countries (8 in Africa, 10 in the Americas (11 if Puerto Rico were counted separately), 13 in Asia and the Middle East, 2 in Oceania, and 13 again in Europe) is a pretty decent tally for the first year. I hope things are going to continue in a similar vein next year.

 

My Golden Age mystery reading plans are probably going to cross the "diversifying" aims to a certain extent -- they already did this year -- for the simple reason that the vast majority of Golden Age mystery writers were Caucasian.  But that just can't be helped, I suppose.

 

 

The 2019 Stats

Books begun: 250

Books finished: 247

Average Rating: 3,8

 

 Genre Breakdown by Subgenres

Mystery: 124
   Golden Age: 89
   Silver Age: 3
   Tartan Noir: 3
   Classic Noir: 2
   Cozy Mystery: 2
   General: 22


Thriller: 8
   Espionage: 5
   Humor/Satire: 1
   General: 2

 

Historical Fiction: 31
   Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 23
   Mythology: 2
   Magical Realism: 1
   Humor/Satire: 1
   General: 3


Fantasy: 11
   Humor/Satire: 8
   YA: 2
   General: 1

 

Supernatural: 5
   Short Fiction: 2
   Historical Fiction: 2
   Humor/Satire: 1


SciFi: 2
    Steampunk: 1
    Humor/Satire: 1

 

Horror: 3
   Gothic: 1
   Short Fiction: 2

 

Classics: 15
   Short Fiction: 6
   Anthology: 1
   Espionage: 1
   General: 7

 

LitFic: 16
   Magical Realism: 1
   Mythology: 2
   Dystopia: 2
   Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 2
   ChickLit: 2
   General: 7


Nonfiction: 32
   Auto(Biography): 20
   History: 3
   Philosophy: 2
   Science: 3
   True Crime: 2
   Anthology: 1
   Cookbook: 1

 

 

 
    
    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key, obviously, is in the intersection of genres and ethnicity: 25 of the 27 books by non-Caucasian authors I read were something other than mysteries; or put differently, virtually all of the 124 mysteries were by Caucasian authors (including all of the 92 Golden and Silver Age mysteries, which in themselves account for 2/3 of all my mystery intake).  I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do much about those statistics -- nor do I very much want to, as long as I manage to make decent progress with my Around the World challenge and manage to get in a fair amount of non-Caucasian books in all the other genres.

 

Favorite books of 2019: HERE

Least favorite books of 2019: HERE

 

 

Bibliomancy

 My question: Is 2020 going to be a good reading year for me?

 

Miss Austen's Collected Novels are one of the larger volumes on my shelves, so I decided to seek my answer there.

 

The answer: "[impor]tance in assisting the improvement of her mind, and extending its pleasures."

 

That sounds rather promising, doesn't it?

(And I'm taking it as an additional good sign that the answer is from Mansfield Park, wich was the first novel by Austen that I read -- and the book that made me fall in love with her writing in the first place ...)

 

 

 

Dreidel Spin for First Book of the Year

This is a pick from some of the books that my BFF, Gaby, gave me for Christmas and my birthday this year:

 

נ (Nun) - Craig Adams: The Six Secrets of Intelligence

ג (Gimel) - Isabel Colegate: The Shooting Party

ה (Hei) - Preet Bharara: Doing Justice

ש (Shin) - Sarah-Jane Stratford: Radio Girls

 

 

... and the dreidel picked:

 

 So, Sarah-Jane Stratford's Radio Girls it is!

Radio Girls - Sarah-Jane Stratford

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Door 22

Task 1: Tell us: What are your reading goals for the coming year?

Task 2: The reading year in review: How did you fare – what was good, what wasn’t?

Task 3: Bibliomancy: Ask a question related to your reading plans or experience in the coming year, open one of your weightiest tomes on page 485, and find the answer to your question in line 7.

 

Door 18, Task 1: Spin the dreidel to determine which book is going to be the first one you’ll be reading in the new year.

Find a virtual dreidel here:

https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/make-a-dreidel

http://www.jewfaq.org/dreidel/play.htm

http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm

 

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