Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective (November 2004)

When I began keeping a reading journal six years ago, I hoped to look back upon my reading to see if there were any patterns. Not only was I curious to see the changes in what I read, but also, perhaps, in how much I read in any given month. In terms of numbers, there really is no discernible pattern. Except for the month of November. November seems to be the month I read the least amount of books. I switched that up on purpose a couple of years ago, determined to break the cycle I seemed to have developed. It is too soon to tell how this month will fare in comparison, especially with the Thankfully Reading Weekend coming up at the end of the month.

Since I will be busy reading next weekend, I thought I would travel down memory lane a little early this month, seeing where my reading took me five years ago this November. The year had already brought with it plenty of bumps, and November of 2004 was no different. My discontent with my job was on the rise and my paternal grandfather died, having suffered with Alzheimer's Disease in the final years of his life. On the plus side, Anjin and I decided it was time to buy me a new car, replacing the first one I'd ever had.

Reading wise, I spent time with old friends in Victorian London, England, investigating crimes right alongside Inspector Thomas and Charlotte Pitt from Anne Perry's mystery series. Charlotte is still one of my favorite heroines, intelligent and thoughtful. I read both Belgrave Square and Farriers' Lane in November 2004. Perry pays close attention to details in her novels, aiming for historical accuracy. While entertaining on one hand, Perry's novels also tackle social issues of the day, making them, in my mind, all the more worthwhile to read.

That November five years ago, I spent a good deal of time reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Set mostly in England during the early 1800’s when practical magic appears to have been lost, the simple question of why magic was not practiced anymore created a stir among the magic community, which was made up mostly of scholars and theorists at that time. A prophecy about how two magicians would join together and reintroduce magic into English society began to unfold. This is their story, the story of Jonathan Strange and his teacher, Mr. Norrell. Mr. Norrell and Mr. Strange are the unlikeliest of companions with very different ideas about magic and how it should be practiced and studied. With their own warring ideas, the question arises if the two magicians can work together to conquer the malevolent forces that threaten them and their loved ones.

What I liked best about Clarke's novel was the air of realism that permeated the entire story, even with the most fantastic of magic performed. I fell in love with Clarke's writing from the start. I was never overly fond of Mr. Norrell. My favorite character in the novel by far was Arabella, Jonathan Strange's wife. She was strong, intelligent, and quite an interesting character. I also took to Stephen Black, the butler who was enchanted by the King of Lost-Hope, and yet he remained ever the polite gentleman even in the direst of situations.

My husband also read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell around the same time. He loved the book even more than I did, if that's possible. It's definitely a novel that has stayed with me all these years later, and one I hope to eventually revisit.

While I may have only read three books that November in 2004, I was lucky enough to make up for it in quality.

This November seems to be full of its own bumps. Not a week has gone by yet this month when Anjin or I haven't landed in the hospital for one thing or another. This past week it was my turn again. Just when I'm ready to jump right back into blogging, my back had another idea. At a time when Americans are counting their blessings and offering up thanks, let me extend my gratitude to kind emergency room doctors and staff and the makers of pain medication. And thank you to all of you for your patience and friendship.

This Week In Reading Mews:
Reviews Posted:
From Book to Film: Push to Precious

Reading Now:
The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia
Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis by Mark Bowden
Palestine by Joe Sacco

Posts of Interest This Week:
Thankfully Reading Weekend
Wordless Wednesday: Waiting Their Turn

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I know I've been thinking about you. I realize you have had your health issues, and I hope you both get over them soon. That stuff can drag you down. It makes sense to me that November could be a bad reading month. Last year, I was brand new in blogging, so I can't really judge. We'll see. I can't participate in the Thankfully Reading Challenge this weekend, just because my kids and husband won't let me! I'll see if maybe I can sneak in a quick book! Have a wonderful week Wendy, and I'll be saying a prayer for good health for the both of you!

  2. Darn! Back pain is the worst! I had a little episode at the end of August and had to spend one night sitting up trying to sleep. Not fun! Mine is more hip arthritis, though, so I did a bit of reading online and discovered that the nightshade vegetables can cause it. And the worst culprit? Tomatoes! I love them and had been drinking a lot of V8 and eating the fresh ones from the farm stand. I cut them out completely and it cleared up.

    Friday night my husband wanted open-faced cheese and tomato broiled sandwiches for supper so I had three and woke up this morning with hip pain. Hmmm.... There might be something to it!

    Anyway, yours doesn't sound like arthritis and you are doing the right thing by going to the docotr's. I've just been self-diagnosing and you know how smart that is! LOL

    Hope you don't have any more episodes!

    Your post is so well written and enjoyable to read. I wish I'd started keeping track of my reading years ago! I tell all my students to keep a list.

    Enjoy your reading weekend!

  3. Sorry again to hear about your health troubles.
    Back pain is soooooo awful. I sympathize and know that I totally understand least from my experience. I see a chiropractor and have a message weekly to maintain my back problems.

    Have a Happy Reading Thanksgiving. I will e thinking about you as I eat my feast. LOL

  4. I'm so sorry to read that you've been in the hospital. This is a terrible time of the year to be out of commission. I hope you're back to normal soon.

  5. Sandy - Thanks, Sandy. For the last few years, hubby and I have spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at home with just the two of us and the animals. With our working schedules, traveling to visit family isn't worth the headache for such a short time period. Besides, we've come to really like our quiet holidays.

    I hope you are able to fit in a little reading this next weekend. Regardless, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Linda - Thank you, Linda. My back gave out on me back in August for the first time. It had been feeling better but then a couple of weeks ago, it started acting up again. Then one night this past week, the pain became unbearable. I tried to sleep it off, but the pain was only getting worse. When I started to black out from the pain, we decided a trip to the emergency room was in order.

    The doctor's pretty sure it's just a strained muscle.

    I can't sit for more than five minutes without my back acting up. I'm only comfortable if I'm up walking or lying down. Lying on my stomach as I type is not exactly the most comfortable (what I'm doing now), but it's the best I can manage unless I stand up at the kitchen counter, which is what I'm seriously considering doing at this point.

    That's so interesting about the tomatoes! I would never have thought certain foods would cause your arthritis to act up like that.

    Wisteria - Thanks, Donna. I feel like all I do these days is complain about my health. I need to make it a rule not to bring it up on my blog least I come across as a whiner. LOL

    I hope you have a great Thanksgiving. Hubby and I have reservations for Marie Callender's Thanksgiving Day. No cooking and cleaning for us, thank goodness!

    Kathy - Thank you, Kathy. If I am to be down and out, this actually is a good time for it. It means I'm out of work less days because of the holidays and the way my furlough days fall.

  6. I've never read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - but you make it sound interesting!!

  7. November is never a good reading month for me either. And let's not even talk about December...

    Victorian London, eh? I might have to check out that mystery series. And infinite hearts for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I need to read that again!

  8. Ohhhh....back pain is not fun. I'm so sorry that you continue to suffer from this Wendy!!!! I loved taking a trip back in time with you. Hope that the next week finds you in better health and spirits!! Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. Sometimes quality over quantity is the way to go. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell has seemed like one of those books I should read, but I seem to keep finding reasons not to :-).

    Hope you're feeling better during this short week, Wendy, and that you enjoy the Thankfully Reading Weekend! I hope to do some reading too, but since my mother-in-law will be visiting and I'm supposed to be at work on Friday, I'm not committing to anything definite.

  10. So sorry to hear your back is bothering you. I hope it gets better for you soon.

    I've always wanted to read Jonathan Strange - my daughter's read and enjoyed it - the way you describe the butler is funny. I can tell I would likely enjoy it.

  11. Sorry to hear that your back is bothering you. I'll be sending positive thoughts your way!

  12. I've always wondered about picking up something as big as Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. Sounds like your answer would be "READ IT!"

  13. I've read mixed reviews on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and maybe this is one reason why I haven't get to the book yet.

    I'm sorry to hear about your back and I hope you'll get better soon, Wendy!

  14. Has it been that long since Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell came out? I loved this book; it is on my pile of re-reads.
    Sorry to hear about your back pain. I hope you get some relief soon.

  15. I'm sorry to hear about your back, Wendy... I hope you're feeling better now.

    I won't be joining in the Thankfully Reading Challenge although I'd love to because my sister is back from Sydney.

  16. So sorry to hear about you and your hubby being in the hospital of late. I hope the upcoming holiday weekend will allow so much needed relaxing time and you will soon be on the mend!

    I wanted to join that challenge as well, but I don't know how much time I will have. I feel like I've been going nonstop, but hope to have some time to read this weekend and just relax and not do much! But of course, I have to do my annual Black Friday shopping... I do love a great deal!

  17. Wendy, I'm so sorry about your back! I had a back spasm last year right before Christmas last year that had me sleeping sitting up for three weeks and taking muscle relaxants for a while. Ugh. I will pray for a quick recovery!

    I tried to listen to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on audio a while back, and I could tell I was missing too much of the wittiness - I needed to see it on the page, so I set it aside. I will read it in print one of these days!

  18. Oh great post! I read Jonathan Strange either 3 or 4 years ago but I can only remember bits and pieces about it. Here's to hoping for no more hospital visits!

  19. Hey lady, are you still down with your back? Sorry to hear you both have been feeling bad!

    Jonathan Strange was a favorite of mine as well. As always, loved reading your comments.

  20. I'm so sorry to hear about your back. I am familiar with pain and my husband has a bad back so I certainly empathize with you. And hospitals, especially ERs aren't always great so I'm very happy to hear they helped you. I hope you're feeling better.

    I'm glad you wrote about Anne Perry because I was looking at some of her books the other day and wondering how they were. Sounds like I should read them!
    I am not familiar with "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell" by Susanna Clarke but I'm certainly going to look it up since you and your husband liked it so much. It sounds very interesting, too. I think reading quality is so much more important than quantity. It certainly sounds like you read some wonderful books November 2004 and I know you've read some really good ones recently. I'm happy you're going to participate in the Thanksgiving Weekend reading!
    I hope you and Anjin are feeling better.

  21. I have been out of the loop lately and I just got back from a birthday weekend in Palm Springs. I did manage to read a couple books while I was there but traditionally, with birthday dinners and Thanksgiving my reading routine is inevitably interrupted. I plan to read a couple more before the end of the month. At least I don't have to cook for Turkey Day!

  22. I hope that you and Anjin are all healed up! My husband hasn't been able to move his neck all day and I'm hoping he will see eome improvement tomorrow.
    You have convinced me that I need to add Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norwell to my reading list.

  23. Sam - It's a deliciously big book. :-)

    Nymeth - I tend to do much better in December reading wise, especially if I have a little time off from work. :-)

    I can definitely see myself returning to Clarke's novel. I imagine I'll get something new out of it with every reading.

    Staci - My back is slowly getting better and I'm not in nearly as much pain as I was fortunately. Thank you for your well wishes. :-)

    Florinda - Clarke's novel took me several months before I actually dove into it even after I had added to my collection. It's definitely an atmospheric book. One you want to take your time with.

    Spending time reading this weekend will be good for my health in more ways than one. :-) I'm looking forward to dedicating some good chunks of time to reading.

    I hope you have a nice visit with your mother-in-law!

    Myckyee - Thank you, Donna. I do hope you get the chance to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's definitely worth it.

    Kathleen -

    Lisa - Thanks! I need all the positive thoughts I can get. :-)

    Melody - Not to mention it's such a big book. That would be offputting to some as well. I do hope you'll take a chance on Clarke's book, Melody. I'd love to read your thoughts on it.

    Sari - It's hard to believe it was that long ago, isn't it? I'm always amazed at how fast time passes.

    Thank you for your well wishes!

  24. Alice - Thank you, Alice. My back is healing. It will probably be awhile before it's completely healed, but the end is in sight!

    Enjoy your reunion with your sister!

    Kristie - Hubby and I are quite a pair this month. :-) We'll look back on this and laugh, no doubt. We already are, actually. LOL It's either that or cry and I'd rather laugh. :-) Things could be a lot worse, after all.

    I hope you are able to find some time to relax, Kristie. It's been a busy season so far, that's for sure. Have fun on Friday!

    Carrie - Thanks, Carrie. My back won't allow me to sit up for long. I am grateful I can at least find a comfortable position lying down. I am taking a muscle relaxer too along with pain medication when need be. I haven't taken it much this week though since I was back at work. Fortunately, the pain hasn't been bad enough to really need it all that much.

    I hope you will enjoy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell if you do decide to read the printed version. It takes a bit to get into but I really liked it in the end.

    Jen - Thanks, Jen! I'm certainly in agreement with you--no more hospital visits, please! I've discovered though that if you have to go to emergency, the middle of the night is best--not as crowded as during the day. :-)

    Annette - This is my second round with my back. Evidently I fall into the "if you hurt it once, you'll hurt it again" category. It was actually worse this time and so I decided to go to the emergency room. I could barely walk, the pain was so bad. I don't think my husband has heard that many curse words come flying out of my mouth so fast before. LOL He was so great through it all.

    Amy - Thank you, Amy. I am feeling better than I was, thank you. I feel terrible complaining about it, knowing what you've had to go through.

    I'd be really interested to hear what you think of Anne Perry's books if you give them a try. She's writes several series. I've only yet to try the one. I hope to eventually give her other two a try.

    Matt - A birthday weekend in Palm Springs sounds nice! And Palm Springs has been really nice weather-wise lately. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

    Stacy - We're getting there. I'll be glad when my back is all better, let me tell you. I hope your husband's neck is feeling better! You never realize just how much you depend on certain muscles until it's too painful to use them.

    Definitely do try Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell if you get the chance!


Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.