Reflections on 2011 resolutions

Although I didn’t successfully complete every resolution, having them has been a great way of motivating myself to get things done, and tracking my progress on this blog has been very helpful.

I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone this year to attend two pride parades, both absolutely fantastic experiences. The buzz I got from those, coming from a background of self-hating religion and clinical depression was something else. Although I haven’t come out to many people I’m emotionally so much healthier than I was a year ago.

Another thing I wouldn’t have done without this blog was join a book group, which was good fun and helped me to enjoy reading.

I was in two minds about whether I should continue a resolutions blog for 2012, but looking back, I don’t think I would’ve done a lot of what I’ve done this year without this blog, so I’m going to go for it.

So Happy New Year and see you at My 2012 resolutions!

Books of 2011 ranked according to preference.

In 2011 I read 28 books. Most were enjoyable, some less so. Here they are, ranked according to how much I enjoyed them:

  1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  3. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
  4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  5. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  6. The World and Other Places by Jeanette Winterson
  7. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  8. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres.
  9. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  10. The Odyssy by Homer
  11. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  12. The Night Watch by Sarah Walters
  13. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  14. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
  15. The Dubious Hills by Pamela Dean
  16. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  17. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  18. Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury
  19. Born on a Blue Day by David Tammet
  20. The No Nonsense Guide to the Arms Trade by Gideon Burrows
  21. Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett
  22. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  23. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
  24. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  25. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  26. The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
  27. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  28. The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp
I kept changing my mind on the exact order, in the end it got to the point where I just had to hit “publish”.

And chronologically in the order I read them, from least to most recent (although some overlapped):

  1. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres.
  2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  3. Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett
  4. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  5. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
  6. The Dubious Hills by Pamela Dean
  7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  8. The Night Watch by Sarah Walters
  9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  10. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  11. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  12. The No Nonsense Guide to the Arms Trade by Gideon Burrows
  13. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  14. The Odyssey by Homer
  15. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  16. The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp
  17. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
  18. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
  19. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  20. The World and Other Places by Jeanette Winterson
  21.  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  22. The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
  23. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  24. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  25. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  26. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  27. Born on a Blue Day by David Tammet
  28. Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury

End of 2011 Summary

I set myself five goals for 2011. Let’s see how they went:

1. Get fit

Mostly complete! I’ve been cycling short distances daily, which has really helped my cardiovascular fitness. My upper body is still very puny, though. I’ve also got an account on fitocracy, which is great for motivating myself to work out.

2. Read 20 books

Done! I read 28 books in 2011. More on these later.

3. Come out of the closet

Partially done. I’ve told a few friends, and my brother already knows, but most people in my life still don’t know. Not helped by the fact that I just don’t know what to come out as, and probably never will.

4. Move home

Done! Although I will need to move again ideally before next winter as there is a bit of a problem with cold and damp and mould. It’s still an improvement on my previous residence, though.

5. Get my jaw fixed

Not done. This will take probably more than two years of orthodontic work and surgery. Next appointment in January. I don’t relish the thought of having a brace again, but at the end of it… I will be able to eat pizza and sandwiches in public! But not at the same time, though. That would be weird.

Last two books of 2011

Book #27: Born on a Blue Day by David Tammet. David is a Savant with an amazing ability to memorise numbers, perform calculations in his head and learn languages. This book was interesting, but David’s mind is not always a comfortable place to be.

Book #28: Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury. This book traces the story of Cadbury’s journey from a humble Quaker cocoa business to a multinational company and finally details its hostile takeover by Kraft foods. I, like many others, was upset when Cadbury’s ended up getting taken over by a plastic cheese company.

Books #24, #25 & #26.

#24 Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Initially I thought it was a true story, and was drawn in. However part way through I realised that it was made up and felt a bit cheated that it had been presented as though it was real. It was fairly gripping, especially near the beginning, and easy to read, even if it did descend into a cheesy western romance towards the end.

#25 David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I had great expectations for this one (hur hur hur). I wanted to like it. Dickens must be hailed as one of the all time greats of British literature for a reason, right? But my goodness was this book tedious. It went on. And on. And on and on and on. The main character was an obvious Gary Stu and Dickens devoted an inordinate amount of time to describing his often mundane thoughts and actions and the ending was highly predictable from about 100 pages in (and it was over 800 pages long!). It was a blessed relief to finally finish this book. There were glimpses of great writing but they were buried beneath tonnes of unnecessary verbiage.

#26 Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. I really liked this one. It’s about a Japanese American who is accused of the murder of a local fisherman in a post-WW2 climate of suspicion and racism. The writing was evocative, the characters, for the the most part, believable, and the central mystery and courtroom scenes well plotted and compelling. I had a couple of minor niggles – some of the relationships and sex scenes didn’t ring quite true, including those between very central characters. We never saw much of the inner landscape of Kabuo, and Hatsue’s character seemed to fade away as the chronology advanced and she became a mere prop. Stylistically, I was irritated by the author constantly referring to the Japanese characters as “The Japanese man”. I understand that racism was an important theme in the book but as all the Japanese characters had obviously Japanese names, I felt like this constant reminder of their race was unnecessary. However, it was an enjoyable read and I felt myself being drawn into the insular world of San Piedro Island.

Books #22 & #23: The Vesuvius Club & The Thorn Birds

Book #22: The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss. It was ok. Like Artimis Fowel, but with more camp and less suspense. All the characters had ridiculous names which made it difficult to follow, I kept forgetting who was who. After reading the book I was not surprised to discover that the author is a screenwriter; parts of the book seemed to be more written for film than for the reader. However it was a light, enjoyable read.

Book #23: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. A good family saga, and very sad in places. I was hooked near the beginning but my interest was starting to tail off a little towards the end.

Reading goal: completed

Book #18: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

Book #19:  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Book #20: The World and Other Places by Jeanette Winterson

Book #21: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

All worthy reads.

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