Christmas Thoughts, Reading Highlights, & Winding Down the Year

Merry Christmas Eve, all!

I’m not always good at posting on holidays, so I’m writing this at 10:00 PM Christmas-Eve Eve, Pacific time, to make sure I didn’t miss it.

Today I baked some almond sugar cookies (a strangely exhausting endeavor) and recorded parts 6 & 7 of my Christmas Carol audiobook. It’s running a bit behind schedule but will be finished by this weekend.

I am so enjoying reading A Christmas Carol! I thought I knew it by heart from different film and radio productions, but the small moments that don’t make it to the screen really grab me. The emotions of the story ring truer this year than any. I’ve choked up a few times and am not even at the end yet…

2020 in Books

The year is not over, but here is my Goodreads “year in books” thus far…

My Favorite Book

Yes… it’s still The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. I did a video analysis of the novel back in February. It was impossible for any book the remainder of the year to live up to this, even though I read some amazing books. Allow me to be dramatic… this one just resonated with my very soul.

Reading the World

In June, one of my good friends suggested we do a buddy read of books from different countries. I was very excited about this, because I feel world literature has not been my strong point in the past. We read and discussed these books:

  • Malicroix – Henri Bosco – France
  • The Rings of Saturn – W. G. Sebald – Germany
  • The Houseguest and Other Stories – Amparo Dávila – Mexico
  • Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders – U.S.
  • Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath – Sigrid Undset – Norway
  • Miss Julie & Other Plays – August Strindberg – Sweden
  • Datura – Leena Krohn – Finland (still in progress)

My two favorites from this project so far have been The Rings of Saturn and Datura, incidentally somewhat similar in that they mix nonfiction with fiction.

Exploring My Heritage

One of my personal goals for 2020 was learning more about Asian literature and history. Though I regret not reading any books about Vietnam, I did better on this goal than I would’ve expected:

  • A History of East Asia – Charles Holcombe
  • Chinese Poems – Edited by Arthur Waley
  • The Painted Veil – W. Somerset Maugham (set in 1920s Hong Kong)
  • Five by Endo – Shusaku Endo
  • Silence – Shusaku Endo
  • The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa
  • The Red Years: Forbidden Poems from Inside North Korea – Bandi
  • Xi Jinping: The Backlash – Richard McGregor
  • North Korea’s Hidden Revolution – Jieun Baek
  • Interior Chinatown – Charles Yu
  • They Called Us Enemy – George Takei
  • The Setting Sun – Osamu Dazai
  • “Aguri” – Tanizaki Junichiro
  • “Honey Pie” – Haruki Murakami

Through Instagram, I found an excellent teacher who gives online classes in Japanese literature. Ikuya leads structured, small group lessons with a combination of history, biography, and moderated discussions of Japanese short stories. I’ve learned a ton from the two lessons I’ve taken so far, and I can’t wait to take more next year.

Looking Forward

Personally speaking, this was a year of many new experiences, tests, and struggles. Reading was sometimes difficult—it was hard getting out of my own head, while surrounded by all kinds of catastrophes. I feel very grateful to be alive, to have dear family and caring friends, and to be able to continue blogging and YouTubing about books like this.

I have no great expectations that next year will be an improvement, but I do know that I’m more prepared for it. 😉

Pun intended… I’m gearing up to read David Copperfield, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. (Still under book buying ban, may have to break it a little early to take advantage of my time off.)

Other than that, and continuing the above projects, I don’t have any solid reading plans for next year. I might need to take a break from YouTube in January, depending on how busy work and other commitments get. We’ll see how it goes…

The book I’m most looking forward to in 2021 is Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro’s new novel. I’m already in line for the library ebook!

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  1. Mudpuddle Avatar

    impressive pursuance of pre-initiated goals! or some such… i haven’t read any of the above, so look forward to your reviews… in the mean time, Merry Crispness (cookies, yum)


    1. Marian Avatar

      Thanks Mudpuddle! I kept things pretty open-ended this year goals-wise… I think that’s the key. 😀


  2. Cleo @ Classical Carousel Avatar
    Cleo @ Classical Carousel

    Great post, Marian and it’s so interesting to read your goals and accomplishments! I’m glad The Painted Veil was so good. I’ve been hesitant to read Maugham so when I do, I’ll choose this one. You’re lucky to have a friend to read with you and a Japanese literature teacher?!! How on earth do you find these things on Instagram? So many people love this platform but I find it’s so time consuming. However, perhaps I’m not using it properly.

    I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! Like you, I’m looking forward to the new year.


    1. Mudpuddle Avatar

      i still try to comment sometimes, Cleo, but wordpress says my account is expired even tho i use it for other blogs and google says there’s an error of some sort, so i guess it’s hopeless unless i go back to schoool and get a masters in computer programming so i can fix it… just wanted you to know i think about and like your posts…(tx, Marian, for the use of your space…)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Marian Avatar

        Anytime Mudpuddle! Tech shouldn’t be this much of a pain – on behalf of programmers I’m very sorry! :O


    2. Marian Avatar

      Thanks Cleo! 🙂 I think you would like The Painted Veil or at least the themes. I’m about ready to read it again, lol!

      Instagram is hit-and-miss for me. I think I found the teacher through browsing Japanese literature posts. He had one free class earlier in the year and I was so impressed by it, I decided to sign up!


  3. Sharon Wilfong Avatar
    Sharon Wilfong

    Lovely photos. Have you read the Battle of Dien Bien Phu? A Vietnamese friend who was a refugee and came to the states in the 70s loaned me her book to read. There’s another book I liked. It was written by an American who lived several years during the Vietnam war in Vietnam and was fluent in Vietnamese. His work is a small collection of fiction about Vietnamese immigrants from both North and South to the New Orleans area, where he is from. They are very well written and I believe realistic, the reviews by Vietnamese readers say so also.

    The title is: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.

    Have a blessed new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marian Avatar

      Thank you Sharon! (I snagged the photos from Pixabay, they look so Dickensian!)
      I haven’t read either of those, so thank you so much for the recommendations! Maybe next year I will zoom-in on my Asia challenge and focus on Vietnam.
      Hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful New Year, too! 🙂


  4. smellincoffee Avatar

    I’ve enjoyed your livestreams this year, and your thoughtful reviews in general. You cover many books I’d never hear about otherwise! I’ve not yet finished listening to your Christmas Carol audio series — I’m 3 videos in, but there’s still nine or so days left of Christmas. 😀


    1. Marian Avatar

      Thanks Stephen! Yeah, I tried to get outside the comfort zone this year, and I’d say it was mostly a success. I’m thinking about doing more livestreams in January, maybe less of the edited videos and use that time to really *read* . 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. liviepearl Avatar

    Your reading is always impressive. I’ll have to refer back to this list, I really, really need to read more than a few certain eras of Brit Lit. I’m hoping to do a reading journal with a map that I can color in for reading books in various countries.


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