One of the reasons I read so much in the last couple of weeks before the end of 2010 was because of an idea my husband proposed one night. Why not get rid of our cable? For some time, he had been watching most of his favorite TV shows via Netflix or Hulu, and I was all for saving some money, so we switched to the most basic package. What that means is that now when I turn on the TV, my choices are primarily limited to bad sitcoms, religious programming, the Spanish channel (which I don’t speak) or home shopping. I could sit there and figure out how to get my regular shows through Netflix via the Xbox, but it’s a lot of effort for what was generally junk TV or whatever I happened to come across when I clicked the remote. As a result, my time spent in front of the television has gone from an average of 2 hours a night to 2 hours a week. I’ve also made a conscious effort not to spend as much time on the Internet, particularly Facebook, which sucked up an alarming amount of my nightly free time.

Instead, I’ve been reading. I know, what a concept! It’s been really nice to finish my supper and instead of going to the TV or computer, to sit or lie down with a book and just read for a hour or two. It’s been much more relaxing and I don’t miss staring at the computer or television screens for hours, either.

In other news, I celebrated the end of my successful year-long book buying ban on New Year’s Day by buying myself a few books! I had some money left over on the 2009 Christmas bookstore gift card and a brand new one in my stocking this Christmas, as well as a coupon for 50% off any title – so who the heck could resist that? I also took advantage of our recently acquired Amazon Prime membership and got a couple of titles I wanted on the cheap. Here’s what I got:

longrun catpeople readinglife rightsreader rabbipaul

Long May You Run by Chris Cooper: Not only is this a beautiful looking book that would look great on any runner’s coffee table (it’s about that size), it’s chock full of information and aspiration. I consider this a post-Christmas gift to myself.

Cat People by Margaret and Michael Korda: As much as I abhor the thought of being a ‘cat lady’ I couldn’t resist this little find in the bookstore bargain bin.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy: I’ve only read one novel by Pat Conroy thus far and had mixed thoughts on it (see here) but a book about books is nigh on irresistible to me.

The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac: Nick Hornby praised this book in Shakespeare Wrote for Money, which I read just recently. It’s geared towards people who have some reading influence over children (as teachers or parents, for example) but it sounds like it would be great reading for any reader.

Rabbi Paul by Bruce Chilton: This is my church book club’s January selection and since I was able to find a copy on Amazon for just a couple bucks, I went ahead and bought it. I have a week to read it, so I’m hoping it holds my interest once I get started. I haven’t added this one to my LibraryThing catalog though, as I’ll probably just donate to my church library once I’m through with it.

And now, for my first completed book of 2011!

howardsI thought it appropriate, in this year when I hope to read more from my own bookshelves that perhaps any other year, that I begin with a book that is about just that. Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home, was one of my late 2009 purchases. When I first heard about this book last December, it wasn’t available in the United States, and so I availed myself of the wonderful free international shipping service provided by The Book Depository and ordered a copy from them. A little over a year between buying and reading is not too bad for me!

Coming so close on the heels of reading another book about books, I kept getting who said what about who mixed up. For instance, when Hill started praising Thomas Hardy towards the end of the book, I thought, but wait, wasn’t she calling him a depressing curmudgeon earlier on? I was so convinced by this and confused by the apparent discrepancy that I went back to try and find this earlier passage, spending a good amount of time doing so, all in vain. Yeah, turns out it was actually Hornby who thinks Hardy is a real downer. Which makes more sense, really. (FYI: The ‘Look Inside’ feature for books on Amazon ROCKS; it’s how I was able to solve the mystery and restore my faith in my own sanity.)

Howards End is on the Landing wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be, which was more something along the lines of So Many Books, So Little Time, a book I read way, way back in the early days of my blog – February 2006 – and highly recommend if your reading list is getting low and you need to bulk it up a bit. (Yeah, like that ever happens, right?) Rather, it’s a collection of Hill’s thoughts and memories surrounding books she’s loved and the writers who have impacted her own life and writing. I came away thinking perhaps I’d given up on Dickens prematurely and that I need to read something, anything, by Barbara Pym. Oh, and perhaps it’s OK not to be head over heels for Jane Austen. I felt that not being British nor someone who’s read a ton of classic literature, that some of the people, books and references went over my head. I also got the feeling that Hill and I probably wouldn’t like a lot of the same books and she’d likely find my reading tastes somewhat plebeian. Regardless, I quite enjoyed reading a writer’s personal insight into their own book collection, reading habits and memories of an extraordinary writing life.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bed. On the schedule for tomorrow is a 12-mile training run and I need my sleep!