In 2009, I did something I'd never done before in my life. In the back of my bedside devotional book where I knew I wouldn't lose it, I made a list of every book I read for the year.
As an added discipline, I didn't count them until Dec. 31. When I added the devotional book itself (well, I did read every page of it) I arrived at a grand total of 59 books.
Now bear in mind it's not like these were all 1,000-page Ayn Rand type novels, although "Atlas Shrugged" did make the list. Several titles included young adult books I read during Sustained Silent Reading while subbing at Trickum Middle School. James Clavell tells "The Children's Story" in only 77 pages, but his work stands out as one of my best reads of the year.
Some, to be honest, I sped read to gather background information for my columns: three biographies of Dr. Seuss, five books about labyrinths, four books about folk art and Donald B. DeYoung's "Astronomy and the Bible," a teacher's resource book that is sort of a dumbed-down supplement to Ernest L. Martin's "The Star that Astonished the World," which I was able to read online.
To be honest, three of the books, Mary Kay Andrews kinds of stuff, I listened to on tape in the car, making me wonder why I don't do more of that.
Looking back over this list, I'm touched to see how many friends I've made by combining my writing with my reading, or maybe vice versa. After writing twice about local author Fran Stewart without even having met her, it tickles me that we are now friends, and the first book I read last year was her "Indigo as an Iris." In July I reviewed "Sojourns, Anyone?" by Kathy Meenach, whom I still have not met. However, I discovered within days that her sister Kim works with my son Leif and is a poet. I enjoy the verses she periodically sends me.
My last book for 2009 (besides the devotional) was a sweet surprise from Michael Bernardo, the man whose heart-felt letter comprised about 25 percent of my column about Dog Days Hot Dogs. For Christmas, Mr. Bernardo gave me a copy of his book "We the Consuls" and it tickled me how this former Latin teacher worked mini-vocabulary lessons into his story of Ancient Rome.
It was a year of personal revelations as well. As a mostly non-fiction reader, I was surprised to see I'd expanded my mind to include 19 novels.
And with 2010, I continue my mind expansion with another genre: steampunk. Yeah, steampunk. It's a form of science fiction that, well, just google it. Anyway, my friend Emilie Porman Bush recently published her first novel, "Chenda and the Airship Brofman," and it excites me to read a book by someone I already know, even if I don't actually know exactly what it is she's writing.
By the way, if you want to learn more about this steampunk stuff, Bush will be signing books at the Blue Rooster in Lilburn at 2 p.m. Jan. 30. By the time you get there, I should have at least a couple more books on my list.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.