Where the heck was I reading?

We all know I’m slightly OCD about many things — among them lists and record-keeping. Being both an avid reader and an obsessive traveler, armchair and otherwise, I decided 2012 would be the year I kept track of all the places I “visited” through my reading.

Inspired by Aths, I kept a running Google map with the main locations of every book I read. Because some novels spanned several towns, states or countries, I chose to catalog the “main” setting and discard the others. If an exact location was never named, I “rounded up” to the state or closest town I could find. There were exceptions to that, though, and some places had no discernible setting — or more than one place was critical to the story. So I made allowances where I wanted.

In keeping this organized tally, I was most interested to see how diversified my reading was this year. Were most of my books set in New York City or London, as it often feels? Did I read novels set in any foreign countries? Were my characters of varying racial backgrounds, descents and interests?

The answer to all of the above, I’m happy to say, is yes! Though I did read many books set in New York (16), only one (!) was set in London. I know, I’m just . . . I can’t get over it. I read others set in England, of course, but only one book set in London? Really?

I scarcely know myself.

Of the 71 books I read this year, some of the more exotic locations included:

• Beijing and Shanghai, China
• Amsterdam, The Netherlands
• Gowna and Dublin, Ireland
• Vietnam
• Ghana, Africa
• Nagoya, Japan
• Madrid, Spain
• Porto Vergogna, Italy
• Kingsbridge and Milton, England
• Mumbai, India

Back stateside, my reading was pretty centered around California — not too surprising given my trip there last May. I read eight books set in the Golden State, several in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and also journeyed to destinations in states I’ve never seen in person. Among my American reading were spots in:

• Boston, Massachusetts
• St. Mary’s County and Annapolis, Maryland (home!)
• Atlanta, Georgia
• Hawaii
• Portland, Maine
• Wiscasset, Maine
• Chicago, Illinois
• Cleveland, Ohio
• Provo, Utah
• Kansas City, Missouri
• Malvern, Pennsylvania
• The Cascade Mountains of Oregon
• Dalhart, Texas
• Indiana
• Seattle, Washington

And for all the numbers fans out there . . .

28 percent of the settings were international
72 percent of the settings were in the United States

In 2013, I hope to expand my literary horizons and journey to many new and interesting locales! We’ll see how exotic I can get.

So what did I read in 2012?

1. Across The Universe by Beth Revis
2. History Of A Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason
3. What Came First by Carol Snow
4. Faith by Jennifer Haigh
5. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
6. Fatal Mistake by CB Lovejoy
7. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
8. Dance Lessons by Aine Greaney
9. The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
10. Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton
11. Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris
12. How To Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donohue
13. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
14. The Civilized World by Susi Wyss
15. Gossip by Beth Gutcheon
16. Another Piece Of My Heart by Jane Green
17. All The Flowers In Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
18. The Singles by Meredith Goldstein
19. S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim by Cynthia Sass
20. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
21. Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer
22. Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky
23. These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen
24. Bossypants by Tina Fey
25. Japan Took the J.A.P. Out Of Me by Lisa Cook
26. A Vacation On the Island of Ex-Boyfriends by Stacy Bierlein
27. Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson
28. In The Bag by Kate Klise
29. An Object Of Beauty by Steve Martin
30. Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
31. Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon
32. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
33. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
34. Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus
35. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
36. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
37. As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeney
38. And Laughter Fell From The Sky by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
39. Birthday Pie by Andrew Wooten
40. Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson
41. Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
42. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
43. The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate
44. The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
45. Point, Click, Love by Molly Shapiro
46. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
47. Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
48. Populazzi by Elise Allen
49. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
50. The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns by Margaret Dilloway
51. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
52. Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose
53. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
54. Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski
55. We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbark
56. Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
57. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
58. Harvest by Richard Horan
59. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
60. Lip Service by M.J. Rose
61. Love On the Big Screen by William Torgerson
62. I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert
63. You Tell Your Dog First by Alison Pace
64. The Good Woman by Jane Porter
65. Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas
66. Moranthology by Caitlin Moran
67. Lunch With Buddha by Roland Merullo
68. Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole Georges
69. I Kill Me by Tracy H. Tucker
70. The Wedding Beat by Devan Sipher
71. The Truth About Love and Lightning by Susan McBride

La Vie En Fleurs: The City of Light in ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’

A fellow blogger and fellow Meg (good name!) created a feature I’m thrilled to run with: Literary Locales, which focuses on the settings of the books we’re currently reading. Visit her site to join in the fun.

As I’m currently thick in the middle of the Indie Lit Award’s Fiction shortlist for judging in March, you might have noticed a dearth of book reviews around here — but I promise my reading life is alive and well! I’m just having to stay focused. Nose to the grindstone and all that.

My latest read is Lynn Sheene’s The Last Time I Saw Paris, set in Nazi-occupied Paris during the 1940s. It’s a dangerous and unsteady time for the French when a young, beautiful American socialite arrives to make a fresh start. She’s swept into the Resistance movement and eventually falls in love, though fate drags her into endless turmoil before the book’s smash of a conclusion. I was up early to finish it before work Wednesday, determined to learn Claire’s fate before I was back at my desk.

Though I enjoyed the story (and will have a review coming after the Indie Lit Awards’ Fiction winner is announced in March), the character I actually loved best in The Last Time I Saw Paris was Paris itself. Described as steadfast, loyal and lovely — even in the darkest of times — the novel only made my desire to visit the City of Light more powerful. The descriptions of Parisian cafes and blossoms in the spring were tantalizing, and I could clearly picture the awful juxtaposition of Hitler’s forces and the tender blooms of new trees come April.

When Claire arrives in Paris, she accepts temporary work at a flower shop — La Vie En Fleurs, or “Life In Bloom” — and studies the art under the stoic eye of Madame Palain. As the story progresses, La Vie En Fleurs’ role becomes increasingly important — and I could almost smell the fragrant blooms Claire assembled as she passed through dangerous Nazi-occupied zones. It was intoxicating, and now I’m determined to visit a Parisian flower shop myself.

{Having never been to Paris (sadly!),
the lovely photos above are copyright their respective owners.
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