Reading Roundup for 2019 and 2018

I’ve been chronically late posting updates of what I read in the previous year so this post is kind of ironic this year that it’s the earliest I’ve posted a round up for the previous year (2019) and the latest I’ve post a rounded up for an earlier year (2018).

I don’t do these summaries to brag or to be performative. I do them largely for myself as a means of documenting when I read something and to take stock in what types of authors & stories I’ve been reading. I never go into the year with the plan to read more of a certain genre or specific author’s books. I may have a vague idea that I want to check out an author that I haven’t read before, but I certainly don’t have a checklist or score card going into the year.

Having said that I do like to mix it up and read Science Fiction, Fantasy, and non-Fiction in varying amounts. I will read the occasion mainstream literature, but speculative fiction has kind of broken my brain for those type of stories. I have been trying to include more poetry and graphic novels in my reading lists.

So let’s jump in the Wayback machine and go back to 2018 when I pledged to read 36 books on my Goodreads challenge that year, an increase of 6 books over the 2017 goal. I fell short reading 30, which was the same number I read in 2017. Below is a quilt of covers laid out in approximately the order I read them in.

Grid of book covers from 2018
Covers of Books Read in 2018

I “discovered” a lot of new authors in 2018 that I hadn’t read before. 15/30 books were by authors I hadn’t previously read. My reading choices were pretty evenly split between Science Fiction and Fantasy with a couple of non-fiction, poetry, and graphic novels thrown in for good measure. More than half the authors I read were female in 2018. Most of the books I read came out in the last few years or at least post 2011. With 3 being from the 1990s. As in previous years, I won’t get into reviewing the books I read here. 2018 was definitely a good year of reading for me with the majority of the books being memorable reads that I would heartily recommend to friends.

2018 Breakdown of Andy’s Reading List

Moving on to 2019 my pace was a lot slower than I had anticipated. For starters I began ride-sharing with a co-worker which cut into my audio book listening. That compounded by health issues in the second half of 2019 really put a damper on my target of 36 books. In the end I read 13 books.

2019 Reading List in Book Covers

2019’s reading selection tended to skew towards Science Fiction with 8/13 being SF related and only 3 books had Fantasy elements in it. Usually I am split a lot more evenly. More than half the books I read were by female authors. I also read 3 books with Time Travel elements in them this year – The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley, Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen, and Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield. I read 2 non-fiction books both of which were actual physical books as opposed to e-books or audio books.

2019 Breakdown of Andy’s Reading List

So that’s my reading habits in a nutshell. I am aiming for 36 books again in 2020. I’ll see what happens. I’ve already went through my back log of books I bought in the last couple of years and I have over 50 books to choose from and that doesn’t include the audio books and e-books I have on my electronic TBR piles. Plus I know of a few authors with debut novels coming out in 2020 that I hope to add to my reading list. Going to be a busy reading year.

What are you looking forward to reading in 2020?

2019 Roundup

Ringing out on last day of treatment.

People like to complain about how specific years suck. “2019 was the worst year ever and I can’t wait for it to be over” type of sentiment and I never subscribed to that. It’s not the calendar’s fault and personifying the year as something vengeful out to get you never sat well with me. Having said that my 2019 did suck because of health issues.

Long story, but I was feeling unwell since the spring and thought maybe it was heart related. After all, I am a 51 year old, heavier guy, who sits at a desk job most of the time. I saw my doctor and we started to run some tests. Nothing came back indicating anything was wrong with my heart, but I did notice a small pea-sized nodule near my thyroid that we decided to check out.

At first inspection (via ultrasound) it was decided that it was nothing of overt concern and that it wasn’t on my thyroid but in my lymph nodes. They said we’ll re-scan it in 3 months and see if there has been any change. Fast forward to July and the original nodule hadn’t changed much but I noticed a second one coming up in the side of my neck. Both were deemed “reactive” after an ultrasound, as in they weren’t big enough to set off warning bells, but my family doctor decided to send me for a biopsy.

Due to a host of issues the scheduling of the biopsy got dragged out and put off for the whole month of August. Meanwhile the nodules in the side of my neck got decidedly worse. By the time I saw a specialist in September I was beside myself with anxiety and worry what was going on not to mention that my body was out of whack with stress. The ENT doctor took one look at me and my state and said quite scarily “I don’t know what this is, but we’re going to stick a needle in it right now.” One of the delays had been my family doctor wanted to send me for a aspiration biopsy but the ENT wanted a core biopsy and my family doctor couldn’t order one, it had to come from the ENT. In the end it was the simple aspiration biopsy that the ENT performed in his clinic that got me the cancer diagnosis 4 days later. Funnily enough never once did I suspect it might be cancer. Maybe I was just in denial.

So on Sept 20th I got the diagnosis that I had cancer in my lymph nodes and on Sept 24th, I became a cancer patient at the North East Cancer Centre in Sudbury, Ontario. To say the process was overwhelming is an understatement. I was already stressed out long before the diagnosis. That first week of being a cancer patient was information overload. Getting diagnosed – it had spread to my lymph nodes from my tonsil. Being told what the treatment involved – 7 weeks of daily radiation and three rounds of chemo. Being told about the short and long term side effects and all the risks. At this point I hadn’t gotten a CT Scan to determine the extent of the cancer, nor had I had a proper biopsy to confirm whether it was caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Adding to my stress I was still working full time through this while we waiting for treatment to start.

Again due to scheduling and waiting for all these diagnostics to line up before a treatment plan could be devised took some time and I started treatment on Oct 21st almost a full month after getting diagnosed. Thus began my 7 weeks of treatment that just recently ended in early December. I could fill several blog posts with all the ups and downs of treatment, but suffice it to say it was an ordeal that I am still recovering from. The only saving grace was the fact I was able to partake in a clinical drug study that was in its final stages for a drug that decreased the effect of oral mucositis, which is the breakdown of tissues in your mouth due to the chemotherapy and radiation. Without the drug I would have had a even harder time eating and swallowing than I did.

So that was my 2019, which felt like it was consumed by this diagnosis and treatment. I am only now beginning to surface for air and feel like I am getting part of my life back. The road to recovery is still long and I won’t have any definitive answer whether they treatment was effective until a few months post treatment. The good news is that the cancer was HPV related which means the prospects of treating it are better than if it was not. Right now its a wait and see game.

I can’t thank everyone enough who has been there through this for me. My family, friends, co-workers, the health care providers. Here’s to hoping 2020 continues the road to recovery.