Quarterly Reading Report June 2017 Edition

This year’s motivation has become about goals: short, annual and life-long. Maybe being out of control of fixing our house has made me over-eager to feel a sense of accomplishment. Maybe I just like lists. Either way, goals are being set and met!

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I’ve been ticking away at the Better World Books reading challenge.  Since March, I’ve crossed off these 6 categories:

I have 6 out of 25 left: Based on a Fairy Tale, National Book Award Winner, Travel Romance, Banned Book, Book of Poetry, About Immigrants and Translated. I am currently knee deep in The Brother’s Karamazov (more on that later!) which is, obviously, a translation. I have C.S. Lewis’s Narrative Poems and The World According to Garp by John Irving which will fulfill poetry and National Book Award respectively.  I have nothing in mind for the others. Any suggestions?

As for life-long goals I have new and old ones. I am currently 350 pages away from meeting a long-standing reading goal: read and understand a famous Russian novel. I have been chipping away at The Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky since the middle of May. I’m trying to strike a balance between taking my time and not losing momentum. The book is broken into 7 parts, each roughly 100 pages. Between each part I allow myself a “treat” book. Nothing too long, I don’t want to break my interest, but I also want to give my brain a little break. This tome takes more energy and concentration that most books I’ve read recently. So far this system is working; I’m halfway through the third part and I am still interested and understanding!! Midsummer’s Night Dream was my last brain-break book and now I’m committed to another 130 Russian pages before my next break.

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I dreamed up a new life-long reading goal this year : read a book set in each country in the world. I am focusing on Europe this year and so far I’ve crossed off France, Greece, Montenegro, Spain, England and Scotland. I have also added Pakistan and China. I would really love to read a book *from* each country but I vacillate between what’s ideal and what’s practical. Certainly, I stand to learn a great deal more reading a book from each country but I’m limited by only knowing English. This presents some translation concerns. Not to mention, there are a whole lot of countries, even just in Europe, that I’ve never heard of much less have a working knowledge of their notable literature. Which is more probable: finding books *set* in Slovakia or finding books *from* Slovakia translated into English? Which goal would you set?

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In addition to reading the six books listed above this past quarter, I went on a Hemingway rant and read A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises. Added to For Whom the Bell Tolls which I read earlier this year, these books have given me a favorable impression of Hemingway and now I want to jump over to F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve read The Great Gatsby but I wonder if I’d enjoy a biography better. Who is a Fitzgerald fan? What would you recommend?

It is rare these days (read: when J.K. Rowling doesn’t publish anything) that I read a book the year it comes out. When I noticed Paula Hawkins, of Girl on the Train, fame published a new book, however, I put a hold for it at the library (sorry Paula) and practically inhaled it. I enjoyed Girl on the Train a great deal. While this second book, Into the Water, may not be quite as profound as it’s predecessor, it is a great read. I was a little disappointed with the ultimate reveal, but the story itself was certainly compelling and exciting.

Do you have any auspicious summer reading goals, or are you looking for anything that can be read on a beach? Do you like to keep reading lists or set new goals or do you like to go wherever your whim may take you? Hopefully I’ll have more to update on after the summer than just Karamazov. Even if that’s all I accomplish,though, I’ll be proud of it!

 

 

 

Where the books come from

396129_10101552560124095_1020976303_nEvery time we move (which has been more often than expected in our 8 years of marriage), I get stuck packing the books. Ryan has to lift them, but I have to pack them.

Every time we move and I pack the books into dozens of heavy boxes, I wonder if the minimalists aren’t on to something.

But then every time we move and I un-pack the books, I recall warm memories and angry reactions I had reading each of them. I delight in filling our shelves with all the feelings, stories, and knowledge we’ve accumulated. I decorate every room with books and feel grounded by their place in our family.

That is why we aren’t minimalists.

We probably should be though; we have way too many books. They’re everywhere — all over the place in rows and stacks, organized by subject, author and intention to read. Falling stacks of books are a real threat and a great catastrophe. We’ve been in a tiny temporary FEMA trailer while we re-build our house. In our room alone, we have over three shelves of books. That does not include the crate of homeschool books, basket of library books or box of children’s books. I don’t even want to know what Ryan has riding around with him in the car.

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On the one hand, you could praise our devotion to reading, to continue even in the face of adversity. On the other hand, you could judge us for our lack of self-control and ability to just stop buying books.

I get it.

This all begs the question: where do all the books come from?!

Glad you asked.

We have a few favorite haunts for finding books.

The first is the library. It seems counter intuitive because we own so many books, but we check-out a fair amount of what we read. We just read a lot. We like to use the library like trying on clothes before buying. Check out a book, read a few chapters and feel it out to decide if it’s worth spending money on. More often than not though, we check out a book, read it and decide “that was good, but I’ll never read it again” and thus carry on our merry way saving our book buying money. In the last few years, I’ve also embraced the audiobook. I have yet to spend money on one because I check them out for free from the library. They just take up virtual space.

 

When the book justifies it’s purchase, we prefer the cheapest available copy (with notable exceptions). We have brick and mortar as well as online options.

Cottonwood Books. This local favorite has been around over 30 years. The current owner has invested in a diverse collection of new, used and rare books. It is exactly what you think of when you imagine getting lost in a dusty used book shop. That smell! Stacks to the ceiling and covering all but what is necessary of the floor. It is one of the happiest places on earth to just get lost for a while. Each purchase comes with a bookmark.

 

Amazon. It’s not original but Amazon.com is good at what it does. Especially since we have a Prime account and don’t have to pay shipping, it’s a great go-to to find cheaper copies of new books.

Better World Books. I can’t remember now how I came across this site but I’ve been ordering from them for years. At first I liked that each purchase went to help literacy funds. As the years have gone on, I’ve found so much more to appreciate. In so many ways, Better World Books is trying to help make, well, a better world. In addition to literacy fund raising and programs, they make great strides to keep books from landfills. They sell books discarded from libraries which is a great service; their national reach makes a large impact. Just because the people walking in and out of a local library branch don’t have any interest in the Southeast United States Farmer’s Almanac 1986-1987, doesn’t mean no one does. Better World Books helps match up obscure books with obscure people and keep both out of the trash. If all of that isn’t enough to entice you to check out their website, BWB also offers free shipping and monthly sales. So yeah, we get a lot of books from them.

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Where do you like to get books from? Do you spend a lot of time in your library or lost in used book stores?

First Quarter Book Report

This is my second post for National Library Week! What is the primary purpose of a library? Is it a capitalist institution satiating the desires of the majority? Is it a social program giving needed information and internet access to the underprivileged? Is it a museum to knowledge for knowledge’s sake?

Well that’s a bit in dispute. As it happens, I am writing this blog at the library because we don’t have internet at our trailer but what we use the library primarily for is … reading! I know, we’re trailblazers. I like each year to track and challenge my reading goals and then write blog posts about it. Thank you for being a part of this.

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As it would happen, we are one quarter the way through the year and I am one quarter through my reading challenge. I think they call that being on track 😉 I have set out this year to read 42 books and complete a 25-point reading challenge.

The tally as of March 31 is 13 books!

  1. Saint Odd (series finale!)
  2. Around the World in Seventy-Two Days and Other Writings by Nellie Bly
  3. The Black Mountain (Nero Wolfe #24)*
  4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and other stories)
  5. I Am Malala*
  6. For Whom the Bells Toll
  7. Neverwhere*
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God
  9. The King’s Speech*
  10. American Gods*
  11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy*
  12. The Monarch of the Glen
  13. The King in Yellow*

*Audiobooks – while I am proud of my list thus far, I don’t want to mislead you, reader, in thinking I have all this time to sit down and read-read.

As for the Better World Book Reading Challenge, I’ve fulfilled the following:

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  • Fantasy Novel (Odd Thomas)
  • Short Stories (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
  • Color in Title (Black Mountain)
  • 100+ Years Old (Around the World in 72 Days)
  • Set in a Place You Want to Visit (Monarch of the Glen ((Scotland)))
  • Over 400 Pages (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  • Colored Author (Their Eyes Were Watching God)
  • Female Author (I Am Malala)
  • About A Historical Event (The King’s Speech)
  • Adapted Into A Movie (Hitchhiker’s Guide)

 

Nellie Bly is kick ass and there’s just no other way to give her justice. I’ve written on her before and I won’t belabor the point. Her newspaper career began after she submitted a response to a gentleman’s bitter letter-to-the-Editor of what is to be done with daughters who will not marry. Bly’s response, support a society in which it is safe for women to work and make a living wage, ruffled a few 1880’s New England feathers. The newspaper hired her on the spot.  Of her works, I enjoyed the undercover jaunts, Ten Days in a Madhouse and The Girls Who Make Boxes, best. In both stories, she brings to light the real conditions in which turn of the century women were living and exposes injustice therein.

Speaking of turn of the century, The King in Yellow was a surprise! I downloaded the audiobook one evening having forgotten what it was about or why I was interested in it. Written by Robert Chambers, The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories all centering around a fictitious devil-book of the same name. These memorable stories are in the delightful spooky gothic style of Shirley Jackson and make me smile even now to think of.

And speaking of ruffling feathers, Truman Capote.  As a persona, he puts a bad taste in my mouth but I freely admit Capote is a fantastic writer. I enjoyed each of the stories in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the title story being my favorite. I like Audrey Hepburn as much as the next person, provided the next person thinks she’s all right but no Julie Andrews. I have never liked the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s however (sorry Selene). I found it dark and long and confusing. I just remember the cat and the rain and not knowing what was going on. Isn’t that the one where she does that weird snapping dance thing in a club? I digress. The short-story, by comparison, is richer than I remember the movie. Holly Golightly, in text, is vibrant, exciting and a little frightening. In just 100 short pages you come to love, hate and love-to-hate her in the most delightful way.

I did not enjoy all my early year reads however. The King’s Speech by Mark Logue was a huge disappointment. I didn’t realize until starting it that this book was written after the movie was made. Apparently, the makers of the movie sparked Logue’s interest in his own family and he wrote this johnny-come-lately book from stuff that didn’t make it into the movie. It’s like the most boring “special features” on a DVD.

I am Malala as a book was a bit dull. Her story and life are fascinating and I’m glad to have read it; it broadened my world-view. However, the book itself reads a bit like a report for school. While learning Pakistan’s history helped explain the state of the country the day Malala was shot, it got hard to read after a while. I do not mean for my critique to detract from her story or her history, both are rich and important for modern Westerners to understand. I recommend it highly, just with that small caveat.

As always with these reading reports, I must stop before I ramble too long. If you want my opinion on the others, don’t hesitate to ask and I won’t hesitate to answer profusely.

I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve read so far and I’ve got another stack ready to go. Let’s see if I remember to update again in June!

Remember the best place to try a new book is at the Library! You aren’t out any money on duds and any gems you find are easy to share! What have you checked out lately?

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Interviews with Young Readers

The week of April 9- April 15 is National Library Week! If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, you’ve no doubt noticed how much we all love to read. Naturally, we spend a lot of time at our local libraries. In fact, we visit libraries on vacations too. The kids are at the library at least twice a week, more often during the summer and our Sunday afternoons are spent at our “fancy” library – the Main Library on Goodwood. Ryan and I take turns watching the kids so the other can roam the adult stacks. It’s become a part of the week we all look forward to.

This week I’ve planned posts celebrating both our love of reading and our favorite place to get new books – the library! Today, I interviewed the kids about their favorite aspects of reading and the library. Enjoy!

IMG_20170406_090417——Evangeline age 6—–

What is your favorite thing to do at the library? Read books!

When do you like going to the library? Tuesday for story-time

What books do you like to read? Dr. Suess and The Belly Book at the Bluebonnet Library

What books do you like taking home from the library? Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious. Why don’t you let me take home Pinkalicious anymore?

What is your favorite story? Tom Thumb, The Fairies and Charlotte’s Web

Why? It’s a fun story and there is a movie with real people, how did they get the animals to talk??

When is your favorite time to read? Pretty much any time that I can

Who is your favorite librarian? The two on the children’s sections, I don’t know their names, but they’re my favorites, they help me on the computer

Which is your favorite library to go to? Jones Creek, they have a lot of Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious. Maybe I could take home a Pinkalicious just like once a week, mamma?

Summer break is coming up, which book(s) do you look forward to reading? I want to read chapter books like you!

Is there one in particular you want to read first? The Magic Treehouse

IMG_20170406_091314——-Felicity age 4 ——

What is your favorite thing to do at the library? Color pictures! Once I saw a Mother Goose [color sheet] it was like a copy of what we have in our book

When do you like going to the library? On Sunday because maybe I can find books about church and just like about stuff angels or God

What books do you like to read? Mother Goose! She’s funny She rides on the back of a goose!

What books do you like taking home from the library? Books that you tell me I can bring home, like primers and whatever you tell me I can

What is your favorite story? Let me thinking about it. Dinosaurs! I like the book about dinosaurs

Why? Because it has drawings of real life dinosaurs and a little man and he was playing with real life dinosaurs. He must have been scared!

When is your favorite time to read? When we get home before we go to bed.

Who is your favorite librarian? The one with the bob [hair] like mine!

Which is your favorite library to go to? The one close to our house [Jones Creek branch]

——Reuben age 3 ——

What is your favorite thing to do at the library? Look at books

When do you like going to the library? Sunday cus I like to

What books do you like to read? Truck books

What books do you like taking home from the library? Batman books!

What is your favorite story? Duklings

When is your favorite time to read? In the morning

Who is your favorite librarian? LuLu!

Which is your favorite library to go to? The Main Library cus I like to

——Genevieve age 2 ——-

What do you like to do at the library? Look at books

What books do you like? Green ones!

What is your favorite book? Dis one!

2017 Reading Goals

If last year is any indication, I will be reading a lot in 2017. Last year I found a lot of delightful distraction in reading. I haven’t done very stringent goals in number of years, so I decided this is the year!

Official 2017 Reading Goals:

  • 42 Books
  • 12,000 Pages
  • Complete BWB Reading Challenge
  • Read books set in European countries

The last time I did a reading challenge, it was just too long and pretty obscure. This year BetterWorldBooks is hosting a reading challenge and their list is much shorter and more doable. That’s my kind of challenge.

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In addition to this year long challenge, I’ve started a life-time goal to read a book from each country in the world. I’m starting with the European countries.

As it happens I’ve already finished a few which apply to these challenges — Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Book of Short Stories), I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai( a book written by a female ), Around the World in 72 Days by Nellie Bly ( book that’s over 100 years old ) and Saint Odd by Dean Koontz ( a fantasy novel ).

2017 is off to a fun start. I like the diversity I’ve gotten so far. Next up is more Neil Gaiman and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

For those who are interested, BetterWorldBooks has a Goodread’s group set up to help give reading ideas to fulfill the challenge. And of course, if you don’t want to join the group, but have suggestions that would fit in some of the categories, don’t keep them to yourself 😉 I have no idea what to read based on a fairy tale or set in a forest. Robin Hood?

Anyone else setting reading goals? Do you use GoodRead’s to track what you’re reading?

 

2016 Reading Goals — Crushed It

 

After the flood, we had internet, but no computer. Through a very generous gift, I have a computer now! But living in a FEMA trailer has left us without internet. Sigh. So that’s my new excuse for sporadic blog posts.

This past year was tough. In the spring Ryan finished his theology master’s, the summer our house flooded and we spent the fall and beginning of winter displaced, moving from one temporary housing situation to another.

badge-home-completed-1736dedbcd3c31946d5b98bb506c1051The only thing tougher than this past year, however, was my will to escape it. I’m not sure if I even made a blog-official reading goal for this past year. On Goodreads I set out to read 35 books. I wanted to see if I could reach 10,000 pages but put no other goal or restrictions on myself. I just wanted to follow my interests.

My desire to be immersed continuously in at least one story at a time culminated in 13,540 pages over 52 books!

I needed a lot of distraction! I got exactly what I needed from reading this year — not just distraction but also so many topics to keep my mind busy on. I made a few discoveries this year that I’m very excited about.

img402I posted before about the works of Anne Murrow Lindburg I read earlier this year. I recently read The Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart. I’ve enjoyed comparing and contrasting these two women in my mind. Their personalities and ambitions could not be further apart. In a way they embody the figurative Eve and Mary: Amelia the pant-wearing rebel throwing caution and gender expectations to the wind and Anne the meek and mild mother assisting quietly yet competently her husband’s career. Highest, fastest, first and farthest, Amelia and Anne broke into the same male-dominated world and accomplished incredible things but each in her own way. And all in a time when women wearing pants was scandalous.

nbcirca1890-2Intrigued by early 1900’s female trailblazers, my interests turned to Nellie Bly. I’ll admit I only knew who she was because of a scene in The West Wing when the first lady is talking about going to the opening of a Nellie Bly monument. I may have learned about her from TV, but the point is, I knew and it was enough of a crumb to intrigue me. Anyways, she’s fascinating! Again, at a time when women were hardly allowed to venture beyond their own door step without a chaperone, Nellie Bly broke into the newspaper biz and became a pioneer of investigative and under-cover journalism. Her work has had far reaching effects beyond print media. After the publication of her report of going undercover in a prominent New York sanitarium, laws were quickly changed to add funding and professional resources to facilities treating the mentally insane – the beginning of a nation wide trend. For Christmas, I got a wonderful copy of her complete works I can’t wait to dig into, I’d also love to find a good biography.

Exhilarated to learn about Nellie’s monumental influence on New York’s mental institutions, I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In the 1950’s, Henrietta Lacks was a black woman in her 30’s when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the colored-only ward of Johns Hopkins. The book follows her life, family and treatment as well as the life of her cells which were discovered to be “immortal”. Doctors at this time were just discovering the fundamentals of cellular biology; a major obstacle to research was that human cells would quickly die outside a living body. The cells of Henrietta Lacks, however, readily reproduced and multiplied. This discovery accelerated tests of the polio vaccine and proved to be the missing piece to human trials. Because scientists had human cells, as opposed to rat cells, to test the vaccine on, they were quickly able to prove the vaccine safe for humans. Shortly after Henrietta’s cells were “discovered” children all over the country began receiving the vaccine – the beginning of the end to the polio pandemic. Her cells are still in circulation among researchers today and have been a part of nearly every major medical breakthrough along the way.

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If I don’t stop myself soon, I’ll ramble to no end. Honorable mentions from this year’s reading are: The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz, my discovery of Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard and The Ocean at the End of the Lane), The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder and The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, The Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge

I’m deciding on my goals, if any for next year. I also have more blog posts in the process of being written (read: in my head). It all comes down to how often I can get the kids to the library and keep them entertained while I soak up the internet access.

What about you? Did you set a goal for 2016? What gems did you discover last year?

 

 

 

Nothing Like That Second Hand

The majority of the books I own were bought second hand. There is a book store in town that’s a bit of an institution now, Cottonwoods and of course many websites. My go-to is Better World Books. In addition to new and used books, they “rescue” books discarded from libraries and donate profits to world literacy funds. Oh and they have free shipping.

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In my latest order from BWB (that’s what us cool kids call it), I ordered The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson. After writing my last post, I decided to sit down and start readin. I opened the cover and found this gem.

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“The most horoble [sic] Book I’ve ever read”

[signature indecipherable]

The stories are meaningless and have no point”

It’s hard to know how to take this little insight from the previous owner. Should I dismiss it out of hand because he can’t spell? I’m no stellar speller, so that seems unfair. How many books has he read? It wouldn’t so bad for this to be the most horrible book he’s read if he’s only read 2 books and the other book was Canticle for Liebowitz. If he were a better editor, he wouldn’t have repeated himself calling the stories both meaningless and without point. Can his literary criticism really be trusted?

From the check marks he put on the Table of Contents, it appears he read 3 out of the 26 stories so I’m going to go ahead and say no. No, this man-boy’s warning will not deter my reading. But it does encourage me to keep buying books second hand — the personality is included for free!

What’s the best thing you’ve found in a second hand or library book?