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!

 

 

 

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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?

 

 

 

2015 Reading Goal — Complete

I know you have all been on pins and needles waiting nine months for me to write another post! Fear not, I have returned, if only to expand what was going to be a long facebook status. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and while I am in the middle of a book, I don’t think there are enough hours left in 2015 for me to finish it. Therefore, I’m going to call it and give the results of my reading goals.

The only real goal I set for myself was to read 35 books this year. According to Goodreads, I’ve read 45 books, a total of 14,942 pages! Before you get all impressed with me though, a good number of those were audiobooks. Insomnia is the real winner here.

Beyond that, I wanted to just follow my interests and see, without forcing it, how many books I could check off a reading challenge I found online. I’m pretty proud to say, out of 50 categories, I read all but 8! I didn’t find a book by an author with my initials, set during Christmas or the future. I didn’t read a (full) trilogy, a book written the year I was born, a book my mom loves or a book with a one word title. But still, go me, right?

One of my continuing interests has been The Middle Ages. I’m still pretty new to this era; I’m working on just placing it in my mind. Eleanor of Aquitaine and the founding of universities are probably the most interesting facets to me. This year, I read these Middle Age themed books:

Middle Ages

Fiction

  1. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco — I greatly enjoyed this book and I’m anxiously awaiting Ryan finishing it (he calls it a Middle Ages Sherlock Holmes book) so we can watch the Sean Connery movie. This was the first time Eco has come across my radar. I’ve added more of his books to my eternal to-read list.
  2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett — I wasn’t super crazy about it. I liked the Abbot character and I liked getting a setting of the Middle Ages in my head. But as for the story and the majority of characters? Meh.
  3. Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot — Ryan is a devout Eliot fan. When I said I wanted to read this play, he excitedly offered to read it aloud to me. Both the play and the experience were delightful.

Non-Fiction

  1. A Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden — Yes, so this is a short textbook. It is dense and it moves fast. I took notes, but ultimately decided just to read it and get what I could out of it. It was easy to follow and I’m glad to have read it. I feel like I have a firmer grasp on what the Crusades were and the men who lead them.
  2. Four Queens: Four Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone — If you’ve been paying close attention, it should come as no surprise that I like this book by Nancy Goldstone. It is not a historical fiction, but it almost reads like it. She does a great job shaping each “character” so that you feel you know them and understand their motives throughout their history.

 

To balance out the seriousness of history, I also read a number of “fun books.” These are books which are quick, easy reads without many deep emotions. This is now my new favorite shelf on my goodreads.

Fun Reads

  1. The Big Year: A Tale of a Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik — Who would have thought the world of competitive bird watching could be so darn interesting?? But it is and it is funny.
  2. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes — As fun and entertaining as you’d expect. It helps if you’re a fan of the movie, but you don’t have to be. This isn’t a tell-all book, just fun tales from behind the scenes with a lot of name dropping.
  3. The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam (and Paris, and Las Vegas, and Berlin and Venice) by Chris Ewan — If I’ve talked to you in person this year, I’ve probably told you to read these books. They aren’t crass, but they aren’t simple either. Just fun heist stories with likable characters.
  4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan — Y’all. The book jacket glows in the dark! The story is a bit far-fetched, but if you just relax a but and go for it, it’s a fun ride.
  5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley — I liked this twist on the typical British comfy mystery, but I don’t suspect I’ll read any more in the series. Something about the 11 year old main character just didn’t work well in my mind.

As always, I have a list of “I really should read that” books. Classics for various reasons, these are those books that you get points for knowing about, but if you really want to consider yourself well read, you have to actually read them. I didn’t make great strides in this area this year, but I got a few more under my belt.

Have to Read

  1. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — I enjoyed this more than I did The Lady in White. It had more plot. But I think Collins will remain in my mind just one of those people you have to read, but not necessarily a favorite. To be fair, I’m not always crazy about the lackadaisical late 19th century writers.
  2. The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver — Kingsolver is one of my favorite story tellers. While I liked The Bean Trees, I didn’t enjoy the sequel as much. I don’t often read books set in the west or involving Native American culture so these were new and refreshing to me.
  3. Tales of H.P. Lovecraft — Cthulhu! I get it now! I’ve stuck a toe out into Science Fiction a few times and each time I come away with the reassurance that it’s not really for me. Lovecraft’s ghost stories, however, sent shivers down my spine just the way I like it.
  4. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolken — I’m getting closer to Mordor! This was a much more enjoyable read than The Fellowship of the Ring. More action, character development, etc. You get to see a lot more of Middle Earth — it just feels less like a history lesson. And can I just say, when the Orcs are attacking and they get pushed back and turn to retreat only to find themselves facing a forest of Ents that weren’t there before?! Favorite scene yet. I am excited to finish the series soon.
  5. Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austin. Can’t say I liked it more than Pride and Prejudice, but it was enjoyable. I’m up to 4 out of 7 Austin novels!

 

25735012By and far my favorite book I read this year is the latest Cormoran Strike novel, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (pen name for J.K. Rowling). This is the third book and I’ve savored them all. I was a little disappointed in the last book, The Silkworm. It felt rushed and exaggerated to me and I sincerely hoped there would be less shock-value tricks in this one. It was a bit gruesome, but not out of place, if that makes any sense at all. Reading this book, I felt as though Rowling was experimenting and playing with new ideas, and that made it very fun to read. In interviews, she has said she began the Strike series to try her hand at the detective genre. It would seem, assured by her success, Rowling is now flexing her literary muscles. Much to the enjoyment of all, of course.

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There are a few books which I feel will stick with me for quite a while. This year I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi for the first time. It was also my first full length graphic novel experience. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s helped me be more sympathetic and open-minded towards issues in the middle east and especially those seeking asylum. It has helped me humanize images I see or statistics in the news.

In a similar vein, reading Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Hector Tobar saddened me, not only for what these men and their families went through, but for the general amnesia I have when it comes to world events. Even local and national events are likely to slip my mind once out of sight. The fact that I was only half aware when this was happening and that I forgot as soon as they were out makes me want to be a better person.

I plan again to set a reading challenge for 2016. I liked the pace and freedom of this past year. I feel like I read a greater variety than I have in the past few years. I’m halfway through another non-fiction about the Middle Ages and I’m excited to continue satisfying that curiosity. I hope to finish The Lord of the Rings in this next year. Overall though, I hope in this next year to broaden my horizons a bit more and expand my knowledge all the more.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Reading Goal Completed

I’m doing my best to stay up on the blogging saddle keeping the interwebs up to date. I know how important that is to the interwebs.

Last year, I concocted a complicated reading goal. Like the year before, my goal was three tiered:

  • 35 Books
  • 11,000 Pages
  • 8 Specific Southern Books

I managed to do some of those. I read 35 books, but came up short on my page count. Instead of all 8 Southern books, I read…3. Since this is about honesty, I’ll admit. Two of the three were audiobooks. I am a fraud.

2014 Books Southern

What’s more, I really didn’t like them. I know I know! Walker Percy! I can’t explain it. I did like the Flannery O’Connor short stories I read including A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Wise Blood, however….not so much with the liking. I still feel the need to improve my Southern repitoire; I think I’ll just tackle it at a slower pace.

I did like a number of the books I read and I even managed to write about some of them: The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, The Salinger Contract by  Adam Langer, Plot it Yourself by Rex Stout and Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James, The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill and Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

2014 Books

I read all three of the The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo books which was no small undertaking. It was intense and at times quite dull, but over all, I think Lisbeth Salander is among my favorite characters now. I’ve been trying to write out my thoughts on the whole series. I hope to make some cohesive sense out of them soon. I started another series, Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. I’ve been surprised how much I like these books. I’ve read the first three and want to continue. There are obvious religious overtones — Dean Koontz is Catholic from what I understand– and that does come across in the books. But it’s not as though all the characters are black and white. Even Odd Thomas, the title character, considers himself sort of irreligious, unsure what the truth is. It makes him relateable. I’ve found the series so far refreshing.

Since this has already turned into a long, rambly kind of post, I think I’ll save my goals and accomplishments of 2015 for another post. What have you been reading? Find any gems lately?

 

 

How The Reading Goes

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the old blog. I’m just going to plea newborn status and move on.

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So, we’re over halfway through the year and I figured it’s time for a little reading challenge update. Since I last updated in April, my book count has taken off. As of today, I’ve read 23 of 35 books and 6,692 pages out of 11,000.

Audiobooks have helped those counts a great deal while not adding much great substance. I have no shame though in admitting that I greatly enjoyed listening to back to back Nero Wolfe novels.

Speaking of goals, however, I have done very little to further my Southern works repertoire. Thanks to the magic of audiobooks, I’ve listened to A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Conner and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I can’t recall much emotion following the completion of either of those books, but I’m at least glad to have them crossed off my list. Since reading those in early April, however, I’ve read nothing else Southern related. We’ll see if that bug comes back around to motivate me before the end of the year.

I have read some books that I’ve enjoyed including; The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch, The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Salinger Contract by Adam Langer The Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill and The Silkworm!!

I didn’t get into the Harry Potter fandom until after the books were all published, so I missed out on the anticipation and worldwide excitement for each release. Although Cormoran Strike pales in comparison to Harry Potter in the global scene, it’s been fun to be a part of the excitement. The second installment was a little grittier than The Cuckoo’s Calling, however it was a great read. Galbraith\Rowling included a considerable amount of character development in The Silkworm which makes me even more excited for this series to continue.

I am proud to announce I finished a non-fiction, non-audiobook! My brain has been moving so slow lately, it’s taken a lot of motivation to pick up a book. But Thomas Cahill did it again; he enraptured my attention in the 5th book of his Hinges of History series, The Mysteries of the Middle Ages. I read the first installment, How the Irish Saved Civilization, then skipped books 2-4 and picked up in the middle ages. Ryan enjoyed my reading this book, as I think it is one of his life goals to prove to the world that the 11th-13th centuries weren’t stagnant, oppressive bleak eras when people sat around waiting for the Enlightenment. For me, it was very enthralling and all mostly new. I feel I have a much better framework for how the lives of St. Francis, Thomas Aquinas and Dante fit into history, as well as new-to-me important figures such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Giotto. I look forward to reading the next installment covering the Renaissance.

I haven’t set out to read book series, but I find myself in the middle of a few. In addition to Cormoran Strike and The Hinges of History, I’ve  also been following  The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The third installment, The Prisoner of Heaven was refreshing. The first two went from dark to darker so it was nice to have a slightly lighter story. Albeit not entirely a light and fluffy book. It has made me want to go back and re-read the first two as this book fills in a lot more history absent from the first ones. It feels like there’s a lot of discrepancy, but it may be that I’m not remembering everything correctly.

As for what’s next, I’m not so sure. I’ve been listening to a lot of TED Radio Hour episodes on NPR and have tucked away a few book recommendations. I’ll have to wait and see what our library has. I dare say we’ve had a pretty calm month. The school year has started again for Ryan, so I’m in the deep end of solo parenting 4 under 4. We’re trying to get back into the groove of a routine, or at least eating every day. Each day is a little bit different, just enough to keep me on my toes. If you don’t see me around here much, know it’s because I’m trying to survive and may not have time to document it.

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3 of the 4

First Quarter Book Report — An Ode to the Audiobook

Well, we’re three months past the new year, time for a reading goal update. There’s just no way to sugar coat it, I’m not doing so well. I started off strong, but as Ryan’s vacation days grew further and further apart and as baby Genevieve started taking more and more of my brain power, I’m barely left the wherewithal to read the cooking instructions on frozen pizza.

Of course the greatest irony of being both pregnant and a parent to small children is that I spend all day tired but can’t sleep at night. I try not to watch movies or be on the computer late because it seems to keep me up longer, but I rarely have the energy or focus to read anymore. The last four books I’ve “read” were audiobooks. They’ve been a great solution to the problem of wanting to read but not having the mental energy to do so. And I have to say, it’s the most peaceful way to fall asleep. Thank goodness for  the sleep timer.

The downside, however, is that I am cheap and don’t want to pay for each audiobook I read. I have an Overdrive account set up through my local library which I enjoy and they indeed have a wide selection. Unfortunately, I can’t always find specific books I’m looking for, and unlike print books, I can’t request inner-library loans. To make the search selection slimmer, I’ve only really been able to handle listening to fiction. While I enjoy reading non-fiction, I have a harder time consuming them via audiobook. Maybe I just need to keep trying.

On to the actual report. To date, I’ve read 8 books, only one of which is on my Southern to-read list for the year, Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.  I just found Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find (and other stories) and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy on audiobook, so I should be able to check those off my list soon.

I have read one non-fiction, Get Me Out: A History of Birth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank  by Randi Hunter Epstein. I thoroughly enjoyed this cursory overview and was tickled to see the Wertzes in her bibliography. It was gratifying to come across information with which I was already familiar while also expanding my understanding and learning new opinions. I am still very much interested in birth history and hope to keep adding to my book repertoire after my pregnancy brain lets up a little — oh sweet irony. It has also given me a lot to think about in regards to what is considered a woman’s “right”. Maybe I’ll post more on that when I’m ready to poke a hornets nest.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep on keeping on with my audiobooks and hope my brain hasn’t turn to complete mush by the time I have a new newborn. We’ll see!