Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Reading Goals

It's that time of year! Time to share my reading goals for the new year. I spent a large chunk of 2017 working on these, adding things, removing things, changing the numbers, but I still feel like they're not complete. I just can't decide what's missing. So, like last year, I'll likely be adding items mid-way through the year as the mood strikes. But for now, we'll go with this.

2018 Reading Goals


Emphasis: Read current.

I really want to get better at reading the current books while they're current. My biggest goal this year takes this into account.

1. Re-read Pride and Prejudice.

I read a Jane Austen novel each year, and since I finished the rotation last year, I'm starting over again with the first Austen book I read, Pride and Prejudice. I cannot wait.

2. Begin Prose Works. Finish if possible.

I try to read a spiritual book each year, and since I've never read Mary Baker Eddy's Prose Works, I think it's time. This is a collection of her letters to the Christian Science churches, addresses, and various other works that I've never read in its entirety. Being a large book, and wanting to savor and pray over the content, this one will likely be a yearlong endeavor, and I won't be upset if it continues into next year.

3. Read 50 books published in 2017 and 2018.

This is really my main goal for the year. So often I put off reading a book or feel like I can't read something new when so many books have been waiting for months. This will, hopefully, bring my reading up to date while still leaving plenty of room for books written before 2017.

4. Read 30 modern classics or high-profile books. [began July 2017]

This is a continuation of a goal I made in July of last year, setting the number at 20 or 25. I finished 16 in the last part of 2018, so I have upped the number to 30. Some possible titles: The Age of Innocence, Endurance, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Station Eleven, and some poems by Robert Frost.

5. Read 10 chunksters.

I have way more than 10 chunksters on my "must read" list, so here's hoping I can get to them all. Some will be read on audio, I'm sure. Some possibilities: Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques; Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat; Bunny Mellon; and Jackie, Ethel, Joan.

6. Re-read 5 books.
I did very little re-reading last year, and I really want to revisit some of my favorites from the past, so I'm making a goal of reading at least five. I think Wuthering Heights and Angela's Ashes will be two of them.

7. Abandon 5 books.

This is a new goal I've never tried before, but I need to get better about leaving a book when it disappoints me. I shouldn't suffer through any book, no matter the reason.

8. Read 1,000 poems.

I believe this is the third year for this goal. Last year I read nearly 2,700 poems, but I don't anticipate getting anywhere near that this year. One thousand will be fine.

9. Read 100 books.

I toyed with making this 150 to match my 2017 book count, but I don't want the pressure. Who knows where my reading will take me? Still, I think 100 is doable for me.

10. Read 50 picture books.

This is always on my list of goals. I generally read 80 or 100 or more, but I want to read at least 50 to keep in touch with what's popular in picture books.

11. Read the Sentinel.

My church puts out three periodicals (four, actually, but one is for speakers of other languages), and we are meant to read them all. I diligently read one, the monthly Christian Science Journal, and now I'm adding a second, the weekly Sentinel. No doubt it will bless me, and I really enjoy pulling out my periodicals in the evening and seeing my husband follow suit.

12. Write something (almost) every day.

This might be my yearly fail. I'm trying journaling again. I made it into June, writing every day, in 2016, but then an event happened that I didn't know how to write about, and I got backed up, and I eventually abandoned my journal. But I really loved doing it. I'm working on making this a doable daily task by lowering expectations. Short, pithy entries, for one; not having to capture everything for another; and writing about world and national events as well as personal ones. We're living in interesting times, and I for one would like a record of them.

I normally include a bunch of book covers that I plan to read, but since this year's reading will be led by what will be published, it's hard to predict what I'll read. It will be an interesting year.

What are your goals, reading an otherwise, for 2018? Put your link in the comments.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Top Ten Fiction of 2017

I read a lot more fiction this year than ever before, and I loved most of it. I've finally found what I like (and can't tolerate) in a novel. It was difficult narrowing it down to just ten, so I gave an honorable mention.

Here are my favorite novels read last year.

This was the first book I finished last year, and I loved it. I'm so glad I finally got to it, even it I was the last person to have done so.
I absolutely adored this book, which is part memoir and part fiction. I listened to it on audio, but some day I'll go back and read it, too. It's a silly and poignant adventure story about a young couple in the 1930s returning a pet alligator to Florida. It would make a great movie.

This was, hands down, my favorite read of the year, in any category. It's the story of a small hockey town rocked by a crime. The writing is superb. Also, this is the only book on this list that is contemporary fiction.

I read the first four books in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series about a lady detective in Botswana, and I loved every one of them. This is one of my new favorite things, and it started off a whole year of reading books about Africa.

This is the fourth in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, which I adore. This one, though, is one of my favorites so far for its atmospheric coziness. Put this on your list of winter/Christmas books for the end of this year!

Although I didn't love the way the book ended, I loved this novel. It was so well-paced and moody and mysterious, but also very down-to-earth. It's the story of a young Irish Catholic girl who appears to be living without sustenance and the nurse who attempts to suss out the truth. People seem to either love or hate this one, but I'm in the former category.
This is another book that suffered from a bad ending. The end was much too long and really seemed to work against what the rest of the book had accomplished. Still, it was so beautifully written, despite its drag of an ending, it was one of the best books I read last year. It's about an American missionary family in the Congo in the 1950s, a tumultuous time in that part of the world.
This is the third in the Kopp Sisters series, and it might be my favorite. It was a very cozy novel, and I enjoyed it immensely.
This was really quite a story. It's the fictionalized events of the AC vs. DC current war between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in the late 19th century. An amazing story, and so engaging.

Another quiet, cozy, atmospheric novel. I loved this book. It you have a high tolerance for slim plots, this is the cream of the crop. It's the story of a young widow, her daughter, and the nuns who help them throughout the years.

This is my honorable mention. I found it well-written and engaging, without preaching about race and inequality. It follows two sisters and their descendants, one family in Africa, one family in America. It's worth a read.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Top Ten Memoirs and Biographies of 2017

One of my favorite reading genres is memoirs & biographies, and I read some wonderful memoirs and biographies last year. This was one category where the top ten just made themselves known.

This is a comprehensive look at everything that has happened in the Kennedy family since the assassinations of JFK and Bobby Kennedy in the 1960s. It was a tad gossipy but very fair, and I learned a lot about the various Kennedy families.

This was my "proud to be an American" book of the year. It's the memoir of Donald Stratton who was on the USS Arizona when it was bombed in Pearl Harbor. After recuperating, Stratton returned to the Pacific theatre. It's a frank memoir in which he recalls on paper things he'd rather not recall at all.

I was surprised at how much I loved this travel memoir. Until this, I wasn't familiar with Tsh Oxenreider, but now I've become a big fan of her The Art of Simple podcast. This is the story of her family's travel around the world with one bag a piece. It really made me think about what "home" means.

This is another book I didn't expect much from but ended up loving. Written by Jackie Kennedy Onassis' personal assistant, this is a loving and fair look at what the private Jackie was like. I really enjoyed this one.

This is yet another book I didn't expect much from but ended up blowing me away. This is the memoir of a used bookstore owner in Appalachia. It's such a generous, spirited book, and it makes you think about communities and reading and bookstores in a new way. I adored it.
I just loved this one. It's the memoir of Homer Hickam, Jr. which inspired the movie October Sky. Homer ("Sunny") and his friends build and launch rockets in a 1950s coal town. A wonderful story that's about much more than just building rockets in the space age.

A true classic, this is Charles Lindbergh's memoir of his historic transatlantic trip. It's a long book, but it read fast. It really made me think about the importance of risk-taking in American history. 
Another wonderful book about flight, this is the story of Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who piloted a passenger jet into the Hudson River in January of 2009, without casualties. But more than that, it talks about the importance of character and integrity.
This is a book I read for spiritual study, and I took so much away from it. I wrote down copious notes and shared many passages with my husband who loved hearing them. Mary Baker Eddy is the discoverer and founder of Christian Science. She started the church, wrote Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and established periodicals including The Christian Science Monitor, at a time when women were still unable to vote.

Another book about flight and Africa, two of my favorite topics in 2017. This is the wonderfully written memoir of Beryl Markham's life in Africa in the early-to-mid 1900s.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2017

Sometime next week I'll share my top ten memoirs & biographies, so this list is for "other" nonfiction: cookbooks, photography, narrative nonfiction, etc. This was a hard list to whittle down because I had a similar feeling for much of the nonfiction I read this year.

This is the story of the 300-year-old Bellevue hospital in New York City. It's very well done, comprehensive, and never boring.

I loved this book. And I'm not even a gardener. This is the perfect book for gardeners, though, as it takes each flower, presents several variations, and gives you information on how to get the best blooms. It's complete, talking about every flower you can imagine, the pictures throughout are gorgeous, and it uses a friendly, easy tone.
There perhaps isn't much here that's new if you've had an English lit course in the past decade or two, but it was a nice refresher. It did remind me what to look for in my fiction reading.
I love everything by A.J. Jacobs (except for that book where he outsources his chores to India), and this one was much-anticipated. It's his quirky quest to put together the world's largest family reunion--under the pretext that we're all related.

The seventh book in the Killing... series, this is the story of the Revolutionary War including information on General George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and King George III, as well as famous battles. Since I haven't studied this war since grade school, this was a nice re-introduction. It really brought to light what I couldn't grasp as a child: just how much was at stake and how much each man risked for freedom from the crown. 
How I loved this book! Not only are the photos of Coonhound Maddie gorgeous, but they're fun and so charming. An odd feeling came over me when I looked through this book. I felt really connected and like happiness is always within reach. Since Maddie is part of what is healing her owner of his difficult past, that feeling made sense.

This was a wonderful collection of all-American recipes. None seemed particularly complicated, either. This would be a nice all-encompassing home cooking cookbook for someone starting out. Recipes are arranged by region of the USA.

I'm a sucker for statistics. And if I don't have to do the work myself, I love analysis. This book gives the stats of all kinds of things in our favorite classics and current fiction. I enjoyed this a great deal. It was not at all boring or clinical.

I don't think I've ever read a Pioneer Woman cookbook that hasn't ended up on my best of lists at the end of the year. This one is no different. I keep waiting for them to degrade in quality, but they just don't. This was another wonderful collection of recipes.

As you know, I love my presidential history, and this one had it in spades. This book looks at the relationships between the presidents from Hoover to Obama. It's a wealth of information, much of it I've read elsewhere, but it's the perfect book for those starting their study of the presidents.

This is my nonfiction honorable mention. I really enjoyed this book, and even though I'm of a different religious persuasion than the author, he brought a fresh light on what it means to shine as a child of God. It was very well done.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Top 25 Picture Books of 2017

I won't write about each book, because we'd be here all day, but know that I enjoyed each and every one of these picture books and recommend them to your little ones without hesitation. Not all of these were published in 2017, but almost all are quite new.