Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2017 Reading Goals: An Update

It's past the halfway point of 2017, so it's time for an a reading goals progress report. Most of my goals have been met or will be met shortly. I'm already working on my 2018 goals ('cause I'm like that), and I'm basing them on what worked and didn't with these goals. I've included the original information for each goal below, and the original post can be seen here.

My 2017 Reading Goals:

1. Re-read Sense and Sensibility.
Each year I read a Jane Austin novel, and having completed them all last year, I'm starting over again this year with my first Austin read. I am so excited for this!
Finished: July 16
It wasn't quite how I remember it, mostly, I think, because I've seen the movie too many times since I first read it! Review here.
2. Read We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, vol. 2.
I read volume 1 in 2015, and I'm excited to delve into volume 2 this year. The first volume changed my life and gave me new spiritual understanding. I look forward to seeing how volume 2 will challenge me.
Finished: April 8
It was wonderful. Feeling so enriched, I need to think of a goal like this for next year, too.
3. Read 50 books carried over from 2016.
That's right, 50. Go big or go home, baby! This isn't as lofty as it might seem since my TBR is so long I can easily find 50 books I'm dying to read. But I'd also like to clear off some older items from the list that I'm a little less excited about.
So far I've read 43 books that I carried over from last year. By the end of July it will be 44. Not far to go to reach this goal. I plan to continue past 50 to see how much of the TBR can be cleaned up before the end of the year.
4. Read 25 books published in 2017.
Last year I finished 42 books published within the year, but it was an exceptional year for new releases. I'm trusting in the law of supply to find at least 25 new books that excite me this year.
I've finished 22 book toward this goal, and there are a lot of great books releasing this fall. I'll continue with this goal no matter when I finish it.
5. Read 10 (pre-selected) high-profile books.
There are so many books that "everyone but me" has read. It's time to try them and see if the raves hold up for me. To show you how gung-ho I am about this goal, four of these titles are on my January reading list: All the Light We Cannot See, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and Wonder.
I still have one book left in order to reach this goal. I think I'll read either Endurance or Homegoing. (I read all of the titles listed here, and I loved all but Where'd You Go, Bernadette which I really didn't like.)
6. Read 10 chunksters.
This goal appears each year. It keeps me honest and provides a good challenge. I have a lot of exciting options for this goal, including several presidential biographies.
Finished: July 9
I'm in the middle of The Spirit of St. Louis, and I have a few more planned before the year is out. I'll probably finish the year with 15-17 chunksters under my belt. (I didn't read any of my presidential biographies yet.)
7. Read 10 contemporary novels.
I finished 16 contemporary novels last year, and for someone who didn't read fiction up until a couple of years ago, that's quite the accomplishment. I'm not sure I'd need to have this goal anymore, since it was originally designed to force me to read fiction, but it gives me something to shoot for.
Finished: March 22
This has been quite a year for fiction. I've finished 23 contemporary novels, two classics, and nine children's novels, which means I've read more fiction books than nonfiction this year. My favorite novel so far has been Beartown, and I doubt I'll read anything to surpass it. You guys, just read that book!
8. Read 10 books about presidents, first ladies, first families, the White House, or American history.
This wasn't on my list of goals until just a little bit ago. I finally realized that if reading about history was one of my absolute favorite things, it should be a goal. It's something I would have done naturally, but I like seeing the goal there anyway. I have a feeling I'll read way more than 10.
I've finished seven books, have one in progress, and at least two more on deck for August. I've been reading so much fiction that this goal hasn't gotten quite the love I expected it to.
9. Read 10 children’s books.
This shouldn't be too hard. I've found I really enjoy children's literature.
I've finished nine children's books, and I plan to finish this goal in August. My favorites? Wonder and Eleanor & Park.
10. Read 1,000 poems.
This is a goal from last year that I enjoyed completing so much I brought it back for a second year.
Finished: April 25
As of this writing, I've read 1,592 poems this year. Perhaps I'll finish 2,000 poems by the end of the year. My favorite book of poetry was William Stafford's Ask Me. Phenomenal.
11. Read 100 books.
This is the general goal I set every year. Anything over 100 is gravy.
I've read 73 books so far this year, and at my current reading rate, I should finish this goal in late September or early October.
12. Read 50 picture books.
I always surpass this number, but I like having the goal to remind me to actually sit down and read them, not just hoard them for "someday."
I've read 31 picture books so far this year. My favorites include A Greyhound a Groundhog and Hotel Bruce.
13. Complete 5 mini-challenges.
This is something I just put on the list this morning, believe it or not. I've pared down my list of goals quite a bit from last year, and I was afraid I'd lost some of the whimsy of the multiple small goals of last year. Some challenges include:
  • A book about sports.
  • A book that will likely rile me up.
  • A re-read.
  • A novel set in contemporary America.
  • A book with a person’s name in the title.
  • A seasonal book.
  • A book of haiku.
  • A reading curveball (book I’d not normally read).
  • A humorous book.
  • A huge book from 2016.
  • A book with a pink cover.
  • A book with a strong sense of place.
  • A whimsical book.
  • A book about or set in the south.
Finished: March 25.
I've finished 18 mini-challenges so far, and I have a 19th in progress. I guess this one could have been more ambitious. I'll know for next year.

Some of the challenges completed:

  • A book that will likely rile me up.
  • A book that’s been on my TBR a long, long time.
  • A book with Bo or suggested by Bo (my grandson).
  • An Agatha Christie novel.
  • A reading curveball (book I’d not normally read).
  • A book about Christianity or living a Christian life.
  • A re-read.
  • A book about reading or words.
  • A book about personal growth.
  • A humorous book.
  • A book about gardening or the natural world.
  • A book about another country/continent or traveling.

A look at what I'm excited to read in the second half of the year:



Monday, July 17, 2017

What I'm reading this week (7/17/17)

Last week I finished:

I bought Everyone Brave is Forgiven the moment it came out. I felt that it would be one of those "it" books that I'd want to read. I was mostly proved right. But, it sat on my shelves for months waiting for its turn. Finally, I decided if I was going to read another thick World War II novel, it would have to be on audio, so that way I finally got around to reading it. This is the story of four friends, Mary, Tom, Alistair, and Hilda, who take up war work--and war attitudes--in different ways. Tom gets an exemption from fighting. Alistair enlists. Mary and Hilda volunteer. The book is split into three (I think) parts, and I have to tell you, I contemplated putting it down until I got to the second part--roughly halfway through the book (200 pages in). It wasn't until this point that I started to really care about the characters and that the plot really seemed to take off. This book does get grisly, and Cleave is not afraid of killing off his characters, which is shocking, but also shows war at its most real. It takes you to the front and to the London home front and examines the ways war changes lives, people, and culture. It is a well-written, well-imagined book based on Cleave's grandparents' lives during the war. At the halfway point, I think Cleave really hits his groove and shows you who his characters are, and he's a master at allowing them to change, subtly and not subtly. It was really very good. I've heard rumors that there is a follow-up book in the works, though I have no confirmation of that. I'd recommend this one, with the caveat that you might need to hang in there longer than you want to. The book does pay off. My rating: 4 stars.

Between Them is one of those books that I love to curl up with but know I'll probably never convince others of. It's unfortunate, but that's the way of some books. I have a collection of books like this: small, short books that are more stream-of-conscience books, full of insight and contemplation over life's details. They're a pleasure through-and-through, even tactilely, being just the right size in your hands. This is the memoir-ish reflection of Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Ford's parents in the second half of the last century. He tells how the three of them (Richard was an only child born later in his parents' lives) got along, how his father's death affected the dynamic, and who they were individually and collectively. You could tell that Ford, now in his 70s, was trying to get to the heart of something, and his readers were invited along for the ride. This one won't appeal to everyone, I know, but I really enjoyed it. I felt a connection to it. I love books about fathers, for one thing. And the story of Ford's life bore some resemblance to my husband's life with his folks. Both had over-the-road salesmen fathers who came home on weekends; both were raised as only children (my husband has a brother, but he's much older); both lost a parent in their teens. I liked this one for its thoughtful, reflective tone. My rating: 4 stars.

Ah, Jane Austen. The love affair continues. Having finished all of her major novels last year, I decided to begin re-reading them one per year in the order I'd originally read them. I read Sense and Sensibility in about 1998, I'd say. But I've seen the movie version with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant many, many times. It's one of my absolute favorite movies. Having spent so much time with the movie, though, I find the characters in the book somewhat different than I remember them being. Mostly, I didn't remember Elinor being so judgmental. I think the movie casts her as being exceedingly prudent and selfless, but the book definitely makes the reader know that she's always weighing a person's character and deciding how much of her affections or attentions they're worthy of. It seemed much more pronounced this time through. The plot (I find it very difficult distilling an Austen plot effectively) revolves around the elder Dashwood sisters, Elinor (prudent and right) and Marianne (passionate), their love interests, romantic disappointments, and the various family and friends who make their lives difficult. I enjoyed re-reading this one. My rating: 4 stars.

I'm still reading:

Still enjoying the varied mix of poems in Poems to Read.

I've managed to sneak in:

I can't explain how, but I've thrown The Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of his famous solo transatlantic flight, into the evening reading mix. I've already read 100 of its 500 pages, and I'm at the part where financing is in place and a plane is being built for him. Fascinating and very readable.

My audiobook:

I'm listening to the third No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book, Morality for Beautiful Girls, and I'm loving it. Truly loving it.
Next up:

My next main book will be Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. And my next audiobook will be West with the Night. That's a lot of books about Africa and flight all of a sudden!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

11 nonfiction books I've added to my TBR

I've been on a nonfiction tear lately. So far this year, I've read equal amounts of fiction and nonfiction (30 books of each, with another 7 of poetry). I seem to be wanting more nonfiction, especially travel and adventure stories. Here's what I'm excited to read. 


Frederick Russell Burnham was a man who led a very adventurous life. I'd never heard of him, but I stumbled upon A Splendid Savage (new in paperback this spring), and I'm delighted.

I'm also really excited to read Charles Lindbergh's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his flight over the Atlantic, The Spirit of St. Louis. Plus, bonus points for having a pink cover! There are very few books with pink covers.


Two books about Africa, specifically Rwanda: A Thousand Hills to Heaven and Land of a Thousand Hills. The first is a memoir of husband and wife who open a restaurant in Rwanda. The second is a memoir of an American woman who lived in Rwanda for 50 years.

Writing Memoir

Mike Perry has two books coming out this fall. Danger: Man Working is about writing.

The next (last?) in the Killing series by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, Killing England, is out in September.

Sons and Soldiers is the story of German Jews who fled Germany before WWII, then went back to fight them on the side of the U.S. 

The Last Castle is about the glorious Biltmore Estate.


And some straight-up "girl" memoirs: Notes from a Blue Bike (because I loved Tsh Oxenreider's recent At Home in the World), Give a Girl a Knife about a Midwesterner-cum-chef, and The Lucky Few about adoption.


Monday, July 10, 2017

What I'm reading this week (7/10/17)

 Last week I finished:

Mercy is something I think about a lot these days. The world, perhaps America specifically, is in need of a whole lot of mercy right now. We all need to reflect to others the mercy we feel shone on us. But while I enjoyed Anne Lamott's latest collection of essays on mercy, Hallelujah Anyway, I felt that I didn't walk away with any clear ideas of what Lamott felt about mercy. This book felt a little different than Lamott's previous work (I've read all of her nonfiction). There were whole paragraphs that seemed airy and nebulous, with nothing concrete to hold onto. These didn't go on for too long, but they felt strange. I would realize I'd read a whole page and had no idea what she said. I don't remember ever running into this before. Additionally, this book wasn't funny like her other work. I don't remember laughing once, and I don't really remember any attempts at jokes. Is Lamott changing her writing style? Was it the topic that affected it? Overall, though, I was happy with this one, and I look forward to more. My rating: 3.5 stars.

A year or so ago I watched the movie Anna and the King of Siam, a film I randomly DVR'd for some Saturday night at home. I loved that movie. While more people have probably seen The King and I, both movies are based on the book Anna and the King of Siam, published in 1944 by Margaret Landon. As soon as I watched the movie, I put the book on my TBR, and there it sat for months and months. Lately, I've felt like I need to up my reading game, so I made a list of "modern classics" that I want to read. This was at the top of this list. And then it moved to the top of my July reading list. I read a first edition library copy, complete with that glorious musty smell. It was kind of heaven (or it would have been if the typeface were larger). Guys, I adored this book. I don't imagine it's for everyone, but if you love adventure stories, stories about foreign lands, stories about Asia, you should add this one to your reading list. It's the fictionalized biography of Anna Leonowens who became the teacher to the 70-some children of the King of Siam (now Thailand). You read all about the palace and the intrigue of royal, as well as slave, life. This takes place in the 1860s. The French are trying to take over Siam. Siam rules over Laos and Cambodia (as I understand it). Anna is an idealist with high morals (think Jane Eyre) and a passion for righting wrongs. She cannot stand to see someone suffer, and she becomes the "fixer" for all kinds of Siamese. The King is an arrogant, intelligent, omnipotent ruler who is by turns cruel, vengeful, petty, tender, witty, and charismatic. The two clash terribly but also respect each other. It was not an easy life for Anna, and Siam was a very different culture from the England she grew up in. I was enthralled and fascinated by the vivid picture I got of the Siam royalty, grounds, and customs. And I was especially struck how at a time in history where the only information you have about other cultures is through word of mouth or perhaps books or journalism, folks knew next to nothing about the peoples and cultures of the world. I can't imagine living in a time like that. I loved this one, I really did. Enough to go to ebay and buy a musty first edition for a future return to Siam. My rating: 4.5 stars.

This week I continue reading:

I'm really loving Richard Ford's Between Them. Check back for a review next week.

I'm putting other things before Poems to Read lately, so it's been slow going. I'm surprised at how many of these poems are new to me.

Next up:

I'm so excited to begin my re-read of Sense and Sensibility.

My audiobook/s:

I have just a teeny tiny amount of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven left. I'll put up a full review next week. I was wrong about this one. My opinion has done a 180.

My next audiobook will be the third in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, Morality for Beautiful Girls.

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 2017 reading list

Well, the year is half over. How's your TBR list doing? I feel like I haven't made much more than a dent, but I think that's the deception created when one adds things to their TBR faster rate than one can read things from it. At any rate, I have a disproportionate number of long books left to read, and I'm trying to clean a few of those up this month. Also, I'm on a mission to read the books I want to read when I want to read them, so I have a couple of those on my reading list this month, too.

Here's what I plan to read in July...

Nonfiction & Memoirs

I'd had another book chosen for my "big" book this month, but I decided against it. It seemed too heavy--and not in a good way. So, I subbed in Anna and the King of Siam. Ever since seeing Anna and the King of Siam (I still haven't seen The King and I), I have wanted to read the book. So I borrowed a first edition copy from the library where I work (the only way to go, am I right?), and I'm ridiculously excited to begin. I don't know how to categorize this one; maybe fictionalized biography?

I've been in a memoir kick this summer, and I'm excited to read Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, about growing up in South Africa, as well as Richard Ford's Between Them, about the author's parents.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor has been on my radar since it came out in 2014, but just recently I added it to my list. The very next day, Anne Bogel talked about it on her podcast.

And I have been trying to fit in Anne Lamott's newest, Hallelujah Anyway, more writing about faith. Lamott becomes unbearable in years where the right wing controls the presidency, so I'm stealing myself for this one.

One of my goals for the year was to re-read Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I thought high summer might be just about right for this one.

I've been meaning to get to Everyone Brave is Forgiven since the day it came out, so I'm finally going to tackle it on audio.

I'll also be listening to the third in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, Morality for Beautiful Girls.
Poetry and "Other"

I have owned Poems to Read since it came out in 2002. I'm guess I'm such a rebel that when a book tells me to read it, I resist for 15 years until it's my idea.

I'll also be reading vol. 3 of the Ms. Marvel comics series, Crushed. Unfortunately, I've waited so long that I don't really remember what happened in vol. 2.
What are you reading this summer?