September Reads in Review

In September, I worked on finding balance in my reading life. I’ve been so consumed with ancient Greece and The Odyssey that I’ve neglected my relaxation reading, meaning the reading I do to clear my mind at bedtime and when I first wake up. It can feel so self-indulgent to read without any destination or purpose other than relaxation and the pleasure of getting lost in a story. But I’m trying to allow myself this simple joy. Continue reading “September Reads in Review”

The unabridged list of books read in December

My list of books read in December and a reflection on #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks.

My list of books read in December and a reflection on #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks.Well, here we are again: on the cusp of a new month and a new year. As it’s my last roundup of 2016, it’s the right time to reflect on my attempt to read my own books this year. It has been the most meaningful reading effort I’ve participated in and one that I’m looking forward to continuing in 2017.

Overall, I would have liked to have done better. Of the 110 titles I read this year, 54 were my own. While that’s close to the 50 percent mark I’d been shooting for, I would prefer to have exceeded, rather than fallen short, of it. More than anything, though, I’m treasuring what I’ve learned through the journey. I covered that here, but a quick recap of the most significant point:

A big part of what appeals to me about stockpiling books is the idea of the books, of what unread books signify: possibilities. In aspiring to do better at reading my own books, I’m aspiring to find possibilities, hidden potential, in the existing rather than in the imaginary. I want to be more mindful and less impulsive, in all areas of my life. Here’s to working on that in 2017!

And now, for the books:

Books I read:

Asterisk (*) signifies a #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks title.

Christmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier (e-book)

A Lucy Stone cozy murder mystery to kick off the holiday season with a bang … literally: A reclusive, Scrooge-like mortgage company co-owner is blown up with a mail bomb. Naturally, Pennysaver reporter Lucy Stone is on the case. Not officially, seeing as she’s a reporter not a detective. She just can’t stop herself from nosing around.

These fun cozies are set in Maine and depict small-town New England life in all its charming quirkiness.

The Wee Free Men - one of the excellent books read in DecemberThe Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching Series #1) by Terry Pratchett (e-book)

I picked this book up after Andi at Estella’s Revenge posted a beautiful quote from the series on social media. Plus, it seemed wrong that I’d never read any of Pratchett’s books. The Wee Free Men is about a girl called Tiffany who discovers she’s a witch. A magnificent, sassy, level-headed hag, as the eponymous Wee Free Men call her. The latter are six-inch high Scottish warrior types who watch out for Tiffany. I loved how funny and poignant the fierceness of these tiny men is. The key lies in the juxtaposition: As full-sized men, their fighting, drinking ways wouldn’t be quite so delightful. I appreciate juxtapositions. They keep me mindful of the contradictions and paradoxes within us all.

I adored this beautiful story about finding the power inside of us. It made me think about the importance of taking care of each other in ways that aren’t condescending of others and that recognize and honor the power within them.

Jane Eyre - one of my books read in December
Oh, this line…

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (e-book) *

I don’t remember having had a particular affinity to this novel when I first read it back in graduate school. This was my first time rereading it since then and … well, I can see why it’s not achieved the mythic-ness of a Pride and Prejudice. The story has tremendous feeling, but the men are horrible (more on this here, if you’re interested). I also found the moral overtones a bit stark and unforgiving, especially with how events play out at the end.

What most impressed me was how skillful the novel is in eliciting a particular response, especially through character development. Bronte is masterful in using description and telling details to evoke in the reader (well, me, anyway) the feelings Jane experienced. I love when a novel can make me feel, viscerally, what a character feels. My heart races, constricts, or hurts parallel with the character’s. How Bronte achieves this is definitely something I want to think more about.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas (e-book)

I’ve not read much Dylan Thomas. This book, which I discovered through Words of a Reader, made me want to. It’s a short, lovely story of a young boy’s Christmas memories in Wales (obvi). The language is luxurious and startling in its freshness, like a new coat of snow. I downloaded it for bedtime reading, and it was perfection. Though I’d recommend acquiring the paper version: The edition I read had original woodcuts by Ellen Raskin. The e-book can hardly do them justice.

Christmas Stories from The Sketch-Book by Washington Irving (e-book) Continue reading “The unabridged list of books read in December”

The unabridged list of books I read in November

My long and, dare I say, fascinating list of books I read in November includes an eclectic mix of novels and nonfiction, including lots of my own books too!

My long and, dare I say, fascinating list of books read in November includes an eclectic mix of novels and nonfiction, including lots of my own books too!I can hardly believe we’ve arrived at the last month of 2016. My quest to read my own books is almost over, and I feel like it just began. Also, my tally of books read from my existing library reflects that. Ha. I might need to keep it for 2017. It’s that or descend into chaos. Probably.

In the meantime, here is my “read” pile for November. I feel like I should call it “the long and exhaustive list of books I read in November.” Because it turns out I read quite a few books this month!

Books I read:

An asterisk (*) indicates a Read My Own Damn Books book. I’m happy to report there are many more asterisks this month as compared to last. Eight of the 13 books I read came from my pre-2016 library. Using my extremely advanced computing skills, I’ve deduced that’s more than 50 percent, which has been my most recent goal.

Everblaze, Lodestar, and Neverseen by Shannon Messenger (e-book)

These are books 3, 4, and 5 in Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities fantasy series for middle grade readers. My friend Jessica turned me on to it. I’m heartily enjoying the adventures of Sophie Foster as she learns to navigate her magical abilities and battles the nefarious and mysterious Neverseen (geddit? ’cause they’re “never seen”?). The next book doesn’t come out until later in 2017. This is good. It means I have something to look forward to next fall. I mean, besides autumn, the most beautiful season of the year in New England.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (e-book) *

Reading this novel – which I picked up in an e-book sale … at some point I can no longer recall – fulfilled both my reading challenges this year: Read My Own Damn Books and When Are You Reading? (yay).

Set in Amsterdam in 1686-87, it tells the story of Nella, an 18-year-old girl who is married off to Johannes Brandt, a successful merchant 20 years her senior. Nella moves in with Johannes and his sister, Marin. Both harbor potentially fatal secrets that are gradually revealed with … consequences (spoilers). Their narratives alone make for compelling reading. Making it even more gripping is the story of the miniaturist, the shadowy figure who crafts a, yes, miniature of the Brandts’ house. As more objects – not commissioned by Brandt – arrive for the little house, it appears to be a prophetic instrument. I found his novel an unsettling, compelling read.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (e-book) *

Well’s protagonist, identified only as The Time Traveller, journeys into a dystopian future populated by hunter and hunted. In pursuit of ease and comfort, humanity has devolved, in the extreme. It’s a must-read for science fiction fans, given that it’s credited with inventing the genre. Now that I’ve written that, it occurs to me I’ve not reach much science fiction. Well, anyway, The Time Machine is worth reading for its sage insights on the human condition and acknowledgment of a paradoxical implication at the heart of it: What we want isn’t always good for us.  Continue reading “The unabridged list of books I read in November”

The unabridged list of books I read in April

Another eclectic collection of books I added to my "read" pile in April

April readAm I really already talking about the books I read in April? Yes, the same incredulity that possessed me at the beginning of last month. This year is flying by at the speed of sound (or is it light?).

This month saw my highest “read” tally all year, thanks in large part to Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. My titles included the usual mix of middle-grade and adult fiction and memoir. I also read a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a few months (or years…whatever) and finished a book that has been languishing on my “currently reading” list for a few weeks.

Books I read:

Reading Challenge-wise, I’m not doing too badly: 60 percent of the books I read this month were books I already owned. Although … When I look at it that way, I’m barely passing. I will have to keep working on this!

* Indicates a #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks title Continue reading “The unabridged list of books I read in April”

Dewey’s Readathon Wrap-Up

My Readathon staples: A full mug of coffee and fully charged Nook
My Readathon staples: A full mug of coffee and fully charged Nook
My Readathon staples: A full mug of coffee and a fully charged Nook

Before Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon started, I set myself the goal of enjoying the experience, no matter how many books and pages I read and how many hours I lasted. Since this was my first go, I knew I’d be figuring things out and exploring the social media communities. For me, the point of participating was to engage not only with books (which I can do on my own anytime) but also with the awesome book people participating.

I had a chance to do that and adored it. Readathoners are the nicest people on the Internet (if not the planet). Full stop. One of my other favorite parts was doing mini-challenges. They gave me a little break from reading to process my experience. Next time, I will try to organize my time in advance. I don’t want to be too regimented but do want to make sure I’m giving myself structured time to engage, read, and write.

And now for my end of event survey and (at the end of that) my perfect reading day (another mini-challenge after my heart): Continue reading “Dewey’s Readathon Wrap-Up”

The unabridged list of what I read in February

Jasper Fforde quote

February delivered what feels suspiciously like a reading slump, but not exactly. I say “not exactly” because I’m still reading (what else is there to do? I have few other interests, really). But I’m distracted and a little bit restless.

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks felt like my anchor and inspiration this month. When I struggled to focus on what the heck I wanted to be reading, I turned to the books that, at some point, felt like must-reads. That’s why they’re on my shelves, right? Some of them I read completely. Almost as many, I read only in parts. Continue reading “The unabridged list of what I read in February”

0 out of 5 Stars for the 5-Star System of Rating Books

My grand conclusion after a month of using Goodreads: As a reader, I am vexed to the point of melodrama at the idea of assigning books 1 – 5 stars.

It’s basically grading, right? I’m painfully familiar with grading. As a college professor, it’s my least favorite part of teaching. BUT at least assessment criteria are clearly articulated. No one can pretend there’s not a subjective element when we’re talking about writing, speaking and constructing arguments. BUT at least we spell out for students exactly what we value and is expected of them – in achingly specific detail. Seriously, you should see the rubrics. Continue reading “0 out of 5 Stars for the 5-Star System of Rating Books”

Reading Winter Holidays

Christmas reads

Last year, I began devouring Christmas reads in November – November 16, to be exact. I know this because I’m diligent about keeping reading records. For this reason, I also know that I read twelve holiday-themed books between November 2014 and January 2015. That’s a lot of holiday books!

Apparently, I was on some sort of mission. I blame Starbucks. They released their gingerbread latte (my favorite!) so early that my internal clock became confused, and I thought it was time for Christmas. Continue reading “Reading Winter Holidays”