Happy Lunar New Year and welcome to the Year of the Tiger!
Three dozen years ago, this Wednesday, I became a mom, bringing our son into the world. Derek did not slip quietly in, but roared with hunger and passion.
Today, he is a proud father and I’m a grandmother who lives too far away from her grandson. This year, I resolve to remedy this separation and cut my three hour flight, or three day drive, to less than a half hour. I also resolved, during my Christmas holiday family break, to return to reading, where I found my time better spent than hoping the next streaming series or movie would live up to its hype and being perpetually disappointed.
A few days before Christmas, I discovered an audiobook edition of one of my favorite books from the early 90s. Revisiting this novel thirty years later, it still brought tears to my eyes, but did not resonate as vibrantly as my rose-colored memories did. I’m glad I listened to it, but I’m not sure it rates a five star favorite ranking anymore.
I quickly followed that audiobook with my annual reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, this year narrated by Frank Muller and recorded in 1980. I immediately listened to many other Christmas short stories, including The Night Before Christmas by Moore, A Country Christmas by Alcott, The Fir Tree by Anderson, The Birds’ Christmas by Wiggin and “Yes, Virginia There Is a Santa Claus.” Betwixt and between all the classic Christmas tales, I enjoyed the Dune graphic novel. On the final day of 2021, I started Connie Willis’ A Lot Like Christmas, which became my first book of ten to finish since the beginning of 2022.
I’m a bit stunned to find myself already facing February. Where did my January disappear to? So many reading ambitions and so few goals achieved. I find myself five books behind my pace to reach my annual goal of ninety-six books (eight books per months). Basically, I finished three books last month. Not that I wasn’t constantly reading something (I’ll discuss my overflowing currently reading dilemma in a bit).
Here’s the three I actually started and finished during January:
Hard Timesby Dickens
The first book I started and finished during the first week of the new year was Dickens’ Hard Times. This was the winter reading classic selection for my local library adult book club. We meet on the second Thursday and have lively discussions, including about this shortest and last published work of Charles Dickens.
I listened to the audiobook read by Simon Prebble and managed to complete it with just thirty minutes to spare before arriving at the library for the discussion. We were split as a group whether we liked this book. It is not your typical Dickens and had some portions that were a bit of a slog to muddle through. In hindsight, we all agreed we should have read Little Women in light of the release of yet another movie adaptation over the holiday break. We decided that next winter we will allow ourselves the luxury of reading a classic that might be adapted and released during Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.
My January is fully stocked with reading, book clubs and even a lecture (on a book of course). Tomorrow, I start listening to the audiobook of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles to discuss next Thursday, the 10th, at my local library here in Lansing. It’s going to be tight to get it finished before then since the unabridged edition is fourteen CDs long. That’s normally twelve daily commutes so I’m going to have to double-up on lunch listening and while on the elliptical.
To see what else we’re reading and discussing in 2019, please download our 2019 wall calendar here. You can also find the book covers in the right-hand pane of this blog under “Lansing Community Library Adult Book Group.”
Two other book clubs I nominally belong to are reading the following:
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friday by Matthew Dicks
Between the Lines ~ First Fridays at noon ~ Westport Branch of KCPL
Citizen Science by Caren Cooper
Strangr Than Fiction ~ 7 pm Tuesday the 15th ~ Plaza Branch of KCPL
This time last year I was reading the first installment in the Machineries of Empire series called Ninefox Gambit, as part of my annual Hugo Award finalist binge reading. I remember liking the book quite a bit, but in the intervening months I’ve nearly completely forgotten everything I read. So, when I started reading Raven Stratagem in late May this year, again because Yoon Ha Lee’s work was nominated and became a finalist for the Best Novel Hugo Award, I almost wish I’d re-read the first book. Continue reading “Book Review: Raven Stratagem (3.5 Stars)”
At the end of September I reached that point in the year when I could shake off all my various book club obligatory reading and get down to the serious business of reading the books I bought for myself all year long. Not every year gives me a break where I can read what I want. I often have to squeeze in my ‘must read’ books between the two to three other books I read per month for various discussion groups and book clubs. Don’t get me wrong. I very much enjoy reading outside my comfort zone and would not give up the wonderful discussions and cherished friendships I’ve nurtured through a shared love of reading.
Most years, I read between 75 and 100 books; last year I read 88 and as of today I’ve read 99 thus far in 2017. And only about ten percent make it onto my ‘loved-it’ shelf (the equivalent of a five-star rating). This year had a few more than normal and will probably end with two to three more on the shelf before year’s end (because I’m now reading what I’ve had on hold for most of the year).
Summer reading programs at all my local libraries are in full swing this first week of June. Nearly all the libraries have great programs, activities and prizes for both kids and adults and this year’s theme is “Build a Better World” (see links below for libraries shown here).
I participated in three real-world book discussion groups in order to diversify my reading horizons. I nominated, voted and attended the Hugo Awards during 2016. I joined two reading programs at my local library (summer and winter). I also set other personal goals that I didn’t statistically track but achieved despite real-world hurdles.
I began the year by reading my first ever graphic novel – Persopolis by Satrapi – one of three graphic novels I would read in 2016, two of which were for different book clubs. I wrapped up the year with my second ever Hemingway book in paperback edition – his memoir A Moveable Feast – for a total of eighty-eight (88) books read. Click here for a complete list of books I read in 2016.
88 looks like double infinity sideways to me (hence the odd title to this blog post).
On the ides of November, with forty-six days left in 2016, I achieved my self-inflicted reading goal. I have read seventy-five books so far this year. I will read more before 2017 arrives. I am currently reading four books simultaneously in various formats: an audiobook (classic mystery by Christie); an ebook (one of next year’s most likely to succeed Hugo Nominees); a hard cover (non-fiction Kansas Notable); and another ebook (bible study ongoing).
For the most part, I avoided reading duds this year. I only abandoned two books, both of them book club reads that I just couldn’t get into. I read a lot of books for discussion groups. That leaves me little room to squeeze in the must-read new releases that I buy to support my favorite authors. Of the seventy-five books read since January 1st, I added fourteen to my ‘loved-it’ shelf and forty-eight to my ‘liked-it’ one. The remaining thirteen books wallow on my ‘meh’ shelf, which is just slightly elevated above my ‘disliked’ and ‘abandoned’ shelves.
Since 2011, I’ve averaged eight-nine books per year, with peak reading occurring in 2013 (102 books read) and 2014 (136 books read). My lowest reading year occurred last year, where I only read a measly sixty-two books. I can’t remember why I didn’t get as much reading done last year. Still, that means I’m reading between seven and eight books per month. Makes sense when you consider that I’m involved in 3-4 real world book clubs and a couple of virtual ones plus tackling my huge to-be-read pile not associated with any discussion groups.
I should be able to finish another half-dozen books by year’s end. In fact, I’ll probably read another ten or so. I have several novellas I need to read, and those usually only take an hour or so to finish. Perfect for lunch time reading.
But what to challenge myself with next year? Should I play it safe, again, and set the bar back at seventy-five? That might be a wise decision as I’m returning to college after a decades long hiatus to complete my degree. I see the mist of my spare time for leisure reading evaporating before me. Perhaps fifty might be an even safer bet?
Only time and my capacity to absorb the written word will tell.
I had to halve my Reading Challenge this year. Normally I read close to or over one hundred books in a year. Due to work pressures and family health issues, I had to severely curtail my reading time. And, these days, I hardly actually read a print edition or even an ebook. The only time I have to ‘read’ is while commuting (about 90 minutes per weekday) so most of my reading has been audiobooks. Consequently, I also have not written many book reviews this year. I just never seem to find the time. I may write up some mini-reviews, especially on those fiction titles that were released this year and are still making the rounds.
I may finish one or two more books yet before 2015 ends. I do not plan to change drastically my reading habits for 2016. Work projects should ease up by February so I may actually get more reading done.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and hope your stockings are stuffed with books.