New year’s grand plan no. 1: Reading more books

Last year, I read 32 books in total. And, I mean, yay me, I guess.

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Hello Kindle, love of my life.

But I’m disappointed in that number — because it reflects how much time I waste online instead of reading. And the fact that I am prone to slogging through books, no matter how much I dislike them. Which means I resist reading at all, so it takes forever to finish a title.

Um, and it also reflects the fact that I am a rather disorganized reader who relies too much on the eLibrary — the trend there is nothing nothing nothing for months, and then all six of my holds becoming available at once. Not an exaggeration.

Well, this year I have the goal of reading 60 books — that breaks down to five books a month. I don’t actually know if I can read 60 books this year (that might be too optimistic), but I’d like to see how close I can get, anyway.

Here’s how I’m going to do it:

I am not going to read books I don’t like. As an English major (I know, gag), I was trained to read what was assigned. That carries over even now, in that if I start a book, I’m going to finish it, no matter how much I dislike it. Dude, I’ve read hundreds of books I don’t like. Well, no more. This year, I’m making a pact: If I don’t feel it in the first 50 pages, it’s time to find something else. Um, it will be hard to remember because the urge to slog through is strong. But that shit needs to stop.

I am going to be realistic about my eLibrary checkouts. I try to cheat the system by keeping my Kindle on airplane mode and then plowing through titles just to get through them … which I may or may not be able to do, given that books tend to come ready for checkout in clusters over the course of a week. If I know I won’t get to a title, I will check it back in for the next person, and then put myself back on the waiting list. Maybe I’ll have better luck in a few months when it comes ready again.

I am going to buy more eBooks. I kind of feel bad about feeding the Amazon machine, although to be fair, my girls and Eric prefer real books so we buy a lot of those, too, mostly from independent bookstores. Justification!

I am going to read Abby’s real books. I like my Kindle. No, I love my Kindle. I haven’t read a real book in years because I’d rather read on my device. Abby has a huge collection of books that I’ve never read, however. It’s time to utilize this resource.

I’m going to reread my favorites. I have a lot of favorites.

I am going to get into the habit of reaching for a book instead of my phone. This will be HARD. I’m trying to break my phone addiction anyway and this seems like one solution. The only potential issue will be that when I read, I like to read — like for at least a half hour, none of this reading in spurts stuff — so this is not my natural response to having a couple of minutes of downtime.

If I read the same title twice, I’m going to count it as two books. Is this cheating? Wait, who cares, these are my resolutions. Anyway, I like to read books twice because the first time, I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s going on to pay attention to all the finer details.

I’m tracking books in my journal. I do this to a certain extent anyway, but lately I’ve gotten out of the habit of reviewing what I read — and just a list of titles doesn’t help me on that front when I’m trying to write my year-end review. 😉

I’m sort of interested to see how January goes, actually, because by the end of this month, I’ll know how realistic my plan is. As of right now, I’ve finished two books and have started a third. But I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my goal, so …

P.S. If anyone wants to throw a title or two my way, feel free.

More reading on reading more (ha!): Austen Kleon, “How to read more books” (HERE).

Best books of 2019

I had big plans at the beginning of 2019 to keep on top of sharing my book list … and then life happened and I got into a reading funk, like writers block only with books. That’s probably why I only read 32 this year. To put that in perspective, I read 44 in 2018.

Instead of listing all the books I’ve read, I’ve decided to just go with my favorites. Some are new, some are old, some are nonfiction but most are fiction. (My whole life is nonfiction and I need a break, that’s why.)

No links on the titles, sorry about that, I’m tired. Also, I was going to wait until Thursday to post this but then it would be 2020 and I want to be done with 2019, if that makes sense. This is the last piece. So here we are.

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Mirage by Somaiya Daud. When does the second book come out again? Clever, well written, makes you think.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Alaskans are tough, that’s what this book taught me. Entertaining, aggravating at times, quick read.

About a Boy by Nick Hornsby. Adorable.

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test by Merve Emre. After reading this, it made me rethink my attachment to my INFJ-T “ranking.” I mean … it’s all kind of just made up, really. Interesting read.

An American Marriage by Tarari Jones. Crushing and great.

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. Fun, quick reads with interesting characters.

Educated by Tara Westover. I will forever be amazed at this woman’s story — it’s fascinating, heartbreaking and insane.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. This book crushed my soul. Nonfiction but written in story form. HIGHLY recommend.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I don’t know why I was so surprised to like this book so much — The Graveyard Book is one of my all-time favorites, after all. Great story, easy read.

There There by Tommy Orange. Outstanding. Made me ponder my own white privilege and all I take for granted.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Excellent all around — World War II-era Europe, tight storyline, I can see why everyone raved about it.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Here’s what I learned: Michelle Obama is my best friend. She’s kind and strong and flexible and knows herself, and her insights into life in the White House (and the constant scrutiny her family was under) were really interesting. Come back, Obamas!

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell. Book two of a Simon and Baz series. Three magic English kids go on an American adventure. Entertaining and easy to read. Rowell is American, but her commentary on America through her characters’ eyes is hilarious. And, I mean, also spot-on.

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meisser. Another World War II-era book. I learned new things about American history from this little work of fiction and I am not impressed, but that’s half the plot so I’m keeping my mouth shut. Some of the storyline seems contrived, especially at the end, but eh, it didn’t bother me that much.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer. The third and last book in the Supernova series and a satisfying conclusion.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Noah is a gifted storyteller and is hilarious. And it was eye-opening. Recommend.

Dear everyone,

I’m writing this post in front of the woodstove. It’s raining outside and that’s confusing the kittens, who seem to take water falling from the sky as a personal affront. Pearl and Goose are coping by taking a nap; Bean has decided he’d rather run around and cause a ruckus.

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Rain rain … actually, you can stay, I don’t mind.

Incidentally, we went from summer to fall in a 24-hour period. There is even fresh snow on Mounts Hood and Adams. This has put an end to writing on the deck … but I rather enjoy watching the rain fall and the fog drift while drinking my coffee on the couch, or reading under a blanket in the recliner. I’m trying to remember that with each season comes its own perks instead of mourning summer. And also that fall in Oregon is lovely — much better than our springs. I’ll be back out on the deck.

Johanna is ready for the cold. She wants rain and snow and fog. “I’m a winter baby,” she’ll say when I express my doubt that anyone could really look forward to such weather. True; she was born in mid-December. Is it because I was born in July that I love summer so much? But Abby was also born in July and she loves fall. I suppose it makes more sense to assume it’s personal preference rather than birthdates. Not that I care about logic. 😉

So, update on the sink situation: We have one again! It is with complete and utter joy that I announce that the part we needed to replace came last week (it was TINY) and Eric was able to take apart the faucet and complete the repair in under five minutes. We have some cabinet damage under the sink, and although the drywall seems to be holding, we had an unfortunate crop of mold growing where the drips were the worst. Eric bleached the heck out of everything, which certainly improved the smell — it was very musty. One leak in the faucet = a big mess, that’s what I’ve learned, with water gushing everywhere. I am on high alert for any and all potential leaks now and am also so grateful to have water in the kitchen again.

I have a monthly reflexology appointment and I was telling the therapist about my sink issues — it hadn’t been fixed at that point — and how with the sink and oven both down, I was waiting with bated breath to see what else went south. Wait, you don’t have an oven yet? That went out months ago! she said, incredulous. And I was like, Well, Eric likes to take his time with decisions. And she was all, IT’S JUST AN OVEN. That made me laugh. I get it; I could pick out a new one in under 10 minutes, no joke. But Eric doesn’t. To him, it’s a swirl of brands and prices and installation options.

And I’m used to how he operates.

Input vs. output (HERE) was one of my September goals, and that’s been a good thing to work on actually, just in that I’m thinking about what I’m consuming now rather than mindlessly scrolling around on my phone whenever I get bored. I took Twitter off early on and that’s helped immensely, as that was my major time suck (Instagram and Snapchat remain because that’s how the girls like to communicate; I never loaded Facebook and don’t like it anyway). It’s harder to open up my laptop and go online, so I don’t waste nearly as much time messing around. I’m not sure I’ve written any more than I normally would — only because I tend to write a lot anyway — but I have been reading more (current book: Becoming by Michelle Obama. She is an excellent writer and I’m enjoying it very much).

And reading more is always a good thing.

I’ll post final thoughts about No Plastic September on Thursday … and will post on The Simple Year on the same topic, as Alex has apparently fallen off the map.

All right, now I want your updates.

— TW

33 things for Thursday

  1. Just kidding. I can’t come up with 33 things. I just think it’s funny when I run across blog posts with titles such as “457 must haves for your minimalist kitchen!” What does that even mean? How do they come up with those random numbers? I’ll tell you how I came up with 33: Alliteration.
  2. I am writing this from my porch, looking at a partially obstructed Mount Hood. Because of clouds. It’s humid, which is weird for the Pacific Northwest. Just thought you should know that.
  3. I have seen three deer in the past week visit our yard. I haven’t seen three deer in all 16 years we’ve lived here, so I wonder what’s up. Eric is afraid they’ll find our blueberry bushes, but so far they’re oblivious. The kittens hunker down when the deer come through to see if anything sketchy is going to go down. They clearly have no plan of attack, but in their defense, neither do the deer.
  4. Lists are fun! I should do this more often.
  5. I probably won’t.
  6. I have been waiting, literally, since December to read “The Good Neighbor” by Maxwell King, a biography on Mr. Rogers, via the eLibrary on my Kindle. I watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a kid and while it wasn’t one of my favorite shows (I was more of an “Electric Company” kind of girl), I didn’t mind it, either. Anyway, the writing is so repetitive and boring that I’m having a hard time getting into it. I’m about half-way done and would have ditched by now if it wasn’t about Mr. Rogers. I feel like I owe it to ol’ Fred to keep plodding along.
  7. This is really too bad because I’ve been in a reading slump. I haven’t been in the mood for the past couple of months and haven’t had anything to read anyway. But I am ready to get back into the game, especially since this is prime reading on the deck season. Perhaps the issue is that I don’t like nonfiction as much as I like fiction. That’s on me.
  8. But! I just checked out “Call the Midwife” (also on my Kindle; I prefer it to real books) and have high hopes for its entertainment value. I’ve never seen the TV show, but then again, I’m not that into TV.
  9. We’re watching “Stranger Things III” on Netflix. Which is TV, you are correct. Eric is not letting us binge watch so we’re only on, like, episode five. I don’t know, he’s trying to teach us patience or something.
  10. The end, I guess.

April books

I started April strong on the book front, stalled in the middle, and regained my footing at the end. Lesson I keep learning: If I’m resisting reading a particular book, it’s because it’s not for me. And it’s okay to let that one go.

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OF COURSE this is taken from my real life, what are you even talking about? Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Unsplash.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvatar. This was the fourth and last book in a series, but the first one I read. Like, ever, not just in April. I must have heard good things about it because it made my “to read” list. This is one of those magic/teenager books that are popular at the moment, but you know what? The writing was good, the plot kept me interested and I didn’t seem to lose anything for coming in at the top floor instead of starting at the bottom. I’ll probably read the entire series just for something to do. (I’m no purist on my book choices. Give me entertaining any day of the week.) No regrets.

Educated by Tara Westover. (Nonfiction.) Where to even start? This book is absolutely fascinating — Westover comes from a large, devote Mormon family, was barely homeschooled, had her life endangered practically daily by her father and/or brother, was mentally abused … eventually went to BYU against the family’s wishes, where she had to learn basic things like hygiene and how to take a test, finally earing her Ph.D. after a serious bout of depression. So just, like, props to her for managing, seriously. What made this book hard to read, however, were the pages upon pages describing the messed up antics of her father. The guy is probably bipolar, but it’s infuriating to witness someone with so little regard for anyone else — who purposely puts his wife and kids in dangerous situations because he’s got a Jesus complex (and a unhealthy distrust of the government, medical care, even dance lessons). That’s abuse. I was glad to see that Westover finally escape and prosper, but damn! The cost of her education was so high. Definitely recommend.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. This was okay. It’s a book on writing and grief and dogs. No characters are named. I felt it was a bit too hyped, but eh, I made it through and it was fine. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend, but that’s more because of my personal tastes than anything else. It’s clever enough.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. (Nonfiction.) Holy shit. This book crushed my soul. It’s nonfiction and well researched, but written in story form. That made it very easy to digest. I felt like I got to know the girls who worked painting radium on watch dials to make them glow in the dark beginning in 1917 — and it was devastating to see them suffering so greatly because of company negligence. Well, beyond negligence, really — calculated cruelty. What absolutely floored me was how, after everything these women went through to bring the company to justice, radium was STILL being used and other women STILL being exploited doing THE VERY SAME WORK as late as the 1970s. (All caps because WHAT?!) I mean, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. We think that businesses/government agencies have our best interests at heart, but most do not — the bottom line means more than human life. (If you’re charging almost $1,000 for two EpiPens, then you clearly value something, but it ain’t people.) So now I’m all fired up. Definitely recommend. Because knowledge is power.

Books I tried to read but couldn’t:

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I just … I didn’t make it very far into this book, which is too bad because I could have used a good distraction as I was sitting for hours at a time in the ICU waiting room with Eric’s family. I felt like the writing was fine and the storyline had potential, but got tripped up on the actual reading part. Not for me.

On my list:

I’ve got six on hold from the eLibrary — but it might take a while to get any of them (like, six months for some of these): The Wicked King, The Good Neighbor, Becoming (by Michelle Obama, I love her), Stardust, There There and The Invention of Wings (recently added to my list via a recommendation last month).

Which means I might just go on Amazon and buy something. Feeding the beast, but I love my Kindle so much. I think Abby has a couple of real books she wants me to read, but she won’t be home from school for a couple of weeks and I can’t wait that long. 😉 We’ll see what I settle on. There’s a long list of books that aren’t available via eLibrary that are in the running.

Now I want to hear about what you’ve been reading. Because I have plenty of room to add to my list.

March books (no joke)

Let’s start off on a tangent: How is it that February, the shortest month on the calendar, took 57 years to get through, but March was like 87 seconds? Time is a mystery, my friends.

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Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash. Incidentally, this is TOTALLY my life and how I read all the time! 😉

Anyway! March was a good month on the book front. Maybe a little TOO good — my eLibrary account really came through in the past couple of weeks and I have five titles lined up at the moment. Fun fact: If you keep your Kindle on airplane mode, they can check the books back in, but they can’t technically erase them from your device. I know, that’s totally cheating, but I promise I’m cheating with a pure heart. Uh, assuming that’s possible, I guess.

Here’s what I read, in order even:

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre. (Before you have to ask, I’m an INFJ — introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging. They say it’s the rarest of all personality types, but I assume they say that to everyone to make us all feel like we’re special unicorns.) Well, Emre isn’t joking — it IS a strange history and it’s kind of amazing that the women who created it, a mother-daughter team, had it in them to be so persistent in getting the thing published. Emre is a skeptic on the personality testing front, and I appreciated that, actually — I felt like it gave her the ability to step back from the hype. One thing I hadn’t realized until I read the book is that according to Briggs and Myers, your personality is set the day you are born and it never changes. That seems weird to me, but whatever. Anyway, it was an interesting read and good to learn that the test is loosely based on Jung’s theories but is in no way scientific. I found that comforting somehow.

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? by Mindy Kaling. After the craziness of Emre’s book, this book was a fantastic pallet cleanser: It’s hilarious and a quick read. I’m probably the last person on earth to read it as it came out in 2011, but anyway, I recommend this one if you need a laugh.

About a Boy by Nick Hornsby. How did I JUST read this book? I haven’t seen the movie, either. It was just so sweet and funny and great. It’s like the book equivalent of a fancy donut. Recommend!

An American Marriage by Tavari Jones. I suppose it was about time for me to read something more difficult after two fun-fests. This is a great book — well written and made me think about what I take for granted being a middle aged white woman married to the same man for 23 years. There were parts that were hard to take because it was difficult to accept the injustice of it all — for Roy, wrongly accused and imprisoned, and Celestial, who has to navigate life with her husband locked away. It’s not what either of them had expected, and the outcome isn’t, either. Recommend.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I think this might have been an Abby recommendation. One of those sci-fi/fantasy stories with magic and a gang of kids out on an adventure. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the sequel.

What’s on my list:

After about four months of waiting, Educated by Tara Westover has finally come my way via the eLibrary. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and am looking forward to reading it.

I’ve also got The Friend by Sigrid Nunez and The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin lined up. I’m currently reading The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, but it’s the fourth in a series and, while all accounts point to this one being a stand-alone (whatever that means), I’ll probably end up reading the entire series just for something to do. More sci-fi/fantasy/kids on a magical adventure. I don’t mind.

Your turn: Whatcha reading?

Books: A love story

I  generally get most of my reading material from our county library — or, actually, the eLibrary, where books are shared between several small counties. This means that the waiting list for a book can be six months or more (hello, Becoming by Michelle Obama). I’ve learned that, as soon as a book becomes available, to go into my browser and immediately place another book on hold. And also that purchasing books this year is going to be necessary if I ever want to actually read anything.

Saturday morning, I received an email I’d been waiting for: That The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre was ready for checkout. I went to the library website, got the book loaded on my Kindle, and began perusing the ongoing list of books I keep in my planner so I could add another to my holds list (I can reserve up to six. Boring).

I typed in About a Boy by Nick Hornby (been meaning to read that one for a while) and was shocked that it was immediately available. I’ve never had that happen before. Downloading that one, I decided to try Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling. ALSO AVAILABLE, WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?!

Okay, fine, how about The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King? Well, another six month waiting list there, but I was really feeling almost … it was an abundance of riches, really, to be able to check out three books at once. I guess I should browse more often.

(I’m only part of the way through Myers Briggs, and it’s fascinating. That’s another post for another time, though. I need to actually read it first before I start spouting off.)

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My reading this year has been sparser than I’d like it to be. I spent most of January waiting for books to become available before deciding to just purchase a few (you’d think that, as someone whose livelihood depends on people purchasing a newspaper that I’d be more generous with my book dollars. Well, this could be the year for that, the way it’s all going with long library waits).

But here’s what I have managed to read so far:

Mirage by Somaiya Daud. I purchased this one after hearing Daud speak on public radio. She seemed like someone I’d like to have coffee with. And I really enjoyed it. It’s sci-fi and romance and, ultimately, a book about oppression. First in a series, apparently (which came as a shock when I read the last page and was like OH HELL NO THIS CANNOT BE THE END. It’s not. But now I have to wait a long time to find out what happens, boo). Recommend!

The Gospel of Trees: A Memoire by Apricot Irving. I also purchased this one after it was recommended to me by a friend. This is a memoire and, as such, it’s sometimes difficult to read because Irving is so open and honest. She’s the daughter of missionary parents and spent the bulk of her childhood in Haiti. It’s fascinating and difficult all at once. Plus she’s now an Oregonian. Also recommend.

Trainspotting by Irving West. I’m sad that I purchased this one. I just had a hard time with it for a variety of reasons: It’s mostly written in Scottish dialect, which was difficult for my brain to get used to (I kept trying to translate it into American English at first; eventually I got the hang of it and just read as best I could as written); these guys are junkies and make really terrible decisions, and I have limited patience for that; and it’s pretty graphic / there’s a lot of swearing (which I actually don’t care about, to be honest — words are just words — but it started to wear me down after reading the C word for the 8,000 time in 20 pages). I came away from this just really glad to have made the life decisions I’ve made. I can’t necessarily recommend this one. I’m okay with having read it but wow, that was hard.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I checked this one out from the eLibrary. This is a book set in the 1970s and 1980s, about a family who moves to Alaska from Washington. I really enjoyed it — great storyline, great writing — but I had to put it down periodically because the father is so abusive and crazy and that was difficult to digest sometimes. I wish I’d have purchased this one instead of “Trainspotting,” though, because this is one I’d like to read again … later. Recommend.

And a book I didn’t finish:

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfeg. I’m grateful that I checked this one out from the eLibrary because it made it easier for me to decide to peace out after 85 pages. I finish everything, but I could not finish this one: There are no redeeming characters and the plot is basically this narcissist who drugs herself into oblivion. But even BEFORE she started her year of sleep, she was not someone I wanted to spend any time with. There are no words to describe how much I hated this book … and how pissed I am that I wasted my life on those 85 pages. I picked it up, incidentally, because it was in the top 10 of multiple “must reads of 2018” lists. If there’s anyone out there who has read it and actually liked it, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Why is this book so highly recommended? I honestly have no idea.