Friday, December 22, 2017

2018 Goals


For the last few years, I've completed the Goodreads Challenge. Basically, pick a number and read that number of books. I started with 50, but I've bumped it up to 100 books since. It's not too difficult to reach that, especially with the amount of graphic novels I read, but it's hard enough that I wondered if I would make it this year.

I also started looking at what types of things I'm reading. Since I didn't use Goodreads shelves to organize titles by genre/age group or anything like that (too many shelves), I copied my 2017 shelf into an Excel doc and started dividing into four categories: adult fiction, adult nonfiction, young adult fiction, and graphic novels/comics. As of today, just under half my total is graphic novels and comics, 25% is adult fiction, 20% young adult, and only 8% nonfiction. While I could break this down further, I feel like it's obvious that things are a bit unbalanced. I'm proud that my adult fiction included more mysteries and even a western, but I'm really disappointed in my nonfiction total. I've also probably accumulated more books than I've read. 

So within the 100+ titles I plan to read next year, I'm adding new goals:

1. More nonfiction. I only read NINE works of nonfiction this year. I'm reading another right now, but nonfiction is great! Ayelet Waldman's A Really Good Day and Kate Moore's Radium Girls are easily two of the best things I read this year. So in hopes of finding more gems like these, or at least learning more, I'm going to read at least one nonfiction title per month. It's still a low number, but putting it more at the forefront should help.

2. Rereading. I really, really don't do this because I have too many new titles to read, but I've started looking longingly at a few past titles that I've wanted to pick up again. I'm still coming up with a way to keep myself from reading too many from my back catalog, but I think it will be a ratio. Five new titles to every one reread might be the ticket. 

3. Classics. So I skipped reading many, many required classics in high school. Despite always reading a ton on the side, required reading was tedious, boring torture. Some of this I blame on the selections, but maybe this was just my tiny teenage rebellion. Either way, it's time to revisit some of them. Like nonfiction, my goal is one title a month.

4. #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks: I'm borrowing this idea from Andi, a book blogger and host of Dewey's 24-hour Readathon. My physical book collection has his the point where my bookshelf devoted to books I haven't read is full. It's time for me to make some room for new material by reading the old ones and by admitting that there are others I will never finish. The best part is that I have nonfiction AND classics sitting on my shelf!

What sort of reading challenges do you set for yourself? Any tips to make 2018 the best reading year ever?

Also, I meant to make a gift guide this year, but since then it has been a busy, fast slide into Christmas with some serious bumps along the way. It's just not going to happen. If you're still looking for a gift though, leave me a comment! I'm happy to help.

Until next time!

Monday, December 4, 2017

November's Best List


November was a busy month, but somehow I managed to sneak in six full-length novels, almost all of which I will recommend to someone. There's a lot to talk about, so I'm going to get right into it.

1. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Nearly eleven, Morrigan Crow has spent her entire life believing that she is cursed and will die on her next birthday. Except when that day comes, an odd stranger appears and steals her away to Nevermoor, a city that has hidden itself from her world. Once there, she must complete a set of tests in order to secure a spot for herself within the Wundrous Society, an organization of people with a diverse set of special abilities. While this is marketed for the younger set, this novel will appeal to anyone who wants a magical world. For now, it isn't very dark, but Harry Potter was also only eleven when his series began. I hope to read more about Morrigan Crow in the future.

2. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Why yes, this is the debut novel by the star of Jessica Jones. That really doesn't matter, except for the fact that I read the entire story in Ritter's voice. It's not a bad way to read it, either. Abby, now and environmental lawyer, returns to her hometown to figure out if the biggest corporation in the area is polluting the water supply. As she digs up information, she begins to wonder if the current problems connect back to her high school years when a fellow student disappeared. With so much of the town tied up in the plastic corporation, threats and violence against Abby and her team increase as Abby gets closer to proving that there's something sinister going on. It's a good mystery with several pieces that Ritter manages to tie together well.

3. You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
I love a good family saga. This story follows three generations of Das women, beginning with Ranee, a Bengali woman who has followed her husband from India to Ghana to the UK and finally to America in the 1970s. She is a traditional matriarch, doubly so when her husband dies. Her daughters, Sonia and Tara, are not quite so traditional. Sonia even shaves her head as part of her father's funeral rites, a role that should go to the closest male relative; as one of four daughters, I understand that sometimes rules just won't work. With another generation, the line between upholding tradition and modernizing gets more complicated, even making the now-grandmother Ranee question her place and her values. While I didn't love the time jumps (but how else do you get three generations in a reasonably detailed, one-shot novel?), I loved the characters and their stories. I think we all have to find our place in this world, whether by holding onto things from our past or letting go of them.

4. Odd & True by Cat Winters
This felt like historical Supernatural, but starring two sisters. Once upon a time, Odd & True's (Odette and Trudence's) mother, along with her brother and sister, were monster hunters. Now Tru is left with her aunt while Od has disappeared. When Od suddenly reappears at the window on Tru's 15th birthday, the girls set out to hunt their own monster, the Jersey Devil, and find their mother. The novel is told by both girls, but through Od's past diary entries and Tru's present-day ones. As more facts come to light, the story takes on an interesting degree of unreliability as readers must discern what is just odd and what is true about this family.

5. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
There are so many pieces to this story. A very modern Indian woman is hanging her sister's profile on the marriage board at the Sikh temple when she sees an advertisement for a writing instructor. She could use the money, so she applies, expecting to subvert conservative ideals. What she gets is a group of widows who can't read or write, but have so many very naughty stories to tell. However, there's a group of angry young men in the community who, if they heard about these erotic stories, would violently shut down the group. The Brothers, as they call themselves, might even have something to do with the murder of another modern young Indian woman whose mother organized the writing classes. Heads up, this story is very light in places, but then very grim as well. It's disconcerting at first, but as the story comes together it makes sense. Come for the silliness of widows writing smut, but stay for the strong female characters.

6. The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories by Charlaine Harris
I have read all of the Sookie Stackhouse novels at least twice, despite my general avoidance of rereading things. That said, I have never read the short stories and it has been a few years since the last novel. That doesn't really matter though. Harris managed to introduce each story well enough for me to remember the characters and tells readers where the story fit into the timeline. It was incredibly easy to fall back into this world, plus one of the stories really helps explain how Sookie ended up with a certain character in the final book. If you're a fan of the books, this is a nice addition to your collection.

My next monthly round-up might not be until 2018, but this won't be my last post for the year! Stay tuned for a book-heavy gift guide and my 2018 reading challenge goals.