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Reading Roundup 2016

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With the help of my trusty friend Good Reads, I have another year of reading data to share. My goal for 2016 was to read 20 books and reread some recent favorites. Well, folks, I read 20 books! And for the first time since I started setting these goals, I finished more than a week before the end of the year.

However, I failed in the rereading part of my goal. This is partially due to the fact that I went back to school part-time in the fall. I’m happy that school doesn’t seem to be restricting my pleasure reading too much, but it does reduce my free time somewhat. As I worked on my Best of 2016 posts, it became clear that I still managed to read many wonderful books. There were impressive second novels from Suzanne Rindell and Eowyn Ivey, two favorites from past years. I’m also pleased that I read four nonfiction books. Hooray for broadening horizons!

In 2017, I will read 20 books and continue trying to reread. 20 feels like a realistic goal, even with the addition of school. Although I don’t have as much time for it, rereading helps me grow as a writer. I’m looking forward to new books from Sarah Dessen and Paula Hawkins—and hoping for something new from Rainbow Rowell and another Cormoran Strike mystery. Happy reading!

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Reading Roundup 2015

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After two years of reading 24 books, I tried something different in 2015. My goal was to read 20 new books and reread some recent favorites. And yes, I read 20 books! I also reread Sharp Objects, Attachments, Fangirl, Anna and the French Kiss, and Isla and the Happily Ever After. (There may have been others, but I think that’s the roster.)

As always, I use Good Reads to keep track of my reading. It tells me both the books and number of pages read per year. Even though pages aren’t a uniform unit of measurement, it provides an interesting estimate. Although I read four fewer books than last year, I somehow managed to read approximately 600 more pages. My best explanation is that I read a lot of YA and a couple of children’s books in 2014, whereas this year I skewed more toward YA and adult. And I can’t forget the 1,000 pages of A Clash of Kings. I took two breaks from that book to read other things because it was taking me so long!

I’ve decided to keep the same goal for 2016. I will read 20 new books and reread a few favorites. That pace seems to work well with my lifestyle at the moment, and I also want ample time to focus on writing this year. Thanks for joining me on another year of reading adventures and over-documentation.

 

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Reading Roundup 2014

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For the second year in a row, I set a reading goal of 24 books. And for the second year in a row, I read 24 books! As an avid Good Reads user, I see the goals that other people make, and they are often aiming for 50 or 100 books. Even factoring in people who read a lot of graphic novels or children’s books, which are typically quick reads, those numbers seem far loftier than mine. That doesn’t particularly bother me though because: a) reading isn’t a competition, and b) I know that I’m a surprisingly slow reader, and c) I want to leave myself time for other interests. I can benefit more from reading 24 books thoughtfully.

But a funny thing happened on the way to 24 this year. While refocusing myself as a reader, I’ve come across a lot of wonderful books, and there are few greater pleasures for me than rereading a great book. Rereading is also my favorite kind of writing workshop. Keeping up with a two-books-per-month pace leaves time for a few rereads, but not as many as I would like. So for 2015, I’m shaking things up. My goal will be 20 new books, plus rereading some of my new favorites and seeing what they have to teach me.

You may be wondering why I can’t just count the rereads toward my overall total. Well, I could, but I choose not to do so. I keep track of my yearly goal through the Reading Challenge on Good Reads, and the way the website functions, only new books are added to the total. I’ve heard of people tricking the system by adding a different edition of the book when they reread it, but the idea of cluttering up my online library with multiple editions of the same book is unappealing to me. (Wow, I sound neurotic.) So instead I choose to lower my goal for the year in order to accommodate rereads on the side.

As I revisit the works of Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and Gillian Flynn, I may post my musings on the blog. After all, writing is probably the best way to process ideas. I wish you all a happy year of reading!

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Reading Roundup 2013

Read More for Four!

In the last four months of 2012, I set a goal to read two books a month. (I referred to the challenge as Read More for Four.) I liked that two book pace so much that I decided to adopt it for all of 2013. Good Reads, my book-tracking website of choice, allows users to set a yearly reading goal. During every visit to the site, I could look at a cheerful bar graph telling me if I was two books ahead or one book behind.

It was a close call at the end, but I did it. I read 24 books! By all rights I probably should have read more. I was two or three books ahead throughout the summer, and in September I broke into the twenties. At one point I even considered raising my goal to 26. Luckily I didn’t because the rest of the year saw a distinct slowdown. Whether I was burned out or just busy, I squeaked out my twenty-fourth book on New Year’s Eve.

This reminds me why 24 books is a reasonable goal. It leaves room for variations in time and attention span. In 2013 I read The Accursed and A Game of Thrones, both of which are over 800 pages. No one would mistake me for a speed-reader, and those aren’t the kinds of books I can bang out in a week. Other books took just a few days. Measuring by number of books, it’s the most leisure reading I’ve done since high school. And if I switch my Good Reads stats to pages read per year, I beat my high school self by about 500 pages!

One reason I love this blog is that it helps me track the ebb and flow of my interests. 2013 was a book-centric year, no doubt about that. When I started the blog back in 2011, it tended to be more movie-centric. That year I had ten movies on my best-of list and a mere five books. In 2012 the balance shifted to ten books and five movies. By this year I didn’t even feel comfortable picking five best movies because I barely saw more than five of them.

Well, the new year brings new goals. I can feel my interest in movies rekindling, and I’ve decided to renew my Netflix subscription for at least a month or two. Of course, I still consider books to be my most important teacher. Two books a month is the goal for 2014. Maybe I can find a way to balance both my interests? We shall find out!

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The Expanding Reading List Conundrum

It is a truth universally acknowledged that reading lists always grow. I have kept lists of books that I want to read since I was a teenager. Now that I’m a Good Reads devotee, I have my “to-read” list stored online. When I think back on the years of reading goals, one thing becomes clear: I never read some of those books. It might even be accurate to say that I never read most of them.

A reading list to me is not a homework assignment. The OCD part of my personality enjoys making lists, and reading is one of my primary activities. Naturally I enjoy bringing the two together. Still, I have never made a list of books to read and then forced myself to adhere to it. I find that the best way to remain an enthusiastic reader is to pick up whatever book peaks my interest at that moment. I might have an idea of the next few books I want to read, but nothing is set in stone. It’s the titles that sneak into the lineup that often end up being the most enjoyable.

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So if I’m not going to follow it, what’s the point of making a list? First of all, a reading list is aspirational. It gives me an unofficial goal for moments when I feel unmotivated. A reading list is also a memory tool. I don’t know how often customers come into the bookstore looking for a book they heard about on the radio or from a friend, only to realize they don’t remember the title or the author. I usually have a good memory for such things, but I hear about a lot of books in my travels.

Speaking of the bookstore, my job sometimes leads to a kind of reader’s depression. It comes with the realization that there are so many good books in the world, and I will never have time to read everything that I want to. During my early days on Good Reads, when I was still a wee English major, my to-read list consisted mainly of British and American literature that I heard about in class. Occasionally they might even be books assigned in a class that I didn’t have time to finish reading. (Yes, it happened. Sorry, professors.) Now my reading list is more likely to include books that I learn about at work or online.

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The ever-expanding reading list should be hopeful instead of disheartening. I may not have read every book that once interested me, but I read the ones that interested me most. The others aren’t going anywhere. I read to better myself, study the craft of writing, and find enjoyment—not to check items off a list. I just have to trust that I will find the right books at the right time.

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Read More for Four: The Wrap-Up

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Gentle Readers, I apologize for keeping you in suspense! Yes, I’m sure there have been many sleepless nights wondering, “Did she read the last two books? Did she meet her goal?” The answer is yes!

Since I never completely fell off the reading wagon, it probably comes as no surprise that I met my Read More for Four goal. Eight books in four months was a very satisfying conclusion to the year. My first December book was Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin. Although it didn’t eclipse The Devil in the White City, it kept me interested by shining a light on a lesser known part of history. That is, the way that diplomats chose to deal with Hitler’s government in the 1930s. The issues weren’t considered as black-and-white as you might expect.

I ended the month on a delightful reading note. My name finally reached the top of the library waiting list, and I read Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. The previous book in this series made it onto my best of 2012 list. I could easily have included either title, but I was still reading Flame when the time came for writing lists. Although I most often read realistic fiction, I’m glad that certain writers can inspire me to branch out. The Sevenwaters series fulfills my occasional desire for escapism reading while giving me characters that I really love.

Read More for Four helped me match the number of books I read last year. As previously mentioned, I keep track of my reading on a website called Good Reads. However, the site provides more stats than just number of books read. It also tallies the number of pages read each year. By that measure, 2012 trounced 2011 by more than 1,000 pages! 

Of course, all these statistics aren’t the point of reading. It’s just fun to challenge myself now and then. I never regret time spent with a book, and two new books per month was a nice pace. I’m hoping to continue it in 2013 — with less obsessive documentation on the blog. As always, happy reading!

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Read More for Four

I will be the first to admit that I’m a little OCD. Certain activities bring it out, like organizing my books when I move to a new apartment. For years I kept a journal of the books that I read and wanted to read. Then a couple of years ago, I discovered Good Reads, a website that lets you keep track of exactly those things. I spent several summer nights transferring the data from my reading journal to the website. Yeah, just a tish OCD. But it was so satisfying!

The upshot is that I now have a very convenient way to track my reading habits. My favorite feature is the stats, which show you how many books you’ve read each year, among other things. The sad truth is that I have not been a very good reader this year. Despite volunteering at a library this spring, despite my mom loaning me books, despite getting a job at a freakin’ bookstore, I have not been a good reader.

That, my friends, is about to change. For the last four months of 2012, I am going to read more. In order to meet the number of books I read last year, I need to read eight books in the next four months. It’s a moderate goal, averaging one book every two weeks.

I think that the key to jump starting my reading is to find books that I’m excited to read. It sounds fairly obvious, but it requires some effort from me. Gone Girl got me off to a good start. To meet my goal, I will take advantage of the hardcover book borrowing program offered by my place of work. Also, I will suck up my company loyalty and use some of those Amazon gift cards to buy paperback books that have caught my eye.

To keep you informed about my mission, Gentle Reader, I will write book reviews or perhaps monthly updates about my progress. And hey, if anyone wants to join my mission, it would thrill me to no end. Read more for four!

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