The 2017 Reading Challenge Begins

My friend C challenged her Twitter followers to a 50-book reading challenge, and I jumped on board, hoping it gives me the motivation to read outside my usual favorite genres. So far I’ve been successful, but that’s likely because my only appointment television this year has been two reality shows that air on the same night. The reading challenge includes books in categories like a graphic novel, a book you’ve started but never finished, and a book set in your hometown. Let me know if you want to join us!

Here are my January reads so far:

Empty Mansions I’m reading this as an ebook from the library and really need this in print for the pictures. It’s a non-fiction tale about a reclusive heiress who spent the last 20 years of her life in a hospital despite being well enough to live in one of her many palatial mansions. Fascinating! 

Hungry Heart This is the memoir of one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Weiner, and it’s about her life as a mom, an author, and as a “big girl”. It’s lovely and she has an incredible reading voice. 

Vinegar Girl This is my first pick of the modern Shakespeare retellings from beloved authors. Based on Taming of the Shrew, I only sort of liked this book, but I admit the original version is troubling so she could only do so much with the characters. 

The Woman Who Stole My Life I love the Irish author Marian Keyes and this book is yet another good read with complexly crafted female characters. It’s not new, but it was new to me. If you’ve never read her, it’s time to start! 

What’s on Baby’s Bookshelf?

My kindly coworkers asked if I needed anything in particular for baby #2. Besides the Ergo baby carrier that I’m still coveting, my number one pick is books!

I asked my well-read group of friends what books are on their must-read list for babies and toddlers and they responded with the following titles.

And favorite children’s’ book authors include Sandra Bonynton, Richard Scarry, Mo Willems, and Oliver Jeffers.

I would add Little Blue Truck, Ferdinand, Chu’s Day, A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee, Llama Llama Time to Share, and If Jesus Came to My House. 

What books are on your top 10 list for babies and/or toddlers? 

What Should I Read Next?

GoodReads

Reading List, 2014

I set my GoodReads reading goal to 36 books this year, before I found out I was pregnant. Now my goal is to finish 36 books before baby arrives and I’m 14 books in to finishing my goal. Why must I finish before baby arrives? Well, let’s just say reading and nursing at the same time was very difficult for me the first time around, although I did manage to read Cutting for Stone (and it’s a LONG book) on my iPhone during feedings. So maybe there’s hope after all for my literacy well being.

I’ve read a lot of Young Adult fiction this year. After reading the heartbreaking The Fault in Our Stars, I took a hiatus from John Green but then read his other books in quick succession. None were as good as TFIOS, but all were enjoyable. And I kept wishing books like this existed when I was growing up. I also found mention of A.S. King’s Reality Boy on a book blog, and immediately downloaded it to listen to on my commute. Even though it’s YA, it was amazing. So, so good.

At some point, I will review some of my other recent reads, but I will quickly say this: read the Veronica Mars novel after you watch the movie, and prepare to have your socks knocked off!

Right now, I’m reading The Goldfinch, which is really good (and sad!) but very dense and it’s going to take me a while to finish. So in addition to this lunchtime read, I want to add something lighter to bedtime reading. Oh, and audiobooks. I need suggestions as everything I want to listen to is already checked out from the library.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Is the rest of the Divergent series worth reading? Because let’s be real, it’s no Hunger Games!

I’m Reading a Book

Last night, we were all exhausted but I really wanted potato salad. So while the eggs boiled and the potatoes cooked, Future President watched Chuggington (side note: I didn’t think a train show more annoying than Thomas could exist, yet there it is!), I played Candy Crush and my husband read a book.

“What are you doing, Daddy?” Future President asked, because normally the appearance of an iPad means YouTube videos of model trains. “I’m reading a book,” replied my husband. Future President expected the lion and the horse at the top of the page to start moving when he touched them, but other than that, he took the response in stride. To him, it’s perfectly normal for everything to be stored in a small object like an iPad. He will never know a time when reading books required possessing the physical object. And while our preference is to read physical books to him, it’s entirely possible that by the time he is reading himself, he will prefer eBooks. 

When I read that Encyclopaedia Britannica was ceasing publication of its print edition, it made me a little sad. Sad that my son will likely never retreat to the library to read those brief entries about anything from armadillos to the Trans-Siberian Railway or have to fill in worksheets at school based on library reference assignments that teach kids how to use a dictionary or an encyclopedia and a table of contents and an index. To me, this is a huge loss because of the lack of understanding at how information is organized. Maybe it’s because I’m a librarian that I wax nostalgic at this loss or because when practicing law, it is integral to the understanding of statutory language that a researcher understand how laws are organized and relate to each other. Merely Googling something gives a reader zero context, and while Wikipedia has linked articles from entries, it just isn’t the same thing. 

I am usually one to love technological advances, and while I’m excited to see how my son will be studying literature and math and science – will he still use textbooks? take notes on a tablet and store them in the cloud? – I am sad too, because I love print and the education that comes from simply picking up a book and flipping through it. 

Celebrate the Freedom to Read

freadom

It’s Banned Books Week, which means it’s time to bring out your copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Hunger Games and Lady Chatterly’s Lover, since all of those books, and many, many more, have been challenged for some reason or another.

Have you read Eleanor & Park, the fabulous YA novel by Rainbow Rowell? If you haven’t you should. It’s so, so wonderful and exactly the kind of novel teens need. Because we are all awkward and we all have insecurities, especially during our teen years. There’s a big Banned Books Week discussion happening around this book right now – you can read about the censorship issues and the importance of this book here and here. So go check it out of your library and celebrate that your librarians cared enough to order it and keep it on the shelves in your community.

What’s your favorite book that’s made it on to the list of challenged books?

Read It and Weep

I’ve blogged about Me Before You before, a novel right up there with The Fault in Our Stars in weep ratings. Last night I had the opportunity to meet Jojo Moyes at a reading she did from her newest U.S. release, The Girl You Left Behind. She was delightful and answered our questions without spoiling the ending or ruining Me Before You for the poor souls who haven’t read it yet. Jojo Moyes

Some interesting tidbits from her Q&A:

  • She’s been getting up at 6 a.m. every day for the last 18 months to write. Her husband wakes up before her, makes the coffee, and returns to their bedroom with a mug and her laptop, propping her up with a pillow so she is forced to wake up. She says as a woman, and a mom, that 6 a.m. writing is the most productive because it’s a time when her subconscious hasn’t kicked into full gear and she isn’t thinking about everything yet, like the dog, school uniforms, homework, etc. She also plots out her novels – whether it’s on a giant white board in her kitchen or on scraps of paper. She always knows how the books is going to end.
  • Me Before You was a hard title to arrive at because it’s a book that isn’t easy to describe in a way that would make people want to read it. Or rather, it’s really easy to simply categorize it as “man in wheel chair who wants to die,” and the audience for that story is very small. She wanted an opaque title. Other titles, like The Girl You Left Behind and The Last Letter From Your Lover, just came to her.
  • A few years ago, she was contacted about making a movie version of Me Before You. Agents and studios gathered for a meeting and there was strong interest in it. A few weeks later, she got a phone call from her agent telling her that Harvey Weinstein was making a movie called The Intouchables, about the relationship between a quadriplegic man and his caregiver. The interest in her book waned until Me Before You was released in the U.S. The movie rights have since been purchased and she already wrote the script. My vote is for Benedict Cumberbatch to play Will!
  • Her writing process involves a lot of research, including visiting the locations she writes about. She has been invited to visit Dignitas but hasn’t yet. She creates character dossiers and most of the information she creates about the characters don’t end up in her books. However, this lets her get to know her characters and write them more authentically. She also puts her characters through the “kick the dog test,” which means she imagines how each character would react to seeing a dog kicked. Would they stop to help? Ignore it?
  • As a mom she feels guilty all the time. But she and her family – her husband and three children – decided together that she would continue to pursue this career, including a book tour. She was a journalist and transitioned into writing novels so she could spend time with her children. She told the story of how her husband told her their youngest was very sad when he found out she wouldn’t be coming home today as she had told him she’d be home on Tuesday. Her husband told him that mommy had to work so she could bring more presents home and would even have to purchase a new suitcase to hold all the gifts.
  • I told her I listened to Me Before You and was weeping on my commute. She said she had a similar experience listening to My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult while riding the train to London.
  • Again, about the mommy thing: she is just like the rest of us. She had a meeting at her Penguin UK office and invited her teenage daughter to go with her. Her daughter agreed to come after she agreed to take her to see the Christmas lights on Regent Street with a friend after the meeting. And her daughter was dumbstruck when she realized her mother was sort of famous and people loved her books. Here she was, taking a meeting with readers who had won the chance to speak with her via video chat, whereas her daughter’s view was that she was just a mom, typing away at her home office.

Again, I highly recommend Me Before You, and if you get a chance to meet Jojo Moyes or hear her read, do! Here’s her U.S. schedule.

I Dream of Sunday Mornings

In college I took a really, really great honors class that required us to purchase the Sunday New York Times and journal about articles that jumped out at us. I would pick up the newspaper in the bookstore and spend the bulk of Sunday morning reading – my favorite was the magazine, but I enjoyed everything about the experience. I loved touching the newspaper, the print rubbing off on my fingers. I clipped articles and journaled. I saved the magazines from week to week and when it was time to move out at the end of the year, I recycled them, sad to part with them, that memory of Sunday mornings. 

We’ve been in our new house for four days. It feels like an eternity because we are so tired. Tired of unpacking, tired because our toddler has serious anxiety about living there and cries and cries and cries (toddler anxiety about moving is a topic for another post), tired of living with piles everywhere and tired of not eating a decent meal (popcorn doesn’t count!). 

So I’ve been dreaming of those Sunday mornings in college when I didn’t have to do anything except read the paper. Someday I hope to replicate those mornings with the Sunday New York Times, but this time I’ll have a cup of coffee with me and I’ll be sitting in the breakfast nook or on the patio getting newsprint on my hands.