My 2017 Reading Year: The good, the bad, and the ugly

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2017: you were a lovely reading year!

I’m delighted with most of the books I read this year (largely because very few of them were assigned, so I could bail on anything that didn’t strike my fancy).

I’ve written about my favorite books of the year — the new releases and the backlist.

Today we’re looking at the big picture.

The good people at Goodreads provide a snapshot of one’s reading year, and it’s all visually appealing and everything.

I read 83 books this year (81 titles, cuz 2 were re-reads within the year) and hit my goal of reading 75 books. (OK, so I revised that down from 100 cuz I couldn’t handle Goodreads taunting me with my failure to keep pace. But never mind that.)

Of those, a whopping 36 were audiobooks. My ears are practically worn out, you guys.

So we have The Good…

My proudest achievement this year is reaching my goal that 20% of the books I read would be written by diverse authors. (22%!) It was a richly rewarding experience.

And here’s The Bad & The Ugly…

So we already know I failed to reach my original goal of 100 books for the year, but I also failed to complete the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I read books for 17 of the 24 categories, but I didn’t manage to read a collection of poetry in translation or an all-ages comic (or 5 other things). But: I’m trying again next year. 2018, I’m feeling robust!

Let’s go back to The Good, cuz we’re gonna leave this year on an up note…

My favorite things about this year of reading are:

  • The fact that I loved so many of the books I read
  • Reading more diverse authors

 

Readers… what were your favorite reading achievements this year?

Best Books of 2017: New to Me

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

 

Last week I posted my top 10 favorite books published in 2017.

 

This week we’re celebrating the backlist.

 

Here are the favorite books I read this year that were published before 2017…

 

Best Fiction

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Give this book a whirl if you like… skilled storytelling, literary novels with a modern tone and sense of humor, complex family stories, a wry tone, narratives that interweave the past and the present, 1960s counterculture, and stories of the past coming back to bite you

 

Best Feel-Good Fiction

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Give this book a whirl if you like… heartwarming and quirky stories, charming characters, the Guinness Book of Records, children on the autism spectrum, intergenerational friendships, seniors with lively personalities, and stories of one person’s small actions having a big impact on others

 

Best Nonfiction

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This one’s a re-read, because we went to there!

Give this book a whirl if you like… the behind the scenes story (literally!), stories of collaboration, the creative process, exuberance, music, history, and beautiful books

 

Best YA Fiction

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz

Give this book a whirl if you like… smart and thoughtful novels, emotional coming of age stories, teen angst, family secrets, LGBTQ stories, and stories about friendship

 

Best Children’s Book

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Give this book a whirl if you like…  warm and honest stories of childhood, lyrical books in verse, and books you can read in small snippets

 

 

Best Memoir

Find a Way by Diana Nyad

Give this book a whirl if you like… forthright and candid memoirs, extreme sports, strong women, stories of vigor, senior power, swimming, stories of abuse survivors, and living a bold life

 

 

Best Self-Improvement Book

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Give this book a whirl if you like… game-changing productivity books, thoughtful and practical advice, diving deep, focus, and taking back control in a world filled with distractions

 

 

Best Speculative Fiction

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Give this book a whirl if you like… time travel, wide-ranging and absorbing stories, reading about the JFK assassination, a wry first-person narrative, and books that have it all: a ripping plot, realistic characters, and creative use of language

 

Best Graphic Novel

United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

Give this book a whirl if you like… the Schoolhouse Rock approach to learning, government, lively and educational nonfiction graphic novels, and the “why” behind the American system of government

 

 

Best Historical Fiction

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Give this book a whirl if you like… thoughtful and touching novels about intergenerational friendships, well-chosen words, 19th-century America, an intersection of cultures, journalism, and widowers

 

Best Short Stories

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

Give this book a whirl if you like… the clever use of words, sharp and modern short stories, a fair amount of snark, creative stories, the occasional dark twist, variety in tone among stories, and a quick and rewarding read

 

 

So, readers… What are your favorite books you read this year?

 

Best Books of 2017… it’s #libfaves17

(Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash)

 

My friends, it’s time for #libfaves17.

This is the annual torture event that challenges us to not only choose our top 10 new books of the year, but also to rank them.

I love list-making, but this is a tough one.

 

 

Here goes:

    1. Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson: sprightly, romantic, domestic
    2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: melancholy, gentle, eccentric
    3. The Leavers by Lisa Ko: sympathetic, character study, emotional
    4. On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman: witty, light, romantic
    5. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz: character-driven, absorbing, metafiction
    6. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown: narrative, thoughtful, engaging
    7. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: quietly suspenseful, suburban drama, discussible
    8. My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King: inspiring, dignified, impassioned
    9. Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel: conversational, personal, thoughtful
    10. The Western Star by Craig Johnson: gripping, complex, masculine

 

So… what were your favorite newly published books in 2017?

Introducing Book Bingo 2018!

 

Welcome to Book Bingo 2018!

Whether this is your first Book Bingo challenge, or you’ve been at it all four years… welcome! I’m glad you’re here.

My co-creators and I have rolled out a Book Bingo challenge again this year, and you’re invited to play standard bingo or blackout.

This year we discovered that several of our categories could relate to glamour, but your reading doesn’t need to follow that tone. (Ours won’t!)

Thanks to my co-creators for making this such a fun experience every year. Here’ s looking at you…

  • My dear friend, whose ideas continue to inspire and challenge me — and make me laugh
  • The Dear Man, who never even blinked when we said, “We’d like something with a retro ’50’s glam look, please.” He simply created exactly what was in our mind’s eye. Also: repeatedly makes me laugh

How to Play

  • Read a book that fits the category. Each book can qualify for only one category.
  • Complete just one row or column, or go for blackout by reading a book in every category.
  • All books must be finished in 2018. Books started in 2017 but finished in 2018 count.
  • We’ve provided some definitions, but you can free-style it if you like—as long as you can make a case that the book fits the category.
  • All categories can be fiction or nonfiction (your choice), unless otherwise specified.

 

About the Categories

Reserved – Although you may reserve a book at the library and anticipate its arrival, a book can also be reserved in its tone and theme.

 

#ownvoices – a book written by a member of a marginalized community that it depicts

 

Epic – A generational saga or transformational journey

 

Upgrade Your Life – Take things to the next level — mentally, physically, or spiritually

 

Been There, Read That – A book set in a place you’ve lived or visited

 

Psychological – A book that messes with your mind or heals your mind

 

Fashion(able) – A book about fashion, a book about trends, or a book that is trending

 

Read the Movie – There’s a movie based on this book

 

Judge a Book By Its Cover – You love or hate the cover

 

The Help – A book about those who serve others. Or a self-help book.

 

Timeless Classic – A book that’s stood the test of time

 

I Bought It – A book you bought, or a book whose premise you bought into

 

Rock – Earth, a gemstone, music — however you want to define it

 

Time Travel – A character travels forward or backward in time

 

Cocktails – Alcohol is an ingredient in the book

 

Glamour – A book that portrays a glamorous life

 

Wealth – A book about finance, money, or life’s riches

 

Urban – A book set in a city, or a book about a city

 

Lost Generation – A book by or about the generation that came of age during WWI (born 1883-1900; e.g., Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Harry Truman)

 

My People – You identify with the characters based on your roots or sense of identity

 

Audie Award – Listen to or read an Audie Award winner or finalist

 

True Crime – Nonfiction book about a crime

 

South of the Equator – A book set south of the Equator, or written by an author from a country south of the Equator

 

Outsider – The protagonist is alienated from her/his surroundings. Or, a stranger comes to town…

 

No More Waiting – It’s been on your TBR, on your nightstand, on your mind. Read it already.

 

Questions? Answers!

If you have any questions about any of the categories, please ask in the Comments, and I promise to respond.

 

So… who’s in?

Book Bingo 2017: What I Read

We’re heading into the home stretch of 2017, and Book Bingo 2017 is reaching the finish line, too.

 

It’s been a great year of reading, and much of that’s been inspired by our gorgeous Western-themed bingo card.

 

Here’s what it prompted me to read…

 

 

Asia

A book with an Asian author, character, or setting

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

 

Assigned Reading

A book you need to read

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Author’s Name Begins With M

The author’s first or last name begins with the letter “M”

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

 

Bad Title

The title doesn’t fit the book. Or the book sounds good, but you hate the title.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

 

Best in Class

One of the best examples of its genre

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

 

A Book I Own

Read something from your own shelf

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner

 

Bookstore Discovery

A book you found at a bookstore

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

 

Boomer Lit

Written by Baby Boomers, for Baby Boomers

11/22/63 by Stephen King

 

Creativity

Exploring the creative process

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

 

Doom and Gloom

When things go terribly wrong

Born Survivors by Wendy Holden

 

Escape

A book about someone breaking free—either literally or metaphorically—or a book that is a true escape for you as a reader

Mary Russell’s War by Laurie R. King

 

Guilty Pleasure   

Something you shouldn’t like, but you like it anyway

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

 

Highbrow

Literary, scholarly, or classic

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

 

Hot

A trending book or author, a steamy romance, or a book set in a hot climate

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

 

Indigenous Peoples

A book about Native Americans, First Nations, the Inuit, or Aborigines

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

 

The Journey

­­A transformative experience or a literal journey

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

 

Library of Congress Fiction Prize

A book written by an author who won this honor

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

 

Midcentury Modern

Pick your century, then find a book written in the midst of that century, that has a progressive or modern outlook

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

 

Occupational Hazards

A book about a job or workplace. Or a book that helps you become better at your work

On Writing by Stephen King

 

The Outdoors

A book about, or set in, the natural world

George Rogers Clark: I Glory in War by William R. Nester

 

Outlaw

A book about person who lives by his/her own code

March. Book One by John Lewis

 

Pop Psychology

Nonfiction books about why we do the things we do

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

 

Up in the Air

Planes, planets, astronauts, birds, pollution, clouds, uncertainty, uprootedness–anything that’s up in the air

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

 

Water

Water is a key element of the story, whether it be setting, activity, or natural phenomenon

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

 

Where I Grew Up

A book set in a place where you spent your childhood

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

 

 

So, even though Book Bingo 2017 is coming to a close, stay tuned… Book Bingo 2018 drops next week! Stop by next Friday to find out next year’s categories and zippy little theme.  [blogger shiver of excitement]

Nonfiction November, Week 2: Book Pairing

(Photo by Dominik Schröder on Unsplash)

This week, our host, Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, brings us this topic…

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Looking at the books I’ve read this year, the fiction and nonfiction books that leap off my list and into one another’s arms are…

 

  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (that would be the nonfiction)
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (that would be the fiction)

The thing that binds these two books is the response to grief — specifically, the death of a spouse. And that’s a really sad and scary topic. But both of these books are empowering, even though they’re also honest about the pain of that type of loss.

Though certainly not read-alikes, they could be companion books. I wouldn’t mind reading both of them for book club, to discuss the different ways we deal with loss.

That time we saw Hamilton

 

3 words: overwhelmed, verklempt, ecstatic

We saw Hamilton*, and I’m still floating nearly a week later.

I just keep thinking how lucky we are to be alive right now.

We bought the tickets three seasons ago, and I’ve been flapping with anticipation ever since.

(The flapping last week reached record levels.)

 

 

The Dear Man and his dear sister and dear brother-in-law and I went downtown, and we ate lovely food

(photo credit: Dear Man’s dear sister)

and then lovely cookies.

And then: the theater.

And I’m tellin’ you: The experience was overwhelming.

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for well over a year, and it usually provides my internal background music. (So many phrases set it off… and then I’m helpless…)

So I’ve got the music down.

And I knew what the set looks like, because I’ve read Hamilton: The Revolution twice and flipped through it dozens of times.

But the whole visual experience. I was not prepared. It was overwhelming. In the very best way.

I didn’t realize how hard my brain was going to be working to take in the people on the stage and their mannerisms and their movements and their expressions. There was choreography. There were changes to the set. There were interpersonal dynamics happening up there. There was so much to watch!

My eyes were hungry, and they couldn’t eat fast enough to keep up. I felt like Lucy.

I kept wanting to slow it down so I could savor it.

At the same time, I was completely swept along with the pace and the current of the thing. It was filled with so much energy and it was thrilling.

I felt like I’d internalized the words (by reading them but mostly by listening to them so often I’ve memorized them), and now there was another layer being added to an already extraordinarily rich text.

I knew I’d be awed, but I didn’t expect the way my senses would be swamped because I wanted to take in all the details.

I like having my senses swamped, so this is not a problem. But wow. It was seriously something.

The next day and the day after that, I kept telling the Dear Man the ways the experience was still dawning on me.

The thing that wasn’t surprising: my supposedly waterproof mascara proved my tear ducts are stronger than science. My face was kind of a mess afterwards (expected!) because: all that crying. I cried during the sad parts, yes (Hamilton betraying his faithful wife, their son dying tragically young, Hamilton dying way too young), but the part that always gets me while I’m listening (the part about government that only the Dear Man gets to know is my favorite) had me sobbing.

Ugly crying in the theater?

 

 

So, a week later… Am I still overwhelmed? Yes.

Am I Satisfied? HECK YES.

 

*So we’re doing this  (1:33)

Nonfiction November, Week 1: Your Year in Nonfiction

Hello, my friends, and welcome to Nonfiction November — one of the best holidays of the year!

Each week this month, I’ll be posting on Monday to play along.

This week, our host is the darling and clever Julie of JulzReads.

And she gives us these topics:

 

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions…

First, here’s my year in nonfiction thus far:

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

On Writing by Stephen King 

Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing by Jennifer Weiner 

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking  

Lovable Livable Home by Sherry and John Petersik

Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope by Wendy Holden

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home by Amy Dickinson

March: Book One by John Lewis

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything In Between by Lauren Graham

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

George Rogers Clark: I Glory in War by William R. Nester  

Find a Way by Diana Nyad 

Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages by David Ross

Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan

United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath  

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer 

32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line by Eric Ripert  

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul  

Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America by Andrew Ferguson

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman by Nora Ephron 

You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

Encounter with an Angry God: Recollections of My Life with John Peabody Harrington by Carobeth Laird

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

 

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

I seriously love the nonfiction, so this is a tough one. But when I look over the list of nonfiction books I’ve read so far this year, the one that stands out is Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home by Amy Dickinson. This book did all the things a book is meant to do: it made me laugh and cry, it made me stay up past my bedtime, and it made me happy to be alive.

 

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

We’ve got a tie here, folks. And I’m realizing that my answers reveal way too much about my inherent dorkiness. You’ve been warned.

First: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

(Full disclosure: I’m writing this post during a 40-minute bout of deep work. It’s nice in here.) This book is gradually changing the way I approach aspects of my work and my life, and it’s making both better. Did I resist change at first? Yes, I did. Am I glad I powered through? Darn right.

 

Also first: The U.S. Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell

I’m not much of a graphic novel reader, so for me to be handselling one all over town means this book is pretty stinkin’ amazing. I loved this book’s Schoolhouse Rock style, and I loved that I kept getting verklempt about our government while reading it.

 

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

As I look over my nonfiction reading for the year, the books that make my heart sing tend to be memoirs and essay collections. I don’t necessarily gravitate to memoirs, so this feels a bit surprising. I’d be OK with reading more memoirs next year.

 

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I can’t wait to expand my TBR with suggestions from other bloggers. Last year JoAnn of Lakeside Musing inspired me to read My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, a book I really enjoyed.

I’m looking forward to more discoveries this November!

Unruly Reading: Q1 report

Anyone else wild about statistics? Me, too!

The only college textbook (that’s an actual textbook) that I kept is this little beauty, because I adore it.

I know: I’ve got some issues.

But there are up sides to everything, and in this case, I’ve got some serious numbers about my reading.

Here’s what’s happened in the first 3 months of the year around here:

 

My favorites so far this year:

 

So, good people… What’s the best book you’ve read in the first quarter of 2017?

Bookish Advent calendar

Last year I described the amazing Advent calendar tradition my friend developed, and I’m glad to report the tradition’s going strong.

To recap…

My friend, who is a wickedly talented artist, felted this Advent calendar (which I like to leave on the wall year-round, but she chastises me for doing that, which I rather like: it’s part of our shtick).

 

And then she fills it each year with quotes, mostly from books.

And I give her a collection of daily quotes for Advent, too.

And then… this additional step, which caps it all off:

We met earlier this week to discuss which quotes were our favorites.

My favorites that were given unto me:

 

There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.

– Bram Stoker, Dracula

 

No one hits the bullseye with the first arrow.

– Sybil, Downton Abbey, S1, E4

 

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

– Agatha Christie

 

I mean seriously… Aren’t those good?

 

And here are my friend’s favorites:

 

Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.

– Hafiz of Persia

 

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.

– A.A. Milne

 

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

– Winston Churchill

 

 

So… I’ve already begun compiling her quotes for next year, which has me doing things like checking out the printed book of an audiobook I’m reading, so I can capture the quote that I think she’ll like.

It’s like reading with a purpose, all year long. I like it so very much.