Year-end reading challenge recap

Well, I kind of sucked at reading challenges this year, and I’m
actually kind of OK with that.
The Record of
U.S. Presidents Reading ProjectNot
a single additional title read all year
. I valiantly checked out a biography of James Madison at the 11th
hour, but I very unvaliantly did not read it. Ah well.
eBook ChallengeRead
10/12, so we gotta chalk this one up as a “nice try, but no dice.” What I’ve learned: eBooks are nice, but book books are nicer.
The Record of

Reading Madly Completed! I’d said I’d read 7 books, and I read 8.This reading challenge helped me through the dark days of no-new-Mad-Men-episodes.
Whisper Stories in My EarI just barely pulled this one off, listening to
(and reviewing) 12 audiobooks.
100+ Reading ChallengeRead 114 books. (Shelfari keeps taunting me with the fact that I read more books last year, and I sneer right back at it.)
Library ChallengeRead 105 library books. 
Plus, the ones I finished earlier:
In 2012, I’m going easier on the reading challenges. I’m keeping
it a little more free-form, a little more… unruly. 

Happy New Year, people!

3rd Quarter Challenge Update

Yeah, it’s crunch time in the reading challenge world. The final 3 months of the year approach, and we darn well better be wrapping up the challenge reading.
Here’s where I am:
Challenges still underway:

Reading Madly—6/7. I’m gonna be fine here, especially since I picked a book club book for October that has some sort of Mad Men connection.
U.S. Presidents Reading Project—OK, either I suck it up and read a biography of Grover Cleveland yet this year, or I just pretend to be satisfied that I’m still at 22/44. For nearly a year now, that’s been the number. Goal for year-end: Bring that number up to 23. (Pitiful.)
100+ Reading Challenge—90/100. Feeling good.
eBook Challenge—6/12. Not gonna make it. Nook Color, I have forsaken you. I’ve neglected your eReaderliness and used you as a quasi-tablet/smartphone substitution so’s I can read the interwebs from my purse. There’s the horrible truth, and I am sore ashamed.
Whisper Stories in My Ear—11/12. Almost there! (I’ve listened to more than 12 audiobooks, but I don’t feel like writing about all of them. And this challenge requires reviews.)
Library Challenge—84/100. No problem.

Completed Challenges
Thank you. Thank you…  [curtsies]
So my own true challenge is clear: Read some doggone eBooks about Presidents. I’m off to seek out this exact thing…

Halfway point: Reading challenges update

I’ve been reading in a truly unruly fashion, blithely ignoring reading challenge requirements.
This behavior becomes quite evident upon reviewing my stats.
Here’s the tally, which is a nice little mix of shame and accomplishment:
Reading Madly—Finished reading 5/7 books. Not bad.
U.S. Presidents Reading Project (lifelong challenge)—Still at 22/44, due to my refusal to stop reading about JFK and LBJ.
100+ Reading Challenge—Finished reading 60/100. Yee-haw!
eBook Challenge—Finished reading 5/12 eBooks. Yeah, someone’s behind schedule here… (Doggone it. Turns out I still love book books better than eBooks. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it’s impeding my progress on this challenge.)
Whisper Stories in My Ear—Finished listening to 10/12. This one is pure pleasure.
Nonfiction Challenge—Finished reading 6 out of 7-9 books. Excellent! The tough news is that the only remaining categories are things I don’t naturally read, so I’m going to have to get bossy with myself.
Library Challenge—Finished reading 55/100. Very nice.
Historical Fiction Challenge—Finished reading 8/10. This one’s a stretch for me, but participating in a genre study makes me read the stuff, anyway, and I’m sure it’s even better for me than a low-fat, high-fiber diet.

Completed Challenges

Yes, folks, despite some underperformance on some of the challenges listed above, I’ve actually checked some others off the list.
Pub Challenge—Finished reading 12/11, of which 6 are fiction. Which means: I’ve checked this challenge off the list in a mere 6 months. Which almost makes up for the shameful performance in the eBook challenge.
I Want More Challenge—Finished reading 2 out of 2-4 books. So I could call this one “done” if I wanted to.
3Rs Challenge—Finished reading 2 out of 1-6. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Yeah, so everything’s all light and happy now… but just wait till the 3rd quarter report happens. Then I’ll do that freaking out thing. Be sure to tune in.

2012 reading, already in the works

This is a great idea for a reading challenge. Check this out:

Book Dragon’s Lair is hosting a challenge called “Getting Lost in a Comfortable Book.”
Between the name (anything with the word “comfortable” in it is apt to pull me right in) and the button (cute, cute, cute! and with an image variation for the indoorniks among us [that’s me]), I knew I’d be doing this challenge.
Then I read the description, and I knew it would be my cuppa coffee. (I’m not that into tea.)
From the Book Dragon’s Lair post, here are the parameters:
“There are three parts to this challenge.

Part One: email me your top five comfort books.
Part Two: vote (after I post a list) for our very own Top 100.
Part Three: READ five from the list, other than your own.”

Later this year, the big master list will be posted on her blog, and then we choose 5 books to read during 2012.
I’ve already sent in the titles of my top 5 comfort reads (maybe I’ll tell you them later; maybe I won’t).
Since comfort books are basically sure bets, I’m feeling pretty safe placing some of my reading choices in others’ hands. I’m actually feeling kind of excited already. About 2012, which sounds all futuristic.

The young LBJ

(photo credit: Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum)

The Path to Power by Robert A. Caro (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1)

People! I just read the 750+ page first volume of a multi-volume biography of LBJ, and I’m having bliss-out fits over it.

I know.

You’re fleeing from the blog, and I kinda understand.

But I can explain. 

This book is so ding-dang good I nearly got weepy at several points. And once my heart almost burst in joy.

That, my friends, is a sign of good writing. Robert A. Caro is a pure marvel.

We’ll begin with the sentence that darn-near caused a heart explosion. Here ’tis:

“And as Lyndon Johnson came up Capitol Hill in the morning, he would be running.” (p. 217)

So, the context. Caro spends the long first paragraph of that chapter describing the scenery—the columns and pillars of the Capitol—witnessed by the 23-year-old LBJ as he walked (ran!) to his office when he worked as an aide to a Congressman. That glorious sentence ends the paragraph, and it’s the perfect capstone.

The weepy thing happened when I read about how LBJ, as a young Congressman during the Great Depression, helped bring electricity to the Texas Hill Country from whence he came. After reading the description of the lives people led before electricity, it makes sense that it was during this time that people began naming their sons for Lyndon Johnson. Caro describes how farm women could see the workers coming toward her house with the line of electrical poles, and when the workers arrived, they’d find the finest meal the family could provide, served on their best dishes.

We get a good view of Lady Bird here, and one is given to believe that she truly was as sainted as Margaret Truman suggested in First Ladies. Despite her innate goodness, still (thankfully) she’s interesting. One of my favoritest quotes of all time is this, by Lady Bird to a friend: “Lyndon and I committed matrimony last night.” (p. 302) Doesn’t it just sound innocently naughty?

This book is detailed, in the best way. So you get a solid sense of who the supporting characters are. For years now, I’ve been saying the words “Rayburn House Office Building” in response to library patrons’ requests for the addresses of their representatives in Congress. And only in this book did I learn who Sam Rayburn was. And I confess now I adore him just a lot. He was honest. Need I say more? Yet I will. Here (we’ll let Caro say it): “Years later, when someone mentioned that Rayburn’s father had not left him much of an inheritance, Rayburn quickly corrected him—his father, he said, ‘gave me my untarnished name.’” (p. 301) He was as honest as LBJ was fluid with the truth.

This book covers Johnson’s early years—from birth to age 36. His ambition is striking. It’s exhausting even to read about.

The projected 3-volume Caro biography (with the 4th volume in the works) is known as the warts-and-all version of LBJ’s life story. I’m doing OK with it. I’ve known forever that the guy was earthy, and why sugarcoat the truth?

Also, gotta confess: major (major!) authorcrush on Mr. Caro. Not only is he a genius, but he’s also cute as a button.

Next up: Volume 2!