10 year blogiversary

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Unruly Reader Turns 10 by Unruly Reader

3 words: books, community, playground

 

When I started this blog 10 years ago, I had no idea what that decade would bring. Some of it was terrible (my mom died that year, and say what you will about the stages of grief, it still sometimes hits me like category 5 hurricane) and some of it is wonderful (finding my Person — so worth the wait — it sometimes hits me like the loveliest breeze on a perfect sunny day, and I just whisper thank you).

And through it all: I kept blogging, even when it felt like nobody was looking.

And even though some weeks, I didn’t have it.

But, as the StrengthsFinder experience confirmed, I have Discipline. So posting: it happened.

And then: delightful things happened.

I met bloggers, either virtually or in person, and they’re now part of the fabric of my life. And that’s what I call a blessing.

And blogging has become a form of play… but it’s the kind of play that pays dividends. I read more thoughtfully now, and I take better notes. And I keep learning new things in my day job that make me a better blogger, and I keep learning new things as a blogger that make me a better librarian.

And while we’re talking dividends, I’ll just say this: I’ve received way more from blogging than I’ve put into it. It’s a darn good investment.

Good people of the bookish Interwebs, I’m so glad you’re here. Thank you for 10 great years.

And now… onward! There’re books to read, and posts to write.

2018 reading goals

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As an Upholder, I seriously love New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I love goal setting at any time of the year. And I mean: I freakin’ love it.

So this time of year — so fresh, so new, so full of resolutions — has me all hopping around like a happy little thing*.

Needless to say, I’ve got some reading goals for the year ahead.

Here they are:

 

First: Read diverse books. Goal: 20% of my reading will be books by diverse authors. I met the 20% goal last year, and it made my reading life the richer.

 

Second: Complete Book Bingo Blackout 2018, our very own reading challenge. Anyone wanna join me? Grab the bingo card here!

 

 

Third: Complete the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

 

 

Fourth: Complete the 2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge

 

 

Within each reading challenge, each book will count for only one category. But I’ll allow myself to use the same essay collection for both Read Harder and Modern Mrs. Darcy. If I’m especially clever, it’s possible I’ll find some books that will qualify for all three challenges. Three birds, one book!

And now I’m off to do some anticipatory quivering of delight…

 

My fellow readers… What are your reading goals this year?

 

*full disclosure: I’m a tall, gawky, awkward thing (but still happy. and hopping)

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

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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

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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 5: New to My TBR

(Photo by Syd Wachs on Unsplash)

Nonfiction November, you fly by too fast! I love nonfiction and I love hanging out with my fellow nonfiction readers. It’s been a pleasure, y’all.

 

Here’s this  year’s final prompt:

Week 5: New to My TBR (Nov. 27 to Dec. 1)  Host Lory @ Emerald City Book Review: New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

 

This year: an embarrassment of riches! So many great nonfiction additions to my TBR. Here’s a sampling…

 

Spaceman by Mike Massimono

Suggested by Julie of Julzreads (hi, Julz!)

 

Grocery by Michael Ruhlman

Suggested by JoAnn at Lakeside Musing 

 

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Suggested by Kate of Books Are My Favourite and Best

 

 

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Suggested by Heather of Based on a True Story in a comment on my post about self-improvement books

 

The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama

Suggested by Iliana of Bookgirl’s Nightstand in a comment on my post about self-improvement books

 

Wake Up Happy by Michael Strahan

Suggested by Kristilyn of Reading in Winter in a comment on my post about self-improvement books

 

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

Suggested by Sarah of Sarah’s Bookshelves  

 

I’m super happy to have all these enticing books on my list.

 

My fellow nonfiction readers… Any of these books call out to you, too?

Best nonfiction book of 2018: Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon

3 words: lively, heroic, crisp

I’m a cautious soul by nature. But I have no problem declaring Rocket Men my favorite nonfiction book of 2018. Even though it’s still 2017.

When a book is this perfect, I know it’ll hold its own against all the others coming down the pike next year.

I’m one of the luckies (along with Andy Weir!) who got hold of an advance copy of Rocket Men, which drops on April 3, 2018*.

And while I’m an aviation/space fanatic who’s inclined to enjoy a book about astronauts, I’ve also read enough books on the subject to become fairly discerning. I’m a picky little thing when it comes to books on topics I love.

This book works for all kinds of reasons:

First: the writing style

Kurson’s writing is crisp and lively and compulsively readable. There’s exciting forward momentum throughout the book, yet he sneaks in each astronaut’s back story and details about 1968 America in a way that feels natural. The structure of the book is very satisfying. And even though we know the happy outcome of the mission from the start, there’s tension in this story. During the perilous Trans Earth Injection (when the spacecraft accelerated out of lunar orbit to return to Earth), my stomach got a little bit flippy when I read this section about the CapCom attempting to reach the astronauts:

“Mattingly writing a full eighteen seconds, then called again.

‘Apollo 8, Houston.’

Still no answer.

Susan Borman and Valerie Anders were silent. There was no sound in the Borman home but for the squawk box, and their husbands’ voices were not coming out of it” (p. 274)

People, that is intense.

And then, Lovell: “Houston, Apollo 8, over,” followed by “Please be informed—there is a Santa Claus.”

 

Second: the subject matter

Apollo 8 was humankind’s first trip to the Moon, and it was risky as all heck. In order to beat the Russians to the Moon, NASA decided to hurry up the timeline for the mission, so: even riskier. When they ran the idea past Frank Borman, Apollo 8 commander, he accepted on the spot, then headed back to tell crewmates Jim Lovell and Bill Anders. “Sometimes Borman used the T-38 to do aerobatics, looping and rolling to help clear the cobwebs after a hard day’s work. This time he flew level and fast, back to his crewmates in California in the straightest line a test pilot ever flew” (p. 38). Anyone else get goosebumps from that?

 

Third: the focus on the humans

This book brings these people to life: the astronauts, their wives, the flight controllers. We particularly get to know the personalities of the astronauts and their wives, who emerge as real people facing challenges with all the courage they had—and sometimes struggling. It makes them more impressive to know how difficult it was, and it also makes the true story more interesting and nuanced than the standard story of heroic triumph. Granted, these humans were not standard issue humans; this happened when they were on the launchpad: “And in a testament to the cool that runs through the bloodstream of fighter pilots, Anders fell asleep, ready to awaken when things got good” (p. 147).

But this wasn’t easy stuff, and the unsentimental heroism of these people made me weepy (lots of times: weepy). Plus, I love reading about the camaraderie of a crew, and this crew had it going on: they liked each other, and they worked smoothly together, and they did that beautiful reading from Genesis on Christmas Eve (which also makes me weepy every single time I hear it). There’s a fantastic human story here.

 

Fourth: the clear and informative scientific details

While the human story draws me in most, the science-y sections made me smarter without making me bored. I’m a serious skimmer when I get restless as a reader, and I did not skim anything here. I found myself marveling at how the author described the science in a way that held my attention. I’ve read a fair number of books about space and aviation, and this one stood out in the way the author presented the technological details in a way that made them compelling. I learned more than I’d ever learned before, and I enjoyed it.

 

Reading this book was a complete delight. It’s so good, I’ll be re-reading it with pleasure next year, so it can truly be the best book I read in 2018.

 

Give this book a whirl if you like… space; tales of heroic daring; crisp, clear writing

 

Update from April 2018: Best book launch ever — with astronauts!!

 

*thanks to the author, with whom I’m acquainted (which in no way shades this review, since I’d say absolutely nothing if I didn’t like the book, and I’d write more modest praise if I merely liked it. It’s sheer good fortune on my part to know an author who can seriously write.)

Nonfiction November, Week 4: Nonfiction Favorites

In Week 4 of Nonfiction November,  Katie @ Doing Dewey brings us Nonfiction Favorites.

She says: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

 

First, can I say I love this question?

Especially since I was recently pondering this very topic. A few weeks ago, while talking about books with the Dear Man, I said something and then realized it was abundantly true: I think narrative voice is the most important element for me as a reader.

It stopped me in my tracks, that’s how true it was.

If I enjoy the writer’s voice, I’ll read nearly anything. Here’s proof:

I’ve read and loved these books, which are about topics I wouldn’t say I enjoy reading about:

 

Sports

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Over Time by Frank Deford

An Accidental Sportswriter by Robert Lipsyte

 

Police Life (too gritty for my sensibilities, I always think, but then… these books)

Blue Blood by Edward Conlon 

The Job by Steve Osborne 

 

I think their lively narrative voice is the reason I dearly adore reading books by journalists. They get right to the point, and they keep it punchy.

 

So, my fellow nonfiction fanatics… I read for narrative voice. What nonfiction books should I add to my TBR?