Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Notes on a Journey: Reading 50 Books in a Year

Writing down the number of books I read is the best practice I have ever adopted.  It really is! Let's just think about that for a minute. It is the. best. practice. I have ever. adopted! I mean, I'm trying to find the strongest language I can, because I know there is no way I can emphasize how important it has been for me. Last year, my goal was to read 30 books. To be honest, this was a whole lot of reading for me!  (When I compare myself to those who read upwards of 12 books a month, I'm embarrassed... although I know that when the kids are out of the house someday, I will have enough time to read that many books...!) I have always been a bookworm, but I was a somewhat lazy bookworm. And I never, ever wrote down, or really kept track of how many books I had read.  This year, I wanted to write down the books I read again, and this time, I decided to try for at least 50 books (more on why in a minute). And it has been SO good for me. Here’s why:

Like I said, I have always read a lot- I was an English major in college- and I joined book clubs and took elective classes at a Community College post-graduation, where reading played a huge part in my life. I participated in many a church group, where reading spiritual books certainly played an essential role. Reading is my favorite hobby, because you can take the girl out of the English Lit building, but you can't take the English Lit building out of the girl.  I wasn't a graduate of a fancy shmancy institution for nothing! And being an English major is such a big part of who I am, it is probably a bigger deal than I let on, because let's face it: I approach everything in life from the English major perspective. Is there a book I can read about that?  Could I study that in a book club at some point?  Will reading this help me to articulate something better, or will it help me to process, understand, or identify better with some situation or some person better?  Oh, yeah, and there's also that desire to be entertained. ;)

BUT... I never stopped to really keep track or start counting the books I read, until last year.  Honestly the blogosphere, or the community of which, has thoroughly heightened my love for reading. My blogging friends and acquaintances have given me more impetus to complete books and achieve my personal reading goals than anything I’ve experienced in the past! Blogging is kind of crazy-cool like that. :-)~  I think it's the reader/writer connection.  The inspiration I’ve found has certainly bled into my life. I started hunting down books that inspired me, books that I wanted to read for the sake of my depleting (or was it growing?) ignorance, and finding answers to questions that plagued me.  Reading inspired a writing life, as well. As it should so follow.  And that's not something I’m ready to give up any time soon! So, onward, of course!

Reading 50 books was about decreasing ignorance, yes, but it was also about achieving a personal goal. This year, as I said, I was hoping to exceed last year’s goal of 30 books, although I wasn’t sure by how much. My original list had about 40 books on it.  In September, I looked at my “Books Read This Year” list, and I was really excited to find out that I had already read 37 books. With all of the traveling, I had time to keep plugging along, and I exceeded my Summer Reading List by several books. It looked like I was on track to push myself a little harder, so I decided to up the ante for myself, by finding an awesome Facebook group, to help hold me accountable to read 50 books before the end of the year.

~finding out my passions~
Reading has been so good for finding out what I am passionate about. I didn’t know I how thoroughly interested I was in the British royalty and history until I read The Royal We. I started doing more research online to understand the terms and ideas I didn’t previously know about. I didn’t know Einstein’s life would fill me in on the political atmosphere and climate of Germany in the midst of WWII.  I didn’t know I cared thoroughly and was completely fascinated by the culture of our country during the  Civil War until I read Lincoln.   But I have learned so much, and I want to read more about these fascinating, if difficult, subjects.

I have been so pleased with how doing more reading has affected my brain and my ability to process information. Also, I feel better equipped to discuss ideas aloud (mostly with Stephen, but also with friends and acquaintances). Perhaps next year, I’ll read even more.  I know it seems that I could be tempted to read JUST to be able to say I read it, and in a sense, you could say that’s the truth. But in actuality, that is too simple. And in a way, it’s simply not the truth. I don’t travel just to say I’ve been somewhere. I travel because I want to branch out, experience someplace new, and grow personally. And the more I travel, the more that happens and the more my mind expands. The same goes with reading. I want to be well-read, personally. Reading keeps my mind sharp, and it is a very good discipline to have.  Some of what I read is fluff,  but it’s never pointless. Much of the modern reading I do fills me in on our culture today. I feel so much less in-the-dark knowing what kind of things are on the NY times bestseller list. I don't want to be trendy. Conversely, I’m not going to be “up on the trends” ten years too late, and I don't want to be! Most important, you never know when some of it may eventually stand the test of time, and our children will be reading some of these popular or currently trendy books, as well.

~setting an example for my kids~
I want to set an example for my kids, and that’s the final thing I want to say. Having a list and sticking to it is not only something I want to do and something I’m proud of… it is by design: I want to set an example. I want my kids to see them happy to have their nose in a book by E.B White or heck, maybe someday me ~  at least some book of a form or fashion, at all times... or at least much of the time!;) It’s a healthy habit, and for me, I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon!  If you are a scholar, an author, or an English major, do you practice this method of counting and keeping track of the books that you read? If you are not one of these things, do you do this too? Tell me I'm not the only one!

Books I read in 2015:

What I’ve Read So Far This Year:
(1)The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
(2)The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
(3)Middlemarch by George Eliot (epic epic)

(4)The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
(5)Lewis Carroll: A Biography by Morton N. Cohen
(6) The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

(7)re-read Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset
(8)The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (number 4 in the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series)
(9)Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearn Goodwin

(10)Albert Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
(11)Through the Year with Pope Francis by Pope Francis with Kevin Cotter
(12)Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
(13) Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner

(14)The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
(15)re-read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
(16)Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
(17)Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

(18)These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson
(19) A Mother’s Rule of Life  by Holly Pierlot
(20)Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia
(21)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
(22)Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McClain
(23)Savor by Shauna Niequist
(24)Stitches by Anne Lamott
(25)Pope Awesome by Cari Donaldson
(26)Boundaries in Marriage
(27) Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
(28) Orthodoxy(by G.K. Chesterton (reread)


(29) Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
(30) The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
(31) Food A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
(32) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


(33) In This House of Brede  by Rumer Godden
(34) Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman
(35) The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
(36) Kid Cooperation by Pantley


(37) The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
(38) The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
(39) A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
(40) Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg


(42)The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up* by Marie Kondo
(43)I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
(44)Flannery O’Connor: A Life by Brad Gooch
(45) Harriet the Spy * by Louise Fitzhugh

(46) The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
(47) Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham
(48) novella: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (reread)


(49) ETA: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (reread)
(50) Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy (selections, some rereads)

*The books on MMD’s Reading List {see below}

Below are the books I abandoned that originally were on my reading list for the year.  I'm including this just so you can see how hard it was to actually find books I really, really wanted to read all the way through.

Seams to Me by Anna Maria Horner
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There - Catherynne M. Valente
The Full Cupboard of Life  by Alexander McCall Smith (number 5 in the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series)
A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy by Sarah Reinhard and Lisa Hendey
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
 Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
My Antonia by Willa Cather
The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos
reread One Writer's Beginning by Eudora Welty

A book in a genre you don't typically read:
The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor

A book from your childhood:
Harriet the Spy

A book your Mom loves:
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

A book that was originally written in a different language:
something by Tolstoy

A book "everyone" has read but you:
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

A book you chose because of the cover:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

A book by a favorite author:
Stitches by Ann Lamott

A book recommended by someone with great taste:
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

A book you should have read in high school:
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

A book that's currently on the bestseller list:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Linking up with Tuesday Talk!


Kathryn Howes said...

You are doing great! I love to read, too - and you are absolutely right - parents who read set a great example for their kids! You're doing something incredible for yourself, and your kids. So nice to find you through #TuesTalk ! Keep up the good work #raisingreaders!

Corinne said...

My mom said that Murder at Golgotha is a great, and enlightening book. I haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but I'd like to. Perhaps you would enjoy it, too.

Michele Chronister said...

Ohhhh...I love this! I don't write down my books, either, and now I'm totally going to make this a goal for next year!

Tacy said...

Totally do it! ;). and I *love* the hashtag #raisingreaders!!!

Corinne said...

So, I don't know if you have already read it, but, after suggesting it to you, I went and bought "Murder at Golgotha" and I thought it truly fascinating. It reads very easily and quickly (only 180-some pages), but the scientific nature of it all was so intriguing, the only reason I put it down was to eat (just in case I came across something in it that would keep me from eating..!)!