Sunday, January 1, 2017

my year in books

a recap (mandatory):
2010: i read 15 books.
2011: i started my book challenge with the goal of reading 25 books; i read 38.
2012: 34 books
2013: i read 34 books again
2014: 32 books.
2015: 35 books
2016: in year six i read 58 books because...i'm not sure.  less tv?  (maybe)  pop sugar book challenge motivated me?  (probably - the social experience of talking about the challenge definitely did something for me)  my social life sucks?  (i don't think so...but now i'm questioning that)

2016 broken down:
33 books written by women
25 by men
(a little more of a gender balance than last year)

41 fiction books
17 nonfiction
(a pretty consistent ratio for me)

13 diverse books (as in, the main character or the author is not white) - this is almost double the number from last year.  i'm proud of that.

my favorite books of 2016?  between the world and me, by ta-nehisi coates (nonfiction) and a man called ove, by fredrik backman (fiction).  read this books immediately.

i'm going to do another reading challenge in 2017 - comment or email/text/facebook me if you want to play along with me this year and i'll make sure you're clued in to the details!  i'm not trying to beat 58 books because that is absurd, but i am trying to find books i'll love, read them, and talk with others about them.  and that sounds like a good intention with which to enter 2017.

december: 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 & 58

i didn't complete the 2016 reading challenge i'd embarked on (4 categories short!) but i did check off three more categories this month and end with 58 (!!) books read this year.  not sure how i killed my previous year's reading record so forcefully, but i did.  this month i read:

we should all be feminists, by chimamanda ngozi adichie (this is my "book that's under 150 pages" - it's super short and worth reading, even though at this point we all know we should be feminists.  right?!  because i'm unfriending everyone who disagrees.  i'm a newly minted adichie fan so i had to read this one.)

whistling vivaldi, by claude m. steele (this is my "self-improvement book" because, yes, i get to decide what counts as self-improvement.  this will improve me because it will help me better support underrepresented students.  bam!  i facilitated a faculty book club this fall where we read this book and had some pretty excellent conversations and connections about the role of race and gender in the experiences of our students.  this was a re-read - i first read this in grad school and knew it would be perfect for getting the little diversity book club off the ground.)

slade house, by david mitchell (this is my "book recommended by someone you just met," and that "someone" is a person who works at an independent bookstore in st. paul, MN and wrote one of those little index cards that tells you why you should read a particular book.  other things this book had going for it: i'd heard good things about the author and the book was short (ha - i have high standards at this point).  this is a mystery that was described as spooky and was totally accurate.  i don't often get creeped out by books, but this one did it for me at points.  now, it was just okay - as in, i read it and all, but i wasn't totally captivated by the plot line and i didn't fully care about the fate of the main characters - and that's important to me.  in fact, after reading it i took mitchell's cloud atlas off my "to read" list because i just didn't love his writing style.  can anyone convince me i should add it back?)

just mercy, by bryan stevenson (mandatory reading.  stevenson writes about criminal justice and race in a hugely readable and very powerful way.  also mandatory reading of the same genre: the other jim crow and watching: 13th.  but this book is so personal, because it's part-memoir of his life and because he talks about individuals on death row in a very humanizing way.  it's hard not to be totally drawn in to this one.)

empty mansions, by bill dedman (i listened to this one, mostly on my drive to north carolina for christmas, and i was totally captivated by this, too, though for different reasons.  it's the story of a woman who inherited 300 million from her father - and became a (bizarre) recluse, dying in a hospital at 104 and giving most of her fortune to her nurse.  i love getting inside looks into the lives of people who live really differently than me, and this is a story very well told.  lots of googling ensued about what has happened since the book was published a few years ago.)

the forgetting time, by sharon guskin (a quick read with a compelling plot - a child believes he had a different mother before his current mother and she decides to believe him - that i enjoyed but won't be rushing out to recommend to everyone i know.  vivid characters and a well-constructed plot.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

november: 51 & 52

november was incredibly stressful, mostly because i did not see the stress coming and did not mentally prepare for it. ugh!  as a result, i didn't finish a single book until the thanksgiving break.  this month i read:

girl waits with gun, by amy stewart (detective novel with a twist - based on a real life female detective in 1910s new jersey.  well-developed characters, but the plot moved a little slowly for me.  i liked this one but won't be rushing out to recommend it to everyone i know.  this was a school book club read and i got the book for free - woo hoo!)

everything, everything, by nicola yoon (a lovely YA novel about a girl who has an autoimmune disorder and can't leave her house - but falls in love with the boy who moves in next door.  ugh i love a good YA novel.  this was a super quick read for me and i totally fell in love with the characters and the writing style and the little twist that happens near the end.  have definitely added the author's next book to my list!  highly recommend if you like YA.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

october: 48, 49 & 50

50 books!  who am i?

barbara the slut, by lauren holmes (this is my "first book you see in a bookstore" - i went into brazos bookstore, my local independent bookstore, and kept my eyes averted from the books until i found a saleswoman.  i told her to lead me to my "first book i see," and make it a good one.  i told her some books i'd read recently, and she showed me this one.  poof!  i had to buy it.  i would NEVER have picked up this book on my own (the cover has the word "slut" spray painted on it), but i was totally into the short stories contained within.  success!)

the muse, by jessie burton (i read this for my online bookclub - two storylines: one in london in the 1960s and one in spain in the 1930s.  two well-rendered and vivid worlds and an exciting mystery about how exactly they will come together (which of course they do).  i'd recommend it!)

before the fall, by noah hawley (the same bookclub's pick for the previous month, which i didn't do because i had other reading commitments.  a private plane crashes, and only two people survive.  why did it crash?  i'm not rushing out to recommend this to everyone i know, but it was a good vacation read - if you go away for a long weekend, this book would happily keep you company.)

7 categories left to fulfill in 2016!  eek!  gotta get back on track if i hope to finish on time! 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

september: 44, 45, 46 & 47

short reviews this month, since i'm only barely getting it in before i'm supposed to do my october books.  OOPS.

the goldfinch, by donna tarts (gorgeous prose, sweeping storyline, moved slowly in places, super long, would totally recommend it.)

underground airlines, by ben h. winters (fascinating premise (it's present day and 4 states still have slavery) + really interesting storyline (main character is a slave hunter) + well-developed dystopian world = i really liked this one.)

the man in the high castle, by philip k. dick (i'm counting this as my "science fiction novel," even though i'm not sure it is one.  it won the hugo award for science fiction/fantasy, so i've decided that's good enough for me.  watch the tv show instead of reading the book.  when's the last time you heard that?  but really - watch the show on amazon.)

the sound of gravel, by ruth wariner (this is my autobiography, even though i'm pretty sure it's a memoir.  i'm cheating a little here in september!  WAY interesting look into a mormon polygamist lifestyle in mexico.  parts are horrifying.  i sped through this - really really interesting.  read it!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

august: 41, 42 & 43

still going strong! this month i read:

the promise, by ann weisgarber (this is historical fiction, set in galveston during the 1900 hurricane, which was the deadliest hurricane in US history, killing an estimated 8,000 people.  living 45 miles from galveston made this a really interesting read for me.  not the best historical fiction i've read, as the story line around the hurricane wasn't totally compelling for me, but i really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the hurricane and the city of galveston at this time.)

elizabeth the queen, by sally bedell smith (i listened to the audiobook of this one - a common theme for the nonfiction i read, as i don't like to read nonfiction before bed! - and was totally fascinated about the life of britain's current queen.  the book was a little bit gossipy; the queen doesn't give interviews, so the book is compiled through public documents and interviews with people close to the queen.  sometimes i had to roll my eyes at the silliness of the monarchy, but for the most part i really really enjoyed this book.  i'd recommend it!)

grit, by angela duckworth (this was the second book my boss asked us to read this summer, and though i had read duckworth's academic papers that detail her findings from her research on grit, i did get some good nuggets out of this book.  definitely a worthwhile read for people who work in education!)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

july: 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 & 40

i promise i do have a life, people, but somehow this july i've surpassed (with 40 books total so far this year) my totals for all 12 months of even my best year.  a couple of these books were really excellent, and i knocked out another 5 categories in my book challenge.  this month i read:

half of a yellow sun, by chimamanda ngozi adichie (this is my "book with a protagonist who has your occupation," as one main character is a professor and another becomes a teacher partway through the novel.  i really really liked the book, despite not really knowing where it was going for the first half of the book.  i also didn't know anything about biafra, whose flag had half of a yellow sun on it (hence the title), so it was really interesting to read this book about nigeria post-independence.  adichie is a beautiful writer, and this is worth a read.)

lila, by marilynne robinson (this, plus gilead, is going to fulfill my "book and its prequel." loved this book, even more so after going to my nerdy seminar in santa fe to spend the week talking about gilead and lila with other smart and interesting people.  marilynne robinson is a brilliant writer whose books are so rich.  highly recommend!)

the worst hard time, by timothy egan (this is my "book that takes place during summer." i listened to the audiobook of this one, about the dust bowl, told through the stories of a few people who lived through it.  i learned a ton about what caused the dust bowl and how truly horrible it was in parts of the west.  tons of rich details.  history nerds: add this to your list.)

attachments, by rainbow rowell (this is my "book that's guaranteed to bring you joy," because i love rainbow rowell and this was the only one of her books i hadn't read.  i'll repeat myself: if you haven't read any rainbow rowell, you must, and you're welcome to start with this one.)

the handmaid's tale, by margaret atwood (this is my "classic from the 20th century" because i get to define "classic" however i want.  i remember reading this in college, probably, but it had been so long that i didn't remember much of the plot.  from the queen of dystopian literature, this is a must read if you missed it along the way.  parts were totally creepy.)

excellent sheep, by william deresiewicz (this was one i had to read for work; the author's premise is that the quest for the ivy leagues leads kids to become sheep - fitting into a cookie cutter model of a college applicant - and the ones who make it to the ivy leagues are just the most excellent of the sheep.  he has a lot of suggestions of how to change the college admissions game and how that might affect what students are able to do in college.  if you have a kid in middle school or high school, you might find this a useful read.)

the serpent king, by jeff zentner (oh, i love a YA novel.  this author is the new john green - great characters, compelling storyline, and i got a little teary in the middle.  i really liked this book, set in rural tennessee and now i have 9 months or so to wait until his second novel is scheduled to come out.)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
—Theodore Roosevelt