What I've been reading lately...today I am sharing short synopsis' of thoughts on the books I have been reading in March 2021. It was a decent reading month, but I am hoping to experience many more delights in April. Thanks for stopping by.
2020 was a fairly successful reading year in that I met the majority of my reading goals. The 'read a book published every year since I was born' 2020 goal was a wash, however. While I read 40 of 57 books, that goal unmet, and the year 2020 for all its angst, is the very reason my reading goals are shifting for this year, 2021. 2020 turned out not to be the year to tackle a serious book challenge and I decided for 2021 I will - I must - take a breather. I am not cutting back on reading. Book club is still on! I will continue to host my book club in my home once a month. I will continue to read reviews and flesh out an array of thoughtful, fabulous titles to include into our quarterly book club picks. Jeff and I will continue to read books aloud, together, each morning before work. I will tackle classics to suit my long-term goal. But, for 2021 I am taking a minimalist approach toward my reading goals. Similar goals to previous years, but altogether simple reading goals.
Read 100 total books. Sure, I have read more books in past years. This year is not about quantity, but quality. I don't want to race through what I read unless it is truly one of those un-put-down-able books that everyone loves and that I am finding I just cannot put down. Not really a goal but I would like to read books from my own overflowing bookshelves. Tackle those bookshelves and flesh out those books I maybe thought I would read one of these days and those that will remain on my to be read, ever-growing list. This, of course, is not to say that I will forego the library. I plan on updating my Holds list before the end of the year and rotate books through as I lose interest or find other books I'd rather be reading. As someone who is a mood reader, holds are always hit and miss and often arrive at inopportune times. When I first put a book on hold at the library I'm excited to read that book but I have found the excitement wanes and when that exact book is ready for me to pick up I either don't remember adding it to my Holds list, or that ever-changing mood has won out.
However, between the books on my shelves and the books on my library's shelves, the books Jeff and I will read aloud and the books I will buy and read for my book club, and those classics, I'm pretty sure I can read 100 total books in 2021.
Read 8 books aloud with Jeff. We have a finely tuned habit each week day morning before I head to work. We read portions of our latest Christian non-fiction book, and then we read the Bible, together. In 2020, we didn't quite get through the entire Bible so in 2021 we'll finish out reading and checking off those last books we still need to read and then we'll begin again (probably using a different Bible reading plan). We have already started the first of 8 books, Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson (he is the author of The Message Bible translation), that we'll finish in January 2021 sometime. These 8 books will be part of the 100 total books I want to read in 2021.
Read 12 books for Book Club.We read one book a month and meet the last Monday of every month to discuss what we've read. It's a true book club in that we talk books, probably, 90% of the time. If we see each other outside of book club, we generally always mention - books! We already have our January 2021 book picked out, even. We will be reading Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi.
Read 12 Classics for The Classics Club. My goal for The Classics Club is read 51 Classics in 51 Months. In order to continue to move toward that goal at a steady jaunt I hope to read 12 classics this year. And continue to document the classics I have read.
Finally, I will be documenting what I've read via memory keeping. Similar to my reading goals my memory keeping will take a minimalist approach. I will use a 4 x 8 Citrus Twist album (I haven't decided on the color). This will give me flexibility in what size I create my pages. I can insert 4 x 4, 4 x 6, 3 x 8, 4 x 8 pages, fold-outs, or double page spreads of any of the mentioned sizes. I plan on creating a mix of digital, physical, and hybrid pages while landing on the minimal: clean lines
I like to finish off the year with a reading roundup of my favorites, what my reading life has been like this year and whether I meet my reading goals. The answers to these questions - and others can be found scattered here and there, below.
I read 55 fiction titles and 12 of those were book club reads. The remainder could be applied, mostly. to my left-unfinished 2020 Reading Goal - read a book published every year since I was born. Leaving a goal unfinished, I thought I would be more - upset - at myself. But, after the unprecedented year of 2020, that I was able to read 83 books this year was a miracle in itself. The year did not make me run toward books. Rather, I went through many periods of dry spells and without focus, especially for books. Now, of those 55 fiction books I did read, I was able to easily narrow that down to my favorite 12 fiction books in 2020.
It wasn't as easy to narrow the 12 down to just one favorite but I'm happy to say I gave it a go and chose one favorite fiction from those 12 'favorites'. The winner of the favorite fiction award goes to...
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
I'll be honest. This was a tough decision. Many of these books were really good books. However, none of them I loved from start to finish, although several of them were pretty darn close. I feel I must narrow the non-fiction category down to sub-genre in order to give justice to the entire non-fiction genre. I broke non-fiction down into:
Memoir(s): Becoming, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Life In Motion, A Moveable Feast, Walk, and Travels With Charlie. Except for a few minor irritations in Becoming I can easily give the memoir by Michelle Obama the number one spot in the genre. I will say, however, that A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is a classic for a reason and stands the test of time, as does Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck. I'm not sure how Becoming will hold up with time, as a classic memoir. While I'm not a fan of Obama, I do believe her writing and memoir is excellent, Becoming.
Literary Non-Fiction: The Perfect Storm, Killers of the Flower Moon, Into The Wild, and Into the Woods. Literary non-fiction is becoming a favorite genre of mine, a non-fiction facts-based story that reads like a literary fiction novel. In other years, books I've read, like, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing or Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, would join this genre of literary non-fiction. While I enjoyed all four of these literary non-fiction books and Into the Woods is a close second, my pick for literary non-fiction is, The Perfect Storm.
Non-Fiction: Just Mercy, Be The Bridge, I'm Still Here, 24/6, and The Cloudspotter's Guide. This is a tough call. I read Just Mercy earlier in the year and it was an eye-opener to say the least. Even more frustrating that our justice system has come to what it is. In Killers of the Flower Moon a judge overseeing one of the trials in the Osage murders said something to the effect, "There has never been a country on this earth that has fallen except when that point was reached where the citizens would say, 'we cannot get justice in our courts." The bread crumb victories in our justice system make it clear that our country is and has been on its fall, spiraling quickly downward. But, for the work being done now - I believe - and on a broader scale, and for the approach Latasha Morrison took in speaking about racial bridge building and how-to be a bridge, ever respectful to the white race (because I am white, yes, but also because I do not see how a bridge can be build without respect), I select Be The Bridge.
FAVORITE BOOK CLUB READ
I read 12 books for my book club. We were able to meet over Zoom during the pandemic, we didn't let the pandemic curb our reading for book club, nor let it interrupt our meeting. When we did return to my home our gathering was small and that continued for the remainder of the year. There is talk, recently, of several planning on returning in 2021. I hope so. Some of our best discussions have been when we've had more than six book club members.
Some of my favorite books of the year were actually book club reads. We read Gilead, Little Bee, The Dog Stars, Olive Kitteridge, What Alice Forgot, Little Bee, Code Name Helene, A Gentleman in Moscow, The Time Traveler's Wife, American Royals, The Vanishing Half, and Killers of the Flower Moon.
I adored several of the 12 books we read in book club, such as What Alice Forgot,The Vanishing Half, and Code Name Helene which was a close runner up. If I polled book club I wouldn't be surprised if many would pick What Alice Forgot as their favorite book. However, my favorite book club read hands down, a book I adored, goes to...
A Gentleman in Moscow
FAVORITE CLASSIC CLUB BOOK
In August I joined The Classic's Club and began reading 51 Classics in 51 Months (my personal goal). I read the following classic's beginning in August:
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (a Modern Classic) A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Multiple genre classics from a modern classic, The Kite Runner to a Christian non-fiction, The Pursuit of God. A couple memoirs: A Moveable Feast and Travels with Charley, and a Christian fiction classic by CS Lewis. My favorite Classic book I read (once I began the Classic's Club) is: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis
FAVORITE BOOK READ ALOUD
These are books that Jeff and I read aloud this year. These are the spiritual formation books we have been reading early in the morning, along with reading the Bible from cover to cover - together. I read aloud and he listens - intently. We have stacked the shelf of finished Christian non-fiction books. This year we read from a couple giants in the faith, The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and Life Without Lack by Dallas Williard, a couple easy-to-read but just as hard hitting, How Happiness Happens and Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado, Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman, and Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, and a couple more-difficult-to-follow books, Louder than Words by Andy Stanley and Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller.
Picking a favorite was tough! Almost impossible, because spiritual formation is imperative to growing in Christ and each book offered - something for spiritual growing. I could give you my least favorite: Louder than Words by Andy Stanley. I liked the book but didn't love it. It was choppy, and not as engaging as I would expect from Stanley. Although I did walk away having learned something. Of the 8 books we read it was still my least favorite. Here's what's hard in picking a favorite in the spiritual formation category? We read some heavy hitting books by some giant theologians and Christians in the faith. Francis Chan's Letters to the Church was a re-read for me but even better the second time through read out loud with Jeff. It is a heavy contender for favorite or, at least, in a top 3 spot. But, come on, A.W. Tozer! How do I choose?
Even for all the great reads the most memorable to me, the happiest little book, typical Max Lucado style - yet, insightful, engaging, and thought-provoking, I'm just going to say it, go with it...
How Happiness Happens
FAVORITE BOOK IN A SERIES
I only read a couple books this year that also happen to be a part of a series. Louise Penny's latest Chief Inspector Gamache series came out in September and I had All The Devils Are Here read in less than 24 hours. J.D. Robb's latest two in her In Death series arrived in February, Golden in Death (Book 50), and Shadows in Death (Book 51). The Memory Man series by David Baldacci delivered Walk the Wire and I began a new series, A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, reading the first two, A Curious Beginning and A Perilous Undertaking.
The Veronica Speedwell mysteries were a delight and I'm really looking forward to reading more in the series in 2021. I am such a fan of The Memory Man series. However, Walk the Wire wasn't a favorite. Louise Penny can rarely do wrong and I have devoured and own each of the, I think, 16 books in the series. These books are re-read worthy and I may just do that in 2021. Lastly, J.D. Robb's In Death series. Have I mentioned this is my favorite series? Yeah, pretty much is. Fifty-one books into the series and I still haven't tired of the characters or the story lines. They are a guilty pleasure. They're not a literary read but I am engrossed from word one and love every minute of them (minus a couple that have been a bit of a shallow read). That said, Shadows in Death was absolutely fantastic. Loved every minute of it! It also earns the top spot, favorite book in a series: Shadows in Death by JD Robb.
FAVORITE BOOK OF 2020
Finally, I come to the ultimate. The favorite. The year's best - of the best. The top notch. The magnum opus - or at least my magnum opus. My favorite book of 2020.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Runner's Up: A Gentleman in Moscow, Shadows in Death, Code Name: Helene
And, that wraps up my 2020 reading year. I am looking forward to sharing my 2021 Reading Goals.
Today I am sharing what I've been reading in October. A few so so books and several fantastic reads. Maya Angelou's And Still I Rise is definitely a favorite of this month as was Max Lucado's, How Happiness Happens and A.W. Tozer's, The Pursuit of God; the last two of which Jeff and I read together and we're still pondering and reflecting and their words are still coming up in conversation as to how to live our lives in Christ.
I gave the classic The Invisible Man, which I read for The Classics Club, 4 Stars because of the writing and the story, however I wasn't really a fan of The Invisible Man himself. I do think it would be a highly discussable book for book club. I also read Ballet Shoes for The Classics Club and I was not a fan. Disappointed, actually. Beach Read was blah and American Royals, which I read for my book club, was cute and I liked it enough and intrigued enough I would like to read the sequel, although it wasn't very discussable, but I think it could have been if the author had went a bit more in-depth into the historical impact if the United States had a monarchy and not a presidency.
I read two highly anticipated new releases that did not disappoint, both receiving 5 Stars, each for their own reasons. My husband and I continue to read aloud together every weekday morning from the spiritual formation genre, almost finishing up one this month that carried over from August - and one of my favorite reads thus far that we've read together by A.W. Tozer, a book chosen by Jeff. I read a Classic's Club, Travels with Charley which I adored. My book club read The Time Traveler's Wife. I am probably in the minority when I say I hated it. Hate is such a strong word, though. I highly disliked it. I could have easily pitched it across the room as garbage if it wasn't for book club.
For my 30 Pages in 30 Days - #4 I am simply documenting joining the Classics Club and adding to my 2020 Reading Goals - and beyond - reading 51 Classics in 51 Months. These pages will go into my ongoing 4 x 8 READ album. Simple 2-page, 4 x 8 digital page using a photo of the classics on my Classics TBR list that I own, using One Little Word, In a Creative Bubble, and Ali Edwards digital designs.
While I didn't read very many books this month, unusual for me, I did, however, read quality books; fabulous books; memorable books. Take, for instance, A Gentleman in Moscow, my book club read for August. I will recommend this book to everyone. It was breathtaking, absorbing, - amazing! 5 Stars! Surprisingly, my entire book club loved the book, too! This. Rarely. Hppens.
I recently did a mid-year review of my 2020 Reading Goals and realized I am behind in the heftiest category, read a book published in every year since I was born. However, this month did not help that category much at all, adding only 3 titles to my goals.
I have been wanting to run a thorough mid-year check-in on my 2020 Reading Goals for over a month now. Since I actually added to my already lofty reading goals when I began the Classics Club reading challenge to read 51 Classics in 51 Months, I also figured, instead of a brush over of my goals, I needed to take a hard look at where I stand with my goals, how far I've come and what I might need to do to accomplish those goals, or even change things - mid-year. Although I am not typically a 'change my goals in the middle of year' kind of gal, I listened to this podcast recently on the value of a mid-year check up of ones reading life. "It's not necessarily looking back. It's what do I want to change moving forward."
I also wanted to take a moment to celebrate my successes, however small they may be. Learn from, maybe, where I have taken a wrong turn away from, instead of towards, my reading goals. And, to set my mind and heart into re-focusing on the end goal.
Here is a look-see at where I stand today?
I began with updating my spreadsheet I had created, a simple 2-columned word document with every year since I was born in one column and as I read a book published in each year included the title of the book in another column for a total of 57 books. Plus, I am charting the additional goals in the same way.
Read a book published in each year since I was born. To put it bluntly, I have read 28 of 57 books for this category of my reading goals. At more than half way through the year I am not even half way done with this goal. The difficulty, I am aware, is that 1) I am not simply reading for this goal. I am reading for my book club that I host once a month and I am also reading for enjoyment which, I cannot lie, often supersedes my goals. And 2) it is more difficult to acquire a book for a specific published year than I thought, in a timely manner. It also hasn't helped that for a couple months our local library was closed due to COVID-19 quarantine procedures. But, it has also been trying deciding on a book for a specific published year. While I don't necessarily want to read the most popular, some of the most popular books I've already read, or I have zero interest in reading. I have found over the course of these months that the 70's were a difficult publishing decade for really good books, or books that I might find of interest and it is the decade I have the least read in.
The 1980's books I have read are mostly back-listed books of other authors, such as The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingslover and The Housekeeping by Marilynn Robinson, the author of Gilead (a favorite of mine from earlier this year) I have read before and enjoyed, or books that have made a comeback, or revival such as Kindred by Octavia Butler.
One positive of the books I have read in this category is the books that I have read that I would never have read without this goal (or self-challenge), such as A Wizard of Earthsea, published in 1968, a young adult fantasy novel which is so far out of my reading genre, yet, I loved it! Or A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Honestly, I had little interest in Hemingway, although as I have become the best part of a reader, I am sure I would at some point pick up the classic.
Right now, the question is can I make a comeback and actually finish this portion of the goal? How would I modify the goal, even, if I decided to scale it back? Without being able to answer those questions, and while I have less months to read the second half of this goal is a lofty endeavor, I still think I can make it to the finish line.
Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge.The categories I have completed are in read. As you can see below I am almost finished with this challenge. I am positive I can complete this challenge and this part of my reading goals for the year.
a book published the decade you were born: Where Eagles Dare
a debut novel: Little Bee
a book recommended by a source you trust: The Poisonwood Bible (my book club recommended this; they actually could not believe I had not already read it)
a book by a local author: Flannery O'Conner's, The Complete Stories
a book outside your (genre) comfort zone: A Wizard of Earthsea (a young adult fantasy)
a book in translation: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
a book nominated for an award in 2020: TBA
a re-read: Gilead
a classic you didn't read in high school: Slaughterhouse Five
three books by the same author: possibly Barbara Kingslover (already read 2 books), Deanna Raybourn (read 2 books), or Marilynn Robinson (read 2 books)
Read a-loud books with Jeff.My goal this year of reading a-loud with Jeff is 8 books. We have read a-loud together, Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman, Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado, Life Without Lack by Dallas Willard, and Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller. We are currently reading and are more than half way through, Louder than Words by Andy Stanley. I'm sure we'll finish this book by the end of August, easily. Which leaves 4 months to read the remaining 3 books needed to complete this goal. I am fairly comfortable, barring an unforeseeable surprises, that we'll continue our morning reading time together and finish strong, reading at least, the 8 books.
Between the Covers Book Club reads. This, at the beginning of 2020 would have been a no-brainer, but post-COVID-19 had me concerned. Thankfully, we have Zoom and while we did not discuss our March Book Club book (I hadn't figured Zoom out and we were all in shock mode), I read our book club read each month. We began meeting again in person in June, even though it was a small turnout. I've already scheduled our books for discussion for August, September, and October and I am beginning to gather potential book club books for November and December.
NEWLY ADDED: Joined the Classics Club. Because I am a voracious reader these days and eager to read everything and challenge myself and broaden my reading horizons, I have added another challenge, or goal, to the year. However, this goal is long term and will surpass this year and even the year after. I joined the Classics Club. The requirement was to read at least 50 classics in less than 5 years. I set my Classics club goal at 51 Classics in 51 Months. You can go back and read all about my goal and the books I hope to read here.
While some may not consider The Kite Runner a true classic I have found numerous definitions of what is and isn't a classic. The Classics Club even stipulates that it is up to the reader whether a book is considered a classic to them. While The Kite Runner was only published in 2003, over 17 years ago, it was quickly deemed an instant classic. Plus, I see it on 'classic' lists, often. Therefore, I included it in my classics list of TBR and I'm comfortable including it.
I decided to give my Classics Club books their own posts, but I will include them in my 'what I've been reading' monthly roundup as well. Mostly, because it will be an easier way to track my classic books that I've read - giving them their own posts (and category on the blog).
Of course, any classic that I read that can fulfill other reading goals (ie. The Kite Runner also fills the 2003 slot for read a book published in every years since I was born, goal), I will mark as read.