Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Reading Goals

Happy New Year Everyone!

Masters of Literature Calendar - readalong prompt (
From Masters of Literature Calendar. Illustrations by Elisabeth Stoinich

Here I am, outlining a new year of reading goals/intentions/challenges. In no particular order, these are my main reading plans for 2017:

1. My numeric reading goal is always 52 books. I like the idea of a book a week. When life gets busy I don't have the added stress of hitting a high reading goal, nor do I shy away from big or challenging books.

2. I've already posted about participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge (#AWW2017), which you can read here. I'll read at least four books for this challenge. Last night I started Emily Bitto's The Strays, so off to a good start.

3. The Classics Club. I have six books in mind for this ongoing challenge:
  • Carmilla, LeFanu, 1872
  • So Big, Ferber, 1924
  • The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, 1939
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith, 1943
  • From Here to Eternity, Jones, 1951
  • Giovanni's Room, Baldwin, 1956
4. I'm doing a year-long read-along with my friend John Valeri based on the Masters of Literature calendar that I got him for Christmas from the New York Public Library gift shop (and of course I got one for myself, too). Within minutes (probably seconds) of opening the calendar, we decided to read and discuss a book by the featured writer each month:
Willa Cather hiking ( Source: Cather Archive
Cather out hiking (source)
  • January: Shakespeare - kicking things off with MacBeth
  • February: Austen
  • March: Baudelaire
  • April: Dickinson
  • May: Wilde
  • June: Woolf
  • July: Dostoyevsky
  • August: Proust
  • September: Shelley
  • October: Poe
  • November: Kafka
  • December: The Brontes
5. As regular readers of this blog know, Willa Cather is my favorite writer. I am intimately acquainted with her novels, but have only read her more widely anthologized stories like "Paul's Case" or "The Bohemian Girl," so this year I plan to systematically read all of her short stories.

6. I have a short list of books that I've been meaning to get to. The top two are:
  1. The Swarm by Frank Schatzing. It's an 881page long thriller about mutant creatures in the ocean. It has never been the right time to read this one--I need to get to it before spring/summer because I don't want to freak myself out while I'm swimming around in the ocean.
  2. Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. I became interested in this one after reading A. Scott Berg's Max Perkins: Editor of Genius.
7. I already own many of the books listed here, so they'll qualify for Andi's #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge, which is often on my mind, because I have so many (potentially) fabulous unread books sitting on my shelves. In 2016, just under 20% of the books I read where books I already owned. I'd like to double that number in 2017.

Michael Ondaatje The English Patient Book Cougars readalong (
Okay, so there's my 2017 reading intentions, all of which I talk about on Episode 4 of the Book Cougars. Which reminds me: Emily and I are doing a read-along of The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje in February. If you'd like to join us, please check out Episode 4.

What are some of your reading goals for 2017 or are you free reading this year?

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Reading Stats

2016 was a great reading year for me--SO many good reads!

Up until October, when Buddy Fitzwilliam suddenly appeared on the scene and changed my sluggish daily routine, I had been humming along in my reading life. He's been with us for three months now and while I'm not exactly back into a reading groove, we're starting to get into something that looks like it might eventually turn into a routine.

Buddy Fitzwilliam - #1 Reading Buddy (WildmooBooks)
Last read of the year with my reading Buddy

For years now my annual reading goal has been to read 52 books. That's one book a week and doesn't make me shy away from big books. It also doesn't make me feel pressured about reading when life gets crazy busy.

Here's some breakdown:
  • 58 books read
  • 37 by women
  • 20 by men 
  • 1 gender neutral
  • 3 published in the 19th century
  • 16 published in the 20th century
  • 39 published in the 21st century
  • 20 published in 2016 (super high for me and only 7 were ARCs)
  • 4 ebooks (same as last year)
  • 3 audiobooks (also same as last year)
  • 2 translated into English (one less than last year)
  • 11 qualified towards #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks 
  • 6 for The Classics Club
  • 1 for Australian Women Writers (#AWW2016)
List of books read. Yellow highlights are my Top 10 of 2016

Atwood, Kathyrn
Women Heroes of WWII: The Pacific Theater
Austen, Jane
Pride and Prejudice
Dogs and Their People
Caspary, Vera
Chbosky, Stephen
Perks of Being a Wall Flower, The
Chopin, Kate
Awakening, The
Christie, Agatha
And Then There Were None
Clark, Marcia
Blood Defense
Cornwell, Patricia
Chasing the Ripper
Doemer, Cornelia
Martin Luther’s Travel Guide
Du Maurier, Daphne
Ehrlich, Amy
Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer
Eustice, Helen
Horizontal Man, The
Fleming, Jacky
Trouble with Women, The
Gilbert, Elizabeth
Big Magic
Gilman, George G.
Blind Side, The
Gorman, Jane
Blind Eye, The
Gyasi, Yaa
Hammett, Dashiell
Thin Man, The
Hawkins, Paula
Girl on the Train, The
Heller, Joseph
Catch-22 (DNF)
Hemingway, Ernest
Moveable Feast, A
Highsmith, Patricia
Price of Salt, The
Irving, John
Prayer for Owen Meany, A
Jackson, Shirley
Haunting of Hill House, The (reread)
Kiernan, Stephen P
Hummingbird, The
King, Stephen
Mr. Mercedes *
King, Stephen
Finders Keepers *
King, Stephen
End of Watch *
Kovic, Ron
Hurricane Street
Lagercrantz, David
Girl in the Spider’s Web, The
Lamb, Wally
She’s Come Undone
Longo, Stacey (ed)
Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut Authors
Maran, Meredith
Why We Write About Ourselves
McNamara, Frances
Death at the Paris Exposition
Oakley, Barbara
Mind for Numbers, A
Olson, Karen E.
Sacred Cows
Patchette, Anne
Bel Canto
Penny, Louise
Great Reckoning, A
Pinckney, Darryl
Black Deutschland
Raabe, Melanie
Trap, The
Rhys, Jean
Good Morning, Midnight
Rhys, Jean
Wide Sargasso Sea, The
Scottoline, Lisa
Final Appeal
Seay, Martin
Mirror Thief, The
Shoemaker, Karen Gettert
Meaning of Names, The
Speart, Jessica
Winged Obsession
Stein, Triss
Brooklyn Secrets
Strecker, Susan
Nowhere Girl
Thorson, Robert M.
Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls**
Tremblay, Paul
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
Twain, Mark
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, A
Viskic, Emma
Resurrection Bay
Whitehead, Colson
Underground Railroad, The
Wilson, Anne A.
Woodham, Jane
Yun, Jung
Zacks, Richard
Chasing the Last Laugh

 * When Emily and I listed our Top 10 reads of 2016 on episode two of the Book Cougars, I cheated and listed Stephen King's Bill Hodges Trilogy as one book.

** Currently reading and will finish today or tomorrow. Usually I'm anal and work it so that I finish whatever I'm reading on the last day of the year and then start a new read on the first day of the year, but apparently I'm living on the edge these days. Oh, and there are two books not on the list above that I've already started but didn't list since I'm not near the half way point on either: Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (audio and hardcover) and Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall by St. Sukie de la Croix (on my ereader).

I'm looking forward to more great reading in 2017 and my next post will be about my reading plans for the new year. The older I get, the less time I spend with books that don't engage me, so my overall enjoyment of reading seems to be increasing with each passing year.

Here's to health, happiness, world peace, and good reads in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Trying Something New: 2017 Reading Journal

I'm 99% committed to start using this Leuchtturm1917 Ex Libris Private Reading Journal in 2017. My sister-in-law gave it to me last Christmas and I've been eyeballing it as it sat patiently on my shelf for the last year. We'll see how it goes.

Leuchtturm1917 Ex Libris Private Reading Journal (

I have a habit of starting and abandoning reading journals. I'll begin one, but soon my reading notes start showing up on bookmarks, index cards, loose leaf paper (I love both bound journals and binders--a love that sometimes causes organizational conflict). I also underlined books, write marginalia, and use sticky tabs, but I'm not really into highlighting.

Granted, not all books spark the same level of engagement to take notes, but I like the idea of having one physical place where I chronologically record information about what I've read. I use Goodreads more regularly than the detailed spreadsheet I try to keep, but neither is very tactile and I get tired of screens. I'm also feeling like I want some of my reading life to be . . . not exactly private, but not so . . . public.

Leuchtturm1917 Ex Libris Private Reading Journal -
Page shot

As you can see in the page shot above, there's one page to chronicle each book. The prompts are:
  • Title (book or audio)
  • Author
  • Read (when? where?)
  • Date of Publication
  • Original Language
  • Genre
  • Notes/Questions
  • Appraisal (1-6)
  • Gift from/Discovered by
  • Gift to
But there's not much room for reading notes.

So, I'm thinking I'll use this journal for the big picture. I'll jot down general thoughts in the 'notes' section after finishing a book and my "real time" reading notes will still manifest however they need to (and then get filed or tossed or, as is often the case, lost). This will work well when I'm reading multiple books as the Leuchtturm will maintain the chronology that I'm so fond of, yet I'll be able to take as many notes as I want on a book without worrying about space restrictions.

The journal has 252 pages. Of these 156 pages are for book entries, which will be about 2-3 years of reading for me (my annual goal is to read 52 books). There are also tabs in the back for 'books to read,' 'to give,' 'lent to/borrowed from,' and a blank tab for my own category. Especially helpful are alphabetized index pages to easily locate entries on past reads.

It's looking like writing this post has helped me work through that 1% of doubt.

Do you keep a reading journal or have a system for note taking? I'd love to hear about it if you're willing to share.

Product page:
Leuchtturm1917 Ex Libris Private Reading Journal

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017 (#AWW2017)

#AWW2017 on

At the end of December 2015 I planned on reading four books by Australian Women Writers in 2016. I ended up reading only one, but it was excellent:  Emma Viskec's award-winning thriller, Resurrection Bay.

For 2017 I am again planning to read four books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge (#AWW2017). I hope that listing them will help me follow-through. I love making lists of books to read, but tend to rebel against actually reading them. Hope springs eternal.

The first two were written-up in the January issue of BookPage magazine:
1. The Dry by Jane Harper
2. The Strays by Emily Bitto

#AWW2017 January BookPage on

The second two are classics, a category on which challenge organizers would like to put more emphasis:
3. My Brilliant Career (1901) by Miles Franklin
4. Some Everyday Folk and Dawn (1909) by Miles Franklin

And then there's this big list of Lesbian and Queer Women Writers that I want to check out. Sigh. I know everyone says it, but SO MANY BOOKS! SO LITTLE TIME!

If you'd like to check out the challenge or sign-up for it yourself, visit the website: There you'll find great resources for reading Australian Women Writers and links to the challenge's various social media groups.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming (

Apparently, I won this book from the publisher; at least that's what the note inside said. Don't remember where I entered-to-win. Goodreads? Library Thing? Shelf Awareness? It doesn't matter, but a big thank you to Andrews McMeel Publishing for sending this little gem my way and introducing me to the wit and wicked cartoon skills of Jacky Fleming.

The Trouble with Women is a funny and biting satire on how women have been left out of history and relegated to their own sphere by ridiculous notions of femininity and masculinity. Several male "geniuses" are targeted for their ridiculous theories. Ironies, double-standards, and plain ridiculousness-es are pointed out, such as: Women's hands are weak, so they can't hold paint brushes long enough to create great art, yet at the same time women are also slaves and work in coal mines.

I was cranky when I picked up The Trouble with Women from my TBR pile. But its a short little book and I was in the mood for something short. The first couple pages made me wary. Did I really want to read another book about how women have been stunted for eons? After all, I was crabby already. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. Then I turned to this page...

Embroidery Samples - The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming (

 ...and burst out laughing. There's something about that "HELP ME" that hit my funny bone. Hard. By the end of the book I was in a much better mood and ready to seize the day . . . and the rest of my life.

Sure, the book still made me angry at times, which is the point, but there's something healing and inspiring about poking fun of the "genius" men who claimed women can't be geniuses. It is an energy boost to the head and heart to keep us moving forward and fighting for equality today.

Title: The Trouble with Women
Author/Illustrator: Jacky Fleming
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016
Source: won it
Goodreads link
Bottom line: Read it now! Buy it for your feminist friends!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...