2020 Reading Goal Check In

Let me start this post by paraphrasing something I saw and loved on Instagram this week. You’re not required to be productive in a FREAKING PANDEMIC. Full stop. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk 2020 reading goals. It’s almost the end of March, which means that the year is almost 1/4 through!

My four reading goals for this year are:

  1. Read 20 nonfiction titles
  2. Reread four favorite books.
  3. Read 12 titles from my Classics Club list.
  4. Read more authors of color (higher than last year’s pitiful 18%.)

I’m psyched to say that so far I’m on track with all of my goals. I’ve read eight nonfiction titles, and reread one book (Sylvia Boorstein’s It’s Easier Than You Think.) I’ve read three Classics Club books, and so far my authors of color is at a better 24%.

I’m toying with rereading a Jane Austen novel soon, as they are the ultimate in comfort reading for me. And this lady needs some comfort reading! I haven’t read Persuasion in a long time so that might be the one.

What’s my favorite read so far this year? Ugh, it’s tough. It’s either Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha or Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. Or The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel. OR Christy Harrison’s Anti-Diet. Too hard!

One thing I’ve loved so far this year are the great books my son and I have been reading together. So far my favorites are Fudge-a-Mania by Judy Blume and Mac Cracks the Code by Mac Barnett.

I hope you all are staying safe and healthy, able to take walks outside or do yoga or something else to clear your mind, and able to pry yourselves away from the news. It’s hard for me but I’ve been a bit better about not constantly checking news or Twitter. I’ll leave you with something hilarious I found on a friend’s Instagram story. It’s a Choose Your Recluse chart using famous movie characters. I think I’m a cross between Boss Lady and Sloppy Wizard. Which recluse are you?

Still Gray But More Blooms

Hi friends. Well, the good news is that my library system closed on Friday, which was absolutely the right thing to do for the safety of staff and patrons. So I am home for now, other than walks in the neighborhood and occasionally grocery shopping. What a relief. I hated looking at my lovely library patrons and trying to assess if they were unknowing vectors of disease, you know? Not a good feeling for someone who prides herself on excellent customer service!

Still not able to read for long stretches at a time but I am still reading. On page 77 of Milkman by Anna Burns. (For Reading Ireland Month, Cathy!) What a quirky, interesting book, I’m not sure how I feel about it really but I think I like it. It’s rather unlike my usual reading fare and I think I like it for that reason. Very long paragraphs and few chapter breaks. I’m intrigued and saddened by all the ways in which their society is hemmed in by layers of rules… what to say, what to do, how to relate to other people. Also I’m thoroughly creeped out by the milkman.

My other book is a reread: Sylvia Boorstein’s It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness. This will be one of my four rereads towards my reading goal. It’s a book that gives comfort, in which Boorstein illuminates Buddhist teachings through personal anecdotes. Her tone is remarkably warm and gentle. For instance, this passage on fearfulness:

Fearfulness is a mind habit. Some people have it more than others. It is always extra. Being trapped by fear is a form of delusion. Either I can do something or I can’t. If I truly can’t – I am mechanically inept, so piloting a plane would be unwise – I don’t do it. If I truly can, and it would be a wholesome thingy do, I push myself. I figured out one day that fear is a series of neuronal discharges in the brain, and I resented feeling I was being held captive by cerebral squiggles.

Grandmothers often have the role of spiritual teacher. My grandmother was my first teacher, and I hope I am carrying on in her tradition. The lesson I learned best from her was fortitude in the face of disagreeable situations. “Where is it written,” she would ask, “that you are supposed to be happy all the time?”

She then talks about her own grandson, Collin, and how he once didn’t want to climb a very long set of stairs to visit a friend of hers living in a convent. He was very reluctant to climb the stairs. He said, “I really don’t like these steps, Grandma.” She replied, “You don’t have to like them, Collin. You just have to go up them. Hold my hand and we’ll do it together.”

If someone holds our hand, “frightened ” changes to “interested,” and “interested ” is one of the Factors of Enlightenment.”

Anyway, I was thinking that we don’t have to like what’s going on in the world right now, but if we can hold one another’s hand, and go through it together, then we will get through it. How wonderful that we have each other across the miles, brought together by our love of books!

I’ll end with some more pictures of my neighborhood. A pink clover patch in my front yard (I didn’t plant it, they just came up a few years ago,) yellow forsythia starting to bloom, the new boardwalk around the neighborhood duck pond, and finally, a dogwood tree about to blossom. Stay well, friends!

This Is the Strangest Feeling Spring Break Ever

Hi friends! I’ve decided to write something and reach out to my blog friends even if the bookish content is lower than usual. I am home today because this week is my son’s Spring Break; we had planned a staycation because we had planned a trip for later in the year. But things are changing so quickly I have no idea if this staycation will turn into a very long one for us or not. I just got a text saying that my son’s school is closed through March 31. I have no idea if our other trip will go on as scheduled or not, as it was planned for the end of the school year. As of today my library system is still open but we have closed all programs and public meetings for the next eight weeks. I am hopeful we will close to the public altogether, as many library systems across the US are doing. The situation is very fluid, as I imagine it is where you are.

What a time, huh? I hardly know how to process it. An introvert at heart, I have no problem practicing the advocated social distancing. I mean I might feel differently weeks from now, but for now I enjoy being home and puttering and doing Yoga With Adriene videos and taking a walk around the neighborhood. Other than work and groceries, we are not going out.

Are you able to read? I confess that my reading concentration is poor. But I’m still reading, slowly. And that’s okay. We don’t need to turn this weird time into “let’s be as productive as we can” time like we do with the rest of our lives. I am almost finished with my Classics Club book for March, Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner. It’s a good read for right now because it’s very soothing. Lots of nature, interpersonal relationships, beautiful writing. If I get a chapter or two read a day I consider that a win! Maybe if I could make myself turn off Twitter or The New York Times app, I’d be able to focus more on reading. I should set a time limit and stick to a “checking news” schedule. Yep, starting that now.

I mentioned daffodils and gardening in my last post. I took a picture of my daffodils the other day but they’re already starting to wither. They still look pretty though, so I’m sharing a picture. And another one of some beautiful trees in my neighborhood in bloom. We put some new dirt and turned over old dirt in my garden bed yesterday. I want to putter in my yard as much as I can the next few weeks. I’m so grateful we have a yard, a safe neighborhood in which to walk, and a park minutes away. So many people don’t enjoy those blessings.

Oh, have you started following Yo-Yo Ma on Instagram yet? I saw his post from Adriene (of Yoga With Adriene fame.) He’s highlighting what he calls Songs of Comfort in his stories and people from all over the world are playing their instruments beautifully. It’s refreshing for the spirit and lovely to see so many people joining in. And now I’ve discovered how much I like listening to Yo-Yo Ma!

Also, another soothing form of entertainment in the recent days is the British reality show The Repair Shop on Netflix. It’s half an hour long, and it’s relaxing and adorable. People bring in great-grandma Doris’s broken clock or vase or whatever and these funny, charming British people restore it. That’s it. It’s about as low-stakes as you can get and it’s completely delightful. I highly recommend it for soothing frayed nerves. Also, the Masterclass episodes of Great British Baking Show with Paul and Mary teaching how they make stuff also hits the soothing tv spot.

What have you been reading/watching/listening to for comfort the past few days? I gladly take all suggestions!

I’ll try to blog hop today and catch up. I hope you are all safe and able to stay home as much as you can. Sending love from Tennessee!

 

 

 

 

Sunday Afternoon Bookish Ramblings

It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Big Reading Life Manor, and I think Spring is finally on its way. We’ve had a few sunny days here and there, enough to matter, and daffodils are blooming. On my walk in the park earlier today I noticed blossoms on the trees (don’t ask me what kind of trees, I don’t know) and that made me happy. I will seek out and clutch any tiny happy thing I can find these days, and being outside, blue skies, and new life blooming will definitely fit the bill. And as I’m writing this the ice cream truck just went past our house! That’s DEFINITELY a sign of Spring!

I got my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds yesterday. As usual I’ve purchased way more seeds than I have space in my yard for. But seeds are cheap and dreams are big, and who knows how crazy with planting I’ll get this year? It’s still about a month too soon to plant anything really, except maybe the peas (Tom Thumb, which are supposed to grow easily in pots) and the arugula (which I’ve never tried to grow.) I’m such a haphazard gardener but I’m a Master Yard Putterer.

What have I been reading lately? Well, I just finished Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger, which is the fourth Miss Marple Book. Jackie @ Death By Tsundoku asked me a few weeks ago if I planned on reading ALL of the Agatha Christie novels, and until she asked me I don’t exactly think I had a plan to. But I was like, “Yeah, I think I DO want to read all of her novels!” And another reading goal is born. It will take me years, but that’s fine with me. There’s nothing like an Agatha Christie for fun escapism, if murder mysteries are your thing. The Moving Finger was good, about smutty anonymous letters being sent to virtually everyone in a small town, and the perilous aftermath of that. Miss Marple doesn’t even show up until 2/3 of the way through and that’s was fine with me, because I enjoyed the narrator, Jerry Burton, so much as a character. The thing a modern reader has to watch out for with Christie is that sometimes she’ll slide in a racist or homophobic line or two here and there, and it sort of jars you for a minute. I note them, think, “Yikes!” and move on, remembering that in 1942 things were different. On the plus side, it confirms how far we’ve come, right?

I listened to Colton Whitehead’s poker memoir The Noble Hustle through my library’s Libby app, and that was fun. He reads it himself and I liked his voice very much. A magazine paid him to enter the World Series of Poker and write about it. I’m not very interested or knowledgeable about poker, so the interest in this for me was mostly in learning more about one of my favorite authors. He’s funny! Darkly, cynically funny, and his main target is himself. I can see now why his fiction feels so cerebral sometimes… he freely admits to being someone who is “anhedonic,” unable to feel pleasure. Which is one reason he has such a good poker face – he’s “half dead inside!” This is the kind of sardonic humor Whitehead uses throughout the book. You get the impression that his glass is perpetually half empty but you can’t help but like him anyway. If you’re interested in this memoir I highly recommend listening to the audiobook.

Currently I’m reading Wallace Stegner’s 1987 novel Crossing to Safety for my Classics Club and Buddy Read with Rebecca and Smithereens. I’m about 40% through. I LOVE IT. That’s all I’ll say for now.

What’s up next? I’ve got a stack a mile high, as I’ve been going nuts putting library books on hold lately. It’s nice to have a lot to choose from, isn’t it? Besides the above stack I’ve got Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoir The Beautiful Struggle, Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season, Ian Rankin’s The Hanging Garden, Claire Fuller’s Swimming Lessons, and my own purchased copy of Jenny Offill’s latest book Weather. I hardly know what to pick up next! Well, perhaps I should start with one of the Irish books seeing as how this is Reading Ireland Month and I haven’t even started, whoops!

How is everyone? Are we able to read with all the political news and coronavirus stuff going on? I know my concentration has been crap the past few weeks because of it. I hope you all are staying well and have a good tall stack of books to keep you company even if you aren’t. I hope to catch up on reading all of your blog posts soon. Be well and hold on – Spring is coming!

Friday Afternoon Bookish Ramblings

It’s a beautiful sunny but cold day here at a Big Reading Life Manor, and it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I just haven’t had time or energy to write about books or anything else. There is sleep to prioritize (self-care 2020!) and also I’ve been finishing watching The Good Place and Netflix’s Next in Fashion. But today I have a bit of time and wanted to catch up on things. So, hello! I hope your week has been a good one. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much sick of winter. I’m sick of gray and I’m sick of rain. I’m trying to remind myself that everything changes, and so will the seasons, in time.

Anyway, I’ve read some good books lately, for which I am grateful. One five-star read (The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel, which had been on my TBR List since 2015) and three four-star reads: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe, and Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. Two of the latter were ones I owned, so whoopee for reading my own books! Lately I’ve been really trying to look at my own shelves and also the beginning of my TBR list and trying to choose reads from those. It’s a constant struggle to balance those considerations with the newest, shiniest books that I have on hold at the library. You can relate, I am sure.

51anPJ5-ihL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_What am I currently reading? Lindy West’s new essay collection The Witches Are Coming, which is AWESOME and so smart and funny. I’ve only read the first four essays but so far she’s killing it. I just finished Mavis Gallant’s short story collection In Transit, which I’d been reading since December. It was good – she’s masterful at capturing humans trying and failing to relate to one another. But for me overall it was a bit depressing and I’m relieved to be finished. I am not sure what work of fiction I’ll pick up next. I think I need something light to boost my mood! I may try Helen Hoang’s romance The Kiss Quotient, which I just checked out from my library.

Next month I plan to participate in Cathy’s Reading Ireland Month, so I need to pick at91Vq1lzeOaL least one Irish book – this event always sneaks up one me. I also will be reading Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety with Smithereens as a buddy read – another selection from my Classics Club list. Please read along with us in March if you’d like!

So that’s it from me for now. I’ll leave you with some body positive affirmations from Megan Jayne Crabbe’s book (if you’re on Instagram, you should consider following her @bodyposipanda. She’s delightful.)

I’m grateful for everything that my body allows me to do in the world, and all the ways it takes care of me.
I am hotter than the inside of a poptart in this outfit!
There’s no such thing as a problem area, my body is not a problem to be fixed!
My softness is beautiful.
My cellulite clusters are constellations mapped across my thighs and I am magical.
I deserve the space I take up in the world.
I am good enough.
My body is not the enemy.

Also – how do we like this new “block editor” thing WordPress has given us? I don’t like it at all and when I tried to switch back to the classic editor it’s made my spacing weird in this post. Hmmmph. Oh well. I hope you have a very good weekend, friends – may you have lots of time for reading!

 

Why Do I Own So Many Unread Short Story Collections?

I finished a five-star read yesterday, and I was unsure about what to pick up next. I guess I’ve got a small book hangover. Currently I’ve been slowly reading Mavis Gallant’s collection In Transit (inspired by Buried in Print’s Gallant reading project.) She is a marvelous writer but, as often is the case with short stories, I need to take my time and not rush through. I want to give each story its due time to contemplate.

I was looking at my unread shelf at home and noticed a trend. I have a lot of unread short story collections. Eight of them in fact. That may not be a lot for some of you, but it feels like a lot to me, particularly because I’ve had some of them for years. I don’t want to pick another one up until I finish the Gallant book, because I can’t imagine trying to read two short story collections simultaneously. (Do people do this?)

img_5313Why do these books linger on my shelf? Why do I keep buying more?

Okay, I buy them because I buy books, duh, it’s what I do. I think they linger because I have the impression that a short story collection is a commitment. I feel like they take longer to finish than a novel, and they do. But why does this make me hesitate about reading them? It’s the same thing with nonfiction. I hesitate to choose it because I think it will take me longer. WHAT IS THIS OBSESSION WITH FINISHING A BOOK QUICKLY? I know I’m not alone in this, but why are we (mostly fiction readers) this way? Why am I so consumed with more, more, more?

Part of it is that I am always reading about new books coming out, adding more to my TBR list every week. Part of it is working at a library surrounded by books all day, seeing and holding the new books in person. Part of it is participating in the bookish community, seeing people reading all these amazing books at what seems like a breakneck pace and comparing myself.

It’s a wonderful NON-problem to have many more books I want to read than I have time to actually read. How lucky are we to live in a time and place where our access to books is so unfettered and free?

I am going to try and incorporate these short story collections throughout the year and not worry about how long it takes me to finish them. And if I’m not enjoying them I’m going to release them to a new home where hopefully they will land in the right hands. AND I’m also not going to buy any more collections until I get through at least half of the ones I have already.

How about you? Do you have a stack of short stories or nonfiction or something else that you’re just not getting to because it will take “too long?”

Library Checkout, January 2020

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Library Checkout post, and I thought I’d go ahead and let y’all know what I’ve been borrowing and putting on hold at the library. If you also are a heavy library user, join in on Bookish Beck’s meme or please let me know below what you’ve been checking out!

LIBRARY BOOKS READ:

 

A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Black and Blue (Inspector Rebus series #8) by Ian Rankin ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

With my son:

Jedi Academy #1 by Marc Brown (cute!)

My Life As A Meme by Janet Tashjian

CURRENTLY READING:

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha (currently very absorbing)

In Transit by Mavis Gallant (short stories, going slowly, I’ve kind of out this one aside a bit but it’s still good)

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell (reading aloud with my son – loving it!)

CHECKED OUT, TO BE READ:

Rules For Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall (on Gin Jenny’s -Reading the End- recommendation )

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (Anne’s – I’ve Read This- recommendation)

Strangers at the Gate by Catronia MacPherson

Mac B Kid Spy #2: The Impossible Crime by Mac Barnett (my son read these and I read the first one and loved it.)

WAITING FOR ME AT THE LIBRARY:

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun

RETURNED UNFINISHED/UNREAD: none

IN THE HOLDS QUEUE (among others):

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Have you read anything from my list?