Sunday, January 20, 2013

THEE List 2013

I was going to write a super creative paragraph or two talking about some random topic while incorporating my book list for 2013, but I've got too much Les Mis on the mind and I think I'll be writing about that soon instead.

Every year I make a list of 50 books I'd like to read. I never make it through the whole list because other things come up and sometimes I happen upon another irresistible read or recommendation. But making a list every year allows me to peruse my shelves and anticipate new publications for which I've been waiting. One problem I anticipate is the rereading of Anna Karenina and first time read of The Count of Monte Cristo. At 864 and 1462 pages respectively, those are big chunks of reading time; however, I really want to reread AK before seeing the movie and CMC has been haunting me, so I am going to attempt them both!

So here for your viewing pleasure (and maybe some ideas) is the list of books I want to read in 2013.

PS: number 50 is empty - nothing was grabbing me. Suggestions welcome!

2013 Book List

1. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
2. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
3. Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
4. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
5. At Home: a Short History of Private Life - Bill Bryson
6. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
7. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
8. Accomplice - Eireann Corrigan
9. before i fall - Lauren Oliver
10. Willow - Julia Hoban
11. Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson
12. Who Do You Think You Are? - Mark Driscoll
13. Give Them Grace - Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
14. The Maze Runner - James Dashner
15. The Scorch Trials - James Dashner
16. The Death Cure - James Dashner 
17. Unwind - Neil Shusterman
18. Dead to You - Lisa McMann
19. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
20. Pretties - Scott Westerfeld
21. Specials - Scott Westerfeld
22. Extras - Scott Westerfeld
23. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (reread)
24. The Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan
25. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
26. Watership Down - Richard Adams
27. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
28. The Pearl - John Steinbeck
29. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
30. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
31. The Good Earth - Pearl Buck
32. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
33. The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien
34. The Time Keeper - Mitch Albom
35. The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
36. Tearing the Silence - Ursula Hegi
37. The Writing Life - Annie Dillard
38. MWF Seeking BFF - Rachel Bertsche
39. How Reading Changed My Life - Anna Quindlen
40. Ruined by Reading - Lynne Sharon Schwartz
41. The Liars' Club - Mary Karr
42. Cherry - Mary Karr
43. Lit - Mary Karr
44. Monkey Mind - Daniel Smith
45. The Intolerance of Tolerance - D.A. Carson
46. Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
47. The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
48. Freakonomics - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
49. One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Score One for Me

This week has proven a success in the "reading family" front...and it was all luck. Let me back up and explain.

I am a firm believer that reading is the basis behind most successful people. And I don't mean book crazy reading like me, but simply the ability, willingness, and interest to read, which usually means a person can read well. Even if a person doesn't read much for pleasure, it is still a widely necessary skill to get further in life. Now all of this is convenient for my purposes...because even if it wasn't true, I'd still aim to make my family a "reading family" just because I love books.

And luck? Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. My family has been absolutely primed to value books and reading in general. There is a large, overflowing bookshelf in every room of my house; they've received books as gifts their whole lives; they've always seen me reading; and I've always talked books with them (preparation). My daughters caught on quickly and even my TV addicted husband has read series of books that proved themselves irresistible. Now all I was waiting for with my son, who is 8, was the opportunity for all that prep work to kick in.

Opportunity struck twice this week! First, during my book trip with my middle daughter last Saturday (same trip I wrote about in my last post), we stumbled across a trilogy in the kids' section called Dr. Proctor's Fart Powder. Looking through it I knew my son could read it, but the title was all he needed. I found the first one on my bookswap site with hardly any wait time. When I got home I told him about it and he sounded interested as he went into hysterical little boy giggles.

The next day he comes home from school, asking if I had gotten the mail. I said yes and his reply, "Well? My book?" I told him I hadn't ordered it yet because we were second on the waiting list. He threw his math workbook down with a dejected look, "I hate homework." Teacher-me wanted to lecture about taking frustrations out on homework. English-me wanted to say eh, it's just math. We did the homework and he talked about how badly we needed to go to Barnes and Noble the whole time. (Which, by the way, he thought was a library until very recently. Oops.) Luckily, the book was offered up to me the next day and we are currently waiting its arrival from a lady in Florida. Can't beat a book that only costs media mail shipping!

Today my son came home with the second book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. He had read to page 74 in a couple days and was very excited to share. I took him to his sister's room where the entire seven book series sat on her shelf. His eyes widened and he pulled them out and started to put them in order. "I wish these were mine," he said suggestively.

"Well, I bought them and any books I buy for one kid, any kid can read," I told him.

A pause. "Can I keep them in my room?"

"Of course." And he and the books were gone. I went to get the girls together for their piano lesson, calling out to Cade on my way to grab his DSi (hoping to pass the hour in the car peacefully). But he replied, "Can I bring a book instead?" YES! in my mind, but said cooly.

He came out with the first of the Wimpy Kid series. "I thought you were halfway through the second one?" I said.

"I was, but I've gotta read the first one first." What? Was it possible that not only had my son hit his stride with some book interests, but he had a touch of my book snobbery as well? Gotta read them in order.

My son is required to read 30 minutes a night for school and so far it's been more often a hassle than not. He was never fully engaged in the stories we read. Until now...a couple of good ones and he's off. That's all it takes - that one special book that sparks a lifetime of reading success. 

Reading vs Writing

Debating my stance as a writer lately...not whether or not I am one, there's no doubt writing is in my DNA, but rather how much or what kind of a writer I am. Before the love of writing came the love of books, and I have spent my literary life debating which is more important to me...because spending more time in one activity takes away from the other. Being a teacher, mother of three kids, and an active member of two communities (one in which I live and one in which I teach), both hobbies cannot garner equal playing time. I always feel the need to choose, which seems silly, because the two activities go hand in hand. I think the need to settle on a choice activity is because I can then not feel guilty when I'm spending more time doing one over the other.

Two things happened this past week that helped me settle into "who I am" in my reader vs writer debate. I went to Barnes and Noble with my 11-year-old daughter to spend our gift cards. We had a good amount between us, plus an extra teacher discount, which made our cards worth more. We spent a good two, almost three, hours looking at books, reading sections aloud, and drinking fancy coffee. When we had made our purchases and headed back to the cafe for more coffee, I sat down with my daughter and said, "I love my students and my job, but if I were to do anything else, I'd want to come here every day and shelf books and help people pick them out and find them. I would know this store like the back of my hand." Then a student of mine who works there was going on break, so I showed her the selections I had made for my classroom (she would be the first to read them , I knew).

Soon after the man sitting a few seats down from us asked, "Do you know any good authors for teens?" I laughed and asked, "Do you have something to write with?" He did and he already had a title to ask about. He was buying for his niece, trying to inspire a love of reading in her, but didn't want any material that crossed the line, so to speak. The title he had was a John Green book and I gave him Green's name and more of his books to look for. He asked for another author and I gave him the "Wake" trilogy by Lisa McMann (I actually had one of her newer books in my bag at that moment). He named a few that he had gathered from various sources and I told him the premise of each, because he was trying to avoid certain topics, and these were iffy-topic titles he mentioned. He thanked me and said he didn't want to take up too much of my time. Honestly, I was ready to march him off to the YA section and fill his arms with books!

Of course, the highlight of my day was the time with my daughter. It was so relaxed and we had so much fun just looking through books and talking. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't titillated by my conversation with the guy. Opening a whole new world (sorry Aladdin, but it's found in books) to someone...making connections...sharing something I love and know is beneficial...I was in my glory. And the fact that I had just stated this desire to share and then have him ask? I don't believe in coincidence!

The second event was a post I read on a writing friend's blog - Carolynn...with 2Ns. She talked about where she stands as a writer and how she feels ok about it. It forced me to truly debate with myself. What kind of writer am I? I am much, much happier reading a book than writing. And when I do write, it is usually short pieces: blog posts, articles or essays. Short, but complete and satisfying. Carolynn's post made me debate this and come to an understanding with myself.

Reading wins. I cannot live without books (that's Thomas Jefferson by the way and I have two of the exact plaque pictured above). And I know some may think, "Why choose?" What can I say? When I'm writing, I want to be reading and when I'm reading, I want to read more. It's not to say I give up on writing or that my writing mode won't change. I'm in an extremely busy season of my life and in a matter of years it will change again. My WIP will be something I continue to work with because I believe in my mother's story and I believe I am to write it. That has not changed at all. But I will not feel guilty when I choose reading over writing. The writing will come in its time and until then I have my books.

What kind of strange battles do you fight with yourself?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Paperback Princess

Writer friend M strikes again, sending a friendly text reminder that I have a blog that hasn't been blogged for almost two weeks. To which I texted "Humph." However, I do have something new I've been up to in the world of reading and writing...what better way to start the year?

I've recently found myself following a new blog, "The Paperback Princess." According to her profile on (where she is also The Paperback Princess, and yes, I follow her there as well), she is about my age and seems to read as much as I do (well, before I had three kids anyway). Her blog is full of reviews and discussion about nothing but books! I love it.

For the end of 2012, she posted her reading year in review, which was a total of 82 books read. Her goal was 50, same as mine, although because of reading Les Mis I only landed at the 43 book mark for 2012. (If anyone wants to count Les Mis's 1463 pages as three or four books, then I did much better!)

Anyway, her year in review was filled with both familiar and new titles and authors, judging them in ways that a reader and book lover would totally understand. She talks about giving a new genre (murder mystery) a chance and being pleasantly surprised. And, to be fair, she didn't read just one, but a wide range, from loving Agatha Christie to the more recent and popular Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl).

She also mentions giving certain authors and books "a chance...despite the awful cover." We all know we shouldn't figuratively judge a book by its cover, but you better believe we do it literally! She spent time with historical fiction as well and a touch of nonfiction works, including Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, which has been pushed back on my reading list, but now will definitely be read this year! (She is actually the second person in a couple days who mentioned that author and book on a blog...I don't believe in coincidences!)

Her other year of 2012 post was her top ten. As any true reader would understand, picking a limited number of favorites is hard, but she manages to give a nice selection of books. We share a number of reads (Room, The Book Thief), authors (Wally Lamb, Markus Zusak), and what I call my prospects - books or authors I've been considering (Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex). The reassuring and exciting aspect about all of this is that I've likely found a new "book buddy," because it seems we have some overlapping reads, authors, and interests. And she knows what she's talking about - a reader can recognize another reader's passion. (My book buddy list is really only two people of all the readers I know. People I "talk shop" with often and know their take on the world of reading, writing, and big deal for me to gain another!)

And to seal the deal, she has a post just about Les Mis and talks about always trying to read the book before the movie. What more can I ask for in a reader? If you like to read, check out The Paperback Princess.

Are there any reading/book/writing blogs you would highly recommend?