Monday, June 1, 2015

Best Books in 2013

Inspired by a post from Sarah by the Sea - I will keep track of the books I read in 2013 and see if I can read an average of 1 a week. I'm a quick reader but time is tough to come by in my house, so this will require patience and focus. If we could count the books I read to my children each night, I'd be done this challenge in about a month.

Total: 52 Books
Goal: 52 Books
(0 to go!)
I did it! Finished on Dec 17, 2013.



Jan 2013 - 1 book officially. Lots of magazines. Edited a 200 page manuscript for a client.
  • I finished American Short Story Masterpieces (1987) but didn't start it in 2013, so it can't really count.
  • Proud to say this month included Last Call in the City of Bridges the first book from a local publishing house. 

Feb 2013 - 7 books. And more magazines.

  • Just completed The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel  by Jasper Fforde, loaned to me by a friend.
  • The Book of Dragons (Looking Glass Library) was a quick enjoyable read and since I love writing fantasy for the middle grade/young adult crowd I also counted it as research. 
  • Working off a list compiled by Phillip Pullman, I plan to tackle some of the 100 books he thinkgs everyone should read. The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition is on that list, and now it's one of my 52!
  • Struggled to finish The Dragon's Tooth: Ashtown Burials #1. Though it has good reviews I had difficulty enjoying it. I found the descriptions confusing, the characters a bit unbelievable, the language not quite natural. 
  • Flew through Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks with a hard and fast desire to devour the entire story greedily. Now that was a gripping work of historical fiction. Highly, highly recommend. 
  • Absolutely laughed the entire way through Tina Fey's Bossypants. While I recently learned I am the only person in America who never heard the phrase "shit-eating grin" I believe I understood everything Tina Fey was trying to say. 
  • Acquired incredibly valuable information from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Blogged about it here
March 2013 - 4 books.
    • Even though I first encountered Up the Down Staircase as a child, I didn't read it until now. I'm glad I waited, because it was so much more meaningful to me as an adult, especially as an adult who had once considered teaching to be her calling. 
    • I enjoy every opportunity I get to be creative with copywriting, and  The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era (Advertising Age) offered lots of inspiration and good advice.
    • It didn't get great reviews but all in all I found The Casual Vacancy to be engaging and thought-provoking. I cried at the end. 
    • And last, I read Pump Six and Other Stories. This collection of short stories was especially provocative since I was reading them at the Farm to Table Conference in Pittsburgh, surrounded by food. 
    April 2013 - 2 books.

      14 books as of April 4, 2013. 38 to go.

      May 2013

      Though I started two other books in April, I haven't finished them yet. They are big books. I plan to finish them this month.

      • I read Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? in one morning. Author Beverly Daniel Tatum provides a thoughtful analysis of the literature surrounding the development of racial identity and a challenging definition of the term 'racism'. The insights in this book will stay with me and I'm hopeful I'll begin to bring about some changes in my own sphere of influence. I especially appreciated her suggestions for books for young children to counteract stereotypes. This book was written in 1997, and I am curious to see if Dr. Tatum has written anything since Barack Obama became our president. 
      • Enjoyed Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg by Margo L. Dill. I took a class taught by Margo and won her book in a contest on another author's blog. I love historical fiction and I learned a lot from this book both as a writer & historian. 
      • Basically neutral to unimpressed with The Book by Jessica Bell. The tough part for me was the child's voice. I have three kids, and I spend a lot of time with children. I just didn't find the parts narrated by the child to be authentic. The concept was interesting but not well executed. 

      June/July/August 2013

      While most people get a lot of reading done in the summer I struggled to finish a single book. With the kids home more, triathlon training ramping up and taking on a new client my own reading got pushed to the side. But I did squeeze in three books. 

      • Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You. by Meredith Atwood was a good choice leading up to my first Olympic distance triathlon. Meredith has completed sprints, Olympics, HIM and Ironman distances. Many parts of her story resonated with me and I actually used one of her race mantras during the bike portion of my first Olympic. 
      • I finally finished The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick. The book is long, which doesn't usually deter me, but it's dense and I often paused to take notes or reflect on concepts. Do not pick this book up for a light read, but absolutely pick it up if you are like me and wonder just how we ever communicate with each other at all. It took me way too long to read, but I really loved this book. 
      • The last book I read this summer was Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. Totally applicable for the business world but also for my triathlon and running training and for parenting! If your strategy to motivate lacks autonomy, mastery and purpose you need to read this book. 
      Yes, that's it for this summer. Three books. My current total for the year is 20. I have to read 32 books in three months to hit 52 books. Now, if you counted all the magazines, websites and children's books I've been reading I'm sure my actual time reading is quite significant. It's just hard for me to sit down and tackle a complete book. But I'm going to refocus and work hard to reach my goal.

      September 2013

      This month I surpassed my summer reading total and finished four books. My total is now 24. 28 to go.
      • An online acquaintance (but I can't remember exactly who!) recommended  It's Not About You: A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business by Bob Burg. Anyway, I read the Kindle version and found it useful and affirming. I tweeted a line from the book that reminded readers we can be blunt without being tactless. I'm working on that. 
      • I finished  You Can Write Children's Books by Tracey Dils. This book reinforced concepts that I knew but often overlooked and introduced important new concepts. It is written with brevity and clarity and I appreciate the informative appendix most of all. Right now I'm focused on the concept of 'internal conflict' that is key in YA literature.
      • My next choice took a historical curve and I read The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War by Michael Shaara, called 'the classic novel of the Civil War.' I thought that was Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, which I haven't read since middle school. Regardless, this was an excellent book. It was very sad reading mostly because of the futility of some of the military decisions, something I hadn't known. As a writer, I found it interesting that Shaara changed viewpoints frequently, really operating from a third person omniscient point of view. Although writers are often advised against that, in this book it worked. 
      • My last book this month was Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. Wow was this an amazing book! I was thrilled to learn so many provocative and inspiring facts, not the least was that the printing press was an innovation derived from grape presses used to make wine. I took lots of notes and learned about commonplacing, phase-lock, and ran into another reference to the concept of flow also discussed in Gleick's The Information  and Pink's Drive, two books I read this summer (see above). 
      • I also read the short story "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry as a free e-book from the Gutenberg project but I don't think it counts toward my total. 
      October 2013
        • I've been meaning to read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss for ages and finally finished it. It was definitely entertaining and not at all dry. I can't say I was stunned by anything in the book but I'm not sure I agree with her opinion about the movie Two Weeks Notice.
        • After hearing an interview on The Diane Rehm Show over the summer I was inspired to get a copy of Porgy by Du Bose Heyward. Do not read this if you're looking for a delightful tale. The language is evocative, the dialogue may slow you down a bit but push through. People need to read this book and spend a some time with the residents of Catfish Row. 

        At this point, I am now halfway to my goal.  I have a big stack of print books and a good collection of e-books waiting for my attention? Do you have any recommendations?

          Don't have time to write long summaries of each or pop up the links (yet) but here are six more books I've read this month.
          • Magdalen
          • Watermelon
          • An Everlasting Meal
          • The Invention of Hugo Cabret
          • Happier at Hom
          • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
          November 2013 
            I'm pretty busy with NaNoWriMo, writing conferences, holidays and client work, so I'm just keeping a list now instead of doing mini-reviews. I'm also getting close to my goal. I'm hopeful I can make it!

            34. City of Bones
            35. Epitaph for a Peach
            36. Happy Trails to You - Julie Hecht
            37. The Keep - Jennifer Egan
            (skimmed a book called Breaking Bread about immigrants and food)
            38. The Magician's Elephant - Kate DiCamilio
            39. The Midwife's Apprentice
            40. Divergent
            41. Breadcrumbs (quick word here:  my favorite part involved The Little Match Girl. I loved how the author indulged herself a little there.)
            42. Insurgent
            43. Allegiant
            44. Saffy's Angel - will definitely read more by Hilary McKay
            45. Wonder
            46. Small as an Elephant - loved this. Can't wait for my sons to be old enough to read it.
            47. Inventing Victor - by local Pittsburgh author Jen Bannan. Loved this collection of short stories.
            48. An Amateur's Guide to to Pursuit of Happiness -  also by local Pittsburgh author Britt Reints. She made some amazing choices to pursue happiness!
            49. Bonded - received this as a gift in Bermuda, it's by a Bermudian author McCal Roberts. There are some very strange moments in this book but there's a good idea in there somewhere.
            50. Schottenfreude. Not a story, but perhaps one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time.

            That's right, only 2 books to go. That's because I spent a week in Bermuda and was able to read every single day!!! I read 9 books in 1 week. It was incredible. It was rejuvenating. Now I know why writers are always advised to read, it feeds the writing soul.

            On to December! Only 2 books left to meet my goal. That's an awesome feeling. And I'm already starting to look for more books to read. I'm prepared: I have two big book lists I'm waiting to tackle, including the nominees for the 2013 National Book Award and another random list I printed online that asked well-known young adult authors to list their favorite books. I think there are 100 books on this list, and if I can get through these two lists in the next year I shall be very well-read indeed.

            December
            51. Treasure Island
            52. Skellig

            (but now the big question...do I count books I have started this year in next year's tally?)