Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Whining: Off to My Happy Place

I didn't write anything for Tuesday because it was a shitty day. I woke up to news of a massacre in Pakistan with over 100 children - babies, some of them - shot and bombed. Add to that somebody in Pennsylvania shooting up his ex-wife's relatives, and the protests around the country... you begin to think nobody wants to hear the goofy shit that comes to mind when you're hopped up on cold medicine.

I'll twaddle on another Tuesday, but I wanted to blog something today. I figure I could talk about self-care, something I read among the Twitterati. When life gets you down, find a happy place/thing. I have three current vices, but today I'll only talk about the reading.

A few days ago I posted a reading challenge I have planned for 2015. Not long after I pulled the trigger did I find BookRiot's Read Harder challenge, and I have enough on my plate but books and more books. Since I will set a goal of 125 titles for the new year, same as last, I figure there's room for more than one list, so the other day I set up my Book Riot list on Goodreads. To break it down:

Book published in 2014: Where There's Smoke by Jodi Picoult - I picked this up for free on All Romance. I've not read Picoult before but have heard good things.

Book published before 1850: Tom Jones by Henry Fielding - I've had a copy of this forever. A writer's guide I read listed Tom Jones as essential reading for any author. I've seen the movie this year, so I'll have that context going into the book.

Graphic novel: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel - I loved Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For strip, and heard good things about this book.

Book originally published in another language: Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes - Picked for sheer curiosity value - an alternative history that brings Hitler to the Kardashian Age. Should be interesting.

Book of Poetry: Delirium by Drew Hoffman - I've read and enjoyed Hoffman's poetry in the past, and this is a recent release.

Audiobook: Doctor Who - The Last Voyage by Dan Abnett - Bought with a free Audible credit, because David Tennant.

Booker Prize Winner in the Last Decade: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - Recommended by a friend.

Microhistory: Flapper by Joshua Zeitz - Bought on sale at OmniLit by virtue of low price and topic of interest.

Book by or about indigenous people: Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington - I'd heard good thing about the film version, and I prefer to read the book first.

Book by an author from Africa: Island Bound by Kiru Taye - Decadent Publishing has an imprint dedicated to African-set romances. I've wanted to read one for a while.

Book set in Asia: The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal - I recently enjoyed A Bollywood Affair from the same publisher, and this looked as appealing.

Science Fiction Book: Children of Dune by Frank Herbert - It's still a goal to finish the original trilogy. Two birds.

Book written by author who identifies as LGBTQ: High Hearts by Rita Mae Brown - I've had this book on the TBR forever, bought at a library sale. It's one I've wanted to read, and while RMB's latest efforts left me cold, I'm willing to chance this.

Book of short stories: The Stories of John Cheever - Also a Pulitzer winner I need to read. Two birds.

Book written by author under the age of 25: Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto - Banana was 24 at the time. This was a popular book when I worked at B&N; title never left my consciousness.

Book written by author over the age of 65: In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume - This won't be out until summer, so something to anticipate. I have yet to read one of Blume's adult works.

Self-help / improvement book: The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey - Probably hokum, but I'm interested in it.

Romance Book: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward - I read plenty of romance by virtue of the day job, but I've never before read Ward. I like the premise of this one.

YA Book: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - Every review I've seen of this is positive and enthusiastic.

Book published by an indie press: Strings and Bones by Kim Talon - This comes from Mundania Press, which published Pithed.

Guilty pleasure book: Scruples by Judith Krantz - This is already on my TBR for an old school challenge. Two more birds.

Book based on a fairy tale or classic story: Cress by Marissa Meyer - I've already read the preceding books (Cinder and Scarlet) in this series, so this is another one on deck.

Book by author of opposite gender: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin - Hard to narrow this category down, but I've pledged to finish this series before I or Martin dies.

National Book Award Winner from last decade: Just Kids by Patti Smith - I bought this at a closing Borders, set it aside. Will get to it this coming year.

Pulitzer winner from the last decade: American Lion by Jon Meacham - I've already read the last ten or so fiction winners, but I have a copy of this book I need to finish.

Book recommended by a friend: ???

I need a recommendation. How about it?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Here, There, & Everywhere Reading Challenge for 2015

The good news is that I surpassed my goal of 125 to read in 2014. The could-be-better news is that I'm nowhere close to completing my book bucket lists. Of the Pulitzer and Top 100 20th Century novels I've read this year, I finished these:
  • A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
  • The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
  • March by Geraldine Brooks
  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Hardly a dent. I'm reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie now but can't guarantee a 2014 finish. Yeh, I suck, but it's all the authors' faults for putting out some tempting titles this year to distract me.

I could say, well in 2015 I'll make up for it, but who am I kidding? I'll reach for A Passage to India and something else will catch my eye. I think the best way to finish this job is to not dwell too much on it. Thread the books with others I've wanted to read, and before you know it I've bested my reading record.

I'm setting up the Here, There, Everywhere Reading Challenge for myself - to whittle down some of my bucket lists and discover new authors. I tend to read familiar names (who doesn't?), but as an author I always hope somebody takes a chance on me. I should at least return the favor.

This is the dance card I intend to fill out for 2015. If you want to try this challenge, feel free. Comment if you do with your blog and/or Goodreads and I'll follow along. You don't have to pick the same books as me; might be interesting to see what everybody's reading. Check back for progress.

Here, There, Everywhere in 2015 Reading Challenge

Five Fiction Pulitzer Winners

1. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
2. Beloved by Toni Morrison
3. One of Ours by Willa Cather
4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Five Modern Library Top 100 Novels 

1. A Passage to India by E.M Forster
2. Deliverance by James Dickey
3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
4. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
5. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Authors/Series I've Had in TBR Too Long

1. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
2. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
3. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
4. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
5. High Hearts by Rita Mae Brown

Five New-To-Me Authors (To be filled out as I discover them.)


For the last set I will endeavor to choose a diverse range of authors. Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday Twaddle: Reading Class Hero

Yesterday was the 34th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. A typically somber day, made all the more gloomy by this recent weather. Seems depressing to have gone thirty-four years without the music that could have been, and occasionally I'll wonder about Lennon had he lived. He'd probably be on Twitter, that much I can predict with confidence. Would he and Yoko still be married? Still touring? Waving signs in Union Square, pleading for us to Occupy? Who knows. Some people had hinted of Lennon's closet conservatism before his death, but I doubt he'd align with the Tea Party. Then again, I never met the guy. I can't say what he'd be doing now or what he'd say about fracking or Ferguson.

I can, however, recommend some books to you. I've been reading about the Beatles for thirty years. I've torn through several Lennon bios, fiction, band theory, and even a graphic novel. For somebody who didn't live very long, he led a life interesting enough for print. I have a Lennon story in the back of my head and one day it will go to print as well. Why not? People write One Direction fan fic and get book contracts. What's stopping me?

Want to read some Lennon? Here's my Top 3:

The John Lennon Letters by John Lennon and Hunter Davies, ed. - The John Lennon Letters has the look and feel of a coffee table book - you could probably jump back and forth reading the letters and notes, but reading all the way through creates a more rounded picture of Lennon by Lennon. If you are mostly a digital reader now, as I am, you'll find the price for hardcover well worth the investment. My full review(AMZ / BN)

Shoulda Been There by Jude Southerland Kessler - Author Kessler has taken on the incredible project of novelizing Lennon's life story. So far she's three books in, and Shoulda chronicles Lennon's birth through meeting Brian Epstein. It's probably the book of most ambitious scope since it covers nearly half his life. Great attention to detail and authenticity. My full review.  (AMZ / BN)

Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy by Ken Sharp - For readers interested in Lennon's later history with a concentration on work rather than gossip, Starting Over is a nice "oral" history, but may come off as a bittersweet read given how the story ends. My full review.

What will next year bring? Hopefully peace.
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