My Top 5 Reads of 2019 (So Far...)

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In 2018 I suffered a major reading slump that I didn’t come out of until somewhere around September. In 2019 I started reading again in earnest, and have read some really great ones this year. Of the 91 books I’ve read so far this year, these are the top five. I’m interested to see what will still be on my list at the end of 2019.

In no particular order…

50 Great American Places by Brent D.Glass — This book is solely responsible for bringing back my wanderlust and the many miles I’m planning on putting on my car this summer.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Graphic Novel) — I love that so many classics are being turned into graphic novels. I finished this and immediately handed it to my 11 year old history lover.

Betty Ford by Lisa McCubbin - You know when an intro makes you cry you’re in for a good book. I picked this up because Betty Ford and I have a neighborhood in common, but ended up being so impressed by Ford and what she accomplished in life. Highly recommend.

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice McFadden - The most hopeful book about child slavery you will ever read.

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur - Once I started reading this I couldn’t stop. I never thought of myself as a poetry person, but this book proved me wrong.

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2Q2017 Reading Stats

This quarter my reading life included a lot of audio for the Armchair Audies, a youth sports induced reading slump, and the start of summer reading. Here are my stats:

34 books read between April and June.

That's 5 fewer than in Q1.  Not bad for a busy season.

My TBR is up to 357.

I wanted to get it down to 300 this year, but it actually keeps creeping up. Oh well, that's the price I pay for taking part in reading round ups.

Favorites from 2Q17:

It's interesting to me that these are all audio books. My brain might have just been too tired for print last quarter.

I average 2 non-fiction books a month.

However, that number keeps getting lower as we ease into summer.

How has your reading year been going?

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2017 First Quarter Stats

I know it's not a contest to see how many books I read in a year, but I still love to track it. In case you're interested, here's how my reading year has been going.

Books read by month

Average books read per month in 2017 to date: 13

Average books read per month in 2016: 12

TBR by month

2017 Goal: To get my TBR list under 300 books

Books by type

How is your reading year going so far?

Cleaning up my TBR

My TBR (to be read list) has ballooned to gigantic proportions in the past month. It was clear I was never going to get through it. Last weekend I spent an entire afternoon when I should have been getting ready for Thanksgiving cleaning it out.

If a book met any of this criteria I deleted it. It was kind of heart wrenching, but I figure if it was meant to be the book will come back to me some day.

1) Anything that had vampires in it went. The thought of vampires makes me want to vomit so I didn't have a lot of them in there, but a few snuck through. I can't even drink tomato juice. There's no way I'd read a book about vampires

2) Books involving unsolved murders of elementary school age kids or murders of mom who leave young kids behind.

3) Books I included when they were new and promising, but now only have two star reviews.

4) Books that are on my list only because I feel guilty for never having read them.

5) If I was on the fence about it, and my library doesn't have it.

6) Books that I keep returning unread.

7) Books with endings that seem to infuriate people. Given the current climate in this country, I prefer solid endings.

8) Too many people call a book weird or experimental.

I was able to take my list from 499 to 345 books.

Do you ever clean out your TBR? What are your rules?

September Quick Lit

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

It's mid-September, and I think we can all agree summer reading time is over. Here's what I read in the last few carefree weeks of summer.

I'm not sure what to think about The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. The subject, WWII, was brutal, but the cadence of the book was soothing. This is the first book I added to my TBR when I started my LibraryThing account. Now that I finally read it I'm sure it will stay with me for a long, long time.

I read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume in order to fill in a few blanks for some reading challenges. I'm glad I took the time, because this book is still a masterpiece. I was the same age as my son is now when I first read this book, and re-reading it this summer brought back a lot of my 3rd grade feelings. It was a timely reminder.

Walking With Plato by Gary Hayden tells the story of a walk. He reads and he thinks as he goes, and this book is a simple yet satisfying unpacking of his thoughts. He wasn't trying to write a book as he set off, and the reader gets a much better story for it. This was a five star read for me, and may end up as my favorite of the year.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin made me want to drop everything and read Truman Capote books all day and night. I had no idea that this was a fictional retelling of his relationships with the Fifth Avenue elite until I started, and it was such a lovely surprise. Sometimes when you pick a book by its cover it works out for you.

Brush Back by Sara Paretsky is the latest V.I. Warshawski novel. It's not the greatest in the series, but it was still worth reading. True story - when I was finally allowed to take books out of the adult section of my local public library growing up I randomly grabbed one of the first V.I. mysteries, and I haven't stopped reading them since.

Walking The Amazon by Ed Stafford was another book about walking -kind of a theme for me lately. This was a solid adventure story. It wasn't the best written of the bunch, but it was enough to make you want to run away from home and do something crazy.

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

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This month's audiobooks

I have been listening to audiobooks like no one's business lately. My rabid consumption has been driven by a combination of a huge pile of laundry from my kids' swim camp, and all of the time in the car spent driving them to said camp. Being a parent is giving me perspective into how much work my mom had to do so that I could be bored all summer. Oh well, turning lemons into reading time and all that. Anyone want me to throw in a load of towels for them?

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower was fascinating. I really liked getting a behind the scenes look at life in the White House. (But note: both of my kids complained endlessly about the narrator on this one. They said the voice gave them a headache.)

I had seen the movie version of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, but I've never read an Agatha Christie book. The movie was pretty good, but the book was just so much more messed up. (In a good way.) Look for more Agatha Christie in my future reads.

The Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot was my solution when I was craving something light and funny. It was super predictable and stupid, and that made me love it all the more. Sometimes that's all you need.

Eruption by Steve Olson was a fascinating look into the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. I didn't know much about the eruption going into this book. I remember a teacher bringing a jar of ash to school, and all of us being like Mount St. Who? I was also vaguely aware that the state highpoints of Oregon and Washington were volcanoes. I was too young at the time, and too distracted since with my east coast problems to realize that there are volcanoes that have, can, and will explode in the Pacific Northwest. I can't decide if I should should rush out west to see them before they do, or stay far far away forever in case they pick my vacation week to come alive. There were some boring bits that I tuned out about the history of the lumber industry, but most of this audiobook took my breath away, much like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

Life According to Steph

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The 20 oldest books on my TBR

I started using Library Thing in 2014 to track the books I've read, and to track the books I want to read. This makes me sound like Angela from The Office, but I find Goodreads to be a bit too flashy for my tastes.

Today I was shuffling through my TBR and realized I had books on there that dated from the inception of my account in 2014. That inspired a new reading challenge. If I don't read these 20 books by the end of 2016 I'm taking them off my list.

I'm going to post the covers here. If you want the amazon.com description click on the cover.

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Books to read when you can't do anything else

There were mountains out there...

There were mountains out there...

I spent a good part of last week fighting hypothermia in a tent in Maine. It was much better than it sounds, actually! When you can't leave your sleeping bag, you get some good reading done. I read two books that were perfect for the occasion.

There are a lot of books that feature down on their luck women who stop doing their actual jobs and find peace by opening bakeries. These story lines annoy me (It actually takes a lot of work and skill to bake bread and run a business. It's not something you do because you can't handle your more stressful career back in the city.) However, once I get past that I usually really enjoy these books when I'm looking for some fluff. The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan was no exception - this one featured an island that can only be reached at certain times, and a sexy beekeeper from Georgia.

I somehow lucked out and was first in line when my library got the new book First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. This, again, was not Earth shattering literature, but it took my mind off the rain coming through my tent walls. It was what summer reading is all about - a light but thought provoking story line with characters that you can root for, flaws and all.

Life According to Steph

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June 2016 Quick Lit

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

Summer reading is in full swing!

Friday night = book + lawn chair + mojito

Life is good.

I read The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor because a bookstore I am known to frequent advertised it as similar to Gone Girl. Well, it was similar to Gone Girl because there's a missing wife. However Gone Girl was like watching a train wreck, while The Daylight Marriage actually had characters that were flawed, but you could get invested in them. You actually wanted a happy ending. It was more of a warning than a thriller.

Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt was a quick read about a lonely girl in Canada, and her adventures making friends and reading Jane Eyre. I don't usually read comics or graphic novels, but quite enjoyed this one. 

We listened to The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley in the car, and absolutely loved it. If you're looking for a listen for your summer family road trip look no further. It was a great story - likeable characters, interesting for me and the kids, and got us talking about history. Plus the narrator had an accent that made her sound just like Mary from Downton Abbey.

I tried to read The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza a few months ago, and couldn't get into it. Then I listened to the What Should I Read Next follow up show, and decided to give the audiobook a try. Wow, having someone scream out emojis added so much to the story. Crazy in a good way. Pure entertainment.

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman reminded me of the books I've read by Kate Morton. It had that same sense of gentle mystery to it. This book is 500+ pages, but I read it over a weekend because it was just so easy to curl up with. Perfect lawn chair reading.

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My summer reading list

My son is so wrapped up in sports that we don't even recognize months in this house any more. We just have soccer season, baseball season, basketball season, etc. Reading is my sport, and summer is undoubtedly my sport's season. I spent way more time than is normal this week coming up with my summer reading list.

(Need inspiration for your own list? Try Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide and Summer Reading BINGO from Books on the Nightstand.)

To read amazon.com's description of these books click on any of the images.

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Halftime Reading Goals Progress

Can you believe it? 2016 is half over. Any resolutions I made to improve myself in January have been long abandoned, except for the ones related to reading. I'm still trying to meet my 2016 reading goals for non-fiction, reading out loud, and classics.

Goal #1:

Read 50 non-fiction books, at least 40 from a list I curated from my TBR.

Progress: I have read 28 non-fiction books so far this year, but only ten are from my list. I'm in the middle of a huge book from my list now, so progress will be made this summer.

Goal #2:

Read the 5 chapter books on this list out loud to my kids.

Progress: I have read three chapter books out loud to my kids (plus numerous story books), but none were from my list. Not to fear, we have started two books from the list, so this shouldn't be a total shut out.

Goal #3:

Read these 8 classics in 2016.

I've read 3/8, almost half of my list. I would have read Grapes of Wrath too, but for some reason I've been waiting for weeks for my library hold.

Reading Challenges:

Modern Mrs. Darcy's reading challenge:

I only have 2 books left for this one -- "A book chosen by your sibling, spouse, child, or BFF", and "A book that was banned at some point".

BookRiot's Read Harder Challenge:

I've read 10/24 books for this challenge. Time to step it up! I'm starting with my selection for 500+ pages - City on Fire.

Books on the Nightstand Summer Reading BINGO:

I am super excited for my BINGO card - this is my 3rd year doing this, and I think it's my best yet.  I usually try to read the whole square, and I usually get pretty close.

My TBR

I started the year with 400 books on my TBR, and am down to 383. Not bad, since I feel like I've added about a thousand books since summer reading lists started coming out.

Happy reading!

May 2016 Quick Lit

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

I finally got around to reading Northanger Abbey, and liked it a lot. The ending was kind of meh, but the character of Catherine was crazy in an awesome way. I loved all of her wacky scenarios.

I'm still on my travel writing kick, hence, my impulsive use of an audiobook credit on Albert Podell's Around the World In 50 Years. This one grew on me. I didn't agree with all of "Big Al's" opinions, but I was fascinated by the logistics of traveling to every country in the world. I also appreciated that he seemed to spend a fair bit of time in every country. He wasn't just traveling to check things off his list; he really seemed to take time with each country.

Ever wondered what it's like to be Mormon in New York City? The New York Regional Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker was an interesting account of what seems to be a pretty big struggle. It was sometimes shallow, but also very sincere, and seemed very honest. I recommend it, but don't expect to find any life altering truths here.

I finally finished The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and now I finally know what everyone was talking about last year. This method is not really for me, but it did make me think about all the stuff we have. Some spring cleaning may be in order.

I listened The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury in my car. It was perfect for that. I found it entertaining enough to listen to, but didn't feel that I had to shut it off the second I picked up my kids. In fact my 8 year old even enjoyed a few of the stories while we waited for his bus. These are all short stories that are about the same things. It's kind of hard to explain, but very enjoyable, light science fiction. The only depressing thing was the astronauts from the future were born in 1986 - a full 9 years after me. I don't know when I got so old.

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It would have never happened without a reading challenge

I can't resist a reading challenge. Every time I do one I read at least one amazing book that I would have never picked up on my own. Right now I am obsessed with The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, my entry for "The First Book In A Series By A Person of Color" in Book Riot's Read Harder challenge.

It makes my little bookworm heart anxious that I would have lived my life never reading this amazing book if not for the challenge.

Summer reading challenges should be coming out soon, and I can't wait. If I read just one book as amazing as The Fifth Season this summer, it will be a summer well spent.

What's your favorite reading challenge?

Other books I discovered during reading challenges:

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