Wednesday, January 08, 2014

My Reading Year, A Look Back

So, last year (2012) I set a personal record with the number of books I read, finishing with 72 books read-- roughly 6 books a month. I was quite proud of myself for all the reading, but began 2013 secretly nursing a desire to read more books than that this year. What if, I mused, I increased my reading to SEVEN books a month?? Could I?? Always up for a good challenge, I started 2013 with big ambitions.

It didn't take long for me to realize that my lofty ambitions?? They were too lofty.

Six books a month was my max. To push myself any further took all the joy out of reading. And reading is something I hold far too dear to suck the joy out of. So I relaxed and resigned myself to having a year much like 2012.

Except... except. I actually did read TWO more books than last year. Making my reading list come in at 74 books read this year. And also? That means I officially made my goal. It wasn't 12 more books read this year, but it was more books than last year. So yay. Challenge met. Goal achieved.

Yes, I'm a total firstborn child.

So I thought I'd share my faves from this past year, in case you're looking for some excellent reads or you have a gift card you need to spend. Books are a lovely (and virtuous) way to spend your money. And don't think you have to read 60 or 74 or even 24 books a year. Read what you can. Read 12-- one book per month. But read. Because if you don't, you're missing out. Take my word for it.

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. This was a moving, gripping book. It was the first book I read of the year, and, I have to say, hard to top.


WHY WE WRITE, edited by Meredith Maran. This book inspired me so much in the area of writing, with contributions from some of my faves. Come to think of it, I may have to read it all over again this year. So good. So rich with literary insight.

ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline. This book was one of our She Reads picks, and for a good reason. I loved the relationship between the old lady and the teen girl, both broken, both abandoned. And yet, in each other, they both find hope and perspective.

TAPESTRY OF FORTUNES by Elizabeth Berg. One of my consistently fave authors, I wept my way through the end of this one. This is Berg in top form.

THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL by Carolyn Turgeon. A fairy tale for grownups? I didn't know how much I needed to immerse myself in this mashup of Rapunzel and Snow White until I did. I read this one in one day, the ultimate compliment of a book in my opinion.

STORIES I ONLY TELL MY FRIENDS by Rob Lowe. Not sure I would've loved this book quite like I did if I'd read it. I actually listened to it on cd's from the library and he was the narrator. I loved hearing him tell his story. There was so much I didn't know about him. And his impressions of the people he writes about are hilarious and dead-on. Oh, Soda Pop who knew you were capable of such deep reflections and led such an interesting life?

DARING GREATLY by Brene Brown. Loved this book and recommend it to all. It's one that needs to be read every year because there is way too much in it to get in just the one time.

THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd. I was late to this party but better late than never. My friend Kimberly Brock found out I'd never read the book and mistakenly thought that the movie was good enough to get the gist. "Oh honey," she chided, "You're missing out." She was right and I'm so glad she insisted I read the book. If you haven't, do yourself a favor. Sue Monk Kidd also has a new book out, THE INVENTION OF WINGS, which has already been named an Oprah book club pick. For good reason, I'm sure.

BREAD AND WINE by Shauna Niequist. This book made me like being in the kitchen during a time I was struggling with the mundane aspects of cooking. If a book can do that? It's worth reading.

THE HUSBAND'S SECRET by Liane Moriarty. You have to have been living under a rock to not have seen this book somewhere recently. For that reason I'm hesitant to jump in and tout it too, when there are so many unsung books out there that need to be touted instead. But it really was riveting. As good (better?) as WHAT ALICE FORGOT, which was another one by her that I just loved.

THE CASTAWAYS by Elin Hildebrand. She is a gifted writer and this story of the aftermath of the death of a beloved couple and how their lives affected those who loved them was well done. I haven't read all her books (yet!) but the ones I have read I have enjoyed. Perfect beach read in case you're thinking ahead! (You know I always am.)


JUST WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? Paula Daly. Loved this twisty suburban thriller that takes place in an English village. The action may take place across the ocean but the thoughts and actions of the characters are highly recognizable. I listened to this one and the veddy veddy British narrator was positively perfect.

WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD by Susan Crandall. Another one I listened to. The narration was great and the writing superb. I will not forget these characters; they will stay with me for sure. I still find myself thinking of them and wondering how they turned out, which says a lot about the writer.

WHERE'D YOU GO BERNADETTE by Maria Semple. This is another book that was all over the place this year, all with raves attached to it. Well they were definitely earned. My friend Rachel Olsen lent me the audio book and assured me I'd love it. But I'm embarrassed to admit it took me far too long to get around to listening. Once I did, I was hooked. And so sad when it was over. Funny, smart, original, poignant. All apply.
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