5 over 500 and other resolutions

I have spent another week looking over the four reading challenges that I posted about last week and how I am going to carve them up. I can count books for different reasons on different lists to get as many of them checked off by the time 2017 is here.

But then I have two more personal reading goals:

One: At least five books longer than 500 pages each

In 2012, anxiously awaiting the birth of my son during what felt like the longest (non high-risk) pregnancy in the history of the world that did not involve bed rest, I devoured books. I may have read more in graduate school, but since I did not track it, my page record is from 2012 with 22,656.  Last year I came close to matching it with 21,844.  I got within a thousand pages of the prize.

I want this year to match or rival 2012.  And, because I did a lot of short books last year, this year I am challenging myself to read at least five books over 500 pages long in 2016. I tackled a lot of intimidating (to me) and abandoned books last year and I want to keep going.  There will be both books like The Fountainhead, Les Miserables, and Wolf Hall, that can be intimidating, but also books that I am looking forward to more, like  A Winter’s Tale, The Cider House Rules, The Valley of Amazement, and Shirley. I am currently tackling The Luminaries, which I did not realize is a murder mystery, which adds to its coolness.  (Note: I don’t have the hutzpah this year for War and Peace, Ulysses or Atlas Shrugged)

Audiobooks greatly assist in this endeavor because I can cram reading into the margins, especially in the morning when I can’t sit down with a book but my brain is sharpest.

Two: Read a short story a week

My lovely and late high school librarian told me that a short story is like a bubble in time, a moment all in itself.  She told me this back when I actually wrote a few in high school that I did not think were half bad. I know that writing short stories will help my writing game, by adding practice and more publication and feedback opportunities.

I feel in writing short stories it is fundamental to read them.  And I only read one collection last year, Anthony Doerr’s lyrical The Shell Collector. I have two Karen Russells, and Alice Munro, a 20 under 40, Roald Dahl’s short works, and countless anthologies ornamenting my shelves that collect dust and my lamentation that they do not get read.  I even have some on my kindle, which I tend to avoid because I still like my poetry and short story collections in straight up paper.

I got some paper books for Christmas that recall for me the intoxication of a real paper book, of a hardcover with deckle edge paper.

As a final note of this, my blog gets the most views when I choose self published books and share the reviews with the chosen author. I need to get back to that.

And then for writing.

I really have to keep it small here. Last year I wanted to start a blog, and I did, and that has helped me to be accountable and consistent in my writing.

I would really love to do NaNoWriMo, which I would never do without a completed outline, which I don’t know if I will have,  and I still have a full time job and a preschooler to contend with.  So this year may not be the year.  I also love the 52 short stories a year recommendation, but there is not time for that either.

Instead of a productivity resolution, I am starting off my writing year with learning more about characterization and I bought some books from Writer’s Digest to get started.  I am going to work on the draft I already have.  If that gets revamped as much as I would like it to, I will consider my writing goals met for the year.  Maybe some plot bunnies in my head could grow.

So that is it.  I promise that I am reading up to fuel some of my review posts.  I love comments.

Reading Challenge: TV, holidays and shorts

I have been struggling to accept the inevitability of fall this year.

I used to love fall.  The return to school, the exciting school swimming season, the changing leaves, being bundled quickly in darkness at the end of the day, followed with fantastic holidays in rapid succession. Childhood magic at its finest.

This love persisted until I had my son at the end of October 2012. I was stuck at home barely sleeping with a sack of flour as the wonders of fall (which was ignored due to the wonders of a soon to arrive baby, a new house and a nutty maternity leave to arrange) descended into the hard and cold winter months. No longer was I going to be willing to make drives and take a gamble on the weather and baby schedules to see friends and family when I was feeling lonely, and then to boot in the following years, I had a child to entertain indoors.

I continue to barrel through the reading challenge because we only do have a few short months left until time is up and everyone else’s recommended reading for the closing year blooms all over the internet. And it is keeping my mind off the impending isolation of winter.

Three more choices to fit in limited categories:

A book based on or turned into a TV show: I had three contestants for this one. Sex and the City by Carrie Bradshaw, Gossip Girl  by Cecily Von Ziegesar, and:

pretty little liars

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

This one had better ratings than the other two and was available from my local library as an ebook, so that superficially made it win. (I was disappointed that people rated Sex and the City so low when it was great on the screen. It probably retains its’ spot on my TBR list nonetheless.) I don’t wonder why Pretty Little Liars is so amazingly popular as books and a TV show.  It plays on the common teenage insecurity of people finding out your secrets under a pretty and perfect facade.  And anyone who does not have such a facade would love to believe that people who do harbor similar miseries on their downtime as well. I was caught up in it too, even though I did watch some of the series walking on the treadmill through my uncomplicated but exhausting pregnancy (childbearing is sooo my favorite, can’t you tell?). I blew through this one in a few days and any pop culture knowledge helps me be less dork and more relatable to some of my clients. Still dork though.

A book set during Christmas: In my search for the book to fit this category, I discovered that Christmas is ripe fodder for a cozy mystery.  I love me a cozy mystery, and in fact my favorite cozy mysteries series, Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, has a Christmas book that I listened to at Christmas and loved. But I wanted something different, so for 2.99 on Kindle I bought

Christmas Slay Ride

Christmas Slay Ride: Most Mysterious and Horrific Christmas Day Murders by Jack Smith

Probably a startlingly gruesome choice, I imagine, but I have a dark side to my reading at times. I thought it was a different interpretation of the category. In a similar vein I am considering In Cold Blood for my book based on a true story or I, Ripper  by Stephen Hunter. This was a quick read of true murder stories, exactly as the title suggests. They could be a good inspiration for fiction as well, with some not so true to life embellishments.

A book of short stories: I have two of Karen Russell’s short story collections, numerous of the best of the year (kindle and paper) and even the best of the century anthologies, 20 under 40, The Best of Roald Dahl, Runaway by Alice Munro and two editions of the O.Henry Awards Prize Stories, and with my birthday money I bought:

the shell collector

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr

Because I love his language in All the Light We Cannot See.  This is the only time I have bought professional narration with a book and have not felt it was right for the book. Don’t worry, Audible, I still love you and you can still take my money, but I gathered a different tone reading rather than listening and I did not like that.  Despite this, this brief collection reminded me that if I want to be serious about short stories, this is the inspiration that I need.  I loved his exotic settings and his juxtaposition of themes and relationships and the language was gorgeous as expected. I am partial to Doerr when he uses nature and natural history and ocean life in his work because those also intrigue me. I put the rest of his works on my Amazon list. Because, you know, that’s what you do.  I might read one of Karen Russell’s short collections, or maybe Sleep Donation, for my someone under 30, (girlfriend is my age and I have been coveting her abilities since before we were 30) if I don’t count Frankenstein for that and count it for a Famous Author’s First Book instead, which I am considering reading Carrie by Stephen King.

These are always good posts to see what others may fit in these categories! Please leave a reply!