Category: Book Lists

2018 Reading Goals

I don’t often set goals, but when I do, they’re unrealistic.

It’s the time of year when everyone likes to set goals for the new year, and I’m no different. I’ve loved reading about other people’s goals, both for their personal lives and for their reading lives, and it’s made me think even harder about what I want my own goals to be.

As other people do, I often set grand, unrealistic goals for the year, and then feel the huge weight of disappointment when I am unable to reach even a fraction of them. I want this year to be different. I do have some goals, and working towards things is important to me, but this year I want my goals to be relaxed. More general in nature. Eat more veggies, move more, stress less, read books. Today I want to talk about my reading goals for 2018.

I read a lot of books in 2017. 70, plus all of the books I read to my kids, including 4.5 Harry Potter books. I LOVE that I read that much, but I would really like to be a bit more deliberate in my reading choices in 2018. I am participating in the Unreadshelf Project on Instagram, which entails making an effort to read the books that have been languishing, unread, on my shelves for years. And instead of setting a number of books that I want to read (that just sounds stressful), I’m instead choosing 12 categories of books that I want to try and read this year. In an effort to be more intentional about my reading, but not forceful, I want to plan 2-4 books each month, and leave the rest to whatever I feel like reading. These planned books could include books from my unread shelf, from my categories (listed below), Advanced Reader Copies, or any other book that I want to make sure to read.

Some of these categories I will have no problem hitting. (I’m reading a suspense novel now, and there are several historical fiction books I’m planning to read.) Others are categories that I want to try more of (science fiction and poetry/verse), so I’m challenging myself to read at least 1 book in each of those categories. I also want to read more diverse books, and I have the Diverse Books Club to help with that. (You should join if you haven’t already!) And just to be clear, these are very basic reading categories that are personal goals for me. (Modern Mrs. Darcy has an awesome reading challenge with fun categories-I’m planning on incorporating mine into hers as well.)

Do you set yearly reading goals or challenges? I’m hoping to have a document to share by the end of next week in case you want to join in with me, or just create your own categories! Let me know what you hope to read in 2018 and how you want to challenge your reading life.

Reading Categories for 2018

  • Non-fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Suspense
  • Memoir
  • Humor
  • Fantasy
  • Literary fiction
  • Personal development
  • Poetry/verse
  • Seasonal
  • Classic literature

Favorite Books of 2017!


I can’t believe it’s almost 2018!!! This year flew by, and while I’m extremely grateful that I had a pretty great year, sometimes I wish that time would slow down just a little. My kids appear to be growing faster with each blink of an eye, and with that comes the realization of the importance of slowing down. (I have some thoughts on that I’ll be posting about soon!) Slowing down in the new year to read more to myself, more to my kids, and to spend more time writing for myself are just a few things I’m reflecting on as 2017 comes to a close. But right now, you’re here for the books, so let’s get into it!

So far this year, I’ve read 68 books. This might sound like a lot, but I know other book bloggers who regularly read over 100 books a year. This was a lot for me . . . and I loved it! I’m working on a 2018 Reading Challenge (that we can all participate in), and one of my personal goals is to read even more in 2018. For now, here are my favorite books of 2017!

So I will preface this by saying that I listened to Echo on Audible and loved it so much that I bought the book and plan to re-read it, maybe in 2018. I cannot recommend this book, on paper or audio, enough. Yes, it is classified as a middle grade book, but if I hadn’t known that, I would have just thought it was a wonderful, emotional historical fiction book about three kids and their experiences during WWII. Each child’s story is centered on how music plays a role in her or her life, and how their love for music is hindered by the war. This book was beautiful, broke my heart, and still has me thinking about it almost 6 months later. Echo is a masterpiece, and one of my all-time favorite books.
Read my review of Echo HERE.

Celeste Ng is one of the best authors out there, and Little Fires Everywhere is as close to perfection as you can get in literary fiction. This is the story of a perfectly planned community, a perfect-on-the-outside family living there, and what happens when a single mom and her daughter move to town and things start to change. Whether those changes are for the better or the worse depends on who’s looking at the situation. I could not put this book down once I started it, and I’m still thinking about it. The writing is beautiful, but not in an overbearing way. Ng is a master with words, and this book entertains while also making you think, perhaps even question your own values and world views. This was my very favorite book of 2017, and is absolutely an all-time favorite.
Read my review of Little Fires Everywhere HERE.

A non-fiction book! On my favorites list! I never thought I would choose a non-fiction book as one of my yearly favorites, but Killers of the Flower Moon was so amazing it found its way in. David Grann writes about a subject that I was aware of but didn’t know a lot about: the Osage Indians and sinister plot to kill them off in order to get their oil money in the 1920s. This read like fiction, and I’m glad because it’s an important story that people should know more about. American Indians have a sad history in America, and this book highlights one of the reasons why. It is powerful, and I can’t wait to see what Martin Scorsese does with the movie version.
Read my review of Killers of the Flower Moon HERE.

Chances are you’ve at least heard of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, and if you haven’t read it yet I beg you to. At the outset, it appears to be a novel about a grumpy old man who hates his neighbors. What it’s really about is how much that grumpy old man loved his wife, what their relationship meant to him, and how he survives without her. Ove has so much heart and so much compassion (underneath that prickly exterior) that you cannot help but love the main character, as well as the entire book. Backman is a true wordsmith, and I laughed and cried throughout the book, sometimes on the same page. A Man Called Ove is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read.
Read my review of A Man Called Ove HERE.

Karen Dionne’s The Marsh King’s Daughter is one of those books I just could not put down (or stop listening to-I listened to part of it on audio) this year. Part fairy tale, part suspense novel, it weaves a tale of a woman who was born to an abducted teenager and is now making her life as normal as possible, complete with a new name. When her father escapes from prison, she has to find him before he finds her and her family. This is such a compelling story, and Dionne is a wonderful storyteller. I loved the mystery and suspense, and especially loved the way Helena, the main character, both loved and hated her parents for a variety of reasons. It felt very real, and I was invested in the characters.
Read my review of The Marsh King’s Daughter HERE.

When I chose Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as my BOTM pick, I thought it might be a light, summer read. It is so much more than that, and Reid is one of my favorite authors now. Evelyn Hugo, an actress far past her career, decides to tell her life story, including the stories of each of her seven husbands, to a journalist for a tell-all book. No one is sure why Evelyn has decided to do this, but as the book goes on, her reasons become clear. Aside from writing itself being fantastic, the story is engaging, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. I have recommended Evelyn Hugo to so many people, and I will continue to do so until everyone has read it!
Read my review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo HERE.

WWII books are usually popular with fans of historical fiction. I am definitely in that category, and Jessica Shattuck’s The Women in the Castle was different than other WWII historical fiction novels that I’ve read. This is based on a real group of resistance fighters who tried and failed to assassinate Hitler, and whose spouses were left widowed during WWII. While the war itself is touched on, the story really delves into how these women survived after the war. The most interesting aspect is that they are all Germans, a group we are generally told not sympathize with, trying to survive regular life after the war. This book takes a look at what happens after a war, in the losing country, and how regular citizens keep going, no matter what. It is a wonderful story that had me looking for more to read about this group of people.
Read my review of The Women in the Castle HERE.

If you are a Louise Penny fan, I know that I’m preaching to the choir when I say that this is one of my favorite series ever. Inspector Gamache, the lead detective in Penny’s series that takes place in Canada, is one of the best detective characters out there, right up with Hercule Poirot. A Fatal Grace is the second book in the Gamache series, and it was even better than the first. A much-disliked woman is electrocuted on an ice rink during a curling match, and Gamache must figure out who had a motive (everyone) and who actually did it, and why. This is the ultimate cozy mystery series, and I hope to read the rest of Penny’s books in 2018. If you haven’t tried Penny yet (start with Still Life), get started and meet me in Three Pines!
Read my review of A Fatal Grace HERE.

This is my favorite dystopian novel of the year, and one that I will probably re-read in the future. It is reminiscent of other dystopian novels about women, but adds a new angle that I loved. In Gather the Daughters, there is a society of people living on an island. The men are in charge and the women are breeders only. Their only time of freedom is during the summer as children, when they are allowed to run wild until the age of puberty. One summer, one of the daughters sees something she shouldn’t, and it sets into a motion a plan to end the patriarchal civilization, maybe for good. This book was wonderful and disturbing, and I couldn’t stop reading it until I got to the end. I really cared about the characters, was worried for them, and I hope that Jennie Melamed has plans to write about what happens to them in the future.
Read my review of Gather the Daughters HERE.

I read The Other Einstein over the summer as part of the Big Library Read, and it was a surprise hit for me. Marie Benedict tells a fictional version of Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric, and her relationship with him, as well as her contributions to science. This is a wonderful historical fiction novel, and in addition to making me want to find out more about Mileva, it caused me to really think about gender roles in science and in the past, and how much has changed. (And how much really hasn’t.) I loved this as a historical fiction book and as a story of a strong woman who made the best of impossible circumstances.
Read my review of The Other Einstein HERE.

 

EXTRA!

I have to mention these two as well, because I couldn’t put them down! Neither are books I probably would have chosen would it not have been for the amazing bookstagram community and Book of the Month Club.

Cate Holohan’s Lies She Told is tense, fast-moving suspense novel about a writer whose real life starts to blend fiction and reality. There is a murder, a cheating husband, and you don’t find out the truth until the very end. It’s a great suspenseful read.
Read my review of Lies She Told HERE.

 

 

Riley Sager’s Final Girls is like a slasher film on paper. It’s about several girls who, separately, have been the final girls left after a mass murder. Someone is trying to pick off those remaining girls, and Quincy Carpenter, the main character, has to figure out who is after her. This is a page turner, and while I do not watch horror films, I couldn’t stop reading this.
Read my review of Final Girls HERE.

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Seasonal Reading: Fall

Fall is one of my favorite times of year for many reasons: pumpkin bread, cooler weather, re-watching Gilmore Girls, and reading certain books. Do you read seasonally? Fall is really the only time of year I like to read certain books, so I thought I would share a few with you that I’ve read that are perfect for Fall, and a few that I’m looking forward to reading. Whether you’re already wearing boots and sweaters, or you’re like me and cranking up the A/C and pretending it’s chilly outside, hopefully you can find a few here to add to your nightstand!

Cozy Books

These books make me want to curl up under a blanket with some hot chocolate and not leave the couch for hours!

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

This one might seem obvious, but I love re-reading Harry Potter when the weather starts to change. At this point, it’s like visiting with an old friend, and feels like going back home. If you haven’t read Harry Potter yet . . . what are you waiting for??

Still Life by Louise Penny

I’m a new Louise Penny fan, and I absolutely loved Still Life. (My review is HERE.) Her Inspector Gamache series, set in the Canadian town of Three Pines, is the perfect cozy mystery for cooler days.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is one of my favorite books, and Hannah is one of my favorite authors. This is the story of two sisters living in France during WWII, and the different paths they take to make it through the war. It is loosely based on a true story, and it’s a book I couldn’t put down until I had finished it.

Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself by John Leonard Pielmeier

This was published in July, and I have been looking forward to reading it so much. This tells the story of Captain Hook, starting in his childhood, and how he went from a little boy living with his widowed mother to a famed, much-feared pirate. A fairy tale twisted around so the villain is the star? Yes, please!

Creepy Books

It is October, and if there’s ever a time to read seriously creepy stories, it’s now!

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Y’all, I don’t watch slasher movies and I don’t generally read gruesome books, but I made an exception for Final Girls, and you should too! (My review HERE.) The books tells the story of a “final girl,” that is, a girl who was the only person left after a mass murder. I know. Stick with me. It’s a well-told story, and you will be awake and on your toes through the entire thing. Maybe read it with the lights on, though.

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

I chose this from Book of the Month after Prose and Palate recommended it as a guest judge. Liza Cole is an author whose career isn’t doing so great. Her personal life is also struggling, so she disappears into the murder mystery she’s writing. Before long, her real life is mirroring her literary heroine’s life, and Liza has to figure out what’s really going on. I cannot WAIT to read this on a stormy October night.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Really, any Gillian Flynn will do for a creepy read, but Sharp Objects is, in my opinion, her creepiest. Camille Preaker is a reporter who returns to her hometown to investigate the murder of two young girls. She also just happens to have recently completed a stay at a psychiatric hospital. So of course, her own psychological issues and past become intertwined with her investigation. This one is seriously creepy, and it will keep you up at night!

A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

This book was published posthumously, and I read it years ago. And I’m still thinking about it. Rosamond Vivian, feeling like a prisoner in her grandfather’s house, is whisked away one night (a stormy night, of course) by Philip Tempest to live a life of excitement and passion. However, it’s not all she expected it to be, and Rosamond is soon running away from Philip, who continues to stalk her. This is no Little Women, and I love it!

Mysterious Books

These books aren’t creepy, but they are mysterious. If you want a cozy, intriguing book without feeling like someone is watching you through the window, try one of these!

Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman, queen of magical realism and mystery, has written a prequel to Practical Magic, which is why I’m recommending the two together. Read Practical Magic first (My review HERE.) and then pick up The Rules of Magic on October 10 to get even more of the Owens’ family history. These books have magic, mystery, and family drama, and they are my favorite books to suggest for the Fall.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was a surprise favorite for me, and it is one of my absolute favorite books. It’s a dystopian novel set in the not-so-distant future. A flu pandemic hits, civilization ends, and a group of arts-loving people travel around what is left of the country performing music and Shakespeare in an effort to not the arts die out. But when they reach one small town, a prophet prone to violence shakes up their group, and they must escape or risk never making it out at all.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

I received a copy of this book from Doubleday, and I’m looking forward to finally reading it this month! If you ever watched Scooby Doo, or enjoyed Hardy Boys mysteries as a kid, this is the book for you. It is not about the Scooby Doo characters, but it basically tells the story of what would happen when those characters grow up and must come back together to solve a mystery again. This is a fun book for adults who want to return to that world one more time!

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Book of Dust, Volume 1) by Philip Pullman

I may be on a book-buying ban, but I still pre-ordered this one. This is a prequel to Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass), and if you haven’t read that trilogy and you enjoy mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy all in one, go out and buy them now. Right now. The original trilogy is about a girl named Lyra as she travels through her universe and others trying to figure out . . . well, basically the meaning of life and why everything is the way it is. The Book of Dust is the first in another trilogy, and this one will focus on Lyra as a young child and how she came to be living at Jordan College (where we first see her in The Golden Compass). These books are so, so good, and there is plenty of mystery involved!

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Read Banned Books!

It is Banned Books Week 2017! Every year in September, the American Library Association celebrates the freedom to read and freedom of information by highlighting classically-banned books as well as the most frequently challenged books each year. A lot of the books I’m aware of, but some of them surprised me. (James and the Giant Peach? Really?) Every year, people officially request (challenge) to have certain books removed from libraries, and the fact that this still happens kind of shocks me. A lot of the books are children’s books and YA books, in an attempt to block certain subjects (generally race, gender issues, basically anything considered diverse content) from kids. And like a kid, if you tell me not to read a book, I’m definitely going to read it. In my opinion, censorship has no place in libraries, bookstores, or anywhere else that books are available for the general public. Are certain books geared toward older kids or adults? Yes, of course. Waiting until someone is a certain age to read specific books is completely different from wanting books banned from EVERYONE.

It’s important to bring attention to this issue and to read banned books! Why? To promote freedom of choice and the freedom to read anything we want. I’m sure some people have the best intentions when they challenge books, but others are simply trying to push their own agendas onto everyone else. Harry Potter has been challenged so many times because some people (a pretty small group, I’d say, given Potter’s continued popularity) think it promotes witchcraft and corrupt ideas. Those people seem to ignore the fact that Harry’s true power comes from his mother’s love, not magic, and that the entire series advocates for family, friendship, love, being inclusive, and knowledge. Not so scandalous after all!

I’ve listed a few of my favorite banned books below, as well as some of the most popular and regularly-challenged books. Many of them have been challenged because they include diverse content, something we should all be reading MORE of, not less.

Have you read any of these? Which banned books are on your reading list this week and this year? Do any of these titles surprise you?

You can find a complete list of challenged and banned books at the ALA website HERE.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls

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How to Fit Reading In During the School Year!

Well, it’s the start of another school year, and with that comes homework, sports, extracurricular clubs, early bedtimes (some nights), and tired kids and parents. It can be difficult to fit in all of the fun, leisurely activities we usually do during the summer. We are definitely having a hard time letting go of playing outside until dark, then coming in and reading way past all of our bedtimes. But reading is so important to my kids and me that we have a few ways we like to make sure we fit reading in during the school year.

How do you make sure to read to or with your kids during the school year? How do they get in alone reading time? Let me know in the comments!

Schedule It!

This seems obvious, but sometimes even I forget to leave enough time in the day for reading. If reading before bed is part of your routine, just make sure you leave enough time in the daily schedule for it. Sometimes that means moving dinner and playing outside up 30 minutes. (And sometimes the kids just need to play outside and skip reading for a night. That’s ok too!!) Even if it’s just ten minutes per kid, we make an effort to leave a little reading time each night.

During Dinner

I know a lot of people will disagree on this one, but sometimes I allow reading during dinner. If the kids have to eat at a different time from my husband and me (like the nights they have soccer practice and they need to eat early), oftentimes I’ll read to them while they eat. I actually really enjoy it, and it’s a nice way to have some calm reading time in between activities. My older son read at the table during lunch quite a bit during the summer, and I generally don’t like that at dinner, but if he’s really into a book . . . haven’t we all been there?

My kids will also sometimes read to themselves at breakfast. None of us are particularly thrilled to be up super early, and aren’t always great conversationalists before 7AM, so this is a good way to ease into the day and get some reading in. (And if everyone is cranky, it curbs any arguments that might pop up!)

In the Car

We almost always have an audiobook playing in the car, and we listen on the way to school (We’re listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets again right now.) and on the way home, on the way to sports, or while we run errands. If we’ve had a late night and weren’t able to read, they like knowing that they’ll at least get to listen to a story on the way to school in the morning.

Spare Time at School

This is one I didn’t think of until my kids insisted on taking books in their already heavy backpacks last year. Turns out, they do have a little time to read to themselves at school! (Schoolwork seems to be more difficult and given in greater quantities than when I was in elementary school, so I really didn’t know if they would be able to read anything other than school-assigned books.) The kids aren’t allowed to talk much in the hallway in the morning, so they can read while they wait to be let into their classrooms. They are also allowed to read in class if they finish their assigned work early, and sometimes during snack time. If it’s a particularly good book, my kids will also read on the bus ride home. So as long as their backpacks aren’t full to bursting, send along a (paperback) book to school! They’ll probably be able to get in a chapter or two.

For Yourself

The school year can be a difficult time to fit reading in for adults as well! Days are busy, afternoons and evenings are often packed with after-school activities, and by the time the sun goes down I’m often too tired to read more than a few pages before I zonk out. (Because I can’t go to sleep without reading at least a few pages of something.) If you plan ahead a little bit (basically, bring a book with you everywhere you go), it’s possible to fit in a good chunk of reading during those busy days. I’m always listening to an audiobook or podcast when I drive without my kids. The pickup line at school is a great place to fit in a little reading, as is during sports practices. (We all enjoy watching our kids play sports, but I think it’s ok to take some of that practice time to read!) And sometimes my boys just want to read to themselves at night, or to each other, and I try to take that opportunity to read my own book at the same time. We’re all getting in reading time and spending some nice quiet time together at the end of the day.

The school year is busy, but if you make reading a priority, there are lots of pockets of time to get it done!

Tell me some of your tricks to getting in more reading time during the school year!

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