My Year in Review

2014 was quite a year for me, in many respects. My reading patterns reflect this in many ways. The first part of the year was incredibly stressful. When I was reading, I was drawn to comfort type books that didn’t require much work on my part. I finally read the Harry Potter books – well, 2-7, as I did read the first one a couple years ago. Then there was Tamora Pierce, who I pretty much always love. The middle of the year found many middling type books, and it wasn’t until September and my discovery of Alison Lurie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Foreign Affairs” that I found myself excited about reading. Of course, that was just in time for me to give my notice at work and start a new business. So there really wasn’t much reading from October through the end of the year. When goodreads told me I’d ended the year only 8 short of my 100 book goal, I was shocked.

Another shocking aspect of my reading in 2014: I read more books on audio and in ebook form than I did physical books. I’m still not a huge audiobook fan in general. I think some books really work in that format, while others might not.

One that worked great as an audiobook was “Frog Music” by Emma Donoghue. I’m certainly no expert, but I thought the accents were great – very fitting for the characters. And the songs were so lovely! I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much out of it as I would have had I read it in print. 

 

year in books
On to the stats!

92 books total

Audio:                           17     18%
Ebook:                          41     45%
Fiction:                         78     85%
Non-fiction:                 14    15%
Female authors:         70     76%
Male authors:              22    24%
Authors of color:         22    24%
Books in translation:    1       1%

Obviously some of these categories are overlapping. The one stat I knew was going to be bad was my books in translation. I usually read a lot more than one a year, but not this year. One of the things about translated books is that they take more effort to seek out, and my efforts this year went places besides my reading.

Despite the upheaval in my personal life I still managed to keep reading and read a lot of good books. Here’s to 2015!

Currently Listening to…

Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird Song.”

And like woah.

I heard about this album on npr (where else?), while I was driving to work one day last week. I went ahead and downloaded the album, which has Dr. Angelou reading her poems to hip hop beats.

Dr. Angelou said this about who she wanted to reach with this project:

“Some young woman, who had decided that life owed her nothing and she owed nothing – she had decided that life had no promise for her. But she’ll turn on the radio or pass a car with the radio booming and it will be playing something that came out of our meeting. And the young woman’s eyes will open, and her heart will be lifted up.”

So in addition to listening to it myself, I had it playing in the car today when I was with my “little.” While I hope that she doesn’t feel that low, I’m all for all young women’s eyes being opened and hearts being lifted up. So often they are broken down instead.

My favorite song on the album is “Ain’t That Bad.” I dare you not to do a little dance in your car when it plays.

Listen to “Still I Rise,” which is less hip hop and more a blend of gospel and Motown:

Month in Review: September

So, it’s been awhile since I last posted a Month in Review. I like these check ins, to see how much I’m reading, and to keep an eye on some categories I care about. This year I’ve been terrible about reading books in translation. September was no exception. Out of the 13 books I read, all were originally written in English.

September actually got me blogging again, so that’s certainly something. It was Aarti’s Diversiverse event that did it. And I’m glad. Not only did I manage to post about three books, I also visited the blogs of other people enthusiastic about reading widely. The book blogging community is really great, and this event was the perfect way to plunge back in.

What’s next for October? I’m committing to reading something translated. I’ve got Hella Haasse’s The Black Lake, originally written in Dutch. I’ve been meaning to get to that one for awhile, so this might be the month. I’ve also been wanting to read a Murakami for way too long.

Do you have any favorite translated books to recommend? I love seeing what other people read.

diversiverse
September in Review

Total books: 13
10 Fiction:                    77%
3 Non-fiction:              23%
10 Women Authors:   77%
0 Translated:                0%

Oh, and I know Gone Girl is now a movie. No, I won’t be seeing it. I absolutely hated the book, and can’t believe the movie would be any better.

The Sunday Salon: Technology Fail

The Sunday SalonI don’t typically get much reading done on the weekends, as that’s pretty much the only time I see my husband. This weekend was going to be no exception, since I was leaving straight from work for a friend’s wedding. I knew it was going to be at least an hour and a half drive, if not longer. One of the things I don’t like about that drive is that I get out of range of my usual radio stations. Then I realized that there was a solution – I would download an audiobook from the library. I’d get in some reading and I wouldn’t have to be fiddling with radio dials while driving in South Florida traffic (you’re welcome).

So at work on Friday I looked at what my library had available for audio downloads. I found Isabel Allende’s book Maya’s Notebook. Perfect! Download to phone. Now I can get in the car, plug my phone into the auxiliary cable, and cruise.

Needless to say that did not work out. Somehow I neglected to actually download the files, although I checked out the book. And I need wifi to download to files, which I don’t have in my car.

Cut to yesterday. I’m at the hotel for the wedding. Our room had free wifi – yay! I go ahead and download the files, and see that they are queuing up. At least I can listen to my book on the ride home, right? I get ready and leave for the ceremony. It was a great time – there was the ceremony itself, which was gorgeous, then the reception, then an after party, and then the hubby and I went swimming in the hotel pool at 2am. We finally made it to bed at about 3. I haven’t done that in forever!

As you may imagine, this morning I had enough to do waking up and getting checked out of the hotel on time. When I finally got in my car to head home, I plug in my phone – and no Maya’s Notebook! The app was asking mt, again, if I wanted to download the files. I was not a happy camper. Or driver.

I got home just a little while ago, and tried to download the files for the third time. I’m pretty sure it worked this time, but I guess I’ll only know for sure when I try to play it on my way to work tomorrow!

Sunday Salon: On Starting a Book Club

The Sunday SalonSince moving back to Florida nearly two years ago, I haven’t been part of a book club. I really like getting together with some other people and talking books. Who would have guessed that from a book blogger?

Anyway, I’ve participated in two different book clubs. One was organized by an English teacher when I taught high school, the other was through an alumni group at my law school. I was the only student who regularly attended – even after first semester finals, because I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about how much I HATED Anna Karenina.

Anna Karenina and Vronsky

Y’all are not cute

Oh, did I mention I didn’t like this book? No? I Did. Not. Like. This. Book.

Two other characters I don't care about sitting at a table

If this is the scene I think it is, it is absolutely RIDICULOUS.

Deep breaths.

Ok, moving on.

Anyway, I was thinking I’d like to start a book club. Probably with some people from work, and maybe they could invite a friend or two.

So, I want to know – have any of you started an in-person book club? If so, any tips? And if you haven’t, but you’ve participated in one, what did you like or not like? What would you want a book club to look like?

Any and all thoughts appreciated! This is definitely is the baby-planning-step stages at this point, but I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to put together.

Thanks!

Sunday Salon: Summer Lovin’ Wrap Up

Summer Lovin' ReadathonHappy Sunday! This week I’ve been participating in the Summer Lovin’ Readathon. I’ve done a pretty good job, although I wasn’t able to read for the 24 hour marathon time on Saturday. Saturdays are usually difficult for me – it’s pretty much the only day I see the hubby, so I try to spend time with him.

I read:

Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf
The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler
The Girls of No Return, Erin Saldin

I’m very nearly done with Trapeze, by Simon Mawer. I have about and hour and a half to listen to.

I visited many blogs, and to commented on several.  I participated in Oh, Chrys’s book spine poetry challenge. I posted four participation  posts. Not too bad, if I say so myself 😀 In fact, goodreads says:

GR

I’m 1 book ahead of schedule! Woot woot!

I need to keep up this pace to make my goal for the year. Seems doable, as long as I don’t keep getting bogged down in certain books. (Side-eyeing you, Mr. Wordymanoftheyear Henry James.)

Ok, off to see how everyone else has done!

The Sunday Salon
Ok, I’ve decided that I have to go ahead and sign up for the Estella Project Summer Read-a-long of “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” Which is one of my favorite books, ever. Yay!

Sunday Salon: Hello from New York!

I spent a lovely Saturday wandering around the city yesterday. I wanted to quickly share a few photos with you.

Here’s a poem by Rick Bartow, displayed next to some of his visual artwork. This was at the National Museum of the American Indian. I had never been to this museum, and would definitely recommend it.

Image

It was difficult to walk around this beautiful, converted US Customs House building that pay homage to cultures we (in large part) destroyed. Especially the week the Supreme Court essentially took another Indian child away from her father in the Baby Veronica case. Still, I thought the curators did a nice job paying homage to the past wile incorporating contemporary Native culture.

I also visited the main branch of the New York Public Library. Here’s a display for #nyplreads, where people can share what they are reading this summer. After reading Taiye Selasi’s short Story, “The Sex Lives of African Girls,” I want to join Bridget from Chelsea in reading Ghana Must Go.

Image

Here’s a shot of one of the mail hallways on the first floor. This building is really just gorgeous.

New York Public Library hallway

There was a special exhibit on “The ABC of it: Why Children’s Books Matter”

The ABC of it Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to check out the whole thing, but it looked really interesting.  I love children’s books and would have loved to been able to see how many of my favorites were included in the display.

I really wish my nephews lived closer, as I’d love to take them to our local library and read with them, showing them books I read when I was younger and discovering new ones together.

I thought this giant open book concept was a really cool was to display some of the information. I was captivated by it, and I can just imagine what it must have felt like to look at it from a little kid’s perspective!

giant open book display

Today I’m off to celebrate Pride! So excited to be a part of this historic event – and Edie Windsor is going to be one of the Grand Marshals!

The Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: Happy Father’s Day!

Me & My Dad, circa 1986

Me & My Dad, circa 1986

I first posted this last year, but it is just as true this one. Happy Father’s Day!

First, I’d like to acknowledge that these days recognizing certain people we’re “supposed to” have good relationships with are very stressful for some people, whether it’s because those relationships are strained, nonexistent, etc. Or, the day might be painful because the person is no longer with you. You may notice that there’s no Mothers’ Day post on this blog. So I get it.

I am glad to say that I do have a good relationship with my dad. My parents divorced when I was very young, but I remember him always being in my life. I’d go over to his house every other weekend.

For quite a while, we had a routine. He’d pick me up on Saturday morning. We’d go to breakfast, then head to his house. He’d realize he had nothing in the fridge to feed me the rest of the weekend, unless I was to subsist on OJ and pickles. Yeah – he was quite the bachelor.

We’d also go to the bookstore. There, I’d buy two books – one for Saturday, one for Sunday.

Now, my dad didn’t have a lot of money, and I was probably a bit of a brat, insisting that I needed two brand new books every two weeks. But he made it happen. He didn’t give me a hard time about curling up on the couch and reading, even though he was more of an outdoors, social guy. He’s take me to the park, where he would be meeting a friend to play tennis. I’d find a shady spot and read. I can’t imagine what a foreign little creature I must have seemed.

Thanks for accepting me for the kid I was, daddy!

The Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: What to read next?Well, there hasn’t been much reading going on in these parts this last week. The last book I finished was Page by Paige, a graphic novel by Laura Lee Gulledge. It was cute, but nothing to rave about. I’ve been listening to Chuck Palahniuck’s  Damned on my commute. Not super impressed so far, and there was a sexual assault scene towards the beginning played for laughs that I really didn’t appreciate.

This morning I managed to catch the last twenty minutes of Melissa Harris-Perry. She was talking about the renaissance in black film making (covered in the NY Times here). One of her guests was film director Ava DuVernay, the first black woman to win the Best Director award at Sundance. A trailer for her film, Middle of Nowhere, is here. I’m hoping that it will be showing near me. My closest theaters don’t always branch out beyond the expected hits. According to the show, women make up 5% of all US film directors, so I was gratified to see that DuVernay did not shy away from her identity as a black woman filmmaker.

Tananarive Due, a novelist and filmmaker, spoke about an Octavia Butler celebration at Spelman College which inspired her to work on a short horror film, Danger Word. I can see how Octavia Butler could inspire horror as the two books I’ve read by her were *creepy.*  The first one I read was Kindred. The opening scene had a woman’s arm being torn off as it somehow was eaten by her wall. The flashbacks explain how we end up there through time travel, slavery, and family ties. The second one, Wild Seed, was equally terrifying, although in  a different way. It was not based as firmly in reality as Kindred  was (aside from the time travel, of course!).

Fantasy/sci-fi is not really my favorite reading genre, but I keep trying it. I am a big Tamora Pierce fan. She’s great when it comes to gender issues in her books, a little less successful when it some to race. I’ve had N.K. Jemisin on my radar for awhile, and am hoping to get to her novel The Killing Moon soon. Has anyone read any of her books?

As the Times article demonstrates, many movies are based on books, whether it be novels or memoirs or what have you. With that in mind, what book by a woman author or a black author (or both!) would you like to see on the big screen?

The first one that I  can think of is Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. It wasn’t my favorite book ever, but I think the intense imagary would translate really well to film.

Your turn!

Sunday Salon: Translation Challenge

In my monthly reading wrap up posts this year, I was disappointed to see I was reading far fewer books in translation than I’d like.

I’ve signed up for the 2013 Translation Challenge hosted over at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm.

From the challenge:

“For the purpose of the challenge the book must have been translated into English. Books can be any length (indeed, novellas seem to be much more popular in continental Europe) and any genre (including non-fiction). You can read anything from mainstream Scandinavian crime to classical literature, it really doesn’t matter as long as it’s been translated. You do not need to be a blogger; as long as you have somewhere to post your thoughts (Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing, Tumblr, ReadItSwapIt, etc.) you can join in.”

You commit to reading at least one translated work every month. I want to use that as a bare minimum, and strive for more. I’m going to focus on books I’m reading for other challenges or projects, such as The Iliad, The Odyssey, Candide, and The Master and Margarita. I always welcome your suggestions, of course. You can take a look at what I read last year and this year to get a sense of my tastes. 

I’m looking forward to the book, of course, but also to connecting with some new bloggers. There are so many book blogs out there that it can seem overwhelming at times. Of course, no one can read them all. At the same time, I find myself turning to the same few over and over, and miss out on what a lot of other smart  interesting people have to say. 

Are you joining any reading challenges for 2013?