Reading

Three Things About My Reading in 2018

I've reached that time of year . . where I begin reflecting.  Looking back over the past year -- before I look ahead to the coming year.  I usually start with some easy reflecting (what did I read, for example) before I tackle the harder stuff (did I accomplish what I hoped to accomplish, for example).

So. Let's talk about reading, shall we?

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According to Goodreads, I've 66 books so far this year.  That's fewer books than I've read in years past, but that was actually by design.  (Yes.  That's right.  I opted to slow down my reading this year; to focus more on what I was reading, and to try to make deeper connections with the books I did read.)

Turns out I read mostly 4-star books (by my own grading system), which is typical for me.  I'm pretty choosy about the books I read, and I have a good idea of what I tend to like, so it doesn't surprise me that most of my books end up with 4 stars.  Besides, for me, 5-star reads just don't come along very often.  (A book has to be really fabulous for me to give it 5 stars.)  That said, I also read a few real duds this year, too!

My top 5 books of 2018? *

And here are three things I've learned from my reading in 2018:

  1. Early in the year, I decided I wanted to focus more on my reading.  I spent a while thinking about what that meant, exactly.  (Especially because I have always - all my life - focused on my reading!)  I came to the understanding that what I wanted . . . was to focus more on making my reading meaningful.  I decided to slow down.  To make better connections with what I was reading - and to, ultimately, remember more about the books I read.
  2. I started taking notes about each book I read this year.  I don't mean . . . notes like you take in school or anything (I certainly wasn't outlining chapters here).  But I did create a format for myself so I could jot down a basic synopsis, a list of characters, my impressions, and quotes I particularly liked from each book I read.  I discovered that by taking notes, I was connecting at a deeper level with what I was reading -- and I'm certainly remembering the books more than ever before.  These notes helped me write reviews on Goodreads (another reading goal of mine for the year), and it helped me create . . . space . . . between books.  In years past, I would open another book as soon as I closed one.  By taking the time to go over my notes and put together a review, I was creating a boundary between my books -- and that turned out to be a great strategy for me in slowing down and finding more meaning.
  3. I used my library more than ever.  While this was frustrating for me sometimes (because I couldn't always get the books I wanted WHEN I wanted them), it taught be other lessons.  Like just because a book finally pops up on Overdrive -- along with 3 others! -- you don't have to pressure yourself to read it Right Now.  You can put yourself back on the hold list and read it later.  (That was a big lesson in letting go for me.)  There were still times I purchased a book because I didn't want to wait (my Overdrive wait for Michelle Obama's Becoming was 8 months long, for example, so I purchased it on Audible), but I was much more likely to wait for books from my library.

Looking back, it's been a really great reading year for me.  I know that there will always, always be far more books out there that I'd like to read . . . than I'll ever have time to read.  And you know what?  I'm okay with that!

How about you?  What were your favorite books this year?

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* My other 5-star books this year:  Calypso (David Sedaris), The Overstory (Richard Powers), From a Low and Quiet Sea (Donal Ryan), Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf), Gilead (Marilynne Robinson)  The Ninth Hour: A Novel (Alice McDermott), The Light of the World (Elizabeth Alexander), The Temporary Gentleman (Barry Sebastian), Winter (Ali Smith), and Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor).

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Be sure to visit Carole today, for more Three on Thursday posts.

 


Notable

This list came out this week in the New York Times.  Each year, I'm surprised by this list - the 100 Notable Books of [fill in year here].  I mean, I regularly scan the New York Times book reviews, and I (mainly) read from the longlists of the Man Booker Prize, the Women's Prize, and the National Book Award.

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And yet . . . 

I usually haven't even heard of the 100 Notable Books of [fill in year here]!

This year, I've read 5.  (Which includes one I'm in the midst of reading right now.)  And a few more are on my want-to-read list.  But not many.

So.

Looks like my list of possibilities just got longer.  (Again.)

How about YOU?  How many have you read? 


Thoughts on Summer Reading

"Time is a river, and books are boats."
                            --- Dan Brown

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Unlike past summers, this year I decided not to play Book Bingo.  It was hard at first.  So many of you in the blogosphere were planning your cards and choosing titles and reporting early BINGOs.  In this FOMO (fear of missing out) world, it's hard to swim against the tide!

But this was the right decision for me.  It's been delightful to just . . . read . . . this summer.  Whatever title strikes my fancy.  However many pages.  Whatever the color of the cover.  Or whether it matches my knitting.  No matter the year the author was born.  Or who the narrator is.  

I've been reading at a slower pace this summer -- really savoring each book, and taking the time to write summaries and notes and take down quotes.  I'm giving myself . . . space . . .  around each book -- a kind of pause between books.  Sure,  that means I've read fewer books this summer than in previous years.  But I'm sure I'll remember them with more clarity by the time next summer rolls around!

I've really enjoyed reading all the book reviews and BINGO calls this summer -- but I'm happy with my own decision, and I don't feel like I missed out on the fun at all.  (If you want to check out the books I have read this summer, you can visit my Goodreads page by clicking on the link at the bottom of the sidebar.)

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Here's a little book-related tidbit for all you fans of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels.  HBO is putting out a television mini-series based on the books, beginning with My Brilliant Friend, and then continuing through the rest of the series Read all about it here and here.

 

 


A Brief Trip Down Memory Lane

When I was around 10, there were three books that I especially loved.  Although I never owned them for myself (owning books was such an extravagance back then), I checked them out again and again from my library, and read each multiple times:

1 - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

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2 - From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

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3 - The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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I adored these books!  (Just seeing those familiar book jackets again gives me a warm, happy feeling deep in my soul.) 

I've been thinking about my childhood favorites again, now that the new Wrinkle in Time movie is due for release in a couple of weeks (click here for the trailer).  The movie looks pretty cool -- and I know the effects will be more than anything I could have imagined when I was reading the book as a 10-year-old.  But, still.  I'm not quite sure I want to see it.

What do you think?  
And what were your favorite childhood books?

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To read more Three on Thursday posts, head on over to Carole's!

 


A Focus on My Reading

I've been a Reader ever since I discovered I could read at age 5.  As a child and throughout my adolescence, I always had my nose in a book.  I checked out books by the stack from the library, and my favorite classes in school were always "reading" or "English" or "literature."  The college years were tough on me -- because while I had plenty to read, it wasn't of my own choosing.  I missed reading-for-pleasure -- and always looked forward to semester breaks when I could dive back into my piles of books.

And . . . this reading habit just continued as I became an adult.  I read books.  Lots and lots of books!

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But one thing concerns me about my reading:  It seems like I don't have the retention that I used to.  I remember reading particular books, and I'll be able to recall key characters and plot points -- but I won't be able to go much further than that.

I know.  I know.  I'm getting older.  And my brain is getting full.  And my memory is not what it used to be.  And - after reading thousands of books in my lifetime (I estimated at one time that I've probably read over 3,500) - I guess it's not surprising that I can't remember all of them.  But still. . . I'd really like to remember more than I do.

So I've decided to . . . focus . .  on my reading this year.  Not reading more.  Not reading "harder."  Just reading more attentively. More mindfully.  With the intention of savoring - and, hopefully, remembering more details about the books I read.

I think it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the books out there in the world -- especially when you're a Reader, and so many titles appeal.  (So many books, so little time . . . and all that.)  But I've decided to change three things about my reading habit this year to try to improve my retention and savor the books I read:

  1. Fewer books.  I know that it's "normal" in a goal-setting way to try to increase the number of books one reads in a year.  But I've decided to . . . just say no to quantity-based reading.  I'll still read a lot of books, sure.  (Because that's what I do.)  But I don't want to be driven by a number -- and I don't want to challenge myself to read MORE.  I want to choose fewer, high-quality books that really appeal to me this year.  And I'm not going to be concerned about hitting some arbitrary goal I set for myself.   (Disclaimer:  I still set a Goodreads Challenge for myself this year -- at 60 books.  Which is 15 books fewer than what I've typically read for the last few years.  I'll likely remove it altogether, though.  Eventually.)
  2. More time.  Rather than rushing through the books I read, I'm going to allow myself more relaxed time to read -- and build in occasional pauses for thinking-time.  Research (from one of my alma maters; Hook 'em Horns!) shows that hitting pause now and again while you're reading - actually allowing some time to rest and reflect on what you just read - can really help your brain connect the dots and synthesize the new information.  It turns out that giving yourself a mental rest and a little time to reflect on what you're reading really helps commit new material to memory.  (Here's a link to an article about the study.)
  3. Take notes.  I am not talking about outlining chapters here!  I'm just looking for a thoughtful way to ... pause and reflect while I'm reading.  Lately, I notice that I hurry to crack open my next book as soon as I finish my current book.  That can't be helpful in the retention department.  So I'm going to do a little writing to help my brain make sense of things.  I'm planning to write more thoughtful reviews on Goodreads, and I think I'll get back to "collecting" quotes and passages from books as I read.  I will probably even do a little journaling now and then as a way to think about and connect with the what I'm reading.

It's hard to pull back when there are so many books in the world waiting to be read.  But I'm going to give it a try!  Sometimes . . . less is more! 

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To read more Three on Thursday posts today, hop on over to Carole's!

 


Determined to Finish

In knitting news . . . 

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we have progress!

I took this photo sometime last weekend to check the length of that sleeve.  Since then, I finished that sleeve, and I'm well on my way with the next.

I'm determined!  I'm going to finish soon.  (Mostly because every time I try this sweater on, I just want to keep wearing it.  Very comfortable.  I think I'm going to love it.) (But also because I'm ready to knit something else.)

As far as reading goes, I just finished two duds that I really can't recommend.  So I'll just leave it right there.  (If you want more details, you can check out my Goodreads reviews.)  I've just started reading Reservoir 13, which is much more promising from the start, although reviews are mixed . . . so we'll see.

How about you?  What are you knitting and/or reading this week?

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Be sure to hop on over to Kat's to read other Unraveled Wednesday posts.


A Re-Raveling Tale

Several years ago, I knit a cardigan (this one) using Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.  It wasn't fancy.  Just a regular old throw-it-on kind of cardigan.  As in . . . throw-it-on over your pajamas when it's chilly in the house in the morning.  Or throw-it-on to go wander in the garden on a fall afternoon.  Or to walk the dogs.  You know.  That kind of cardigan.

But, while Shelter is a lovely yarn -- rustic, light, warm, comfortable -- it breaks easily.  And I had made the mistake of seaming with it.  When I went to throw-it-on last fall, I noticed several holes in the seams where the Shelter had just given out.

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So I did what I often do with mending projects:  I folded it up and stuck it on a chair in my guest room.

To fix.

Later.

(And let's just say there was no throwing-this-on last year at all.)  

As the weather started turning cooler last week, I decided I didn't want to go another season without this cardigan.  I broke down and got out my mending-tools.

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And set to work.

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And in less than 30 minutes . . . 

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we were back in business!

Let the throwing-it-on commence.

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(And just in time.  Because it is suddenly cardigan season.)

As for what I'm reading?  In print, I have Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland (my latest book group selection, and - surprise - I'm really enjoying it).  In my ears, I have The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish . . . and it is excellent!  It's quite long (almost 600 pages/24 hours), but well worth the investment of time.

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Today's post is part of Unraveled Wednesdays.  Head over to Kat's to see what everyone else has to say!


Ready-Aim-Fire: An Unraveled Post

I'm happily knitting away on my "arrows" project . . . 

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After a summer of knitting that included lace and mosaic and beads and all the attention and counting that kind of knitting entails, I'm just thrilled to be working on a projet that is free-form and open-ended and not restricted in any way at all.  (It's kind of like knitting dishcloths, but with much nicer yarn.)

I love just being able to follow a basic recipe . . . while just riffing with color and texture.  This kind of project is very forgiving.  If I don't like what I see, I can just . . . end it.  Try something else.  Grab a different color instead.  Throw in a garter ridge or two.  And if I make a mistake of some sort?  Well, I can just work it into the project and no one will ever be the wiser.

I also like creating such a colorful, bold accessory for myself.  Because I love looking at the bright and the wild . . . but I don't really like wearing it.  Unless it's an accessory!  So perfect, non?

Finally, though, I have always love the symbolism of arrows.  Movement.  Direction.  Strength.  Grace.  Power.  Give me an arrow anytime!

So, basically . . . this is just what I need to knit right now.

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As for the reading, I've just started Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (one of my favorite authors) (this one was on the Man Booker long list).  Over the weekend, I finished Autumn by Ali Smith (another of my favorite authors) (this one made the Man Booker short list).  I loved Autumn, although I'll readily admit that it won't be to many readers' tastes (so be warned if you like your books strong on plot with few holes by the end of the book) (just sayin').

How about you?  What are you knitting and reading?

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This post is part of Kat's Unraveled Wednesdays.  To read more knitting and reading posts, click here.


Back in Business

After a summer of rather uninspired knitting, I picked up my needles again last weekend. . .

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and started making arrows!

For many reasons, this seems to be the Perfect Knit for me right now.  Mainly, it allows me to wander.  Following a basic recipe, I can just dabble.  And do what I want.  With any colors; any stitch patterns.

It's wonderful.

And freeing.

And meditative.

(I'm also considering sweater patterns and doing a bit of swatching.  More on that another day.)

As for reading . . . well.  I'm suffering slogging through another of my book group's selections - Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden.  I know many people who consider this a beloved novel, but it's just . . . not me.  (Too long, too dramatic, too predictable.)  It's particularly sloggish right now when there are so many great books (books that I am so excited to read) being released this month!   Oh, well.  Only 3 hours left to listen (thank goodness for 2X narration speed. . . ).

How about YOU?  What are you knitting and reading?

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Today's post is part of Kat's Unraveled Wednesday.  Click here to read what other bloggers are knitting and reading.

 


And All the Rest

It's just about time to wrap up another season of Summer Book Bingo.  Quietly - and without fanfare - I finished the summer with a coverall.

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Here's a quick rundown of the books I read that I haven't already identified:

Outside your comfort zone - I read Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith.  Why was this book of poetry outside my comfort zone?  Why . . . because I'd never read Tracy K. Smith before.  But when she was named the current U.S. Poet Laureate, I decided I needed to check out her poetry.  Let me just say -- it is lovely!

Any book (free square) - I could slide a couple of different books into this square (because I actually read a few books beyond the 25 Summer Book Bingo squares) but I decided that another book of poetry would fit perfectly here in this free square.  I read Rain in Portugal, a new collection of poems by Billy Collins.  What a treat!  Billy Collins remains one of my favorite poets of all time.

About art/artists - I read A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass.  When it first came out, I read Three Junes, Julia Glass's first novel.  It was fabulous, and I hold it up as one of my favorite reads of recent memory.  I keep reading her follow-up books as they come out -- hoping for another Three Junes.  But . . . nope.  This one wasn't it either.  Still enjoyable - in that summer, beach-read kind of way.  But certainly not another Three Junes.  (Oh, well.)  (I could have also plugged A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume into this Bingo square.  It's a very good book; interesting perspective -- but probably not for everyone, and certainly not a summer beach-read.)

Thriller - I read Magpie Murders by Alan Horowitz.  Not exactly a "thriller" . . . really.  More like a "cozy mystery," I guess.  But the closest thing to a "thriller" I'll read this summer (my bingo; my rules).  Although rather light, the concept was interesting and unique -- and it kept me entertained for a couple of days.  

Classic - I re-read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  I first read this one as Le Petit Prince - en français - as a high school sophomore.  It is a very sweet story - although I must admit to being much more taken by it's message as a high school French student than as an adult in her fifties.  Still . . . it's fun to re-read beloved books from other eras of your life.

Audiobook narrated by the author - I listened to David Sedaris read his newest book, Theft by Finding.  I am a big fan of David Sedaris, so I enjoyed this book.  But . . . if you aren't already familiar with his work, this is NOT where I would start.  (It starts out very dark, and the whole thing is a bit choppy if you're not already familiar with the people in his life and the stories he tells.)

Set in a place you'd like to know more about - I struggled with this category.  Because I just didn't want to choose a book based on setting alone.  So . . . (my bingo; my rules). . . I'm going to fill this square with Bear Town by Frederik Backman.  (Because I am always interested in knowing more about Sweden.)  I loved this book!  Excellent writing, a solid story, Sweden . . . and hockey.

And . . . that's a wrap, my friends!  Another summer.  Another Summer Book Bingo coverall.

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If you're interested in seeing the rest of the books in my Summer Book Bingo squares, you can check out this blog post.  And this one.