Category Archives: Year-in-review

The Best of the Best 2018

I miss you, Mom!

In 2018, I read 97 books. That’s pretty good for me in a year of change and loss. My reading has been a real solace after losing my Mom in July. Dedicating some time each afternoon for some quiet reading was magical and helped to fill the silence of those times when I used to talk with her on the phone each day.

There were some terrific books among those 97 that I read. So I’ve picked out my Best Nine to put together in a collage…And then a photo of the cover of my Number One favorite of the year. Each of those “best of the best” books was a wonderful experience for me. The stories captured me, the writing deeply impressed me, or they were just plain fun to read. Or all of the above!

2018 was also a year I returned to reading challenges. I used to join so many different ones, and loved the variety of reading they introduced into my life. I haven’t participated in as many in recent years, but I enjoyed getting back to some very nice ones this year.  I am loving being part of The Classics Club! My 50-books-in-five-years goal is a lot of fun for me. I’m happy to say that since I started the challenge in March 2017, I have read 21 books from my list, although I haven’t finished posting reviews for some of them yet.

I also participated in The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge hosted for the eighth year by Adam (@roofbeamreader). Out of my list of 12 books that have been sitting on my shelves for years and years, I managed to read four of them. I’m happy about that even though it may look like another challenge fail for me. It IS four books that would probably still be sitting there, unread, so I consider it a success! I’ve signed up to continue on with this challenge in 2019!

In 2018, I returned to the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge which I hadn’t participated in for a number of years. It was so much fun this time! I do love reading mysteries, so this turned out to be a terrific way to spend the Fall months. For that challenge I read ten books and completely enjoyed every one of them! I’m looking forward to doing that challenge again in 2019.

The Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thons in April and October were highlights of this reading year for me, and I look forward to repeating those experiences in 2019 along with my other challenges!

My Best Nine of 2018:

 

And my NUMBER ONE favorite book read in 2018:

…was Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming!  I listened to her narrate it on audiobook and loved it. It was a book of hope and dignity, the story of her life so far. For me it was a breath of fresh air, and it renewed my spirit and gave me hope that we can become better individuals, better people, and a better nation. She didn’t preach, she just very honestly shared with us how she became the person she is today. And I admire that person more than ever because of her honesty and integrity.

Six Books

 

Me on the Argentine pampas in 1967.

Although this has been a difficult year for me in many ways, a year of loss, it has also been a year of reading. Since July, reading has been my solace and a way to honor the memory of my special reading mother.  I have read 91 books so far this year, unlike in1967 when I only read six books!

1967 was the year I was accepted into the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs) as an exchange student to Argentina. I spent a year there, which was an absolutely incredible life-defining experience. It was not an easy year, especially in those days before computers, cell phones, and instant world-wide communication with everyone you know!  Letters often took two weeks. Phone calls home were wildly expensive so I only made one call home during the entire year. I was far away from home and relatively isolated as I went through the inevitable culture shock and adjustments to my new language and my new family. But after four months, I could speak fairly well, began to dream in Spanish, worked hard to begin reading in Spanish, and became more and more fluent in the language over the year. It was an amazing experience, to state it simply.

But one of the most difficult things for me that year, as an avid/obsessed reader, was that I had little access to books (in English), and, of course, my reading focus needed to be on learning and reading in Spanish. So over that year, I only read 6 books in English. Those six books are seared into my memory because each one was like a little oasis in the desert of my reading that year. It was very hard for me NOT to be able to read much that year, and it made me appreciate deeply the freedom of my yearly reading experience ever since. However, giving up reading-like-crazy for a year in order to have the experience of a lifetime…was so worth it!

Here are those six books:

 

 

Bookends

 

My first read of 2017 was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s, We Should All Be Feminists, so it was very fitting to read another short work by her, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,  to end my reading year. Wonderful bookends for 2017!

Click here to reread my review of We Should All Be Feminists. I feel even more strongly than I did one year ago, that this short book is essential reading for all! The word “feminist” is such a scary word to so many people, but this book gives you important understandings of why we need to set aside fear and open our hearts to the ideas of feminism which empower and enrich the lives of both men and women.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was a letter written in response to a request from Adichie’s friend about how to raise her newborn daughter. Simply put, I wish this book had existed when my daughter was born 39 years ago. I did have some strong female role models that inspired and guided my parenting of both my son and my daughter, but this little book, so succinctly and eloquently written, would have been my hand guide. I decided that I will give a copy of it , along with the knitted blanket and baby sweater gifts I make for the new arrivals of family and friends. It would be a gift of love and caring for both the new family and for the future of our planet!

These two books were excellent bookends for a year full of conflicts, contradictions, and challenges to our national norms and priorities when it comes to families and the future. There is HOPE in these two books, and ideas that can make us better people making better choices.

A photo from 39 years ago! I am, more than ever, in awe of my strong, resilient, beautiful daughter!

Son and Grandson

A photo from 6 years ago. I am also in awe of the gentle and nurturing way my son parents his own son!

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Classics Club Catch-Up

One of the nicest things I did for myself in 2017 was to join the Classics Club and set a goal of reading 50 classics in five years. (Click here to see my list of books chosen, and click on the graphic above to be transported to the Classics Club web site.) I am so glad I finally joined, and I’ve been happily reading some of the wonderful books from my list of 50. I have not, however, been very diligent about getting my reviews written! So in the next few weeks, I will be posting those missing reviews from my 2017 classics reading.

When the sun is shining and the temperatures are mild enough for me to spend time outdoors, I simply don’t spend as much time in my digital world. 2017 has been a year of gardening, walking long distances, and of soaking up vitamin D.  That’s my excuse anyway for my slow posting of reviews. But it is time to “catch up” with my responses to the classics I’ve read, and to continue on with my very enjoyable reading of the classics.

Forthcoming reviews:

  • The Rainbow and the Rose, by Nevil Shute (completed in April 2017)
  • Around the World in Eighty Days. by Jules Verne (completed in June 2017)
  • Persuasion, by Jane Austen (completed in December 2017)
  • The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad (Completed in December 2017)

Classics read and already reviewed this year:

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The Series of 2017

All the Books of 2017” is a December reading challenge created and hosted by Ann, from @annreads on Instagram.  I’ve almost completed the challenge on my Instagram page, posting a photo for most of the prompts, but I’m waiting until the very end of the month to post the last few prompts because I’m still reading like crazy and am not finished with this reading year of 2017!

Do you love getting caught up in a series? I do, and this was a year that I wanted to read or re-read numerous series. After the election of November 2016, I felt a tremendous need to revisit my favorite series of all time: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I love the books and have lost track of how many times I’ve reread them, but I also love the movies. I just wanted to re-immerse myself in Middle Earth, and it turned out to be a very healing place for me to spend time in 2017.  The Return of the King was definitely my choice for the prompt: “Best Conclusion to a Series.


But I am enjoying reading a number of other series this year, as well. Some I’ve completed, and others on ongoing for however long they take.

I loved reading The Green Knowe Chronicles, by L.M. Boston, this year! They’ve been on my TBR list for many years and were a real treat when I finally got to them.

I’m almost finished with Jean Craighead George’s survival series that starts with the Newbery Award winning My Side of the Mountain. It’s been a fun series to read, and I understand better now why these books were some of the popular ones in my class library when I taught 6th grade!

Other series I’ve immersed myself in this year:

  • I’m just finishing the 4th book in my rereading of the Harry Potter series. I love this series even more this time around. Does it just get better and better each time you read it?
  • Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series is fun to read. I’m somewhere in the middle of the series, with lots left to read, so I know I’ll enjoy it for a long time yet. 
  • New-to-me author, Nnedi Okorafor, is writing the Binti series, a very interesting and creative science fiction series. I’ve read two of them, and look forward to the third volume which comes out mid-January.
  • The most powerful series I read this year was by far the March graphic novels series, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. It’s an especially important subject today, and beautifully done.

I’m always looking for new (or old) series to discover, new worlds to immerse myself in. If you have some suggestions of your favorites, please let me know!

My Top Ten Reads of 2016

2016 has been a good reading year for me. I was “back to my books,” so to speak, and that’s a lovely feeling! Here are the covers to my top ten 5-star reviews on my Goodreads challenge page this year. Although I really enjoyed all of the books I read, my favorite of the year was one I have read numerous times in my life: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I will tell you the story of WHY it was my favorite in a separate post.

I hope that you enjoyed your 2016 reading. Happy New Year to each of you and best wishes for a wonderful reading year in 2017!

 

Last Year’s Words

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

~ T.S. Eliot

2015 was an enjoyable reading year for me. I was a consistent reader in 2015, which is joyful for me after numerous years of inconsistency. Reading has always been my baseline … no matter what was going on in my life, reading was always happening. Happily, I returned to that sense of normalcy and enjoyed always having at least one book underway. One book, one audiobook, one Kindle book, one library book … often all of them at the same time!

2015completedI read 65 books in 2015. (Please visit me on Goodreads to see the complete list.) Which was my favorite book of the year out of the 65? Interestingly, it was the last book I read, just finishing it yesterday morning. I love the Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline Winspear, and her last book, A Dangerous Place, was, in my opinion, her best yet. I love the emotional honesty that is at the core of every Winspear book, and I enjoy the stories and puzzles that the wonderful character, Maisie, must work through.

A Dangerous Place

My second favorite book of the year was Marta McDowell’s lovely study of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens. Combining my love of poetry and of gardening, this book was just a pleasure for me to read. I will definitely be reading more of Marta McDowell’s books on gardens this year!

Emily Dickinson's Gardens

 

As I reflect on my 2015 reading, the quote above by T.S. Eliot seems particularly appropriate. The books I read in 2015 belong to last year’s language. I’m so looking forward to discovering another voice, the new voice of next year’s words, in my reading in 2016!

A Reading Year

woman_reading

2013 has been a “return to reading” year for me. Sometimes life hits you with multiple punches at the same time…the “old one-two,” as my Dad used to say. And three years ago, my family was hit by a combination punch that left me emotionally unable to focus well enough to read [or blog] for well over a year. But when 2013 began, I was delighted to realize that my reading focus had returned. It’s been a wonderful, enjoyable year of books for me, and it’s interesting to step aside for a moment and look back on my year’s reading journey.

Some Quick Stats:

  • 90 books read this year (hoping to finish up a couple of ‘currently reading’ books before ringing in the New Year
  • 21 audiobooks (listening-while-knitting also made for quite a few FOs). And for comparison, last year, I only listened to 3 audiobooks in the entire year!
  • 27 Kindle books (I unashamedly love reading on my Kindle because I can enlarge the type, read in the dark, and download thousands of books from the library!)
  • 16 classics. I’ve always loved reading the classics, and reading those 16 books filled me with a wonderful feeling of “returning to myself.”

Favorite Series:  I am loving reading Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series. And I also loved reading Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwick series!

Favorite Non-Fiction: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.

Favorite Classic: Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury.

Favorite Book of the Year: The Morville Year, by Katharine Swift. This was the first book I read in 2013. As I read this book, I created a “visual book review” on Pinterest, with photos of all the plants, people, places mentioned in this wonderful story of an English garden. For me, it was a lovely project that combined my love of reading, gardening, and learning!

2013 also brought more major life changes for us, but this time they were the most positive of changes. My husband and I retired this year, and thus, there is more time for joyfully reading on my front porch as I take breaks from the garden. We’ll see where my reading journey takes me in 2014!

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2009: My Year of Reading Challenges

2009 was my year for joining reading challenges! I really went overboard with that and as a result set a new record for myself of books read in one year. Now the year is ending and I haven’t completed a couple of those challenges, so I know that my eyes were bigger than my reading time!  However, I did enjoy each challenge, whether completed or not, and that’s the important thing.

Looking back at my list of books read, I realize that this really was a year of experimentation.  I tried out new genres, new authors, and I took on a whole variety of reading challenges. That was really good for me. I have already signed up for and am looking forward to a number of 2010 reading challenges, but I won’t be signing up for as many as last year. I need to save time for some of my own challenges still in progress and left behind last year.

I’m excited to see where my reading journey takes me this year!  And I’d like to spend more time with the classic literature that has always nourished my soul, and with the authors that are my guides and mentors on my journey.  I also look forward to reading your reviews, dear blogging friends!  I love how you have enriched my reading life!

I hope that your 2010 is a wonderful year full of the pleasure of books and reading.  A very Happy and Healthy New Year to each of you, dear book friends!

Overview of 2009:

115 BOOKS READ IN 2009

15 CHALLENGES COMPLETED, OR ALMOST COMPLETED  (I also co-hosted the Dewey’s Books Reading Challenges with Chris (Stuff As Dreams Are Made On)

FAVORITE READ ALOUD: Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck

FAVORITE AUDIOBOOKBrooklyn Bridge, by Karen Hesse, narrated by Fred Berman

FAVORITE GRAPHIC NOVEL (new genre for me):  To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel, by Siegel and Siegel

FAVORITE AUTHORS THIS YEAR:

  1. Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  2. Alice Hoffman
  3. Pearl S. Buck
  4. Karen Hesse
  5. Adele Geras

TOP TEN (not in any particular order):

  1. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
  2. Enchantress from the Stars, by Sylvia Louis Engdahl
  3. Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman
  4. Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck
  5. Two Sweaters for my Father, by Perri Klass
  6. The Ice Queen, by Alice Hoffman (narrated by Nancy Travis)
  7. The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico
  8. Quartet in Autumn, by Barbara Pym
  9. The Whispering Land, by Gerald Durrell
  10. My Grandmother’s Stories, by Adele Geras

FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR:    The Ice Queen, by Alice Hoffman