Taking the 50 book pledge…yay or nay?

50My last blog post was on setting reading goals. It got me thinking about the whole 50 book pledge thing and whether it is a good idea or not.

For those who aren’t familiar with this: there is a thing (I don’t know whether to call it a movement or what) where you commit to reading 50 books in a year. It is recognized, at least by me, as an accomplishment. Let’s break that down for a second, it’s basically reading one book per week. That is a commitment.

A few years ago, I thought I would take this on. First, I did think it would add to my book nerd street cred. Second, at the time I had some free time on my hands and thought it would be the perfect time to do it.

I’m not going to lie to you: it was hard work.  Not like working in a mine or doing brain surgery or fighting fires hard work. But it was something I definitely had to work at. And there were times where I didn’t think I was going to make it. Not to keep you in suspense, but I did make it and even got past 50 books to a total of 54 books read. Whew.

The good

Priority on reading: it definitely made me choose reading over doing other things. Not like I chose reading over like going to work, or spending time with friends, but I did choose reading over watching the same episode of Big Bang Theory or playing endless games of Candy Crush.

Bragging rights: when I told people that I was planning to read 50 books in a year, they were shocked and impressed. Not gonna lie, that was kind of cool. Some people run marathons, I read 50 books.

Sense of accomplishment: I am actually really proud of doing that. It was a commitment and I got it done. And as silly as it might sound, when I take on trying to do other things I do think back to that and remind myself when I put my mind to something I can get it done.

The bad

Picking books: If you have to get through one book a week, you need to pick books that you can get through quickly. This was not the time to tackle Infinite Jest or a meaty non-fiction biography. Is that gaming the system? I did feel a bit bad about it, but then realized it was my goal and I got to make up the rules.

Pressure: It was a bit silly, but I did feel pressure. Let’s be clear, lives would not have been lost if I didn’t make it. But I really wanted to make it happen, and the pressure built the closer I got to 50. You don’t want to get to 48 books on December 31.

The verdict

If you are a reader and want a stretch goal, I highly recommend this. I think it’a pretty cool accomplishment. It does help you to focus your time and choose reading over ‘mindless’ activities.

It’s that time of year: reading goals!

goalsOnce the calendar turns over to December, the natural tendency is to start reflecting on the year that was, and for the year that is to come. Some people make resolutions, some people don’t. But there is a vast majority of book nerds who will definitely be making a reading goal.

Truthfully, I never really did until a few years ago. A friend of mine asked me how many books I read in a year, and I honestly didn’t know. I was like “I dunno….12…15?” She seemed to have strong opinions that I read more than that. So I started tracking – thank goodness for Goodreads. I read 45 books that year. WHAT?!?! I was actually surprised. (And had to admit to my friend she was right.)

One of the cool things, at least I think, about Goodreads is the annual reading challenge. If you aren’t familiar with this, you can set the number of books you think you are going to read during the year and the widget tracks your progress against that goal. There is something very satisfying watching the progress bar and seeing that you are on track to meet your goal (or panic because you are behind).

You might ask, who cares about a reading goal? Truthfully no one, really. Lives are not lost and it doesn’t make you a better or worse person if you meet the goal, or whether you read 1 book or 50. (I mean, look, I do think you are a better person if you read, but if you can manage 1 book in a year, I give you props!)

So how do you pick a goal? For me, with my schedule, working etc. I figure easily I can read 2 books a month. That puts me at 24. I like to stretch it a bit – so I usually set it at around 30. I tend to read shorter, lighter books so it’s not too difficult to get there. If I was reading biographies and historical non-fiction – I might not get through that many.

Should you make a goal? Sure! I think it’s fun. Ok, maybe not like FUN fun. But it definitely does help to keep my on track with reading. If I see that I am falling behind my goal, I might start to give up a half hour playing Animal Crossing and read instead.

Here is what I believe at the end of the day, reading is good for you and it should be fun and pleasurable. I think if you choose to spend some of your spare time reading, that is a win. So if you read 0 books this year, set a goal for 1. Trust me, you will thank me later.

On making book recommendations…

1442812302_360x360A friend recently said to me “I am looking for a book to read, any suggestions?”

My initial reaction: my mind goes blank, I can’t seem to remember any actual book titles I’ve read and I break out into a cold sweat. (Ok, not really.)

Here is the thing, books are so subjective. Just because I think a book is awesome, does not guarantee that you are going to love it. Or even like it for that matter.

I am assuming if you are reading this you are a book nerd too, and you come up against this question lots of times. I don’t think I am the only one who struggles with this. Maybe struggles is a strong word, but you get what I mean. I feel like when I make a book suggestion my book nerd cred is on the line.

Obviously, the fist question is what other books do you like? I mean, there are a vast number of books, genres, topics….just because I loved the Night Circus, doesn’t mean that you will. And just because you loved The Goldfinch doesn’t mean I am going to lose your phone number and never speak to you again.

I am sure we all have books in our ‘always recommend’ list that we can pull out at any time. The thing is, if your favourite book is The Biography of Rutherford B. Hayes, I am probably not going to suggest that you read 50 Shades of Grey. I mean, who knows, I don’t know anything about Rutherford Hayes and who knows if there is a common thread between the two…but I digress…

My husband would argue that a good story is a good story no matter what the subject. I don’t disagree. However, when I do tell people that The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power by Robert Caro is an awesome book, I usually get a deer in the headlight look. So I might not go out first with that recommendation. (Trust me, it is an awesome book! I know, I was surprised too!)

Maybe the answer is that I need to lower my expectations of myself by being the book whisperer. So I am just going to go on to Goodreads and sort by my highest rated books and pick a few of my faves….

Here is what I have for you:

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

There you go! My official book-nerd picks (at least for today).

Let me know if you have any other books that you have on your always recommend list, I would love to hear about them.

 

 

 

A Crazy Kind of Love by Mary Ann Marlowe

crazy kind of loveThe story focuses on Josie who is a paparazza for an online gossip magazine. I liked that this was from a different perspective. I definitely  haven’t read any books from the paparazza’s point-of-view.

This a romance novel. But it definitely feels a bit more hearty than just that. Or at least it did for me. I think that Josie’s story had a lot of depth. She definitely isn’t a one dimensional character. Sometimes in romance-y novels the tension feels forced, it does not in this case. The nature of Jo’s job (paparazza) and her romantic interest, Micah, who happens to be a celebrity feels natural and has inherent tension to it.

I didn’t know that this is the second in a series until after I finished the book. Obviously I didn’t read the previous book, and I don’t think I missed out. I definitely could follow along with the story. I don’t think you need to read the first one to enjoy this book. (Although I definitely want to go back and read the first one!)

I really enjoyed this book. I would totally recommend this if you are a looking for a romance-y read with a little depth. I am being purposefully vague on the details of the story because I don’t want to spoil it for you. The story is engaging and interesting. Although you kinda sorta know how it is going to end (as you do in a romance-y type story) it is a fun ride to the end of the story.

I rated this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley and Kensington Publishing!)

 

 

 

Buddy system: reading hard books

imagesI am not a book club gal. I feel bad for admitting that….I’ve tried it, but it just wasn’t for me. I get that the lure of a book club is the social part. But let’s face it, I am an introvert, and I am looking for ways to avoid socializing.

As much as I think of reading as a solitary act (usually me in my PJ’s with some coffee in my comfy chair), I have come across some situations where it would be helpful to read in a group setting, or at least with a buddy. It’s what I am calling hard books – like those books on your book bucket list that you think, yeah I really should get to that someday, but not necessarily today.

On my book bucket list was to read Infinite Jest. I had looked at it, pondered buying it (wasn’t sure how I was going to carry that kind of book around on the subway), actually watched people read it on the subway. But I could never pull the trigger. My husband and I decided to try reading it together (not literally together, that would be weird). We figured it would give us a better chance to finish it, or at least to talk each other through the (more than) 1,000 pages and endless footnotes.

You know what, it worked. Here is why:

Accountability: there is a less than 0% chance that I would have finished Infinite Jest if I had read it alone. Actually, I would have pulled the plug by page 50. Knowing that we were both in it together kept me moving forward. I didn’t want it to become a ‘thing’ – that time that YOU didn’t finish reading Infinite Jest.

Talking about it: we chose to blog about it. I think that if you choose to discuss it, or email someone about it, it helps you to think more about what you are reading, and what you are going to say. It makes you pay more attention and actually to try and get something out of what you are reading (even if it gives you the howling fantods).

Moral support: I had a very difficult time getting through the book. Having someone to vent to, and who understood why it was difficult to read helped a lot. Even though we took breaks during the project, we always came back to it. I think that if it was up to me, I would have definitely just let it be.

Something in common: this gave us something to talk about. It was definitely a conversation starter. Also, it was something that we did together, which was pretty cool.

It doesn’t have to be a difficult book, but I would highly recommend having a book buddy to read with. However, if there is something on your TBR list that seems daunting, finding a kindred spirit that you can do a read-along with, will definitely help you get through it.

Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan

moonlightI have not read any other books by Sarah Morgan, but I am so glad I read this one. (This is the  6th book in the From Manhattan with Love series). It was a delightful read.

This book is about Harriet, a dog walker who is shy and introverted (I can relate!) and she has implemented “Challenge Harriet” project to try and break out of her shell: doing one thing a day that is outside of her comfort zone. Through this process we find out about her past and her family in a very touching way.

If you have read this genre before, it is evident early on in the book (around the second chapter) that the story will also be about the relationship between Harriet and the handsome doctor who treats her ankle (that she hurts while escaping from an ill-fated internet date).

The relationship could have felt contrived, but the author did a great job in not making it seem natural. The conflicting feelings of the characters felt real. I definitely got invested in the characters and was rooting for them.

The thing I really liked about this book is that the characters had history, especially Harriet. We learn about those and the struggles she has had to overcome. This wasn’t done in a maudlin or tragic way, and it really helped me to ‘buy in’ to the story.

If you enjoy romance stories, (and dogs!) then this is a book for you. If you have read any of the author’s other books, you know the charm of her writing. If you haven’t read any of the others in this series, you could definitely start with this one (and not feel lost)!

I rated this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)

 

 

Once There Was a Way: What If The Beatles Stayed Together, by Bryce Zabel

beatlesI am a music fan. Especially “older” music. While my fellow high schoolers were fan zoning about Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and Culture Club (I mean, I liked those too), my favourite band was The Beach Boys. The same friend that went to Beach Boys concerts with me, also sat with me in her parents basement while we listened to (and sang along with) Beatles records.  I have been a fan of the Beatles for a long time.

When I came across this book that asks the question: what if The Beatles stayed together? I had to read it.

I quickly got sucked in to this story. It was so well written. The slant is that it’s written by a music magazine and it has that vibe. It’s like you are reading an extended Rolling Stone article. The attention to detail is amazing and the way the author weaves in truth and fiction is remarkable. There were times when I was like, wait…did that happen or did he make it up? And then Googled it. (It was a 50/50 split on made up vs. real.) I do appreciate the end chapter where the author clarifies which big plot points are real and not, and why he chose the paths he did.

The thing that I was the most curious about was how the author was going to deal with John Lennon and George Harrison’s deaths. I won’t spoil it for you, but I do think he did a good job of dealing with both situations.

There was a point in the book where I got a bit emotional, which I was surprised at. I can’t reveal what exactly it was, because I don’t want to include spoilers. I think that part of my reaction was melancholy over what could have been.

Whether I agree with all of the alternate history points that the author chose or not is beside the point. Part of the fun in reading the book (and I am assuming writing it) is to imagine all the cause and effect and (mostly) infinite possibilities that could exist. It’s like the butterfly effect – a small change in the early days, morph into these larger changes later.

If you are a Beatles fan or a music fan, I would highly recommend this book. It is engaging, interesting and thought provoking.

I rated this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)