Every year at this time, I get a little listful. Not listless. Not wistful. LISTFUL. It means that I am full of lists. Overflowing with lists. Lists are bursting forth in every medium—paper, emails, sticky-notes, brain, phone, and now, inevitably, on my blog. I cannot contain them. I list the things I did last year and the things I didn’t. I list the books I read last year and the ones I didn’t. I make to-do lists and to-NOT-do lists (just as important). I make lists of resolutions and then revise them. I make lists of things to buy and then take pictures of them. I list what I need from the grocery store, who to thank for Christmas gifts, and how many pairs of socks I own with animals on them. (Just because.)
With all these lists pouring out of me, it’s only natural that I want to share some of them with you. Here goes…
A few years ago, I convinced myself that I knew my books (all 700-ish of them) so well that I could identify them merely by touch. I sat on the couch with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears while my husband brought me five books at a time. Then, keeping my eyes closed, I ran my hands over the covers, flipped the pages, felt for bookmarks, inhaled their scents, and generally absorbed their bookiness through my pores before making my guess.
I didn’t get a single one right.
This was very disappointing and also somewhat embarrassing, and the “See-you’re-crazy-I-told-you-so” smirk on my husband’s face only made matters worse. However, I still maintain that I know SOME of my books that well. He obviously just didn’t bring me the right ones.
Whether or not I know my books as well as I thought, it doesn’t take away from how much I love them. Reading is still my favorite thing to do, and I did it a lot in 2017, finishing 60 books that spanned fiction, nonfiction, YA, middle grade, adult, children’s, poetry, short stories, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, realistic fiction, historical fiction, comedy, classics, graphic novels, comics, audio books, and novels in verse. Whew! I consider that a job well done.
However, dedicating the hours necessary to finish 60 books in a year does mean there are times when other areas of life are neglected.
If you called me and I didn’t answer, it’s because I was reading.
If I showed up a little late to your gathering, it’s because I was reading.
If I left the tea kettle whistling until the water boiled away, it’s because I was reading.
If I forgot to feed the dog, it’s because I was reading.
If an announcement about a delayed flight made me smile, it’s because I was reading.
If I had tears in my eyes at a coffee shop, it’s because I was reading.
If I didn’t realize a cat had crawled into my lap, it’s because I was reading.
And if I fell asleep on the couch with the light on and a bookmark stuck to my face, it’s because I was reading.
In fact, the reason why this post didn’t come out on December 31st like I planned, is because I was reading. I was determined to finish one more book before the end of the year. (And I did.)
So, the question is… WHAT was I reading?
I read a lot of things last year, and I liked most of them. Here are a few favorites. (For a full list of what I read, check out my Goodreads page.)
* The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud – An excellent end to an amazing series. Read my full review of this fifth and final book in the Lockwood & Co. series here.
* Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick – Sonnenblick has outdone himself with this novel. I didn’t think I’d ever love any of his books more than Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, but Falling Over Sideways got it just right. Just absolutely perfectly right. An excellent read for middle schoolers, parents, teachers, and anyone who loves a good story.
* The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell – I can’t express how much I loved The Madwoman Upstairs. It’s everything I wanted and needed from a summer read. Wit. Charm. Passionate book discussions. Literary scavenger hunts. Scandals. Secrets. A creepy old tower. The Brontes. This novel had it all. I listened to it on audio, read by Katie Koster, and it was fantastic. So fantastic, I bought the paper copy. Now I’m tempted to start over and read it again. So good.
* Leaf and Beak: Sonnets by Scott Wiggerman – This poetry collection sat on my shelf for too long before I finally read it. Now, I don’t know why I waited. The sonnets follow the poet on his daily walks around his Austin neighborhood and are organized by the seasons, but there is nothing trite or expected from these elegant poems. The sonnets are both vivid and subtle, allowing the reader to stroll pleasantly through the verse while also inspiring her/him to pause and reflect at regular intervals. An excellent collection.
* The Arrival by Shaun Tan – Is it possible to “read” a book with no words? If you don’t think so, then you haven’t read The Arrival. This wordless story of a man leaving his homeland for a new country communicates the immigrant experience in a beautiful, intimate way.
* Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro – I bought this book based on its adorable cover, and the inside didn’t disappoint. Still Writing is written in short essays, anecdotes, and tips. It reads easily and is a positive and encouraging take on the writing craft, while also being realistic. I took a lot of notes while reading it and put it down to write multiple times. (That’s how you know a writing book is good—it makes you WRITE.)
* Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart – Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy with bipolar disorder, are both struggling through 8th grade. Their friendship will tug at your heart. At least, it tugged at mine.
* Slasher Girls & Monster Boysedited by April Genevieve Tucholke – This anthology of teen horror stories by some of today’s best YA authors is way more gruesome and creepy and dark than I expected. I liked almost all of the stories, and several stayed with me long after I finished them, especially “In the Forest Dark and Deep” by Carrie Ryan. Thanks to that story, I’ll never be able to watch Alice in Wonderland without cringing again.
* My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows – This book CRACKED. ME. UP. It’s a historical fantasy comedy romance. (Yeah, that’s a thing.) It’s like… if Game of Thrones met The Princess Bride except half the characters could turn into animals. You know what, just read it.
* (Not a favorite, but still one I want to mention) – The last book I read in 2017, the one I finished just a few hours before midnight, was The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, and I can’t decide what I think of it. I’m keeping my thoughts to myself for now because my book club will be discussing this classic horror novel in a couple of weeks, and I don’t want to give away all my conversation topics here, but I would love to know what others thought of it. Have you read it? Did you like it? (I promise not to steal your opinions for my book club. All clever critiques will be duly attributed during our discussion, I promise.)
So… the next question is… What will I read THIS year?
I hesitate to even post these titles because, if history is any indicator, books that I put on my “must-read” list often meet with procrastination, forgetfulness, or disappointment. But this year’s list is a winner, I can feel it. Here are ten books I definitely want to burrow into in 2018:
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (I already started this one and am enjoying it so far.)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (This has been on my reading list for years. A friend gave me a beautiful purple copy for Christmas, so now I have no reason not to dive in.)
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (No, I’ve never read it. Don’t shun me. A student gave me a copy—again a gorgeous one—so I’m going to give this classic a try.)
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (My friend recommended this book. The summary sounds just as strange as the title. Wonderfully strange! I’m so excited to read it.)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I’ve watched this author’s TED talks and read her interviews. Everything she says is eloquent and gorgeous, so I expect her book will be the same.)
Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (This has also been on my reading list for years. It feels like time to read it.)
Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford (I got this sequel to one of my favorite middle grade novels for my birthday but haven’t made time for it yet. I can’t wait to see what Milo is up to.)
Dreadnought by April Daniels (I’ve heard great things about this YA novel about a transgender superhero.)
Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey (Nova Ren Suma recommended this book during my workshop with her at Highlights. I don’t remember why anymore, but when Nova Ren Suma recommends something, you read it.)
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (A student highly recommended this book to me, and it meets my goals of reading more nonfiction and reading outside my comfort zone. Plus, the girl is brilliant, so I trust her.)
Well, there you have it. Books, books, and more books. I’d love to hear about your own reading achievements. What was your favorite read in 2017? What are your goals for 2018? And tell me what you thought of The Turn of the Screw! (It’s ok. You can be honest.)
At this point, you’ve celebrated your accomplishments from last year and have made a list of balanced, attainable goals/resolutions/intentions/wishes for 2015. (Right? If not, there’s still time. After all, Tip #3 is Ignore the Calendar.)
Tip #8 = Share Carefully
In life, there’s a fine line between sharing too much and sharing too little and I’m usually on the TMI side of it. I’ve learned the hard way that sharing my resolutions with everybody is a bad idea. After all, it’s possible that you won’t accomplish all of your goals this year, especially if you end up accomplishing new things that you didn’t even set out to do. It happens, and being flexible is okay. But it’s hard to remember that when people keep asking you about x and you’ve already moved on to y. It can lead to some awkward conversations. So remember that it’s okay to keep some things to yourself.
Then again, if you don’t share your resolutions with anybody, it becomes pretty easy to pretend they don’t exist, and that’s not good either. You need to have someone in your life who asks how things are going once in a while and helps keep you accountable.
My advice is share, but share carefully. The exact formula is up to you, but I like to share all my resolutions with one person (my husband gets to be the lucky recipient of the full list) and I choose a few select goals to share with the world. (Click here to see the ones I shared last year. I get three checks and a check-minus for that list. Not too shabby.)
Here are the resolutions I want everybody to know about for 2015:
* I will complete my first poetry manuscript and submit it to a contest.
* I will read at least 50 books. Some of the titles on my must-read list are:
– The Shining by Stephen King
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
– Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
– Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by Marvin Kaye
(I’ve been picking my way through this anthology for a couple of years now. It’s time to finish it.)
* I will participate in the World Horror Convention in Atlanta in May. (Note: This does not say I will “go” to the convention. I’m already going. I’ve got tickets and plane reservations and a hotel room and a posse of two writer friends to travel with. It’s a done deal. My resolution is to participate. When you fly across the country to hang out with other lovers of horror, that’s no time to be shy. I plan to be present every second of the weekend and soak up as much inspiration as possible.)
* I will continue to monitor my use of have to, need to, and want to. (<– This is the best resolution I’ve ever made, and I make it again every year. Read about how it started here.)
Feel free to check in now and then and ask me how things are going. And if you have a resolution you want to share with the world, post it in the comments below!
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NOTE: This blog turns one year old this weekend! To celebrate, I updated the About page and added a FAQ tab. Head over there to find out if you’ve been pronouncing my last name correctly in your head. Chances are, you haven’t. 🙂