Update: 2017 Reading Goals

I mentioned in a recent post that one of my goals for 2017 is to read more books on my shelf (or those I borrow from the library). To help me to meet that goal, I decided to ban myself from buying any new books for at least two months.

Because I am an honest person, I have a confession to make: 10 minutes after I published that post, I bought a book (hangs my head in shame). In my defense, it was a book I have heard lots of good things about and it was like 1000% off the original price. Because I am a bad/good influence, I thought I would let you know that the kindle edition of The Walls Around Us is still on sale for $1.99.

My book buying ban begins…now…or until the next 1000% off sale.

The Strays by Emily Bitto: A Review

I believe in supporting emerging literary voices, so in 2016, I vowed to read more debut novels. I read many, and some were my favorite books of the year. Emily Bitto’s The Strays was one such book. I read the book in the Fall of 2016, but The Strays only became available to readers in the U.S. yesterday, January 3, 2017 (hence, I didn’t include it in my 2016 list of books).

the-straysIn 2015, debut novelist, Emily Bitto, received the Stella Award, a book award that recognizes Australian women writers of fiction and nonfiction and the second major literary award in Australia.

Her debut, The Strays, is story of friendship, an avant-garde artists’ colony, a band of bohemian artists, and secrets that bind or break relationships. The novel is framed as a memoir. In 1985, Lily reflects on one of her most influential childhood friendships and her experiences living with the eccentric Trentham family in the 1930s.

Lily and Eva meet  when they are eight years old, though they come from very different worlds. Lily, a child of middle-class suburban parents, lives a relatively “normal” and sedate life, a life filled with routine and order. Eva, the child of two wealthy, bohemian parents lives in a world of beauty, chaos, and passion. For Lily, her attraction to  Eva and the Trentham family is immediate and profound. It is this attraction that Lily describes in the opening of the book:  Continue reading

New Year, New Reading Goals

new-reading-goals

Happy New Year, readers! I have a confession. I don’t do New Year resolutions. They never work for me. The problem is that I can resolve to do something all day long, but without a logical and practical plan, I’m adrift.

I’m a planner. Nothing brings me more relief and joy than to write down my daily agendas, goals, and plans in my bullet journal. I keep it with me always, and it keeps me sane (and those who have to deal with me everyday). Though I don’t do resolutions, I do have goals at the beginning of every year, and then I come up with a plan to meet those goals. Sometimes I’m successful. Sometimes I fail miserably. But, having a plan that I can revisit helps.

This year, I certainly have personal life goals (like do more yoga, create more work/life balance, make more time for writing what I want to write, and stressing less). While I’m still coming up with a plan for how to achieve those things( any secrets for the work/life balance and not stressing for this Type A perfectionist?) , I thought I would share some of my reading goals for 2017 and how I plan to accomplish them.  Continue reading

A Year End Review: Books

I will get caught up. I will get caught up. I will get caught up.

That has been my mantra this year. I never seemed to get caught up, however. In my last post (in October! gasp!), I mentioned some of the busyness and teaching difficulties I was dealing with. Just when things seemed to be settling down at the beginning of November, I was asked to take over an ENG 102 class when the instructor had to take a leave of absence. With only six weeks left, I had to teach a crash course in research writing to a group of tired and overwhelmed students. We all survived (and some really good things came out of the class), but my blogging, reading, and writing came to a halt. Now that I can breathe a little, I decided a good place to start back would be with a year end review of my favorite books this year.

Before I begin, I need to provide a few caveats.

  • I have a love/hate relationship with end-of-the-year lists. I love to read them, to see what books other readers enjoyed, to affirm my own loves of the year, and to add to my ever-growing TBR. But, I also hate when books are overlooked, and I find it so difficult to come up with a list.
  • I don’t read books that I don’t enjoy. If I don’t like it, I stop reading (there will be a post about this in 2017). The result is that my list of books at the end of the year is a list of books I loved–or at least liked–which makes narrowing the list really difficult.
  • I challenged myself this year to read more diversely. I wanted to expand the genres I read, the authors I read, the places, experiences,  and cultures represented in the books I read. In some areas, I succeeded. I read more creative nonfiction and debut novels (categories severely lacking in my previous reading lists). In others, I still need more work.
  • Although I still don’t feel like it’s enough, I read more this year than I have the last three years. I’ve enjoyed something about every book that I read. The books that follow, though, are ones that have stuck with me the most.

Continue reading

“How to be in the Class”

Every year I try to remind myself that I always survive the month of October, even when it feels that I won’t. Between committee work, meetings, mentoring, advising, organizing our annual celebration of student writing, and observing graduate instructors’ classes, I have little time to read, to write, to sleep, or to think clearly, for that matter. On top of all of these responsibilities, I also have several classes to teach.

I’m not special. October is busy for everyone in academia. Continue reading

The Long, Long Life of Trees: A Review

I’ve always had a thing for trees. I spent much of my childhood in the country, and many of my favorite memories involve the trees that watched as I grew. I climbed trees. I hid in natural forts made from closely-growing trees whose bowing canopy I imagined to be a cave designed just for me. I sat on a swing tied to a branch of a large pecan tree and spent hours reading or making up stories.

When I was a teenager, I took a trip to New Mexico with a group from my church. Others in the group were awed by the canyons, the desert, and the expansive sky. I enjoyed seeing these things, but I missed trees. As we drove back across the country and drew nearer to home, the number of trees lining the roads increased.  I squealed with delight to see the varying shades of green and brown, earthy colors that made me feel connected again to the world around me. Continue reading

The Wolf Road: A Review

“A good knife is hard to come by, about as hard as finding a good person in this damned country. When your life is your only currency and you got debts to pay, a good knife can make all the difference.”

One of my reading goals this year was to read more debut novels, and I’ve read several. The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis was one such novel that I had added to my TBR almost a year before it was released in July. But, where The Wolf Road differs from the other debuts I’ve read is that this novel doesn’t read like a debut. This is a stunning novel written by a skillful writer and storyteller.  Continue reading