A Year of Reading 365 Books

Or not: 180ish books this year. Goodreads reports 168, but with a few friend’s books, a few books that would make me blush, and quite a few I forgot to mark down, I’m suspecting it is about 180 that I’ve read since last September. However, I am currently reading 18 books.

Now do you believe me about the ADD?



Anyway, the goal was 365 books in a year: one book a day. I read approximately one book every two days, which isn’t bad, in retrospect. I’m going to aim for 250 books this year. We’ll call it Book-a-Day Challenge: Year 2. Why not? I still want to reach 365 one year, but it’ll have to wait until I have a little less writing to do.

I did learn a few lessons. First, I have a tendency to finish books that are… lackluster. Second, I have trouble finding books that grab me and make me LOVE reading. Third, if I go through a dry spell of those exceptional, wonderful books, I lose my interest in reading.

So this year, I intend to be a little more picky when I choose books and spend more time finding those awesome reads. Also, I got lazy about keeping track. This year, I want to mark down every book I read right away, before I forget.

The following are the best of the best. If you want a full list of all the books I read this year, go to my 365-challenge Shelf at Goodreads.

Books That MaDe Me Love Reading

  • The Child Thief by Brom: Vivid, vivid writing. You can tell he has a comic background, because his writing is so visual. What blew me away the most was his use of verbs. His writing is so active. And it’s a wonderfully dark and dangerous Peter Pan story. LOVED it.
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Probably the best YA to come out… ever? Killer writing, the kind of writing so good it’s depressing and inspiring, all at the same time. A series to make teens examine war and the older people who send young people off to fight war.
  • Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey: Eight books so far, and this series rescued me from a blah reading streak. I love this series. It’s adventure fantasy in a world ruled by the precept: Love as thou wilt. And the erotic acts are beautiful and spiritual. It’s just beautiful, beautiful.
  • Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead: The best vampire story in the young adult section. Yes, better than Twilight. Way, way, way better. Definitely one of the top five series in the YA section.
  • Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: A werewolf book that breaks every expectation and cliché. Parts are hard to read for we adults who are hardwired to protect children, but that is what makes it excellent reading for kids.
  • This Charming Man by Marian Keyes: Marian Keyes is an Irish storyteller through and through. This Charming Man is not chick lit, but it’s also not like women’s fiction. It’s just an awesome story through and through, with a lot of heart and a great message. Loved it.
  • Swoon by Nina Malkin: This book appears, at first glance, as if it’s a standard YA. But no. It breaks every cliché. I thought about this book for a month after I read it. Plus it gets kinky, so thumbs up on that one! ;-)

Punctuation, Be Still My Heart

I find style, grammar, and punctuation to be close to orgasmic. So. Not. Kidding. I can’t get enough. I hated this stuff in school, ignored it for years, and tolerated it when I first started writing. Something snapped in me a few years back and I totally geeked out on it. These were wonderful.

Books to Think By

Yes, I am staying in Arizona in the border zone (it is a 30–mile deep zone, at the very least—not a fence line). With helicopters flying overhead all the time, Border Patrol everywhere, migrants tracking northward right behind my RV Resort, road blocks where you’re asked multiple times a day if you’re a U.S. citizen, and hundreds of people dying in the desert, the first order of business was to educate myself on the issues.

  • The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide by David J. Danelo: If you have an opinion on the border, I am more likely to take it seriously if you’ve read this book. It is honorable journalism that presents almost all sides, intricacies, and subtleties of the border, written by a retired Marine and reporter. It is an unbelievably complex issue with so very many layers, and if your politician has led you to believe that the solution lies in one or two sentences, then please read this book.
  • The Death of Josseline by Margaret Regan: I’m going to be honest; it’s not the best writing I’ve read, but these are real stories collected from years of walking and doing in the border zone. These are true stories so heartbreaking that no matter how they’re told, they’ll make you cry. And they made me feel deeply ashamed and horrified at how our government is handling the border.
  • The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place: This book studies the life of Mexican migrants in the United States and in Mexico: where they came from and why, and the conditions they find in the U.S. Again, there are no easy solutions, and we had a hand in creating this situation, and thus a responsibility to do more than just write off migrants seeking honest work as criminals.

Friends to Be Proud Of

It was a great year for my friends! And, dear God, I fear I’ve left someone out. I hope not! I’m sorry. Do let me know if I have. Please. And okay, I don’t really read books not available on Kindle, even though I buy them. (“Okay,” as you’ll see by the end of this section, apparently also means “I’m sorry and please don’t hate me but—”)

And I get so nervous reviewing friends’ books. I’m terrible at it. I never do them justice, so I totally freak out. I get writers’ block about, swear to God.

  • Write with Fire by Charles Gramlich: Nitty-gritty awesomeness of real, practical advice on the writing business, the writing life, and the writing craft. It’s written with short chapters that make it particularly inspiring to read one a day before you sit down to write.
  • Dark and Disorderly by Bernita Harris: Bernita is one of the best writers I know. I have been looking forward to this book for years, ever since I first learned of Lillie St. Claire, a Talent who can see and help the dead. Her husband comes back to haunt her, and she must solve the mystery before he kills her. Lots of well-researched and wonderful stuff on ghosts in here, plus a great urban fantasy thriller besides. The writing: excellent, excellent, excellent.
  • Cattitude by Edie Ramer: Cats! Attitude! Romance! Totally awesome. There’s a big party today at Magical Musings, and you can learn about Belle and her story in a much more enticing way than I could ever describe it, so click here. I am so very excited for her and the book is totally awesome! Please read! Also available on Smashwords.
  • The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish: Okay, I’msorryIhaven’treadityet, so it’s not officially on the list, but I couldn’t leave out this book in a list called “Friends To Be Proud Of.” I have read the beginning, and it’s fresh writing, wonderfully intricate plotting, and a book I really want to read. I bought it, but it’s a paper book. I sneeze every time I open it. It’s too precious to take to the pool, so I check every day to see if they’ve released it on Kindle yet. (Here, will you do me a favor and click this: “Tell the Publisher! I’d like to read this book on Kindle.”)
  • Freudian Slip by Erica Orloff: Okay, this also is not officially on this list because I read it a over a year ago, but the title of this part is “Friends To Be Proud Of.” The story and characters are fresh and creative in a wonderfully mind-bending way, and as with all of her books, it’s got a ton of heart. Loved it. She also released the second book in her Magickeeper Trilogy, which I know I’ll love, but it was not originally available on Kindle so I haven’t read it yet.
  • Eight for Eternity by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer: A‑freakin‑mazing. The setting for the mystery is to die for: 6th century Constantinople during the Nika riots. I got this book free to review, and I’m ashamed to say that I loved it so much, that when it came time for me to review it, I got writer’s block because I felt so inadequate at conveying how very good this book is. I want so very much to tell you how wonderful this series is, but Sue O’Brien from Booklist describes it better: “Reed and Mayer bring the time of the Nika Riots in Constantinople to vivid life in this eighth installment in their series, capturing the burning city, the mob mentality, the panic in the castle as the rioters come ever closer, and the effort to convince Justinian to use whatever methods are necessary to keep his throne.”
  • Stupid Cupid series by Rhonda Stapleton: Hilarious with heart. Utterly charming YA with a lot of heart. The idea? Cupids are not little angels shooting arrows, but people with little hand computers whose arrows are emails. In this series, they hire teens to be cupids in high schools. LOVE IT. Totally awesome series.
  • The Fallen by Mark Terry: Again, I can’t officially include this in the list because I read it a couple years ago, but—title of this section?—of course he’s a friend I’m proud of! Mark Terry sent this book to me as a birthday gift when I first got my Kindle! I love his fast-paced thrillers and have a bit of a crush on Derek Stillwater, if I’m to be honest. The Fallen has probably undergone a bunch of changes since I read it as Angels Falling, so I plan on re-reading the first three books before the fourth book comes out.
  • Claimed by Zoe Winters: Oh man, Anthony is HOT. And yummy. And I love this book. *fans self* Did I mention how much I love Anthony? I don’t think there’s any sex in it, actually, but Anthony sure is… yummy.

Books to Live By

One habit that didn’t die after I quit teaching was that I still tend to pick up every book on education and motivational psychology. I’m not much for feel-good stuff, and this year there were several well-researched and practical books whose lessons I applied successfully.

So those are the best books I read September 2009 – 2010.

What about you? What are the best books you’ve read this year? Do you keep track? Are you on Goodreads?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Book-A-Day Reading Challenge | Tags: ,

The Destruction of Wonder

imageI’m still reading a book a day. I’m a bit behind, but I’ll catch up. I’ve re-read most of the Narnia series and am about halfway through the Oz series.

I also finished The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia. I was enraptured by this critical book at first; Laura Miller felt and understood and expressed all the love I’d had for Narnia, as a child.

…I’m wishing, with every bit of my self, for two things. First, I want a place I’ve read about in a book to really exist, and second, I want to be able to go there. I want this so much I’m pretty sure the misery of not getting it will kill me. For the rest of my life, I will never want anything quite so much again.

She also describes the betrayal I felt when someone suggested they had Christian symbolism and messages. I got over that, but upon reading the Narnia books in my thirties, I was stunned at his attitudes toward females and offended by his racism.

Laura Miller managed to keep her love for Narnia intact. My love for Narnia is still there, but it’s damaged. I see C.S. Lewis mucking in his world, and frankly, he should’ve stayed out of it.

The Oz books fared no better. The writing in the first was unbearable; in the second, annoying. By the fourth or fifth, it improved dramatically, so I can forgive that.

What I can’t forgive is the endless, unrelenting political satire and commentary in the Oz books. It ruined all the fun!

What is hilarious to me is that there has been some debate as to whether or not Baum did this purposely or at all. In fact, some even get quite aggressive in their idea that any politics in the Oz books are in the eye of the beholder.

Um, no. Uh, sorry, but you’re Just. Plain. Wrong.

image There is no question at all that these books are riddled with political satire and commentary. Take The Marvelous Land of Oz. First he parodies the fears of those against the suffrage movement by having an army of girls march on Oz. They quickly win, because the men are so afraid of girls. Then they order the men to cook and watch the kids all the time. He redeems himself by making the next ruler of Oz a girl, but even that was just plain weird; he’d grown up as a boy, magically done so he would be safe.

Guess what? Baum was the secretary for the South Dakota suffrage organization. 

No politics? Really? I could give example after example. Rarely does even a page go by without some satire or commentary. And Baum was… an interesting man. He was known to give a speech at a Republican rally, and the next day, deliver the same speech at a Democratic one.

As an adult reading these, the political satire might have been interesting if I felt like doing a bit of research on the political landscape of his day, but I didn’t. It was irritating and intrusive.

I suppose the Oz series was written like some children’s movies, where they have inside jokes intended for only the adults to understand. (I hate that, also; inside jokes strike me as rude to those you know won’t understand them.)

For both series, I wanted to recapture the love and wonder I had felt for these worlds when I was young; instead, reading them was the destruction of it.

Part of why I’m reading so much this year is that I want books to be gateway into another world, again. I read too analytically. I want to love reading every bit as much as I did when I was young. I suppose that’s why I’ve chosen so many children’s books to start out my challenge.

I’m still searching for the feeling of wonder.

Any suggestions? Have you read any books lately that have swept you off your feet with a feeling of wonder and magic? Swept you into a whole new world?

25 commments so far. Add yours!
Written by Natasha Fondren in: Book-A-Day Reading Challenge | Tags: , ,

Reading and Writing

The Book-A-Day Challenge is going great. I’m recapturing my love of reading and writing. The fact that I get to read 365 books this year makes me feel like I have plenty of time to re-read old favorites, which has been a wonderful treat. Technically, I’m two days behind, but I’m also halfway through a book in my car, and have made a dent in three of my slow-reads. I’ll catch up.

I’ve found all the Oz books online to download to my Kindle, which makes me happy. My children’s section, growing up, only had four or five, and I’d always wanted to read all of them. Books are so much more accessible now than they were then.

Much to my relief, all this reading is already making me a better writer.

I can totally see why my writing dwindled in the last four months: my reading had dwindled down to pretty much nothing! I’m not one of those writers who doesn’t read; I’m one of those writers who is entirely dependent upon reading in order to keep going.

I can’t get rid of the guilt I feel while indulging in reading, though. I feel like I should be writing more. Working out more. Being… productive. I feel like I’m being lazy. I’m just… sitting and reading for hours a day.

That’s silly, of course. Reading is part of the job, part of the training, part of the kit and kaboodle. Part of being productive.

Right? Or? What think you? Do you need reading to write? Or do you need to not read in order to write?

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