Books I read in January 2020

February 1, 2020

I think I have been reading about as much as usual, but it’s hard to tell from my list of books finished in January. Mostly, though, that’s because I finished all the books I was reading last month, and didn’t start this month, as I usually do, with a few books I have nearly finished. But things are back to normal now – I’m in the middle of eight books, going into February.

Some people would find it confusing, but for the most part I have no trouble keeping them straight. (I did have to decide against starting one book I was planning on reading next, because it is set in WWII and I’m already reading another set in WWII.) I listen to one audiobook in the car, and another on the exercise bike. During lunch at work I read a book from the college library. At home I usually have a non-fiction book I’m reading, and a fiction book for when I want lighter reading. Though some fiction is anything but light, not difficult intellectually but emotionally, or I just can’t “get into” the story so it’s hard to push my way through. So then I pull out another book, that I know is light reading, when I really want to just relax. Then there is also the book I’m reading for book club, which meets the first Monday of the month (except next week, when we postponed it a week due to Iowa caucuses), so I read the book the last week or two before the meeting so as to have it fresh in my memory. (And book club books are often the ones that are harder to get into, because they’re books I didn’t choose for myself.)

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Books I read in December

January 1, 2020

According to goodreads.com, I read 148 books in 2019. Fifty of these were for the PopSugar Reading Challenge (not counting where I read more than one for a category), twelve were for the local library book club, and a few were for a Bible study group. Thirty-three were audiobooks that I listened to either while riding the exercise bike or during my daily commute.

Some of these were novellas rather than full-length books, but it adds up to a lot of pages read! I used a spreadsheet this year for tracking the number of both books and pages I read for the PopSugar Reading Challenge; for 2020 I decided to track number of books and pages for all books I read.

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Books I read in November

December 7, 2019

In November I finished what I had planned on being the last book to complete the 2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge. But then I found a downloadable audiobook edition of one of the books I had initially planned to read but at the time could only find as an ebook (I read magazine and newspaper articles online, but with rare exceptions, I don’t do ebooks), so now I’m listening to that.

The book I did finish was to meet the category of a book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie. Since I don’t watch TV and rarely watch movies (two this year, I think), it would be pretty difficult to find a book for this category based on my own TV or movie watching. But there are lists of these things online, and I found out that a character in The Dark Knight Rises is seen reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I generally try to be precise in finding books to meet these categories (which is one reason I’m listening to the audiobook I just mentioned, because I wasn’t sure the other book I had read really fit the category), but since it’s a reading challenge, I did not see a reason to watch the movie just so the book would fit the category better. My husband would no doubt have enjoyed watching it with me, but from the reviews I did not think I would like it much.

I did enjoy A Tale of Two Cities, however. I had read it for 9th grade English, and remembered having liked it, and had thought a number of times over the years of rereading it. So I decided it was finally time. What surprised me was how very little I recognized from having read it back then. I remembered Sydney Carton, and the famous last lines of the novel, as well as how he ended up where was at the end. I remembered Madame Defarge and her knitting. Other than the historical setting, that was it. Usually when rereading a book I at least recognize characters and events once I read about them again, but except for Lucie Manette and her father, nothing seemed familiar. That, of course, made it more interesting, in a way, as though I were reading it for the first time, even though I knew how it ended. Some parts at the beginning went pretty slowly, but I knew I had liked the book before and I knew it had a good ending, so it was not hard to keep going. As a side note, I suspect that this novel was where I first learned John 11:25-26, which became my favorite Bible verses after I came to faith in Christ the following summer.

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Books I read in October

November 3, 2019

This is the first month this year I haven’t completed any books for the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge, but I’m on my last book, and listening to an mp3 LibriVox recording during the twelve minutes on my exercise bike weekday mornings, which means it takes quite a while to finish a book. Of course, having finished the rest of the books in the challenge, I have more time to read other books.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a book I’d been planning on reading for over a year. It’s long, however, and when I browsed through it on the college bookshelf, it didn’t look like a light read. I finally decided to read it when I was working on a speech for Toastmasters on making choices. I’m not sure how much it helped with the speech (the purpose of which was to include humor), but it was fascinating reading, and not at all dull or heavy. Other readers might disagree, of course, but I found it very enjoyable – in part because I really enjoy learning new things, and learning how our minds work is one of those meta-topics that relates to absolutely everything else.

Also while working on the speech, I came across references to The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz, and since that ended up being the specific topic of my speech (that choosing from among fewer options can make us happier), I was pleased to find the book in the library, and read through it in two or three days. I had read several articles, including one by Barry Schwartz, discussing that topic, so the ideas were not new but it fleshed them out more, and helped me decide how to structure my speech.

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Books I read in September

October 3, 2019

As October begins, I am more than halfway through my final book for the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge, having finished three more this month. Now I can work on my to-be-read list, which I add to as I learn of books I’d like to read (often from what my friends on Goodreads have commented favorably on, and occasionally a book I hear or read about elsewhere). For months my TBR list has been growing, as I add to it faster than I can read books from the list. But now that I won’t have books to read for the PopSugar Challenge for a few months (until January when the new challenge begins!), I may cut it down a bit.

I puzzled a while over what book fit “a book you meant to read in 2018,” since I don’t generally plan on reading books at any particular time except for the PopSugar Challenge and for the local library book club. But then I remembered having done a project in Toastmasters last year, presenting Ursula Le Guin’s speech “A Left-Handed Commencement Address” (for an advanced manual on interpretive reading, specifically to interpret and present a famous speech), and deciding I should read her book The Left Hand of Darkness. This novel is considered one of the first (and in the eyes of many one of the best) examples of feminist sci-fi literature. It didn’t strike me as particularly feminist, but then, it was published fifty years ago, when I was a young girl, and social attitudes have changed a great deal since then, in part due to its influence. The novel examines the role of sex and gender in society, through the depictions of a world where everyone is androgynous. I found it interesting, but was surprised that it didn’t seem to explore these themes as thoroughly as I had expected. At its time, of course, it was very radical, and a deeper exploration of those themes perhaps required more changes in societal attitudes first. Read the rest of this entry »


Books I read in August

September 2, 2019

Near the end of the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge, I’m mostly reading books just for the enjoyment (or to occupy my mind while driving). But I did fit in a few to meet the challenge, in those categories I have been finding more challenging.

We read Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata for the local book club, but it conveniently turned out to be a good fit for a book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters (in this case, a book with no chapters). It’s kind of a strange book, hard to tell what message it’s trying to get across. That everyone should be allowed to be different, I guess, even if other people think they’re missing out on important things in life (relationships, family, children). A couple of us in the book club speculated that the main character is on the Autism spectrum, but it never says so in the book, so I have no idea whether that’s what the author had in mind. A person who can “hear” what the store wants is odd, though…

I was looking for a book published posthumously, and found After the Fire by Henning Mankell in a list of posthumously-published books. This novel was published in the original Swedish in 2015, the same year Mankell died, but I don’t know which came first. The English translation was definitely published posthumously, and while I’m not sure that counts for a purist, I decided it was good enough. It’s a slow-moving book, unlike most of Mankell’s books I have read (I have not read Italian Shoes, to which this is in some sense a sequel), more about relationships and coming to grips with the losses of aging and approaching death than about solving crimes. Not entirely satisfying, but then perhaps it is supposed to be melancholy. It was, after all, Mankell’s last book, and as he had cancer he no doubt was reflecting a lot on these issues of living and dying.

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Books I read in July

August 9, 2019

As I get near the end of the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge (only about 5 to go, though I may pick additional books for a few categories), I’m down to the categories that are hardest to find books to fit. Some that I have picked have been disappointing, but a few were excellent, the sort that justify this kind of reading challenge that gets me to read books I otherwise would not have known about, much less chosen to read.

It took me a while to decide on a reread of a favorite book. To be considered a favorite, to me that means a book I have read multiple times (otherwise it’s just a book I liked a lot). I don’t often reread books, partly because I have to have forgotten enough to not finding it somewhat boring to reread, but mostly because there are so many good books I haven’t yet read so I prefer spending my time on those. In the last few years, I have reread several of my favorites (usually for one of these reading challenges), so I had to find one I hadn’t reread recently. I finally settled on Heidi by Johanna Spyri, which was one of my favorites as a child but which I had not read since then (nor had I kept the copy I had back then, a prize for reading the most books in third grade). I remembered the overall story, but was surprised to see how much I had forgotten, and yet how readily I recognized not only the details but also at least an echo of the feelings I had when reading as a child. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much if I had read it the first time as an adult – the moralizing seems somewhat heavy-handed and Heidi seems unrealistically cheerful and well-behaved – but as a reread of a childhood favorite it was still very enjoyable as an adult.

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