The 2022 Winter Reading Challenge for Grownups

Good morning and a happy Sunday to you all! I know, I know, Sundays aren’t known for people being bright eyed and bushy tailed, as we all like a late lie, but if we talk about books, maybe we can shake this up a bit! If nothing else, we can get a little excited about some weekend reading, no? The books I have in mind at the moment are those I read for a recent library book challenge called the Winter Reading Challenge for Grownups – and it was intense! I am also participating in another, year-long challenge that entails one book per month, so this one won’t be complete for quite a while, but I will write about it before too long, especially given the perspective angle involved.

But for now, challenge for grownups.

As some of you know, my son, now 19, has been going to the library since he was two weeks old – it’s practically been his second home. He doesn’t go now as often as he used to, trying as he is to figure out how to juggle his more adult responsibilities (university, work, friends and associated activities, etc.). But I was a little excited to see him get into the choices I’d been working through for this library reading challenge, which is set up in the form of a bingo card.

With five rows of five columns per, each box has a category, and participants choose a book that fits. For example, the first row and my choices:

Poetry or Book in Verse

The Spiritual Poems of Rumi

Book to Movie

 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Alaskana

 

The Year of Miss Agnes

Set/About Somewhere You Want to Visit

The Printer’s Apprentice

Book You Were Assigned for School

The Cricket in Times Square

Each time you finish a row, you mark it complete, write down your titles and submit to the librarian, who gives you a small prize, which for me was a bookmark each time. Naturally, your bingo can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Additionally, each completed bingo row acts as an entry to a prize drawing. If you complete all twenty-five squares, you are also entered into the Blackout Drawing.

Oh, did I mention that this was for books read in between January 24 and March 7? Ha ha! Yeah, I had most of my choices picked out, but this changed a few times as I went along, planning what to read according to day of the week (e.g. evenings only), what was left, how overwhelmed I felt at any given moment, even with some of my selections being young adult (YA) books. For example, I wanted to re-read Emil and the Detectives, a book recommended to me years ago and that I had read a few times before. But I also had a work of Arthurian fiction on deck, and that was nearly 400 pages. Being somewhat organizationally obsessive as I am, I had a tendency to go over my choices nearly every day, which may or may not have been helpful.

I only learned about the contest, by the way, about a week into it, so I had that slight disadvantage, but also had something going for me because, having then recently been sick, I was spending a lot of time at home resting after work, so the reading gave me something to do. “Maybe I can pull this off after all,” I often thought. I did manage to get two books to do double duty, one also read for my year-long challenge and another as part of re-reading the Harry Potter series with my son. We also re-read it in 2020, which was something we turned to when the world was pretty much shut down.

Speaking of the world being shut down: I think most of us would agree it was not fun at all. With rare exception, people really need people, if on varying levels, and the shutdowns have really cast a pall over societies across the globe. They did a lot of damage short- and long-term. Our own library was closed for I think over a year. (I forget exactly how long, but it was a very long time.) So, I was really glad for this particular contest because, as I reasoned, it’s a fun way to get re-involved in a community activity at a pace – reading and meeting up – that works for each person.

To be honest, I really had no business attempting to read 25 books in about 35 days. That’s roughly a book a day and, like my son, I already have too much other stuff to juggle. Why voluntarily add this to my already-full plate? I’m not sure what I was thinking, though it may be that at first I thought I might do only one or two bingo rows. Then it started to seem possible to do it all, which may actually have been me taking leave of my senses!

Looking back, I ponder the idea that I really did need to work my mind a bit, having recently spent so much time sleeping and not much else. I don’t think otherwise I would have been able to participate in such an activity unless I stuck to YA for all 25, which I don’t necessarily wish to do – there are too many other books on my TBR that I want to get to. In the last couple of weeks, it wasn’t so much fun sitting to read for such long periods of time as I did but, having started and made my commitment, I absurdly forced myself to keep to it. So, I guess I’m glad I did it, because I did reach a number – 32 – by March 7 that in other years took me much longer to achieve. For example, in 2019, I read 37 books but only finished my first, with less than 100 pages, on March 6. In all of 2020 I ready only 18 books. That was a new low for me, especially given the expectations everyone seemed to be placing on themselves related to having so much extra time. (I still went to work every day, so never gained any of this spare and wonderful time.)

But these are just numbers, and I’d scolded myself before about this. What do numbers really mean, anyway? Are they meaningful in and of themselves? For me, they aren’t enough, which is why I’d been excited to discover, some years ago, challenges that led to trying out new genres or entire series, tackle some of your TBR, maybe re-read some old favorites. You know, quality over quantity. It’s a cliché, I suppose, but at least some clichés become so because they have value and meaning and are worth repeating. It isn’t accurate to say there was no quality in this reading, but the final determination would be in weighing what I got out of it all and whether it was worth the time spent focused on these particular books and what else was involved in getting them all read.

Box cover showing the 1,000-piece puzzle’s colorful picture. See below for how far I have progressed.
This boy reminds me of my son, with his thick, curly, wild hair – and a book in his hand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In coming weeks, I will be having a look at these titles and engaging in some brief discussion about them or the time surrounding when I read them, one row at a time, where they are in my history and where they might lead me moving forward. For now, a quick mention about the prizes I referenced above. I did end up winning one, a 1,000-piece puzzle that has already been showing me who’s boss. But it’s fun to look at, with its crowd of people (and one cat) reading books such as The Great Catsby, The Cranberry Tales and Moby Richard. Whether it was a prize from a single-row drawing or the Blackout (a term I’d never heard until this), I have absolutely no idea!

Stay tuned for my first row discussion ~

  This puzzle is boss.

Winter Reading Challenge 2022

Good morning and a happy Monday to you all! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t really known for great cheer, but we can find something pleasant to talk about, right? In my case (and many of yours) this very often involves books! Today is no exception, and as I type this, I’m still a little giddy about our local library’s Winter Reading Challenge for Grownups that I am participating in. I’ve also joined another challenge earlier in the year and will for sure be writing about this—it’s pretty fantastic for its own reasons.

Today, though, the library. As some of you also know, my son, now 18, has been going to the library since he was two weeks old – it’s practically been his second home. He doesn’t go now as often as he used to, trying as he is to figure out how to juggle his more adult responsibilities (university, work, friends and associated activities, etc.). But I was a little excited to see him get into the choices I’ve been working through for this library reading challenge, which is set up in the form of a bingo card. 

With five rows of five columns per, each box has a category and participants choose a book that fits,as you can see in the image above. My choices for the first row are:

The Spiritual Poems of Rumi

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)

The Year of Miss Agnes (Kirkpatrick Hill)

The Printer’s Apprentice (Stephen Krensky)

The Cricket in Times Square (George Seldon)

Each time you finish a row, you color it in, write down your titles and submit to the librarian, who gives you a small prize. (I believe they have bookmarks and a mug.) Naturally, your bingo can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Additionally, each completed bingo row also acts as an entry to a prize drawing. If you complete all twenty-five squares, you are also entered into the Blackout Drawing. (I have no idea what the prizes are for these two contests!)

Oh, did I mention that this is for books read in between January 24 and March 7? Ha ha! Yeah, I have most of my choices picked out, but this has already changed a few times and may change again. I really want to try to fill in all twenty-five squares but am not entirely sure this will happen. But I’m plugging away! I’m a bit bummed that my January book for my other reading challenge can’t count, as I finished it on January 23!!! Well, that’s part of what makes it a reading challenge, hey? I also had a slight delay as I didn’t learn about this until about a week or so in.

But! I have an advantage re: timing because, having recently been sick, I’m spending a lot of time at home resting after work, so the reading gives me something to do and the time is a bonus! So, maybe I can pull this off after all? Well, we have yet to see, but it will be fun anyway, especially as the Harry Potter book above is also part of a reading challenge between my son and me as we aim to read the whole series this winter. We also re-read it in 2020, which was something we turned to when the world was pretty much shut down.

Speaking of the world being shut down: I think most of us would agree it was not fun at all. With rare exception, people really need people, if on varying levels, and the shutdowns have really cast a pall over societies across the globe. They did a lot of damage short- and long-term. Our own library was closed for I think over a year. (I forget exactly how long, but it was a very long time.) So I am really grateful for this particular contest because it’s a fun way to get re-involved in a community activity at a pace – reading and meeting up – that works for each person. 

I’ll be writing more about the books I choose, where they are in my history and where they might lead me to moving forward. You can see the actual challenge here to see the actual details they lay out, as well as the three different bingo cards participants could choose. (I chose number one.) You may even be inspired to organize your own reading challenge!

Reading Challenge 2021: The Year of My Neglected Bookshelves

It just occurred to me that I’ve lost track of whether my opening entries for each year, these past few years, have been titled with a nod toward the revolution ‘round the sun just completed or the one newly embarked upon. Looking at last year’s entry doesn’t provide much aid, given it was late and that I also began to wonder if I used to do one for each. Well, no matter. Some might say 2020 doesn’t really deserve recall, but that’s not why I’m just going to roll it and looking ahead into 2021 into one entry this time. The year 2020 should be remembered even though by any account it bred the suck. I’ve always been an advocate of remembering the past, because it’s essential for effectively moving forward.

In terms of reading, how do I do in 2020? Well, last year’s reading—there wasn’t much to it.

Continue reading “Reading Challenge 2021: The Year of My Neglected Bookshelves”

Reading 2019: Better Late Than Never, Right?

I know, I know – it’s nearly March 2020. Hey, it just about matches last year, since that month was when I started to read again. Though there is a bit of an uptick this year, since I did actually blog on January 1, whereas 2019 didn’t see any of that activity until the third month.

Yes, things are still not quite as fast as they once were, but improvement does come, slow as it may be. Happily, I did finish my first book of 2020 just a few days ago and our approach toward March indeed brings my mind back to this time last year, when illness preoccupied my days and ghosts visited at night. As mentioned here, I slept a lot, but by the month of Mars, I’d sat up a bit more and began to reach for the world again.

As has been customary for me, I write a tad about that world, found in such a large portion in the books I read, and my first from last year, I am super excited to say, is coming up for review here pretty soon:

A true story based on a 1680 ballad, The Ghost Midwife is book two in Annelisa Christensen’s Seventeenth Century Midwives series.

Not long after I began to look at books I’d been wanting to read (catch up on the Alexander McCall Smith series) or re-read (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China), and there was also some familiarity in store with authors established in my repertoire (Joanne Larner, Lars Hedbor). I did some reading about ravens, given a group of them had a longtime habit of hanging out in my back yard, and one used to perch on my window to watch me as I typed. Another curious animal showed up in The Inquisitor’s Tale and I encountered a new portrayal of old favorites (The Retreat to Avalon).

Recommendations seemed to dominate this last batch of reads, which started with Karen Maitland’s The Owl Killers, in follow up to this same author’s Company of Liars, read in 2017. In reading this second novel, I knew I was safe from dangerous events within, but Maitland’s narrative kept me on the edge of my seat and to this day I still use the word scary as one descriptor for this un-put-downable tale. Gone Girl and Little Fires Everywhere have both been made into movies, and The Midwife’s Tale came to me from someone who knew of my attachment to Annelisa Christensen’s midwives and fondness for mystery. I’m looking forward to more from both authors.

It wouldn’t be a real follow-up to my January blog entry if I didn’t mention 1066, gifted to me years ago by the same sweetie who sent this fabulous stash. It’s important because events discussed in this book are a significant reason for my current WIP, a story being partially dictated to me by someone who lived at the time of the last ubiquitous palindrome before 2020-02-02 – over 900 years ago. She’s called Adela and I bet you can easily spot the two books below that more than strongly hint at which former kingdom she called home – and that I’m perfectly smitten with.

So, I’ve only read one book so far this year, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – extra lovely given it was a Christmas present. I’ve got a few more going and, though I know it will stay slower owing to my research reading, I’m getting there, aiming to end up with another one for your shelf. In the meantime, Adela is looking forward to it.

Reading 2018: Requiem, Reviews and Year of the TBR

Peering ahead to the new year, a portion of my reading “challenge” for 2018 is to move away from thinking of it so much as a challenge and more of something I just do. There may be some uneasy feelings speaking toward the “requiem” segment of this, our next title, it not sitting so well to remember the dead as part of a challenge. Maybe they wouldn’t mind; I don’t know. I just don’t want to forget them, and maybe that’s all they would want, too.

German cavalry of the 11th Reserve Hussar Regiment in a trench, in France, in the Western Front during 1916 Bundesarchiv, Bild 136-B0560/Tellgmann, Oscar/CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons

In the last couple of years, I think the first memory that brought me to where I am today, to this part, is of reading Siegfried Sassoon in high school literature classes. At that time and long after, I read everything about World War II I could get my hands on. The Great War—not so much. What I recall most from then were this poet, the horrible trenches and a theater of miserable mud. I didn’t really think of it all much post school. So it was curious that Sassoon came to mind so recently, and then here and there I saw references to that terrible time as centennial anniversaries rolled through the last few years. When I received a particular book for review, set during and after the “war to end all wars” that didn’t, I began to realize I should follow up on all of this.

Another contemplation I’d been having was to focus on my TBR—to be read. For the last couple of years I’ve been doing a lot of reviews, which I love, but admittedly took up a lot more of my time than I should have let them do. While I remain convinced of the massive amount of amazing stories hidden within the indie community (where most of my reviews came from), I also want—need—to delve into my own choices for reading material. This resulted in my two-pronged decision pertaining to book reviews and changes in how I do them:

  • The time I spend on them will, by necessity, be significantly less than before. I’ll be doing fewer, and plan to shave off much of the analysis, aiming for greater succinctness.
  • My choices will come from requests and my own perusals. Also, I may write about topics I’ve read books on, rather than reviews, per se (for my own picks), so I can vary content in the blog more than in the past. I’m also aiming to get back to more food entries and other fun stuff.

It’s happening this year, Jayne!!!

This all works together very nicely because, apart from enabling me to continue this endeavor without losing touch with my family, I can spend some quality time with much (I hope) of what’s been roaming through my mind, themes and topics I wish to explore and learn more about. As it happens, lots of books about the Great War reside on my TBR, including such works as: Jünger’s Storm of Steel; Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain’s memoir that has also been made into a film; The Summer Before the War and All Quiet on the Western Front.

I decided to read at least one book each month to observe the 100th anniversary of war’s end, marked by a phrase most know: “At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month ….” Nearly a full year will pass before we reach that early-morning moment, and, especially in these days of historical omissions and fabrications, I hope we shall remember November 11, 1918 long after the novelty of its centennial observation concludes. The people—the living and the dead—given their place in the two-minute silence deserve no less.

There are, of course, many other titles on my TBR, including a great number that have literally been sitting on my shelves collecting dust. Some are ones I’d picked up in the past, knowing I may or may not like them. They looked promising, though, obviously, but leaving them forgotten for so long seemed so wasteful. For that and because I also began to run out of space, I determined to make a physical change to the setting, that of cleaning up and clearing out.

My favorite Dickens: I purchased this book to re-read at least three years ago. I hope this year will be the one!

In addition to the bi-annual wiping down of the house, as I call it, occasionally I instigate a purge, typically when conditions approach those they now do: overcrowded spaces occupied by items unused or that have outlived their usefulness. While hesitant to place books in the latter category, I would concede that if they aren’t being read and hopefully enjoyed, then they belong to someone else. I went through the last of the shelves overnight: taking them all down and going through each individually, dusting the shelves, and replacing with those books unread that I fully intend to, or those experienced but that have extra special significance to my own journeys. At one point I may let go of these too, but for now I take it a little bit at a time.

And of those not returning to my shelves? They deserve to find a special place in other readers’ lives; those readers, too, should be able to experience the magical journeys and amazing tales I have been so fortunate to happen upon. Some I haven’t read, and I set them aside to explore and figure out if each is a good match for me, which could indeed include the phrase literacy teachers employ: the “right book, right now.” At some point I may want to return to one or more, but that is for later. Any that aren’t good fits for me when I pick them up will have storytelling opportunities elsewhere.

The newly opened space on my book cases are ones I’m unaccustomed to, but the refreshed emptiness, as well as the removed books’ path ahead, represent the unknown, really, something that awaits all of us in the future. I find this fitting as well, for all of this, my reading goals and the opening up, gifts us the dual perspective of remembering the past while continuing to look into and create a better future.

Off the shelves of young Turtle

I don’t have a number in mind yet, that is for how many books I aim to read, apart from the twelve Great War works. Similar to last year (which was only yesterday!), numbers really aren’t as important as the content and quality I take away from what I read, how it can enrich my life and others’, even if in smaller ways. So, I may just choose a random number and when I reach it, equally randomly tack on another set.

So for the long and the short, I’ll be reading and remembering the Great War through the year, with a number attached only to keep myself up to date, in short enough segments of time that I can aim to experience a rewarding range of perspectives, themes, genres and approaches, but each long enough to give me time and space to process individual works thoughtfully, without any sort of systematic but senseless rush.

Simultaneously I’ll be re-uniting with my TBR and choosing books to read I’ve been wanting to for so long. I actually got a bit of an early start with that in the last month, despite the slowdown I wrote about yesterday, and overall it’s been glorious. I’m looking forward to those moments when something pops in my head and connected to it a book I know I have. “Oh, I think I’ll read that!” Or when I can get a library book knowing I have a greater chance of reading it before it has to return to its base. Incidentally, my TBR does contain some previously-read titles, though I will let mood and interest mostly dictate whether I get to them or not.

I know there are other bloggers and readers out there with their own challenges, and I’m looking forward to seeing their ideas, and sharing in many different ways the journey through 2018. Happy New Year!!!

See also:

Erin Davies’s Presidential Challenge at Flashlight Commentary

Stephanie M. Hopkins’s 2018 Reading Goals at Layered Pages

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January 1, 1918: This day 100 years ago marks the period between the Battle of Jaffa (December 1917) and the withdrawal (March 1918) of the 52nd (Lowland) Division to the Western Front. The 54th (East Anglian) stayed on and would take part in operations at Berukin (April 1918) and later (September 1918) at the battle of Sharon.
(Scroll to bottom of Revolvy page to see additional links there.)