My Goodreads Reading Challenge

I love me a good reading challenge. I raised my fabulous five surrounded by books and, so far as I can tell, I think it’s done them well. The youngest is a tender twenty years old and can figure out the letters they put into math and occasionally spouts the Greek at me across the kitchen, just to make me shiver.

The alphabet. Don’t underestimate it.

We’ve graduated from the good old days when kids had nothing better to do during the long lazy months of summer but chase chickens around the backyard, annoy ant hills with a magnifying glass, or walk with the fam two blocks south for a visit to the public library. The attraction had as much to do with the free air conditioning as it did with seeing how many borrowed books we could squeeze into our little red wagon.

Every summer, the library held a Reading Challenge for kids. And we knocked it out of the ballpark. The kids still have medals to prove it. Perhaps the idea of a reading competition feels as exciting as watching grass grow or—follow me here—a golf tournament. But as my third child would say, you are a bucket of wrong.

And there comes a time when a mom can no longer live vicariously through her children.

Have you seen my Goodreads Challenge page? It’s Fitbit for readers.

The idea is to set yourself the goal of reading “X” amount of books during the calendar year and then, as you finish each one, you post it to your list along with a review if you so choose. Not just for a summer…for an entire year!

Come here, Goodreads.

First, I had to throw a huge backlist together of my favorite books that I’d already read (possibly multiple times) and it keeps me up at night, knowing I’ve missed actual thousands of titles because I was too chicken to post the kid books. I’d love for you to think my reading list is classy and intellectual, but I love “Where the Wild Things Are” and Ezra Jack Keats and every single Nancy Drew ever written, even though Caroline Keene is a lie and our relationship has been strained at best, ever since she came clean.

After posting the backlist, I had to remember what I read last year and hurt myself trying. It’s mostly accurate. But a goal for this year? I took a step back and made the rational decision that a book a month felt healthy. I do have a full-time job writing, but after all, I’m also in a real live Book Club. If I read nothing else, I can post the dozen current books that these hip and happenin’ ladies put in my path. Right?

Sigh.

I’m supposed to be halfway through “A Million Steps” by Kurt Koontz. Instead, I’ve hidden under the covers at night and binge-read Sue Grafton. My secret goal for the Reading Challenge is to get all the way through her alphabet before the Book Club catches on to me and I get the boot.

This is how my kids got into trouble at school, reading fiction under their desk instead of their math book sitting on top. I suppose that explains my twenty-year-old, though.

I read “Migrations” by Charlotte McConaghy like a good girl, and it gutted me entirely. I don’t know if I can handle that level of emotional shipwreck every month. I mean, I’m already doing that with menopause.

Last week, I posted “F is for Fugitive” on Goodreads. I’m claiming every page. Kinsey Millhone is steady, predictable, and teaching me about my own craft. It annoyed me that she didn’t describe herself until page fourteen and then said her hair was “dark”. Dark? Like brunette? Black? Mahogany? Glints of red or blue in the direct sun? Sure, it’s good enough to use those details on the suspects, but we readers need foundational reference. If you don’t tell me, I will make it up, Kinsey!

But that’s not the kind of stuff you post on Goodreads. You have to say things like, “Delicate and fresh, very soft tannins with fruity aromas. A little vivid for my taste, but overall well balanced and smooth on the palate.”

Sigh.

I will keep my opinions to the blog and keep my enormous pile of TBR books in the little red wagon next to the bed.

It’s full of the alphabet, G through Y, with a couple of Kiplings, a secret Madeleine L’Engle, a Shel Silverstein side wall, a bottom layer of JK Rowling, a mix of CS Lewis and EB White, random Janet Evanovich numbers, and a flashlight.

What’s in your little red wagon?

Bottomless Bookshelf Debut

It may just be the tea talking here, but I am having a FABulous morning.

You have to take ten minutes and sit with me, I want to show you something.

You guys, I built a thing. With my own ten fingers.

I know.

The Bottomless Bookshelf is up and running today and I only used a hammer a little bit, when the internet cut out…for three hours that I didn’t have time to waste. I want to paint it and we all know how that will turn out, so if you take a look in there and have an idea, drop it in this comment box.

I’m thinking “Bookworm Green” or maybe “Nerd Heaven”. Choose a color Shakespeare would approve.

It’s only got a handful of books in it at the present but I had so much fun remembering my old friends, that I will likely keep adding to it for years.

I really miss my book collection. The one that spilled all over the house until we had to move and then I was faced with sorting out only the best ones, because have you ever lifted a box of books? That’s some heavy reading, haha.

Calvin and Hobbes made the cut. I had to prioritize.

Please use this Bottomless Bookshelf to pieces. It follows the idea of the Little Free Library we were talking about earlier, “take a book, leave a book”, meaning help yourself to some new reading suggestions and leave some of your own in the comment box. I will take your recommendations and add them into the main bookshelf.

That also means that the list will hold books I’ve never read, so no coming after me later saying, “But Jolie this book stinks! It’s about a walrus and a pineapple wandering in Tibet and there’s even a naughty word in it!”

I love this kind of feedback.

But I will release the ferrets if you’re all up in my grill. I didn’t write it.

Meanwhile, I’m still adding shelves and categories. Many genres are blurry in my opinion so help me out if I stick one in the wrong spot. The librarian in me feels all fastidious about it.

I’m going back now to play with it some more. If it doesn’t pop right up when you click on it, I may be in there rearranging books and kicking up some dust. Count to ten and try again.

Go see it by clicking these pretty red words: Bottomless Bookshelf direct deposit.

Yay!

I can’t wait to lose myself in another book.

Cheers, my dears.

What Do Writers Read?

“The First 20 Hours, How to Learn Anything…Fast” by Josh Kaufman.

It should be titled, “The First 20 Hours, How to Discover if You Have Discipline”.

It may or may not have played into last Friday’s blog.

I love to read and I’m sad to report that I haven’t read a fiction novel in a very long time for fear of sailing off into the sunset with it, returning to reality only when I smell dinner burning and I’ve forgotten a child at school.

Because, discipline.

Instead, I find books at random and read them in tiny snatches like magazines, hoping something sticks. I have a book-stack that never seems to shrink.

My girlfriends have been trying for months to hook me up with podcasts and audiobooks and websites but that involves sitting down and holding still and, um, remembering there are such things in the world.

I finally finished Mr Kaufman’s book. He acquired six new skills over a year, devoting 20 hours to working each one out and when he reached his goal, he moved on.

The only thing I devoted 20 hours to was reading the book, looking for his secret. It was well hidden on the very last page: “If you want to acquire a new skill, you have to practice. There is no other way.”

Consistent, focused, deliberate practice. Well, why didn’t he say so in the first place?

I should have grabbed the book next to it by Gretchen Reynolds, “The First 20 Minutes”.

I’m out.

Let’s read the next book in the pile: “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown.

I enjoyed her “Daring Greatly” because it encouraged me to be braver with my blog. Her new one seems to be about the process of getting back up when you fall on your face.

Huzzah! I face plant all the time, thanks to discipline!

I’m halfway through the chapters and she blows the old “victim mentality” right out of the water with compassion and some common sense healthy attitudes.

I’m suspicious that practice and discipline are in there somewhere, but it will be messy and thoughtful with neither straight lines nor deadlines, and a lot of telling stories on herself. I love it.

Earlier this year, before I read about yoga and tellifin and websites and comedy and a curry recipe, I read Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love”.

Her front porch philosophy and her thoughts on five kids and the way she sees all kinds of sides on a coin had me laughing hysterically now and then and staring thoughtfully into space now and then, and this one has the honor of sitting on my shelf permanently for long-term use.

I read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert and it was so-so and then I read Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit” which was pretty solid, and Gary Klein’s “Seeing What Others Don’t” about the world of insight, and something that wraps up the nuts on my family tree in gold foil, “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of literacy.

Today, we celebrate it with a website and a bookshelf, and probably a little Kipling on the side.

I found a website called goodreads.com that looks like fun.

So far as I can figure out, you tell it what you’ve already read and rate how much you liked it, and it recommends new books to you, from zombies to zinnias.

And then you take the list down to the library and check them out with a good old fashioned library card, right? To each her own, girlfriend, I have to fondle the pages.

Therefore, I’ve always been intrigued by something called “Little Free Library” which puts book-stacks curbside for the express purpose of book swapping. It’s a take a book/leave a book honor system that promotes reading and community. What a great idea.

As I have no carpentry skills, this weekend I’ll be building a little bookshelf right here on the blog; a place to leave your favorites for others to find…all over the world.

I’m painting it many shades of green.

What have you read this year that you really enjoyed, and why?

What was worth burning dinner for? Staying up until 2am for? Making three pots of tea for?

Stack your good reads down in the comment box.

You might want to set a timer on the oven.