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2011: A Year in Review

Well! I have tended to appreciate other bloggers’ wrap-up posts, so I thought I’d join in. This was my first full calendar year of blogging (I began in October 2010) and I definitely read more books this year than I have in a number of years, maybe ever. Although I’ve always been a big reader, this year was exceptional for several reasons: working in a library filled with tempting books; blogging about them; discovering audiobooks for my commute; and taking on a book review gig with Shelf Awareness, to name a few. (See some of my SA book reviews here.) I read 139 books this year.

Here are a few statistics…

  • 17% were nonfiction
  • 46% were by female authors
  • a whopping 63 of the 115 novels I read were mysteries; 10 were historical fiction and 11 were classics, the rest a smattering of short stories, drama, poetry, romance, fantasy, and “other.”
  • 38 were 100-300 pages; 80 were 300-500; 15 were over 500 pages, and 6 were under 100. Husband asked how many pages I read this year, so for his sake we’ll estimate, using the midpoint of the ranges (which may throw us way off but what the heck), and say I “read” some 50,580 pages this year! (keeping in mind that some were listened to and not read…)
  • 31 books, or 22%, were audiobooks – look what good use I made of my commute/driving/gym time!
  • 60% of the books I read came from the library! the vast majority came from the library where I work, with just a few coming from the Houston Public Library. another 24% came from publishers for review, leaving only a combined 22 books that came from my personal collection, books I was loaned, books I purchased, or (those treasured few) books I was given as gifts.

What fun.

Of these, I did of course have favorites… you can refer back to my premature Best of 2011 post of December 1, to which I’ve since added 11/22/63 and The Home-Maker, for an unwieldy list of 22 (!) books I loved this year. What can I say, I’m full of gushings. In honor of this Year in Review post, I have culled it down (painfully) to my Favorite 11 Books of 2011 (thanks Thomas for the idea, and for sending me two (!) of the books on the list*):

Whew! That’s a year! I see other bloggers discussing reading goals for 2012, and I don’t really have any to contribute… I think I’m going to pass on reading challenges this year. (You may recall that of the three I signed up for in 2011, I completed two and quit the third. I also participated in several readalongs: the Maisie Dobbs series, Gone With the Wind, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.) If anything, I’m most tempted by the TBR Double Dare (to read only books already on my TBR shelves from now til April 1…!), because my house is so full of books I want to read that I feel like I’ll never get to them all! But even if I didn’t encounter new books through my job that I want to read and probably should so I can talk with patrons about them, there’s my book review gig, which I love. So. No challenges. If anything, I’d like to make a dent in my TBR shelves at home; and part of that dent-making may come in the form of giving books away unread. Sigh.

My real reading goal in 2012 is to continue to read a diverse selection of new and old books; to continue blogging; and most importantly of all, to continue enjoying it. The day that reading feels like work will be a sad day, and the day I need to take a break; here’s to not finding that day in 2012!

Do you have reading goals this year? What challenges have you signed up for? (Don’t twist my arm…!) Did you do a year-end post that I may have missed? Please do share!

Challenge Update: “uncle!”

As we’ve reviewed earlier this year, I did *complete* both the Classics Challenge and the What’s in a Name? Challenge, both with relative and unexpected ease. The Where Are You Reading? Challenge has been most interesting, and I’ve enjoyed keeping track of where all the books I read are set. Click on my map below to see my notes.


A month or so ago I realized I was going to have to start making special efforts to read books that cover certain locations. I’ve done some of that. Some of those books have been good, too; but some of them I’ve been only half-heartedly interested in, and haven’t impressed me.

So, I’m giving up. My review of Love Medicine is still to come, filling out North Dakota (and that was a very enjoyable book!). But aside from that, I’m done chasing states. I have to prioritize. Mostly I like to read what I like to read – whatever I feel like at the moment; or whatever I’ve been looking forward to or planning on or been interested in lately. And then there are the books I’m sent for review, which are in theory skewed to my interests – and in practice, too, my editor at Shelf Awareness does an awesome job of sending me good stuff! And sometimes I undertake to read books I might not like, in the interests of expanding my knowledge of what my patrons at the library are reading. On top of all this, to read books based on location for this challenge has turned out to be more burden than fun. This blog is for fun and enrichment and is not intended to be a source of burdens! So, I’m done with the challenge.

But I have no regrets. It’s been not only fun but and interesting and informative to see where I read. And I didn’t do too poorly! So far, I’ve read in 35 of the 50 states, and 24 foreign locations. You never know, I might even find myself reading something set in Rhode Island by the end of the year. But I doubt that it will be on purpose. :) Then again, 59 unique locations (35 + 24) isn’t so hot considering I’ve read well over 100 books this year so far. It was interesting to see how many of the books I read are set in a few big US cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, NYC), Texas, and London (or England generally).

2011 has been my first full year of blogging. (I started in October 2010.) This was my first year joining challenges. It was fun; it made the blogging experience more interactive, for one thing, and made reading kind of playful and purposeful. I like challenges, and I’ll sign up for more again. I just want to be careful not to find any extra stress where I don’t need it! Also, let me mention the readalongs – those have been so great, too! First I did the Mad for Maisie Readalong, of the entire Maisie Dobbs series. (Recommended!) Next was the Great Gone With the Wind Readalong, which was educational and fun. And because that one went so well, I’ve just signed up for the Their Eyes Were Watching God Readalong, hosted by The Heroine’s Bookshelf as was the Gone With the Wind one.

So, today’s challenge update in a nutshell: great fun, challenges! But, uncle!

Challenge Update: Where Are You Reading?

Well, you might recall from my last challenge update that I COMPLETED (yay!) two of the three challenges I took on for 2011, and with months to spare, too. Now that the year is drawing nearer to its close, it’s time to concentrate on the last and most difficult one: Where Are You Reading? Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books has assigned this one. My job is to read a book set in each of the 50 states, plus bonus points for foreign locations. (Take a look at my map to see where I’ve been.)

So. At this point I’ve completed 24 of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia!), and it’s time to start picking and choosing those remaining. They are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Here we are, kids: I need your help! Please to recommend me some books! Do you have a book (or an author of several books) who writes in one of these states that you can recommend to me? I would greatly appreciate it. For example, if you were looking for Louisiana I would GUSH over James Lee Burke to you. But Virginia? Beats me. Help a girl out!

Do you think I’m going to make it?

Challenge Update

My last update was at the beginning of June. Time to check in again.

Where Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books. The idea is to read one book from each of the 50 states within the 2011 year. (Bonus points are awarded for foreign locations.) Take a look at my map to see where I’ve been. So far, I’ve read in 25 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Washington DC, Wyoming) and 17 foreign locations (Canada: Toronto and BC, Wales, Mexico, Dresden, Dublin, Kenya, London, Nepal, Paris, St. Mark’s, Stockholm, Switzerland, Jerusalem, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Okinawa).

This has been a fun challenge because, so far, I’ve yet to start hunting down locations at all. It’s interesting to see where I’m reading. But soon… the pressure builds, and I think I’m going to have to start searching for some of these locations. It’s funny to see what’s been easy and what’s been difficult; I’m not surprised that Texas (home state), Louisiana (neighbor), New York, and California (big, important states) were easy to take care of. But I was surprised to see places like Nebraska and Connecticut get ticked off so easily. It will certainly be an interesting game to pull it all together in the final weeks of December!


The Classics Challenge is hosted by Courtney at Stiletto Storytime, and I signed up for the bachelor’s degree level, meaning 10 classics in 2011. It’s been a great motivator for me this year. I’ve read:

  1. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein
  6. Don Quixote by Cervantes (just part one for now, but the rest is to come, I promise)
  7. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  8. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
  9. Othello by William Shakespeare
  10. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (just parts one and two so far, the rest to come by mid-October)

HEY look at me! I finished this one with months to spare! Yay classics! I did, of course, read a number of very short classics – the two Shakespeare plays, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Tender Buttons (short, but not quick!!), and Main Street of moderate length. But I think Gone With the Wind and Don Quixote should more than compensate. I think there will be more to come, too. Why stop here? (I did do some post-bacc English coursework after my BA and before my MLS. I guess I won’t stop at the bachelor’s level of this challenge, either. :)) I’ve got Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood going on audio as we speak!


What’s In a Name? is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. The goal is to read books with certain title attributes.

Wow! Another one! I tell you, when I started drafting this “challenge update” post I had no idea I’ve have 2 out of 3 completed this early. Very exciting.

So now it’s just down to the Where Are You Reading? challenge. I knew that one would be a doozy. Soon, it might be time to start seeking books out by state, sigh.

Challenge Update

Well here we are in June. It would be nice if I were on the ball and posting these challenge updates every month, but that does not appear to be at all realistic. My last update was at the beginning of April. Let’s check in again.

Where Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books. The idea is to read one book from each of the 50 states within the 2011 year. (Bonus points are awarded for foreign locations.) Take a look at my map to see where I’ve been. So far, I’ve read in 17 states:
New York
Illinois
South Dakota
Texas
Maine
Nebraska
Michigan
California
Missouri
Minnesota
Massachusetts
Washington
Iowa
Colorado
New Jersey
Georgia
New Mexico
….and 9 foreign locations:
London
Stockholm
Dublin
Paris
Canada: Toronto and BC
St. Mark’s
Switzerland
Kenya
Dresden

This is a fun challenge because, so far, I’m not hunting down locations at all, just keeping track; and it’s interesting to see where I’m reading.


The Classics Challenge is hosted by Courtney at Stiletto Storytime, and I signed up for the bachelor’s degree level, meaning 10 classics in 2011. I’m catching up a bit, having now read — classics, and it’s been a great motivator for me, too. I still aspire to a few long ones this year; on my list are Gone with the Wind, Don Quixote and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, among others. But so far, I’ve read:
  1. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein


What’s In a Name? is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. The goal is to read books with certain title attributes.

Well hopefully this one will come along all by itself.

I have found challenges in general to be great fun. I’ve only had this blog, oh, 8 months or so now; but it’s really expanded my world in ways that are satisfying both in my job and in my personal life. It’s a bit like having a book club that I can meet with whenever it’s convenient for me, lol. I get book recommendations (both for me, personally, and for purchase for the library where I work). I find out about book trends. I even got a gig writing book reviews for Shelf Awareness. The best parts are the parts that involve being part of a community. Memes like Teaser Tuesdays and Book Beginnings on Fridays call for participation; and challenges are another important way in which I get to interact. So thank you, challengers!

Challenge Updates

Wow! Is it April already? Let’s do some challenge updates. I am doing better on some than on others, ho hum. I’m only involved in three challenges! I wanted to start my first full calendar year as a blogger a bit conservatively. And, I only wanted to undertake challenges I was both a) confident I could succeed in, and b) actually excited about.

Where Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books. The idea is to read one book from each of the 50 states within the 2011 year. (Bonus points are awarded for foreign locations.) This doesn’t strike me as terrifyingly ambitious, although we shall see how far along I am in November and December! You may see me scrambling for some specifically-set books. :) The good news is, fiction, nonfiction, audio, etc. – any book works. Take a look at my map to see where I’ve been. So far, I’ve read in 12 states: New York, Illinois, South Dakota, Texas, Maine, Nebraska, Michigan, California, Missouri, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Washington; and 6 foreign locations: London, Stockholm, Dublin, Paris, Toronto, and the fictional Caribbean island-country of St. Mark’s. This has been so fun! And as I’m 12 into 50 states in 3 months, I’m feeling perfectly fine about this challenge. Thanks so much to Sheila for a really fun adventure.

The Classics Challenge is hosted by Courtney at Stiletto Storytime (a blog name I love, in case I haven’t said that. how cute). I signed up for the bachelor’s degree level, meaning 10 classics in 2011. I haven’t made near the progress I would have thought by this time. Apparently my reading of classics is not as automatic as I thought it might be, and I wish it were – which just makes this challenge more valuable to me, if it’s going to push me into reading more! When I contemplate classics I find myself often thinking about rereading some of my favorites, which would be lovely but I don’t think that’s exactly the point. (I don’t have Courtney’s take on this, but I’m going to behave as though rereads don’t count.) So far I have very much enjoyed Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Although I’m behind, being 20% through the challenge and 25% through the calendar, I’m not concerned. I can find PILES of delectable challenges. You just wait.

What’s In a Name? is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. It’s a cute idea: we’re looking for titles with certain elements to them.

  • A book with a number in the title: 61 Hours by Lee Child
  • A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
  • A book with a size in the title
  • A book with travel or movement in the title: Running Blind by Lee Child
  • A book with evil in the title
  • A book with a life stage in the title

One third of my way through this challenge feels okay to me. Like the Where Are You Reading? one, I’m not making any special efforts to date. We’ll see if I have to play catch up later this year.

So! While I’m disappointed to see myself lagging behind in classics, I think I’m doing okay for the year. What fun to have goals in our reading. :) Do you have any challenges going on, or any reading goals in particular for this month, or year, or ??

Challenge Update: Where Are You Reading?

All right! One month down! Whew.

Remember the Where Are You Reading? Challenge? It’s being hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey. I’ve accepted her challenge to read a book set in each of the 50 United States, in this year of 2011. (Bonus points for foreign locations.) In a way it’s a fairly easy challenge, because every book I read counts, so in theory I don’t have to read to the challenge; but then again, I probably will have to do just that, as the year closes and I’m short on Wyoming, or what have you. As far as reading 50+ books in a year, I think I can do that safely. But ask me again in December! We shall see!

It’s been fun so far. In the past month, I’ve read 8 books, representing 4 states, and one foreign location. So, my first observation is, I’m reading in the same places repeatedly! How fun to make a point of traveling the country. Thanks Sheila for the inspiration. (She’s doing a monthly check-in, so January is wrapped up here.) So far I’ve been to Houston, Chicago twice, small-town South Dakota (Bolton is a fictional place from what I can tell – or too small to be on the maps?), and Garrison, NY, followed by three trips to London. Next I think I’m headed to Maine with Reacher, oh boy!

Below you can see my map where I’m keeping track of where I read with bright green pins. I like green. :)

Hang in there and you’ll see me keep on traveling around the world. Thanks for the challenge, Sheila!

2011 Where Are You Reading? Challenge

I’m getting ambitious and trying to *really* join the reading blog community by entering a challenge hosted (appropriately) at One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books. The idea is to read a book set in each of the 50 states, over the course of all of 2011, with bonus points for additional locations. I don’t think the challenge itself will be too hard; I do a lot of reading. Of course I might have to do some purposeful seeking out of my missing locations towards the end of the year; but that’s part of what’s curious about this challenge. I’m interested to see how randomly scattered the books I read are before making any special effort.

My efforts will be kept track of (and herein lies the challenging part, I suspect) at this map:


So you can keep track of me here. The challenge doesn’t start til Jan. 1, so don’t be anxious that the map is empty so far, k? :) And feel free to join us. I think it’ll be fun!
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