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Top Books of 2019

When you read 153 books in one year, narrowing it down to a top list is so difficult. I am a firm believer in the DNF so if I finish a book, there is some value to be found in the writing. I picked these books based on what the book did for me. Did it change me as a person? As a reader? Did it change my world view? Did it bolster a current belief?

I attempted a top 10 and couldn’t narrow it down by a single book more so here are my Top 11 Books for 2019:

  1. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk – this book won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s dark, but not too dark. It was thought provoking and expertly captured the human condition and our roles in society. This is my top book of 2019 – the rest are in no particular order.
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – A tough read but one that should be filed under “books everyone should read.” This book not only delved into the Underground Railroad but also what happened after “freedom” was achieved. It was an eye opener and a gut punch done so well because the author was not only well-researched but also an incredibly talented writer.
  3. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi – Theatre kids are ________. Kidding, of course. But as the parent of a theatre kid, I throughly enjoyed this non-linear story that explored power, consent, revenge, and emotion. This was a challenging read but well worth it.
  4. The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall – This book. It’s probably the one I can’t stop talking about. It’s also one I can recommend to almost anyone… for those who are religious, those who have been hurt by religion, those who doubt and question, those who enjoy historical fiction… I could go on and on. This book changed me as a person.
  5. A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar – What a wild ride! Told in a completely non-linear format – even the chapters were numbered out of order – this book explores what it is to be marginalized, forgotten, and what it takes for a teen to pull herself out of that life. This book stuck with me for quite some time.
  6. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Meet my new favorite author. This character driven story covers what it is to be a member in an imperfect family – so basically all of us. And extra stars for the audiobook, narrated by America’s favorite uncle, Tom Hanks. I listened to this book and loved every minute of it.
  7. There There by Tommy Orange – This book is an experience. It follows over a dozen Native American characters headed to the same event. Another non-linear format that flashed back to explain each character and the person they are in the present. If you want to understand more about the plight of the Native American, this would be great book to start with.
  8. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – I finished this book yesterday and cannot stop thinking about it. On the surface it seemed to be a book about divorce. Except it wasn’t. Gender roles, parenting, career sacrifices, marriage, and the old adage that “women can have it all” are what this book was really about. Definitely a book that I identified with and I cannot wait to post my full review of this one.
  9. Naamah by Sarah Blake – Magical realism is my favorite genre. Magical realism that takes place on Noah’s ark told through the eyes of Noah’s wife, Naamah? This was probably the most original book I read this year. It is not for everyone though – if you prefer the original version of Noah and his ark, you probably want to stick with that one.
  10. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – This year’s A Little Life for me. This was an epic book of loss, love, deceit, and redemption. And yes, the book was better than the movie.
  11. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – This book changed me as a reader. I read this book with my Book Oblivion group and it was the beginning of a shift in focus for me. It’s a beast and not to be read alone. My Book Club for Introverts is tackling this book in January and February. Check us out on Goodreads if you’d like to join the fun! We are also reading another book during those months if Infinite Jest isn’t for you.

Thanks for talking books with me this year!

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The Psychology of Time Travel: A Read Along​​

Four women will invent time travel.

Three will make their mark on history.

Two will do anything to be remembered.

One will not survive.

Sound intriguing? I love a good female character-driven novel and time travel is one of my very favorite sub-genres. Combine those things with beautiful cover art and I am in!

I am excited to announce that I am co-hosting a read-along of The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas with Jessica from Book Oblivion.

If you are unfamiliar with Book Oblivion, simply put, they are some of the smartest and nicest people in the online book community. I am a member of The Himalayas of Literature group as well as the Critical Theory & Philosophy group. Jessica is also the mastermind behind the super-nerdy reading schedule.

So here are the fun details:

  • I am currently giving away one copy of The Psychology of Time Travel. You can enter to win here on Instagram.
  • Jessica will also be giving away a copy later this week.
  • We have a private Facebook group you will want to join for extra insights along the way.
  • On August 17th we will meet to do a live online video call to discuss the book. You can sign up for that here.

Please feel free to comment or email me with any questions.

I hope you will join us and finish up the summer with this fascinating book!

 

 

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2019 Reading Goals: the super-nerdy book reading schedule

When I decided to read more books in 2018, I had no plan other than to read a book a week. That worked out well and I felt like I read a decent variety of books. But it was very haphazard; most book selections came from glowing reviews on Goodreads or Instagram.

Late last year I joined the Himalayas of Literature group through Book Oblivion. The experience thus far has been exceptional. So when I had the opportunity to enroll in the How to Read More course series in combination with their Critical Theory & Philosophy course, I jumped in with both feet.

These two courses fit perfect with what I was looking to accomplish in 2019: read more and read more books covering a deeper subject matter. Plus the added bonus of great instruction and a community of like-minded readers.

The first assignment for the How to Read More course was to create my super-nerdy book reading schedule – yes, it’s really called that and it is the perfect description of what you’re about to see. Super nerdy.

Broken into months and then seven reading categories, I was able to plot out my entire year of books.

For the first six months these are my categories:

  • Himalayas of Literature assigned book
  • Critical Theory & Philosophy assigned book
  • Book Club for Introverts monthly pick
  • Female Written Fiction
  • Person of Color Author
  • Poetry or Essay
  • On Writing

For the last six months of the year here are my categories (the first three are the same as above):

  • Feminist Fiction or Nonfiction
  • Classic Lit
  • Short Story or Poetry
  • Research

From there I went to the books I already own and filled as many monthly categories as possible. Another one of my reading goals was to read the books I already have because I might have a few that bookstagram made me buy. If you’re on Instagram, I know you are nodding in agreement right now.

Don’t worry, I won’t tell your significant other if you don’t tell my husband. 

I filled in the remaining categories with books that are on my to-be-read list on Goodreads.

This exercise took all of 30 minutes to complete and I am thrilled to know what I’m reading each month. Maybe it’s just me but I used to get overwhelmed wanting to read all the good books and struggling to choose. I know, I have problems. If that’s not just me then you don’t have problems and neither do I.

Win/Win

I did not include audiobooks in this schedule as those are going to be my free picks so I don’t feel completely left out of the latest and greatest book releases.

This was a nerdy but fun exercise and I can see this being a part of future years as well.

What are your plans for reading this year? Do you have any particular goals set beyond the number of books you want to read?

 

 

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The Himalayas of Literature: a challenge

Do you have bucket list books that have languished on paper or in mental notes for longer than it would have taken to read the books – twice through?

On December 1st I posted an Instagram picture of my to-be-read (TBR) stack that included three of my ultimate books to conquer. I had read 75 books in 2018; my original goal was 52. To celebrate exceeding my goal I thought it would be interesting to tackle a few books that checked the challenging box.

But oddly enough, for the first time ever, I received some direct messages about my book choices that were less than kind or encouraging. It was strange and very unlike the typically supportive bookstagram community. I’m going to bypass that the messages were all from men because that’s not the point of this post – but, UGH.

A lovely Instagram follower noticed this stack and introduced me to an online course reading these and three other challenging books. Did you know that there is a term for this group of books?

I didn’t. I was buying Infinite Jest and Amazon suggested that they are frequently bought together and I wanted next day shipping for my book and magnetic bookmarks so into the cart they all went. Well played, Amazon.

These books are referred to as the Himalayas of Literature. I love ridiculous goals so here they are:

  1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – 1078 pages
  2. The Waves by Virginia Woolf – 297 pages
  3. The Recognitions by William Gaddis – 976 pages
  4. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon – 776 pages
  5. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce – 628 pages
  6. 2666 by Robert Bolzano – 912 pages

This is a six course bundle that spans a year. I purchased the course and for what I get – commentary, essays, live discussions, and interactions with other readers – it will be well worth it.

A post like this is probably as good of a place as any to bury the fact that I am bored. I have a successful career in finance that spans 20 years but there is more. I know there has to be more. This isn’t a surprise to people who really know me but it feels good to write this. My hope is that this challenge helps me chart a course.

I also love a good book cover…

I love a good book that I can finish in a few sittings. But I know that to become a better writer, you have to be a better reader. The Himalayas of Literature seem like a great place to start so here goes.

I am certainly not forsaking great, current books; I just want to stretch myself. But I have to admit, after reading Infinite Jest all day, it was nice to pick up Nine Perfect Strangers that our book club is reading this month.

I don’t know how often I’ll blog about this journey because the books are long and involve discussions but it’s still nice to write about the direction I’m headed for 2019.

What are your reading goals for 2019? Do you have any writing goals as well?