Sunday Post #38: December

Sunday PostDecember is here! I guess because of the warm feelings in the lead-up to Christmas, I’ve always liked December. New Year’s Eve has always seemed inexplicably sad to me, and I wonder if it’s because it feels like the end of such a, for lack of a better word, merry season. I remember when I was in Girl Scouts we would go caroling, and I have very fond memories of Christmas as a child.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions (and I don’t care if people think this is cheesy or hate this movie) is watching Love Actually with my sister. She has lived overseas and currently lives in Texas, but we synchronize our DVD players and chat online through the movie. We haven’t settled on a date for this year.

I’m also a big fan of making Christmas cookies. Today I’m making a batch of the white chocolate and cranberry cookies that were such a hit last year. Also, as a bonus, this is the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted.

This week I finished up Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, easily one of the best books of the year. I started reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. So far, I’m really enjoying it. My most recent tally for books completed this year is 55. I set the goal of reading 52. I should probably set a higher goal for next year. I thought 52 would be ambitious because the most books I’d read in a year previously was 50.

I’ve added the following books to my TBR pile in the last week or so:

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Some of the recommendations came from other teachers at the National Council of Teachers of English conference I attended recently. Others came from poking around and seeing what folks have enjoyed.

I was able to “win” NaNoWriMo this year. I think it’s only the second time I have been able to do it. Because one of my most valuable professional conferences takes place in November, it can be a rough month for me to complete NaNoWriMo if I fall behind while I’m at the conference. Next year, I will probably have next to no time during the conference to write because it will be in Atlanta, and I will have family and friends to visit when I’m not at the conference itself. Still, I really love participating in NaNoWriMo because of the constant encouragement and feeling of community.

I’m looking for some fun challenges for 2016. Do any of you have suggestions? I always like to do a historical fiction challenge and map the locations of my books. Every year I also like to do R. I. P. Any of you doing a fun challenge (or hosting one)? I haven’t really started looking around yet for reading challenges, but let me know if you hear of a really good one.

I have a winter playlist that’s maybe a bit dated, but I still like it.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme. Image adapted from Patrick on Flickr.

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2014 Book Bingo Reading Challenge Final Results

Even though the year is over, I’m calling it done for the 2014 Book Bingo Reading Challenge. Here is my final scorecard:

Bingo Challenge 2014Here is what I counted, by column, starting with the left. Any reviews are linked.

Five books from my TBR pile:

Mix It Up:

Series:

Genres:

  • Fantasy: I count one of the overages from the five books series above, The Silver Chair, C. S. Lewis
  • Free space: I count the other overage from the series above, The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis
  • Historical Fiction: Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland
  • Mystery: Ghostwalk, Rebecca Stott
  • Romance: Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell

New Releases:

As you can see, I achieved Bingo twice with the Mix It Up and Genre columns. I came close with the bottom row. If only I’d read a few more new releases. I also came close with row 2, but I’m not sure how I could have done it given I’d maxed out the TBR boxes. As far as I understand, I would probably have needed to read seven books from my TBR pile to mark it off, and I didn’t do that, for sure. Not too shabby, any way.

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2015 Reading Challenges

One of the reasons I keep signing up for reading challenges, even though my completion rate the last few years has not been stellar, is that challenges make me think about reading books I might otherwise not read, and they help me classify my reading. You might be wondering why reading needs to be classified. Well, perhaps it doesn’t, but I like to do it for some reason. It’s like tagging on Goodreads or Shelfari. It gives me something to hang the book onto, and for some reason I like it.

Each year, I think this year is going to be my year. In truth, I do need to make more time for reading, and around December, when I start reflecting on my reading year, I think also about what I want to read the next year. The older I get, the less patience I have for books that don’t grab me, and I haven’t had a really excellent reading year for quite a long time. Sometimes, reading challenges help me focus and select books. I don’t always select books I wind up enjoying, but when I’m on a good book streak, there’s nothing like it.

I am signing up for the following reading challenges in the hopes that they’ll contribute to a great reading year in 2015.

Reading Challenge 2015The Reading England Challenge looks like a great deal of fun. Typically, English and/or British reading challenges have a broader focus on the country as a whole (or even the entire UK). This challenge shakes things up a bit by asking readers to “travel England by reading, and read at least one book per however many counties of England you decide to read.” I already keep track of the settings for each book I read, and this seems like an interesting way to explore the country a little more purposefully and thoughtfully. I’d love to try to do 12+ counties, and in the spirit of going big or going home, I’m going to shoot for that level. I already read so many books set in England—the challenge here will be to try to select books from a variety of places in England.

literary-movement-reading-challenge-buttonThe Literary Movement Reading Challenge speaks to my English teacher side. I don’t always stretch myself to read outside of favorite genres and literary movements, and this challenge could be just the thing to encourage me to try some books I’ve been meaning to read. Weirdly, I am excited about the constraints in this challenge, and I’m looking forward to selecting potential books.

OY2015_bannerThis year, I expect I will probably meet my goal of reading 30 books. Even in my best year, I didn’t make it to 52 books, and I’d really like to do that, just once. It could be this is the year. To that end, I’m signing up for the 2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge with the goal of reading at the I’m on Fire! Level of 16+ books more than I read in 2014.

backtotheclassics2015BUTTONThe English teacher in me is also excited by the Back to the Classics Challenge. I’m going to shoot for completing nine categories in this particular challenge. If I’m able to complete all twelve categories, that’s great, but for this particular challenge, I decided to aim for the middle.

As I have the last few years, I’ll also join the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge once the challenge details are posted, as well as the R.I.P. Challenge once it happens.

4aFinally, I want to do the Where Are You Reading Challenge as I have done the last couple of years. I really enjoy keeping track of the settings for the books I read.

I don’t want to bite off too much more than I can chew, and I left several challenges this year completely untouched because they went perhaps a bit too much out of my usual reading habits, but I do hope to make a dent in these challenges as well as read a lot of young adult fiction next year, mainly so I can talk books with students and not feel out of the loop.

Updated 1/7/15 to add: The Historical Fiction Challenge is open! I’ll be attempting to read 10 books for the Renaissance Reader level.

2015 HF Reading Challenge Button_FINAL

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Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn't Challenge

Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn’t Challenge

Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn't Challenge

You know how it goes. Your friend is talking about how much she disliked reading The Scarlet Letter in high school, or she raves about her eighth grade English teacher, who made her memorize Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” because it appeared in The Outsiders, her favorite book in middle school. You remember being assigned The Scarlet Letter, but you couldn’t get past the chapter on the Custom House, and you bought the Cliff’s Notes instead. Fess up! Sadly, you never had an opportunity to read The Outsiders. Maybe your teacher never assigned it, and it somehow slipped under your radar.

We all have a list of books we feel we should have read, probably in school, but for a variety of reasons, we didn’t. I moved around a lot as a kid, and I missed out on some novel studies because of it, but I also admit to having trouble keeping up with the reading schedules set by my teachers and not being able to finish books. When the unit was over, I set the book aside and never picked it up again. This challenge will allow all of us who feel we should have read certain books, whether they are classics of literature, or children’s books we seem to be alone in missing, to read those books!

Rules:

  • Sign up using Mr. Linky below, and include a link to your blog post announcing your participation in the challenge. You may participate if you don’t have a blog. Feel free to leave your reviews in the comments or on a site like Goodreads.
  • The challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.
  • You need not decide which books you will read at this time, and you may commit to any level with which you feel comfortable.
  • You can determine whether a book meets the criteria for the challenge. If you think you should have read it in school and didn’t, then it qualifies. In fact, you can even define school however you like—elementary school, middle school, high school, college, grad school—the list goes on and could vary based on the educational system with which you’re most familiar.

Challenge levels:

  • Literature Professor: Read 12 books you feel you should have read in school.
  • Graduate Student: Read 6 books you feel you should have read in school.
  • College Graduate: Read 4 books you feel you should have read in school.
  • High School Graduate: Read 2 books you feel you should have read in school.

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Books I Should Have Read in School, but Didn't

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