Reading Challenges and Goals for 2014

Vincent Van GoghAh, yet another year in which I failed to complete most of the reading challenges and goals I set for myself. That’s fine. There is next year! Hope springs eternal and all that. I’ll do a recap of this year shortly, but I’m blaming my failures on three things: 1) the Doctor, 2) soapmaking, and 3) work. Not precisely in that order, but you get the idea.

But I do have some goals in mind for next year, and I have some reading challenges in mind, too.

I have tried and failed to read 52 books the last couple of years. I think perhaps that one year I read 50 was a fluke, especially given my current schedule. I have zero commute, so I can’t read books on the way to work anymore. I didn’t realize how much extra reading time that gave me, I guess. My goal for 2014 is a more modest 30 books. I actually did come close to reading 30 books this year, so perhaps reading 30 books is a goal that is within my grasp. I am all for challenging myself, but I hate the feeling of frustration that comes with falling so short of my goals that I actually give up and don’t read. That really happened to me this year. Stupid, yes. I didn’t say it made sense.

2014 Historical Fiction ChallengeI love participating in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge each year. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I plan to shoot for the Victorian Reader level of five books. I hope I will read more, and if I do, that’s great, but seeing as one of my other goals is to try to get through some books I’ve been wanting to read for a long time and try to stay on top of new releases better, I don’t want to box myself in too much by taking on a large number in any one genre.

As I have the last couple of years, I also plan to create my reading map and participate in the Where Are You Reading Challenge. Google Maps is more difficult to use with their new interface. I am hoping I don’t have to fight it too much.

When they come along, I hope to participate in Carl‘s challenges the Once Upon a Time Challenge and the R.I.P. Challenge. Actually, the R.I.P. Challenge is a must for me every year, but it’s been a while since I did Once Upon a Time.

Foodies ChallengeI always like to do something a little different, so this year, I’ll be trying out the Foodies Challenge. I’m not sure what I’ll read yet, but I’ll participate at Short Order Cook level (1-3 books). It might be just what I need to finally read For All the Tea in China, The True History of Chocolate, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, or The Cookbook Collector. Or maybe I could finish Salt: A World History! Anyone participating in this challenge looking for a good novel might try The Kitchen Daughter, which is an excellent foodie read.

2014 Witches and Witchcraft ChallengeOne final challenge: the 2014 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge. I love reading about witches, and I have few books I’ve been meaning to read forever that would be perfect. Perhaps it will even prompt me to pick up Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, Bk 2). I’ll go for Initiate level (1-5 Witchy books). We have a goal of visiting Salem again now that we’re so close. For the record, Salem is one the most awesome places to visit. You should try to get there if you can.

Update, 12/29: Thanks to Iliana, I have discovered the Postal Reading Challenge. I love the idea of focusing on epistolary novels. As I told Iliana, I used to collect stamps as a child, and I already have one book in mind for the challenge A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps. I’ll go for the Postcard Level of four books. I hope I can figure out three other books to read.

Also thanks to Iliana, by a circuitous route, I found out about the 2014 Book Bingo Reading Challenge. I couldn’t resist that one. Using your reads to play Bingo? I mean, how much fun is that? Sold!

So that’s it. I think these are much more reasonable goals. Of course, it must be said one should shoot for the stars and all that, but I’m hoping by setting obtainable goals, I’ll feel less discouraged about my reading this year.

Image Vincent Van Gogh

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Top Ten 2013 Reading Goals

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

I do have some goals for reading this year:

  1. Read 52 books. That was also my goal last year, but I felt short by about half.
  2. Read at least Game of Thrones in the Song of Ice and Fire series.
  3. Read at least The Pillars of the Earth in whatever that series is called. I Googled it, but did not find an answer. Maybe I didn’t Google hard enough.
  4. Read at least two books set in France. If I can’t go there in person…
  5. Take advantage of free books. I need to use my school library, public library, Kindle book lending, Overdrive, PaperBackSwap, and NetGalley more.
  6. Read at least ten books in my back catalog of to-read books. Including some books I had to have that are still untouched on my shelf several years later.
  7. Complete the reading challenges I joined (and participate more actively on the challenge websites with comments and reviews).
  8. Figure out a way to listen to audio books now that I’m not commuting.
  9. Finish Les Misérables on DailyLit.
  10. Make more time for reading.

Do you have any reading resolutions?

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R.I.P. Recap

I did not complete the R.I.P. Challenge this year. It’s absolutely my favorite challenge of the year, but I only managed to read one book that could be considered part of the challenge, and it wasn’t even one of the books I planned to count. By the way, I did make a soap inspired by Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season. I call it Vanilla Sugar Cane. Its ingredients are olive oil, water, coconut oil, palm oil, sodium hydroxide, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, and castor oil, along with a vanilla sugar fragrance that is an exact duplicate of Bath & Body Works’ Warm Vanilla Sugar fragrance—one of my favorites. I can’t wait until this soap is ready.

I did not manage to finish Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m giving up on it because it just didn’t do anything for me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me because it has all the elements I usually like in books: a creepy carnival visiting a small town in the fall; lots of imagery; a story that can be read on multiple levels. I think ultimately, I don’t care much for the characters. I have seen the movie (many years ago), and I liked it, so I can’t explain why the book is just not appealing to me. I find it is not difficult to put down, and I keep looking at it, thinking I should pick it up. At this point, I’ve maxed out my library renewals, and I just don’t have a desire to try to finish it. I feel like I’m giving the book the old, “It’s not you, it’s me,” speech. But I really feel like it is me. People love this book. I did make a soap inspired by Mr. Crosetti’s cotton candy. It was pink and cotton-candy scented. However, as the soap cured, it turned a deeper shade closer to purple. My feeling is it now looks like appropriately dark and twisted cotton candy, and Mr. Dark would approve. I will probably just gift it to the kids in my family for Christmas.

I enjoyed the challenge I set for myself of thinking of an appropriate soap inspired by the books I read for this challenge. I am not sure I’d want to do it for every challenge or every book, but it was fun, and just like the books, I was really pleased with how the Vanilla Sugar Cane Soap came out from the very start, and as it cures, it is shaping up into a very nice soap, just like the book. On the other hand, I was initially pleased with the Cotton Candy Soap, and over time, I found my enthusiasm cooled as the soap changed a funny color, which mirrors my feelings for the book on which I based it.

This year is shaping up to be a bad reading year for me all the way around. I am already feeling a pull to re-read Wuthering Heights. I recognize the signs: I start Googling things related to the book and looking for film versions on Netflix. And I don’t have time. I have other books I’ve committed to read. That book is a damned siren.

So how did you do with the challenge this year? How’s your reading year shaping up as we slide into the final two months?

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreOK, I admit that I did not read this book in the hardcover edition linked to the left. I first encountered the story of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore in the form of the short film, and then downloaded the iPad app. If you have an iPad, do yourself a favor and download this wonderful multimedia children’s story, especially if you are a book nerd. You’ll love the story. It was written for you.

The story begins as Mr. Morris Lessmore is writing his story in the French Quarter of New Orleans when he is beset by a hurricane that rips the very words from his pages. Despondent, he doesn’t know where to go or what to do. Suddenly, he sees a beautiful girl being carried by flying books. Noticing Morris’s despair, she sends him her favorite book, and he follows the book to a magical library where he becomes caretaker and lends books to other folks who need them.

This is a fantastic story about the power of reading. The film is perhaps even better than the book, as it tells the story about the importance of words without using any words at all. I love the messages about how we breathe new life into old books and make them live again by reading them, and that they live in us and in turn give us life. The animation in the film is beautiful, and it reminds me of the opening story sequence in the movie Up. The digital storybook on the iPad has a narrator who reads the story, and you can interact with elements on each page. For example, on the page when Morris first enters the library, you can touch the books and hear famous lines from classic literature. You can write on Morris’s book. You can spell out words with the alphabet cereal Morris feeds the books. It’s an amazing immersive experience. My eight-year-old son loved it. We sat down and read it together this afternoon, and of course, it took him only a minute to figure out how to manipulate the book. The book is currently $4.99 in the App Store. If you have an iPad, do yourself a favor and get it.

Rating: ★★★★★

This book counts as my fantasy/sci-fi selection for the Mixing it Up Challenge.

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2012 Reading Goals

A Young Girl Reading, Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Happy New Year! Let’s all hope we survive the end of the Mayan calendar this year, mainly so people on the “History” Channel (lately, I’m thinking some sort of federal authority ought to require them to use the quotation marks) will quit talking about it.

I met my reading goal of 50 books in 2011, which was my best ever year. While I do want to read more books this year, I am not sure I could read much more than 50, so I’m setting this year’s goal at 52, only a moderate increase over last year’s goal. It also rounds out to an even book a week.

I am participating in the following reading challenges this year:

All of these challenges allow for books to be counted for more than one challenge, which is great. Otherwise I’d need to pare back.

Last year I made it a goal to improve the tagging on my blog posts, which is still an area I need to work on. I am posting more regularly, and the review posts include the authors’ names now, which I think has contributed to making them more useful. I need to work on titling meme posts so that they are more descriptive of the content rather than just titling them after the meme and using the date. I need to get back in the habit of doing Teaser Tuesdays. I realized in looking back at my posts that I actually liked those posts quite a lot more than I thought I did. Also, I think it’s a good way to introduce readers to favorite quotes in books. Another goal I have for my blogging is to post more often about book and literature-related issues, which I started out doing, but gradually cut back on. In reflecting on my favorite posts of the year 2011, I found those types of posts were more frequently my own favorites, and it stands to reason that if I liked them better, perhaps readers do too.

I have some other reading goals for the year.

  1. Find the time/energy to revive the faculty book club I have led at my school. My colleagues have been asking me about it.
  2. Comment more on reading blogs. I subscribe to many in my feed reader, but I don’t leave comments as often as I think about it.
  3. Clean out my blogroll/RSS feed reader once a month and eliminate bloggers who haven’t posted in a while (unless they announced a hiatus and plan to be back).
  4. Read books set in a larger variety of locales. I don’t want to push it artificially, and I want to read what I want to read, but I did notice the books I read this year were clustered in two locations: the east coast of the U.S. and the U.K. I guess it makes sense, but even with the U.S., I only read two books set in western states (Colorado and Washington) and one set in the midwest (Wisconsin, though that was American Gods, which is set all over America, and I picked the place the character settled down the longest).

Outside of reading, blogging, and reading about blogging, I have some more goals for the year.

  1. Continue the exercise regimen I started before Christmas. My Christmas present to myself (from the family, I guess) was a Wii Fit, which my sister said was great for beginners. I started a yoga/aerobic/strength training regimen that I have been faithfully doing every day for about a week (barring Christmas, mainly because I didn’t take the Wii down to my parents’ house, where we spent Christmas). It’s actually been a lot of fun to use the Wii Fit program.
  2. Learn to knit. My sister learned from watching videos, and frankly, I hope I can teach myself using videos or tutorials rather than take a class. But I should like to learn so I can make Hogwarts house scarves for everyone in the family according to their house colors (Maggie and Sarah are Hufflepuffs, Steve’s a Slytherin, I’m a Ravenclaw, and Dylan hasn’t been officially sorted in Pottermore, so I’ll either let him pick or sign him up for Pottermore when it’s out of beta). Maggie and Sarah seemed to like the idea of having Hufflepuff scarves, so it sounds like a plan.
  3. Cook more. It’s hard with work and everything else, but it’s more economical. I have done fairly well this year, but there is always room for improvement. I get bored of the same old things over and over. I like trying out new (simple) recipes and saving the more time-consuming/difficult stuff for weekends, holidays, or breaks. Cooking more means planning better and perhaps even a membership at one of those wholesale warehouses. I have a family of five, and we go through the food. I need to be smarter about the food budget. I have quite a few food-related books on my TBR list, too. I love watching TV about food and reading about food.

What about you? Do you have any reading goals or other goals for 2012?

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2011 Reading Challenges

Little menI took on a lot of reading challenges this year. How did I do?

Completed Challenges:

  • Historical Fiction Reading Challenge  2011: This was one of my favorite challenges, though I didn’t participate much at the blog hosting it. Maybe in 2012. I committed to reading 15 books for this challenge, and I read 22.
  • Steampunk Challenge: This challenge only required trying out one steampunk book. I didn’t like the one I read very much, but I haven’t given up on the genre. Still, I did just read the one book for the challenge.
  • GLBT Challenge: Like the Steampunk Challenge, this challenge just asked for readers to try fiction that could be classified as GLBT either because the author fit that description, or a character in the book did.
  • Where Are You Reading Challenge 2011: This challenge didn’t specify a number of books to read. All I had to do to complete it was track the settings of each of the books I read using Google Maps, which I did. Look for that map tomorrow.
  • Once Upon a Time Challenge: This challenge just asked that readers try fantasy/sci fi/fairy tales. I committed to one book, which I was able to finish.
  • R.I.P. Challenge: This is one of the best reading challenges every single year. I committed to reading four books for this challenge, and I actually read five.

Challenges I Didn’t Complete:

  • Books I Should Have Read in High School, but Didn’t: This was my own challenge, and I failed utterly. I committed to reading six books, but I only read one. I hope other participants enjoyed it and fared better in their own quest to make up for books they didn’t read in school.
  • YA Historical Fiction Challenge: I committed to reading 15 books, and I only read 4. I think I was under the mistaken impression that I read more YA, but I guess I don’t read as much as I thought, and certainly not as much YA historical fiction.
  • Take a Chance Challenge: I wanted to try to read all 10 books in this challenge, and I think the idea made me think outside the box a little bit for some book selections. I wound up reading 7 books, which isn’t bad, but it isn’t complete either.
  • Gothic Reading Challenge: I came close to completing this one, and I really did think I might do it at one point. I read 17 of 20 books. So close, but not complete.
  • Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2011: I only read one of the six plays I committed to reading. I started a second, but I didn’t finish it. I usually read more Shakespeare than that. I chalk it up to not teaching literature this school year and having already covered Shakespeare in the literature courses I was teaching from January to May.
  • Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Reading Challenge: Happy 200th birthday, Sense and Sensibility! I wanted to read two books for this challenge, but I only finished one. I tried to read a second, but it wasn’t grabbing me, and I didn’t finish. I sent it off to a new home via PaperBackSwap.
  • Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge: I never even started this one. I intended to, but I’ll be honest and say that without knowing how good these books are, I was afraid to buy them, and they never became available as free Kindle books or on PaperBackSwap (that I know of, anyway), so I was afraid to plunk down the money. I know, I know. I should just sample them on the Kindle and see if I want to keep reading. I should remember that Kindles have that feature. I keep forgetting about it, and it’s an awesome feature, for sure. But I do kind of what to see what would happen if Jane Austen met Lord Byron.

Look for my 2011 Reading Year in Review tomorrow. That recap post is becoming a tradition.

On New Year’s Day, I’ll be posting my reading goals for the year 2012.

Creative Commons License photo credit: katclay

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Harry Potter Reading Challenge 2012

Harry Potter Reading Challenge

I found another challenge I want to participate in this year. I haven’t re-read the Harry Potter series in a while. I always enjoy it when I do, and I always get something new out of it, too. I think I’d like to try it again. Penelope at The Reading Fever is hosting what looks like a fun Harry Potter Reading Challenge.

In order to participate, you just need to read or re-read the Harry Potter series between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

Anyone want to join me?

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2012 Reading Challenges

I love reading challenges! Here are some 2012 reading challenges I’ve found and decided to try. I probably will add a few more, and once the calendar flips over to January, you’ll find permanent links to these challenges in the sidebar where all the 2011 ones are right now. What I need to be better about this year is actually participating on the blog challenge sites themselves—posting links to my reviews, and the like.

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012

I participated in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011, and it was easily one of my favorite and most successful reading challenges of the year, so I wouldn’t want to miss it again. I’m going for the Severe Bookaholism level of 20 books. Sign up here.

Where Are You Reading 2012 Challenge

The Where Are You Reading Challenge is another challenge I also did in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed. You can see my Google Map here. I’ll post it again later in the month in my recap post. Sign up here.

Mixing it Up Challenge

I’m kind of excited about the Mixing it Up Challenge. The idea is to branch out and try books in different genres:

  1. Classics
  2. Biography
  3. Cookery, Food, and Wine
  4. History
  5. Modern Fiction
  6. Graphic Novels and Manga
  7. Crime and Mystery
  8. Horror
  9. Romance
  10. Science Fiction and Fantasy
  11. Travel
  12. Poetry and Drama
  13. Journalism and Humor
  14. Science and Natural History
  15. Children’s and Young Adult
  16. Social Sciences and Philosophy

I’m going for the “All the Trimmings and a Cherry on Top” level of participation at one book in each genre. Not sure what I’ll read yet, but I have a few ideas for some of the categories. Sign up here.

Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012

As soon as I described this one to my husband, he said I needed to sign up for it. I do have a small TBR mountain leaning against the wall on my side of the bed. Steve would be glad if I could plow through some of it. I’m not too insane, so I’m going for Pike’s Peak (plus, I’ve been there because it’s in my home state of Colorado), which requires me to read 12 books from my TBR pile. I’m not sure which ones I’ll read yet, but as I said, I have a huge stack, and I also have a lot of unread Kindle books. Sign up here.

Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge

How absolutely adorable is that button? This challenge asks participants to read free e-books. For the purposes of this challenge, ARC’s, library books, or books I’ve won can’t be counted. The books must be free, legally downloaded books. FYI NetGalley users, it looks like NetGalley books are counted as ARC’s for the purposes of this challenge, so they’re out, too. I’m going for the Coupon Clipper level of 12 books. Sign up here.

Outlander Series Reading Challenge 2012

I have actually only read the first four books of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. I just recently downloaded all of the audio books with Audible credits I had saved up, so this challenge seems like a good incentive to actually listen to the books and actually catch up with the series. Sign up here.

You know of any other great challenges I should check out? Naturally, I’ll be doing the Once Upon a Time Challenge and the R.I.P. Challenge that Carl hosts once he announces them later.

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2011 Reading Goals

James Jebusa Shannon 1910

I didn’t set any reading goals last year. In 2007 I read only 14 books in the whole year, and I think seeing other folks’ reading totals coupled with the morbid realization that I don’t have an infinite amount of time to read all the books I’d like to made me want to step up the number of books I read. I did better in 2008 at 23 books, and in 2009 I read 29. In 2010 I read 40 books. In the interests of improving each year, I hope to read 50 books in 2011.

I’m participating in the following reading challenges:

I haven’t previous declared my intention of signing up for the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. I thought about it for a while because I just re-read Sense and Sensibility this year. I decided I could save it for a late-2011 re-read—after all, I couldn’t let the bicentenary of one of my favorite novels by one of my favorite authors pass by with no celebration at all! Plus, The Annotated Sense and Sensibility comes out in May, and it should offer a deeper and newer way to experience the book. I am not sure which other books in the challenge I’ll read. I know I won’t be reading The Three Weissmanns of Westport because I read it in 2010, and I didn’t like it so much that I would want to read it again that soon. However, I have tried very few of the Austen sequels, and this challenge might be an opportunity to do so. I am committing to the Neophyte level of 1-4 books. I’m most interested in these, in addition to The Annotated Sense and Sensibility:

I can’t say for certain I am done signing up for challenges because some of them run later in the year, and as you can see, many of the challenges are similar enough that I can count books for more than one challenge. I like reading challenges because it’s a way of feeling like a part of a reading community or book club of sorts. I will be signing up for Carl’s challenges when they occur later this year for sure.

In terms of blogging, I want to improve my posts by tagging them better. I often forget tags. For instance, I like to tag all the books I read on my Kindle with my Kindle tag, but when I went through some older posts, I missed tagging probably five or six books. It doesn’t make my blog as user-friendly as I’d like when I don’t tag properly. Also, I want to begin including author names in my book review blog post titles. I haven’t been in the habit of doing that, and it might be helpful for readers. I would also like to maintain my regular posting schedule as much as possible. I have finished my master’s now, so I hope I’ll have more time for reading and blogging. I would like to become more involved in the reading blogger community.

Do you have any reading goals? Participating in any challenges you want to share?

Creative Commons License photo credit: freeparking

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