The Bookman’s Tale, Charlie Lovett

[amazon_image id=”0670026476″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession[/amazon_image]Charlie Lovett’s novel [amazon_link id=”0670026476″ target=”_blank” ]The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession[/amazon_link] is the story of Peter Byerly, antiquarian bookseller and restorer, recently widowed and at a loss as to how to move on with his life without his wife Amanda by his side. When Peter goes to a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye and discovers a watercolor of a woman who bears a stunning resemblance to his late wife tucked in a book, he begins a quest to discover the origin of the mysterious watercolor. He enlists the help of Liz Sutcliffe, an editor of art history books, who tells him B.B. is at the center of a mysterious scandal. Peter is hired to look through the book collection of John Alderson, a local man who lives in a sprawling mansion and whose family has an “ancient grudge” with the Gardner family across the river. In a box labeled “Never to be sold,” Peter finds the Holy Grail—proof that William Shakespeare of Stratford was the true author of the plays attributed to him. But is it real? Or a forgery?

The novel travels back and forth among two distinct periods in Peter’s life: his time with Amanda and the novel’s present in 1995. In addition, the reader is taken back to several points in the history of the copy of Pandosto by Robert Greene that supposedly has Shakespeare’s annotations in it. Greene is the playwright who famously referred to Shakespeare as an “upstart crow, beautified with our feathers” who believed himself to be the “only Shake-scene in a country.” Pandosto is itself a very rare book and is the source material for Shakespeare’s play [amazon_link id=”B00762VENM” target=”_blank” ]The Winter’s Tale[/amazon_link].

The novel was an entertaining mystery, and I found I liked and sympathized with Peter as he struggled to move on with his life and then as he found himself embroiled in a mystery. However, coincidences strained credulity and I found the plot somewhat predictable. I would recommend it to folks looking for a page-turner à la [amazon_link id=”0307474275″ target=”_blank” ]The Da Vinci Code[/amazon_link], but better written and with more book nerdiness, but don’t look for the next [amazon_link id=”0679735909″ target=”_blank” ]Possession[/amazon_link]  or [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link].

Rating: ★★★½☆

The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

[amazon_image id=”078878983X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2)[/amazon_image]I have been listening to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel [amazon_link id=”078878983X” target=”_blank” ]The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, Book 2)[/amazon_link] as narrated by Rob Inglis while making soap and taking walks (trying to drop a few pounds). The first time I read this series, I whipped right through all three books, unable to put them down. The next time I tried a re-read, and the time after that, I wound up bogged down in The Two Towers. I told myself it must be that there was a lull in the pace, but now that I’ve listened to it (and finished it, this time), I think it was just me because there is a lot going on in that book.

For those of you who have only seen the movie, the book is different. In the movie, the action involving Merry, Pippin, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn flips back and forth with the action involving Frodo and Sam. Not so in the novel. The first half of the novel finds Boromir falling at the hands of orcs who kidnap Merry and Pippin to take them to Isengard. Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn give Boromir a funeral and go in search of the hobbits. On the way, they meet Éomer, nephew of King Theoden of Rohan. They join the Rohirrim to defend Helm’s Deep against the onslaught of orcs, then head to Isengard, where they finally find Merry and Pippin, well and safe and rescued by Treebeard. The Ents have risen against Saruman. Meanwhile, Gandalf has seemingly come back from the grave and taken Saruman’s spot on the White Council. He drives Saruman out of the White Council and breaks his staff.

The second half of the novel concerns Frodo and Sam’s descent into Mordor, during which they meet up with Gollum, who becomes their unlikely guide, and Faramir, who allows Frodo go free and even spares Gollum at Frodo’s request. Gollum leads Frodo and Sam into the lair of the great spider, Shelob, and in that darkest hour, all hope seems lost.

At this point in the hero’s journey that is The Lord of the Rings, Frodo is in what Joseph Campbell called “the belly of the whale.” It is the bleakest hour, when his quest seems doomed to failure, and his life is in its greatest peril. He has come all the way to Mordor, only to be ensnared by an ancient, evil beast. Even good old Samwise thinks his master is gone until he overhears orcs saying Frodo is still alive.

I was struck again, as I always seem to be when I watch the movies and as I was the last time I read The Two Towers that Faramir is a much better man than Boromir. He is one of the few characters in the novel not to be tempted by the power of the Ring, even when it is within his power to take it and use it as he would. He is truly a brave and noble man and one of my favorite characters.

I was struck listening to Sam talk about how the story of the destruction of the Ring might be told one day.

The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you, at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and find things all right, thought not quite the same—like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in!

What a spectacular comment on why we tell stories and why the hero’s journey, in particular, continues to speak to us. And of course, Tolkien always understood that about stories, and that he put that wisdom in the mouth of Samwise Gamgee makes me love both Tolkien and Samwise even more. Sam even has a little bit of insight into the villain’s role in the story. Gollum is arguably more pitiful than villainous, but he does betray the hobbits, and Sam was always right to be wary of him. Sam said:

Even Gollum might be good in a tale, better than he is to have by you, anyway. And he used to like tales himself once, by his own account. I wonder if he thinks he’s the hero or the villain?

Same shows a great deal of insight into the nature of what Tolkien would call fairy stories. The villains are as important as the heroes to a good yarn, even if they are not much fun to be around in real life.

Rob Inglis is an excellent narrator, and he does a particularly brilliant characterization of Gollum. He manages to distinguish most of the characters from one another. In addition to Gollum, his Samwise, Merry, and Pippin are all excellent as well. Gandalf and Aragorn sound like they should. No voice is out of place. His dramatic reading of the plot brings the story to life, and I thoroughly enjoy listening to it so much that I found myself making excuses to plug the audio book in and listen.

If you haven’t re-read [amazon_link id=”0788789821″ target=”_blank” ]The Hobbit[/amazon_link] or The Lord of the Rings in a while, I encourage you to give Rob Inglis’s narration a try. He’s an excellent reader of a rather ripping good tale.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, Book 1)I have been listening to Rob Inglis’s audio recording of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring while making soap. He’s a fantastic reader, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him read Tolkien. In particular, Inglis does a fabulous job with all the songs in Tolkien. Case in point, I have never much cared for the Tom Bombadil section of The Fellowship of the Ring, though I did enjoy the part where he rescued the hobbits from the barrow wights; however, this time, I quite enjoyed the magical old fellow. Same with Galadriel’s songs. His voice characterizations are quite good. I think Aragorn comes off as sounding a bit too old, but I have no other complaints. Inglis’s characterization of the hobbits is particularly good.

I decided to re-read these stories some time ago, but I find I often become bogged down in the middle of [amazon_link id=”0547928203″ target=”_blank” ]The Two Towers[/amazon_link] somewhere. I decided perhaps listening to the books might work better for me, but the books have only recently become available on Audible. If you haven’t heard them before, give Rob Inglis’s reading a chance. He’s one of the best readers I have heard, and I can’t imagine that Tolkien himself wouldn’t approve heartily of Inglis’s rendition of his work.

Rating: ★★★★★

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

[amazon_image id=”0812979656″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The God of Small Things: A Novel[/amazon_image]I bet you thought I had given up reading for good! I admit I have been going through a real dry spell the last year or two, and it’s frustrating because the couple of years right before, I read excellent book after excellent book. I don’t see how I’ll meet my goal of reading 50 books at the pace I’ve moved this year, and much as I would like to give myself a break given that I moved last summer, I feel that at this point, I should have settled into a good reading routine. Bah.

At any rate, Arundhati Roy’s only novel, [amazon_link id=”0812979656″ target=”_blank” ]The God of Small Things[/amazon_link], was the final novel I taught for this school year, and I finished it just a hair before the students. That is Very Bad and I Do Not Recommend It. However, sometimes, it’s all you can do to stay afloat. So of course, I knew how things would shake out, and I didn’t get to see the story unfold naturally, as I would have if I had read it for pleasure. The fact is, I am not sure I would have picked up this book to read for pleasure, and how sad that would have been. It’s a beautiful book.

One of the things folks probably say too much about this novel is that its style is reminiscent of William Faulkner’s, and it truly is. He is a favorite of mine. When I taught the novel, I urged my students to be patient. This novel is like a puzzle. You know how you put it together, and you don’t have the whole picture until you get to the end? But there is a point when you can see how it is going to come out, and you realize what it is you are putting together? That is what this book is: It begins in the middle, and the beginning is somewhere in the middle. The end is in the middle, and the middle is at the end. The nonlinear narrative may pose a challenge for some readers, but it is a worthy one.

To start with, the description of Ayemenem in Kerala, India, is absolutely gorgeous. The green trees drip with fruit and the buzzing and whirring of birds and insects fills the air. The river, the deceptively quiet river Kuttappen describes as looking like “a little old churchgoing ammooma, quiet and clean,” but is “[r]eally a wild thing” (201), as the children learn from personal experience. It seems you can always tell when an author has truly inhabited a place she writes about because the description is so vivid that you inhabit it, too, for the time while you read the book.

I admit the narrative made it difficult to follow and put events in their proper place. A timeline, added to as the reader fills in details, would not go amiss. It will take some time to fall into the flow of the nonlinear narrative. Give this one a little longer than you ordinarily might give a book before giving up on it.

In terms of characters, I found myself fascinated by Ammu, the mother of twins Rahel (from whose point of view most of the novel is told) and Estha. Her choices fascinated me. One minute I found myself empathizing with her, and the next, I hated her. Her aunt, Baby Kochamma, was also a fascinating character. She is a master manipulator the likes of which you rarely see, but she, too, has a kind of tragedy at her core, even if it is of her own device, that provokes pity.

I have to recommend this book highly, most highly to those who enjoy Faulkner and who like to read about exotic locales. If you are not either of those, give it a chance anyway. It’s quite well written—gorgeous, lush prose in the English that for some reason, only Indians can write (I have no idea why that is). Aside from that, it tells the moving story of the destruction and decay of a family because things can change in day.

Rating: ★★★★★

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

[amazon_image id=”0385474547″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Things Fall Apart[/amazon_image]My students and I are reading Chinua Achebe’s classic novel [amazon_link id=”0385474547″ target=”_blank” ]Things Fall Apart[/amazon_link] over our Spring Break, and just today, I heard the news of Achebe’s death at the age of 82. He has contributed something remarkable to the world with his work. We frequently say that history is written by the victors, and so it is that the bulk of colonial literature we have has been written by white men. A recurring theme of the latter part of Things Fall Apart, after the missionaries arrive, is that white men do not understand the ways of the Igbo people they seek to evangelize, and further, they do not see them as worthy in and of themselves, which is shown perhaps no more clearly than in the book’s final paragraph.

My students are studying the book through a chosen anthropological lens: gender, religion, family, community, coping which change/tradition, and justice. I think this book has really interesting insights into the Igbo culture in each of these areas. On the surface, it’s easy to make snap judgments about the way that the people of Umuofia do certain things, and Okonkwo in particular can be infuriating because he seems, on the surface, so cruel to his family. Given the values of his clan, however, I can understand why he did some of the things he did. His fear of turning out like his father, or that his children would turn out like his father, drove many of his decisions, and above all, he seemed concerned about presenting himself as masculine.

I hope my students will find the journey interesting. I know I learned a lot through my own reading of the book. In the obituary I linked above:

“It would be impossible to say how Things Fall Apart influenced African writing,” the African scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah once observed. “It would be like asking how Shakespeare influenced English writers or Pushkin influenced Russians. Achebe didn’t only play the game, he invented it.”

The obituary calls Things Fall Apart “the opening of a long argument on his country’s behalf.” Achebe said, “Literature is always badly served when an author’s artistic insight yields to stereotype and malice… And it becomes doubly offensive when such a work is arrogantly proffered to you as your story.”

Things Fall Apart is an important book, an “education,” as Toni Morrison described it. I highly recommend it.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis

The HobbitThe Hobbit has long been one of my favorite books, but it only recently became available for digital download. I decided to listen to it before going to see the movie, which I still haven’t seen and suppose I will probably not get to see in the theater, despite my plans to do so.

Because I’ve read (and taught) the book several times now, it seems silly to write a synopsis and review; however, the new variable is the audio book, so this review will focus on the audio book read by Rob Inglis.

Of course, you are probably familiar with the story: Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who is rather hoodwinked into participating in an adventure with Gandalf and some dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield himself in which Thorin hopes to defeat the dragon living on top of Thorin’s rightful treasure in the Lonely Mountain. Along the way, Bilbo and the dwarves tangle with some goblins (aka orcs), and Bilbo manages to find the One Ring, lost by Gollum in a riddle game, an event which precipitates the later War of the Ring that is the focus of The Lord of the Rings.

I can highly recommend listening to the audio book version of this particular novel. The avuncular storytelling style that Tolkien himself later had to stop himself from revising is a perfect match for an audio book. Tolkien’s source material, the Icelandic and Germanic sagas and myths, would probably have been told orally, possibly near a fire in a large mead hall. As such, it seems somehow fitting that this book works so well when told aloud. Rob Inglis is a masterful reader, too. He manages to capture each character’s voice, and I enjoyed hearing his musical interpretations of the many songs in the book. His rendition of Gollum is particularly good. Most importantly, Inglis’s interpretation manages to capture Bilbo’s voice as storyteller so well that it seems perhaps the book was intended to be listened to, as read by Rob Inglis, instead of read. I know. You think I’m crazy. I’ve lost it. But you wouldn’t think that if you had listened to Rob Inglis read this book.


It’s unabridged.

That’s right. No cheap, distorted chopped up abridged version. Up until very recently, you could only listen to an unabridged version of The Hobbit if you purchased a digital audio version of the novel. You had to fork over for the CDs if you wanted an unabridged version. Now you can download the unabridged book via Audible (or iTunes if you prefer) for the first time. If you are thinking of rereading it this year, why not give the audio book a go?

Here is an interview with Rob Inglis about the recording of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Rating: ★★★★★

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me GoMy book club students chose to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, and we were supposed to be about 50 pages in by our meeting on Friday. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to devote to reading the book last week, and beyond checking the book out of my library via Overdrive, I had made no progress. I finished the book in a whirlwind over this long weekend.

Never Let Me Go is the story of three students, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, who attend a mysterious boarding school in East Sussex called Hailsham. In this institution, students are taught to create art, and an enigmatic woman the children know only as Madame comes to collect choice objects for her gallery, a great honor all the students strive to achieve. Tommy, upset he is unable to create quality art and will likely never have anything chosen for the gallery, is prone to angry rages and becomes the target of bullies. Kathy reaches out to him, and they become friends. Over time, Ruth and Tommy enter into a relationship, and the students finally come to accept a horrible truth about their existence—a truth that they have been “told and not told,” and that none of them “really understand,” according to one of their guardians, Miss Lucy. For the rest of the novel, Kathy reflects on this awful truth, never quite allowing herself to dream of a different life, until she eventually prepares to serve the purpose for which she and all her friends were created.

One of the reasons I like dystopian novels is that I think they show us as we might become if we entertain some of our darker impulses. This novel certainly reminded me of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but in many ways, I found it more poignant because it gave voice to a minority that Huxley’s novel lacked.

Spoiler follows, so skip if you do not wish to have the novel’s premise ruined before you read it. Highlight the text to see it.

Begin spoiler ->How would it feel to know you had been raised only as an organ farm, to have your organs harvested to cure others? To be completely stripped of your humanity because you were a clone, but to know that you were human in spite of it all? You were curious about your “possible,” the person from whom you’d been cloned. You could feel love, anger, happiness. You had a life of memories. But “normals” recoiled from you and pretended you didn’t exist because, as the children’s former headmistress says, “How can you ask a world that has come to regard cancer as curable, how can you ask such a world to put away that cure, to go back to the dark days?”

One of the questions I had as I read was why Kathy did not try to run away from her fate. Perhaps there was no point, but I wanted her to try. However, all of the clones seem to accept that there is no way out of becoming an organ donor and eventually “completing.” I wondered if this was a result of nature or nurture, but all the clones we meet in the novel seemed to feel it was an inevitable fate. Why, though? Clones clearly passed for “normals.” The fact that Ishiguro leaves this avenue unexplored makes this novel even sadder—the quiet acceptance, or “going gentle into that good night,” the lack of fight, all of this resignation adds this sort of layer of martyrdom for the characters. In a way, it is a more interesting choice than the typical one—most writers of dystopian fiction choose to have their characters fight the machine. <- End spoiler

I was engrossed in the novel; once I started it, I could barely put it down, which was something one of the girls in Book Club told me she felt as well. This novel goes beyond the ethical issues it raises to ask us to consider the humanity of every person we may previously have dismissed, as the characters in the novel say, as “trash.”

Rating: ★★★★★

Full disclosure: I checked this book out from my library system and read it via Overdrive.

The Last Runaway, Tracy Chevalier

The Last RunawayTracy Chevalier’s latest book, The Last Runaway, is a bit of a departure from her other work. I have read several of Chevalier’s books, and I can’t think of one that isn’t set in Europe. The Last Runaway is the story of Honor Bright, a young Quaker woman who decides to accompany her sister Grace across the Atlantic to America. Grace plans to marry a man who emigrated to Ohio and used to be a member of the Bridport Friends’ Meeting where the Brights worship. Honor has been jilted by her fiancé, Samuel, who throws her over and leaves the Society of Friends in order to marry outside the religious order. The voyage is terrible for Honor, who suffers from the worst bout of seasickness you’ve ever seen this side of Outlander‘s Jamie Fraser. Honor realizes that she is stuck in America because she can’t imagine being able to endure a crossing back to England. After disembarking, Honor and Grace travel to Ohio by stagecoach, but Grace contracts yellow fever and dies on the voyage. Now all alone in America, Honor must find her own way. Her sister’s fiancé, Adam Cox, takes her in for a time, but his brother has recently died, and he is living with his brother’s widow, Abigail. Before long, the Quakers frown at their unorthodox living arrangement. Adam marries Abigail, and Honor rushes into a marriage with Jack Haymaker, whose stern mother Judith is a Quaker elder who does not approve of Honor.

One of the most interesting threads in the book dealt with quilting. Honor is a quilter. Her adjustment to America is hard, and she especially does not like Americans’ ways of quilting. Her skill with a needle earns her the friendship and hospitality of Belle Mills, a milliner in Wellington. However, it also draws the unwelcome attention of Donovan, Belle’s brother and the local slave catcher. Honor quickly finds herself caught up in the American debate over slavery. Just as the Fugitive Slave Act is passed, Honor finds herself helping slaves cross to Canada as a part of the Underground Railroad. While her in-laws disapprove of slavery, they are also unwilling to allow lawbreaking in their family, and Honor has some difficult decisions to make.

I am a fan of Tracy Chevalier’s books. I especially liked Remarkable Creatures and The Virgin Blue, which was one of the first books I reviewed for this blog. I was interested in reading this book because some of my own immigrant ancestors were Quakers. I imagine they came to America to worship more freely, but they were quite different from the Quakers of Ohio. Within several generations, at least in my own line of the family, they had abandoned their faith for various other Protestant denominations, but my 7th great-grandmother Elizabeth Clark Anthony was the mother of fifteen children and after her husband’s death, she became a Quaker missionary who made four trips between Virginia and Georgia on horseback and lived to be 103 years old.

Perhaps because I was hoping to see a glimpse of what my own ancestors’ lives were like, I really wanted to like this book. I was underwhelmed, however. I found Honor hard to like. She seemed to feel quite sorry for herself a lot of the time, and while it’s true that she was living in difficult circumstances, she created a lot of them. Her attraction to Donovan was inexplicable. I thought Chevalier did everything she could to make him odious, and it was impossible for this reader to understand Honor’s feelings for him. Honor’s disdain for the American way of doing just about everything was trying as well. I understand she was a fish out of water, but for a Quaker, she was terribly judgmental. Almost every chapter closed with a letter from Honor to her family or friends. I found the transition from third person to first jarring in some cases, though I wished more of the story had been told in first person. Though I didn’t like Honor much, I found her voice in the letters to ring true.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Woman Who Died A Lot, Jasper Fforde

The Woman Who Died A Lot: A Thursday Next NovelJasper Fforde’s latest and seventh book in the Thursday Next series, The Woman Who Died A Lot, picks up Thursday’s story in the year 2004. Thursday is recuperating from an assassination attempt, and she is looking to run SpecOps 27, the Literary Detectives division, the agency responsible for dealing with forged or stolen manuscripts and works of literature. Meanwhile, she has other problems. Her son Friday has received a letter detailing his new future, now that the ChronoGuard has been disbanded and he will no longer be saving the world from destruction by asteroid HR-6984. Instead, he will murder Gavin Watkins the very week during which the book is set and spend the rest of his life in prison. Meanwhile, her daughter Tuesday is feverishly working on an Anti-Smite Defense Shield to protect Swindon from the wrath of the Global Standard Deity (GSD), who has enacted “a series of cleansings” all over the world “mostly as a warning to His creations that messing with the Big Guy’s Ultimate and Very Important and Unknowable Plan was not going to be tolerated.” Thursday’s brother, Joffy, supreme head of the Church of the Global Standard Deity, is taking a stand against the GSD and means to be in his cathedral when the smiting occurs, but Goliath, the large, evil corporation bent on running the world, has plans to lure the GSD’s smiting away from the city center by gathering together a large collection of unrepentant evildoers with the idea that the GSD will smite them instead. Goliath is up to new tricks, replacing Thursday with synthetic “day player” versions of herself. Aornis Hades is on the loose again, and the mindworm about having a daughter named Jenny that she implanted in Thursday continues to wreak its sad destruction. Thursday, older and and not up to her previous physical abilities, must contend with a rival who manages to push her out of her desired position in SpecOps, relegating her to the deceptively tame-sounding job of Chief Librarian of the Wessex Library Service. But this is Jasper Fforde’s world, where “many frustrated citizens who weren’t selected … to train as librarians … will have to console themselves with mundane careers as doctors, lawyers, and lion tamers.”

If it sounds like there was a lot going on, believe me, I have barely scratched the surface. Fforde’s plot had so much going on that it seemed even he was having trouble containing it, and I admit I gave up trying to follow it and just went along for the ride. I think Fforde is at his best when he lures his readers into the BookWorld, the fictional realm of literature in this series. I haven’t enjoyed the last few books in the series as much as I had enjoyed the first few. The story in this particular book doesn’t really ever come together until close to the end, and at that point, I was already so confused, I had forgotten some of the important details from earlier in the book. However, it’s Jasper Fforde, which means fun and hilarity will ensue. While I didn’t laugh out loud as often as I have while reading his earlier books in this series, I did enjoy the whimsy of Jasper Fforde’s alternative world, just as I always do when I visit it. And I will probably read the promised eighth Thursday Next book, too.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Reading Challenges and Goals for 2013

I need to preface this post with the admission that 2012 was a wash for me as far as meeting any of my reading goals, including reading challenges. However, I also moved and started a new job, so I have forgiven myself and decided to make 2013 a better reading year. To that end, I’m going to participate in some of my favorite challenges, but I’m not going to stress myself out by taking on more than I can handle, nor am I going to try to host my own challenge this year.

Historical Fiction Reading ChallengeHistorical Tapestry hosts a Historical Fiction Challenge every year, and 2013 is no exception. As historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, I don’t need much prodding to participate in this challenge. I want to be more active this year, however. I plan to participate at the Renaissance Reader level of 10 books, but I will perhaps read more than that.

Carl‘s R.I.P. Challenge is usually announced later, and I always participate in that challenge as well. I may also participate in his Once Upon a Time Challenge this year, too, as I plan to read a bit more fantasy in 2013.

As of right now, I haven’t seen any Jane Austen reading challenges out there, but I plan to re-read [amazon asin=0674049160&text=Pride and Prejudice], starting on the 200th anniversary of its publication and will be trying some other Austen-related books.

Once again, I will also participate in the Where are You Reading Challenge. I love creating Google Maps of my reading progress and seeing patterns in the places where the novels I read are set. This challenge has no set number of books. I simply need to remember to create a Google Map pin for each book I read.

2013 Where are You Reading Challenge

Another challenge? Make new soap recipes based on my favorite 5-star reads in 2013. I figure that’s doable because not every book will be 5 stars, and I love making soap. In fact, it may this new hobby prevented me from reading perhaps 10 of the books I intended to read this year. But I don’t regret it at all.

Another goal I have is to read 50 books, a goal I failed to achieve this year. I came close in 2011, though 50 was not my goal that year. I barely made it to half 50 books this year. I think I can do it if I dedicate myself to the task.

Finally, I would like to blog more. I didn’t blog as much here or anywhere this year. I fell desperately behind in my own feed reader. I think perhaps I should use some of my time off to figure out how to follow the blogs I enjoy a little better and leave more regular comments, too.

What do you have in mind for your next year of reading?