Bookishness: Reading Goals for 2015

I found the alphabet challenges last year a fun way to find new authors. I don’t think I’ll do them again this year, but I do want to organize my reading in some way. Goodreads and my book spreadsheet aren’t enough. Enter goals and challenges:

75 books overall. This is a slight increase from 72. Unless something changes with my work, commute, Xavi’s schedule, this seems doable. The 75 total encompasses the challenge below.

10 books from my bookshelf. I have way too many books on my shelf that I’ve never read. It’s embarrassing. Once I read them I can decide whether I want to keep or donate them.

24 books fulfilling the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge criteria. The challenge focuses on diversity of authors, genre and topic. I don’t think it’ll be too hard. Based on last year’s reading, only a few of the topics will be out of my reading comfort zone.

6 books meeting the What’s in a Name Challenge criteria. The six books need to have the following in their titles:

  1. A word including ‘ing’ in it
  2. A color
  3. A familial relation
  4. A body of water
  5. A city
  6. An animal

Going through my to read list, the name challenge should be easy. I just need to find a book with an animal in the title; suggestions are welcomed. I already got #4 done:
First book read for the "what's in a name" challenge. Book with a body of water in the title. ✔️ It also has Sean's birthday in the title, but there's no challenge for that.

5 books from NPR’s 100 Must-Reads For Kids 9-14 list (as research for Xavi’s non-board book library).

Last, I hope to blog more mini-reviews about my favorite books. Maybe my first post will be an instructional post on how to do all the reading. (Not really.)

Share:

2014 Bookishness: Stats and Lists

I’m a little late with my book year in review. Oh well. It’s still on time for the lunar new year.

Total read:

This adds up to 22,352 pages. (I keep meticulous spreadsheets). The longest book was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (771 pages). Shortest was Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros (101 pages, it’s a picture book)

One book was by two authors. I read 3-4 books by a number of writers. The most read author was Rainbow Rowell. Most authors were new to me (84%) and several have become new favorites. I can’t wait to read more by them.

I read a pretty diverse group, which isn’t new for me.

I definitely read more books by women, but that’s probably because when I read multiple books by a writer, they tended to be by women (e.g., Rowell, Gillian Flynn, Ruth L. Ozeki, Jhumpa Lahiri, Meg Wolitzer, Ann Patchett).

I didn’t spend much on books. In fact, I didn’t buy any actual books and only bought e-books. I started reading a lot more when I took advantage of the e-book lending program through the LA Public Library. It also helps that the UCLA libraries are well stocked with both new and older fiction.

A plurality of the books I read were published in 2014 (9), 2013 (13) or 2012 (5). I didn’t read read anything older than me. The oldest, Of Love and Other Shadows by Isabel Allende, was published in 1984.

I read a lot of novels. I didn’t really break down the novels by type (e.g., suspense, literary fiction, speculative or science fiction), but I think literary fiction would’ve been the largest category.

I read a lot more later in the year. This is probably because I started reading more e-books which I read a little faster.

The graphic is wrong, but I’m too lazy to make a new one. 29 books got 3 stars. The average was 3 1/3 stars.

Fiction [alpha order] – Trimming this down from 20 to 15 and then to 10 was tough.
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth L. Ozeki
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Favorite(s) I need to add to my library so I can read them over and over or look up favorite passages:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Short story collection
No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

Non-fiction
The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki
All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

Memoir
What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel by Dave Eggers [“novel” is in the title, but it reads like a memoir]
Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez

Graphic novels/memoir
Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros [not sure if this counts, since it’s more like a picture book with a short essay at the end]
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney

Favorite new (to me) authors:
Daniel Alarcón
Kazuo Ishiguro
Anthony Marra – best debut novel
Ruth L. Ozeki

Favorite covers

Book that lived up to the hype
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Most over-hyped
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – I would’ve liked it more if it wasn’t 771 pages long
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Favorite quotes

I keep notes of my favorite quotes. I noticed that a number of my quotes related to being a parent and especially to motherhood. Below are some of my favorites that really hit me as I grappled with new mom life.

From All Over Creation by Ruth L. Ozeki (p. 405)

Time plays tricks on mothers. It teases you with breaks and brief caesuras, only to skip wildly forward, bringing breathtaking changes to your baby’s body. Only he wasn’t a baby anymore, and how often did I have to learn that? The lessons were painful.

From The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (p. 320)

The minute you had children, you closed ranks. You didn’t plan this in advance, but it happened. Families were like individual, discrete, moated island nations. The little group of citizens on slabs of rock gathered together instinctively, almost defensively, and everyone who was outside the walls – even if you’d once been best friends – was now just that, outsiders. Families had their ways. You took note of how other people raised their kids, even other people you loved, and it seemed all wrong. The culture and practices of one’s own family were the only way, for better or worse.

From The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (p. 51)

Small children believe themselves to be gods, or some of them do, and they can only be satisfied when the rest of the world goes along with their way of seeing things.

From Landline by Rainbow Rowell (p. 220)

Having kids sent a tornado through your marriage, then made you happy for the devastation. Even if you could rebuild everything just the way it was before, you’d never want to.

Share:

A-Z Challenge by Title

Alternative title: What I read in the second half of the year.

After getting through the A-Z author challenge I didn’t want to organize my reading in any way. I just wanted to find more great books by authors I enjoyed. No pressure. So that’s what I did in the second half of the year.

I put holds on Ruth L. Ozeki’s earlier novels, All Over Creation and My Year of Meats. I definitely think A Tale for the Time Being is her best work, but her previous novels entertained me and made me reconsider what I eat and also more aware of fertility issues.

Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles was a great sophomore effort. I enjoyed it more than Lost City Radio (I was a little burnt out on the torture/disappeared topic). On the other hand, Meg Wolitzer’s previous novels, The Uncoupling and The Ten Year Nap didn’t captivate me like The Interestings. It might have just been too many white middle/upper middle class women in New York. I needed a change of scenery which I got by reading the oeuvre of both Rainbow Rowell and Gillian Flynn. Both popular writers set their novels in small towns or cities in the Midwest. That’s about all they have in common as Rowell writes young adult/romance novels that are quick “beach reads” and Gillian Flynn writes dark, disturbing suspense-filled novels. While I found Gone Girl overhyped, I was surprised that Flynn could come up with characters and plots that were even more messed up. Amy and Nick Dunne seemed like relatively normal people compared to those in Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

Some time late in the summer I decided I wanted to read more books set in Los Angeles or Southern California. That was the impetus behind adding The Magician’s Assistant (I also really liked Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto), The Madonna’s of Echo Park and The People of Paper. I wasn’t a fan of the last book and put it down a couple of times before finally completing it.

In November I started to play around with my reading spreadsheet — oh how I love anything that can be tracked via spreadsheet — to see how many letters I was missing for an A-Z challenge by title. I needed 10 or 11 books which seemed doable if I was strategic about my choices. I picked a few books by authors who were new to me in 2014 for ideas. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Interpreter of Maladies were my favorites read specifically to complete the challenge.

The J, K, X and Z books were okay but less enjoyable. I slogged through Xicano Duende, a poetry collection. Cherríe Moraga’s A Xicana Codex essay collection would’ve been a better choice, but it was checked out at the university libraries. I found Zen and the City of Angels rather silly. I need to find decent mystery novels where motives actually make sense.

My reading goals for 2015 include some challenges, but they’re not focused on the alphabet. I’ll touch on those later.

The full list of books read for the A-Z author challenge (or, what I read from July through December):
All Over Creation by Ruth L. Ozeki
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnson
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
The Guts by Roddy Doyle
How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The Lunch-box Chronicles: Notes from the Parenting Underground by Marion Winik
The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
Marbles, Mania, Depression and Me by Ellen Forney
My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Xicano Duende: A Selected Anthology by Alurista
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Zen and the City of Angels by Elizabeth Cosin

Share:

Fifteen things you probably knew about me

And an excuse to post old photos and link back to previous entries.

Marie tagged me in this questionnaire. Her answers made me laugh so I decided to answer the questions too, albeit after Christmas. I was a little behind on my blog reading.

1) What is my current health related goal?

Exercise more and eat more veggies.

2) What is my biggest irrational fear?

Mice and rats really freak me out. I don’t even like fake versions that look realistic. I’m not scared of Fievel or Mickey though.

3) Do I enjoy wrapping presents?

No. I didn’t wrap any this Christmas. I did place a couple in bags. Sean did all the wrapping.

4) What is my favorite cross training activity?

Strength training and stairs, but not a stair climber. Basically a BHIP class (workouts are a mix of strength and conditioning, cardio tends to be Tabata/interval style).

5) If you came to visit me, what would we do?

I can't remember what this was called, but it was good

If Marie visited I’d imagine there would be some running (if she doesn’t mind slowing down for me), a play date with my boy and her girls, beer at Father’s Office and really delicious Mexican food. Maybe we’d go to “shoppertainment” center like the Grove for the snark value.

6) I have two weeks off work and two round trip plane tickets to anywhere. Where would I go and who would I take?

Jamaica or Mexico with Sean. We postponed our honeymoon and then never got around to it because I got pregnant and Sean had a new job. All our vacation time was saved up for maternity/paternity leave.

Xavi can come along too since he doesn’t actually need a plane ticket. And we could get babysitting in Mexico with family members. Maybe.

7) What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to me during a run or a race?

Aztlan track club 5K

My most embarrassing running moments didn’t happen while racing. However, it did suck to be so slow during a trail 5K that I was still on the out and back course when the male racers started. The trail wasn’t very wide so I had to scoot to the side and literally was left running through the dust they kicked up.

8) Three best days of my life? Or at least the top three that come to mind.

The day Xavi was born.

The day Sean moved out to LA. We were bicoastal for the better part of the year. His move was delayed due do a snowstorm so it was really happy relieved when his flight was finally scheduled and I picked him up at LAX. Our wedding day was memorable and I was happy, but it was also a bit stressful.

The late March day in 1998 when I got my admittance letter from UCLA. I was so relieved that USC wasn’t my only option.

Cindy finished under four hours!

The 2012 LA Marathon was awesome too. I feel like someone else earned that sub-4 because I can’t see myself getting there again.

9) Okay, so I HAVE to eat a fast food meal. Which restaurant would I choose and what do I order?

That's what a hamburger's all about

I’m like Marie and don’t have an aversion to fast food. I had In-n-Out less than a week ago. For lunch or dinner I’d go to In-n-Out (cheeseburger with all the toppings plus grilled onions, fries and a diet coke). For breakfast I’d get the sausage egg McMuffin from McDonald’s, hashbrowns and vanilla iced coffee. Damn, now I’m hungry.

10) Have I ever met a celebrity?

Destiny's Child

Yup, but I’m always super cool about it because that’s how us Angelenos act around celebs. I was in a Destiny’s Child video; you can play the Kevin Bacon game with me and Beyoncé.

Go Lakers!

I’ve met some basketball players (Magic Johnson!), The Simpsons voice actors and my favorite band Café Tacvba.

La Chica Banda

Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers

I’ve also met some of my favorite writers (Sherman Alexie and Sandra Cisneros), but I don’t know if book signings really count as meeting or if they are celebrities.

11) Share a pic of myself in non-workout clothes.

Thanksgiving family photo

Thanksgiving family photo. That was the picture that doesn’t look like my kid is trying to grab my breast.

12) If I could choose to have a “do over” and switch careers, what would I choose and why?

I like Marie’s answer:

Whatever job pays the most money for the least amount of work.

In college I had a high degree of contempt for selling out and basing your career on earning power. Now that I’m a mom and thinking of the cost of raising a kid, planning for retirement, etc I’m kicking 20-something year old me.

I’d likely pick something in the biomedical sciences because it’s been drilled in me that with a research background in the sciences so many career doors open up. I could do what I currently do, but at a higher level (with more money!) and still feel like I was making a difference in increasing educational attainment rates for Latinos.

13) If I won an Olympic Gold Medal, how do I think I would react?

Probably like Leo Manzano. I’d do a victory lap with both the US and Mexico flags.

14) What do I want for Christmas?

Christmas want list

Sean and I switched lists of potential items. Mine was above. I got the Girl With Curves t-shirt and sneakers. Sadly they’re too big despite being my size.

15) What skill do I lack?

Just one? I lack a lot of useful skills like applying eyeliner properly and sewing. But I don’t really miss those much. So, I’ll go with getting Xavi to sleep without relying on nursing and sleep training.

Tagging:
Julie
Laura
Melissa
Anel

Share: