Sometimes I wonder why I still have a blog. Anyway, still working on the Read Harder Challenge and also trying to get to more new releases more quickly. I’m aiming for about 3 months after publication, and while I haven’t quite made my self-imposed limit I have read a few things within a few months of publication, which is unusual for me.
Also, guess which month I didn’t travel.
- This Will Be My Undoing, Morgan Jenkins (not-quite-new anymore release)
- Pretty Mess, Erika Jayne
- Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann (A book of true crime)
- Shoal of Time, Gavan Daws (unfinished)
- Lumberjanes, Vol. 5, Noelle Stevenson & Brooke Allen (illustrator)
- Lumberjanes, Vol. 6, Shannon Waters, Kat Leyh, Carey Pietsch (illustrator)
- Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1), Octavia E. Butler
- Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2), Octavia E. Butler
- Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
- Tangerine, Christine Mangan (not-quite-new anymore release)
- Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2), Jane Harper
- Bizarre Romance, Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell (illustrator) (not-quite-new anymore release)
- Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
- Be Amazing or Go Home, Shep Hyken
- The Effortless Experience, Matthew Dixon
- Among Others, Jo Walton
- The Leavers, Lisa Ko
- Case Histories (Jackson Brodie #1), Kate Atkinson
- Human Acts, Han Kang
I’m doing the Read Harder Challenge again this year, as well as trying to read more new releases. I’ll indicate the category (or publication date) in parentheses.
Once again, a lot of random library holds came in all at once.
- The Maze at Windermere, Gregory Blake Smith (January 2018)
- A Study in Scarlet Women, Sherry Thomas
- We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby
- Uprooted, Naomi Novik
- The Wanderers, Meg Howry
- Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Notorious RBG, Irin Carmon
- The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden
- Super Extra Grande, Yoss (A book of genre fiction in translation)
- Schroder, Amity Gage
- The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (An Oprah Book Club selection)
- Yes Please, Amy Poehler (A celebrity memoir)
- Feminist Fight Club, Jessica Bennett
- The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin (A classic of genre fiction)
- The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
I’m doing the Read Harder Challenge again this year, and will indicate the categories in parentheses. I’m also trying to read more new releases – hoping for about one a month – rather than forever being the voracious reader who hasn’t read, say, Lincoln in the Bardo or The Underground Railroad yet.
That said, I’ve had a run on library holds coming in over the last few weeks, so it’s been tough to work on the Read Harder books and new releases.
- Men Explain Things To Me, Rebecca Solnit
- Nimona, Noelle Stevenson (a comic written & illustrated by the same person)
- The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin
- A Separation, Katie Kitamura
- The Biographies of Ordinary People, Vol. 1, Nicole Dieker
- Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
- The Portable Veblen, Elizabeth Mckenzie
- Elmet, Fiona Mosley (December 2017)
- The Perfume Collector, Kathleen Tessaro
- The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 6: Who Run the World? Squirrels, Ryan North and Erica Henderson (illustrator)
- Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Vol. 2, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chris Sprouse, Rich Buckler, Brian Stelfreeze (illustrators)
- Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, Michael Dietsch
- Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward
- The Strange Bird: A Borne Story, Jeff VanderMeer
- Borne, Jeff VanderMeer
Lots of good stuff in the last couple of months. Of particular note: Borne and The Stone Sky, if you like sci-fi (the latter is the third in a trilogy); A Separation; and Sing, Unburied, Sing.
I read, or attempted, 97 books this year. Subtracting the 6 I didn’t finish, that’s about a book and 3/4 a week, though of course it’s not evenly distributed in reality. This is 30 more books than last year. About a third of the increase can be chalked up to reading more volumes of comics, but the rest I think can be put down to a combination of long flights, trips to see family where I wind up reading a lot, and a concerted effort to get off the internet on evenings when I find myself refreshing Facebook and Twitter so much they have no new content for me.
37(!) books got five-star reviews this year, which has got to be a record for me. Ten were comics (mostly Squirrel Girl and Lumberjanes). Of the rest, I’d most recommend Every Anxious Wave, Mo Daviau; The Color Purple, Alice Walker; and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, Dinaw Mengestu.
In 2017, I participated in the Read Harder Challenge, which was a great way of finding new things to read. There were two categories I didn’t manage to find something for – a book published by a micropress and a book of translated poetry on a theme other than love. I found that the best way to make sure I was reading books that fit the challenge was to spend some time every couple of months identifying books that fit different themes, and queueing them up at the library. (I kept track of which theme each book fit.) This way I had a pretty steady stream of books for the challenge interspersed throughout my other reading. I’m planning to participate again in 2018.
Stats (excluding unfinished books):
- 86 ebooks, 42 from DCPL
- 80 works of fiction, 10 nonfiction
- 50 books by female authors
- 14 volumes of comics
- 6 books for book club
- 6 books of short stories, including the wonderful Apocalypse Triptych
- 2 re-read books
- 1 audiobook
Apparently it’s been longer than I thought since I posted about what I’ve been reading. Oops! I’m still working on the read harder challenge – I’ve read books in 10 of the 24 categories. I’m trying to queue them up and alternate reading them with other titles, which has helped. I also dug out some comics that got semi-forgotten before we moved and then buried in the move, and oh man, was it ever dumb of me to not read that stuff ages ago.
- The Trespasser, Tana French
- The Night Watch, Sarah Waters (a book about war)
- The Fireman, Joe Hill
- Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy, Noelle Stephenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters & Brooke A. Allen
- The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (a banned or frequently challenged book)
- Belgravia, Julian Fellowes
- Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple
- The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy (a book set more than 5,000 miles away)
- Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max; Vol. 3: A Terrible Plan; Vol. 4: Out of Time; Noelle Stephenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters & Brooke A. Allen
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe, Ryan North & Erica Henderson (an all-ages comic)
- French Revolutions for Beginners, Michael J. LaMonica
- The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know it’s True, Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now; Vol. 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It; Vol. 5: Like I’m the Only Squirrel in the World; Ryan North & Erica Henderson
- Girl in Dior, Annie Goetzinger
- Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera
- The Summer Before the War, Helen Simonson
- The End is Nigh, John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey (Editors)
- Bitch Planet, Vol. 2: President Bitch, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro & Taki Soma
- Eleanor and Hick, Susan Quinn
Throughout 2017 Marisa McClellan, author of the blog Food in Jars, is running a series of monthly canning and preserving challenges. I decided to participate in order to learn some new skills and make some recipes I might not normally gravitate towards.
The June challenge is jam, and while I didn’t make something new, I did make several jars of strawberry jam. I was very pleased to find that one of the orchards at the farmer’s market near us will allow you to pre-order flats of fruit, and the price was right.
I picked up a flat of strawberries (six quarts) and used five of them in three recipes:
- A double batch of the Strawberry Jam from Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin
- Honey-Sweeteneed Strawberry Jam with Sage from Preserving by the Pint
- Strawberry Syrup from Food in Jars
I’ve made both the jams before – the honey strawberry is particularly good with cheeseboards, but as it turns out I still have several quarter pints of that from last summer, so all of these jams were canned in either pint or half-pint jars.
The syrup was new for me. We’re drinking a lot of what we call fizzes – sparkling water with something added for flavor. Dave likes fresh lime juice with bitters, and I’m partial to the pomegranate shrub. I’ve recently also made a rhubarb ginger syrup that’s delicious, and so I wanted to try strawberry as well. It was very easy to make, and made quite a lot.
I still have some catching up to do for the Mastery Challenge – I didn’t do April (quick pickles) or May (cold-pack method) but I’ll make sure to hit those in the coming weeks.