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
I haven’t done a “number of books read” challenge in a couple of years, mostly because my numbers have dropped. But this year I’m participating in the Read Harder Challenge, which encourages people to read more broadly. This doesn’t provide a list of books, but a list of types of books and stories, and leaves it to you to figure out what counts for any given category. There are 24 tasks, so to speak, on the list. I’ll indicate here when I’ve counted a book towards the challenge.
- Rare Objects, Kathleen Tessaro
- At the Edge of the Orchard, Tracy Chevalier
- The Vegetarian, Han Kang
- A Fine Imitation, Amber Brock
- In the Woods, Tana French (Read a book you’ve read before)
- The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
- The New Persian Kitchen, Louisa Shafia
- A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash
- The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016, John Joseph Adams & Karen Joy Fowler, Eds.
- What My Body Remembers, Agnete Friis
- Happier At Home, Gretchen Rubin
- Get In Trouble, Kelly Link (Read a collection of stories by a woman)
- All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
- Girl Waits With Gun, Amy Stewart
I read, or attempted, 67 books this year. Subtracting the six I didn’t finish, that’s a little more than a book and a quarter a week, though of course it’s not evenly distributed in reality.
Eight books got five-star reviews this year: All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr; The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters; A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara; Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond; The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman; Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Robert Wilson IV; Welcome to Nightvale, Joseph Fink; Kitchens of the Great Midwest, Ryan J. Stradal. There are some very different books on that list! I think The Paying Guests and All the Light We Cannot See are the most widely appealing, though I cannnot recommend A Little Life enough, if you think you can handle both the length and the fact that this book is heartbreaking – it made me cry more than once. I do still intend to re-read it, though.
After we moved in the fall, I started reading more on my iPad, in addition to my Kindle. This came about initially because I had a couple of library ebooks in a row that turned out to not have a kindle edition available, so I decided to read them in the Overdrive app. I then started doing the same thing with kindle books sometimes, mainly when my kindle wasn’t handy (read: because it was up two flights of stairs). I don’t mind reading on my iPad, but I definitely prefer the kindle, especially for reading in bed.
Stats (excluding the six unfinished books):
- 53 ebooks, 39 from DCPL
- 52 works of fiction, 5 nonfiction
- 30 books by female authors
- 3 volumes of comics
- 7 books for book club
- 2 books of short stories
- 1 re-read book
- 1 audiobook
Two great soups for the cold nights, both from Simple Recipes:
White Bean Soup with Ham, Pumpkin hand Chard: If, like me, you have a pie pumpkin in your possession and don’t want to make pie, this soup is a great option. (Or substitute your preferred hard winter squash.) I used a little package of ham chips in place of the ham hock the recipe calls for, as all of the ham hocks at the grocery store were smoked, and this just seemed easier. Pancetta cubes would also work here. I’m not a big fan of chard, so I used kale, and I used the entire small bunch instead of the few leaves called for. And last, I used crushed tomatoes in place of whole, as it turned out I didn’t have any whole. I think I might like that better. You could easily adapt this for the crock pot – Cook’s Illustrated has a technique where you microwave the onion and garlic to soften them for crock pot recipes, and that’d work just fine here. Add the beans and kale 30 minutes or so before you want to eat and that should do the trick.
Kale and Roasted Vegetable Soup: This shares a similar flavor profile to the soup above, but is vegetarian – the flavor boost comes in from roasting the veggies and pureeing some of them into the stock. As previously discussed, this is really good and you can do some of the prep a couple days ahead.