The Sunday Salon: Taking Stock at Mid-Year

How can this year possibly be halfway over?  Or could it be the best is yet to come?  Either way, I’ve been taking stock of my reading and blogging lately, and here’s where things stand …

I’ve read 28 books so far, with one 5-star read (read my review of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life).  This is a snail’s pace compared to every other year since I began blogging.  I’ve paid more attention to work, family, and other hobbies. As I consider my 2013 Reading Resolutions, it seems like my reading interests might be heading into some different directions.  I’m still reading a ton of classics (11 from my Classics Club list already!), and I’m keeping up with my short story project, reading one collection each month.  But I’ve read far fewer literary prize winners & nominees (just 2 Bookers, and 1 Women’s Prize), and I’ve been enticed by some recent podcasts to explore some recently published literary fiction, which I’ve kind of ignored in recent years.

I’ve also been reading much more for myself, with less involvement in the book blogging community.  Even my Sunday Salon posts have become less frequent.  And I’m in a serious “book review funk.”  I’ve posted short comments on two recent reads over on LibraryThing but just didn’t feel like writing full reviews to publish here.  I’m not sure exactly what that means for this blog, but for the time being I’m not going to force myself to do something that feels like a chore.  I might write the occasional post summarizing several books, or pop in on Sundays for The Sunday Salon.  And hopefully someday I’ll get my “blogging mojo” back!

So now we are deep into “summer reading season,” and I have an interesting stack lined up for July:

  • The Sweet Dove Died, by Barbara Pym:  Over in the LibraryThing Virago Group, we’re reading one Pym each month in honor of her centenary.
  • The Stories of Edith Wharton, Vol. 1:  This is my short story project choice for July.  I just love Edith Wharton, so I’m excited about reading her stories every night before bed.
  • Taking Chances, by M.J. Farrell (Molly Keane):  Keane is one of my favorite Virago authors, and this book is on my Classics Club list.
  • One by One in the Darkness, by Deirdre Madden:  This is an early Women’s Prize nominee (back when it was the Orange Prize), that came highly recommended from … someone, I can’t remember whom!  Oops.  Well, anyway, July was once a big month for reading Oranges, so I’m hoping to get through a few.
  • May we be Forgiven, by A. M. Homes:  This is the 2013 Women’s Prize winner.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple: No, this one’s not in the picture, because my daughter took it with her on a trip. We are both planning to read this 2013 Women’s Prize nominee in July, and I’m looking forward to comparing notes with her.

I have a habit of choosing more books each month than I finish — a holdover, I suppose, from speedier reading years.  But who knows, maybe this month I’ll manage it!

I hope your summer reading is going well.  I’ll see you around here sometime …
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The Sunday Salon: First Quarter Progress and a View of April

Best wishes on this Easter Sunday, for those who celebrate it.  It also happens that we are now 1/4 of the way through 2013, which is a good time to check progress on my 2013 Reading Resolutions, and then look ahead to April’s reading.

So far this year I’ve finished 13 books.  I haven’t had any 5-star reads yet, but have read several good, solid 3.5-4 star books.  I’m well into my 14th book, Sarah Grand’s The Beth Book, which I’m reading for the Classics Spin.  The challenge was to read the book by April 1.  Um … did the rules say I had to finish it by then?!  I’m bending those rules just a teensy bit, and will count this one as a March read.  So that’s 14 books in the first quarter, just off the 5-books-a-month pace that became my norm in 2012.  Now let’s take a look at those Reading Resolutions:

  1. I will read more books from my stacks than I acquire. YES!  I did it!  First of all, I only added 5 books to my library this quarter.  And all but one of the books I read came from my stacks.  The other was from the library.  Huzzah!
  2. I will continue making progress on all reading projects, but especially the Booker Prize, Women’s Prize, and Virago Modern Classics.  I’m doing OK with this one, except for getting distracted by other books in January and not reading a single Women’s Prize/Orange Prize book as I’d planned.  Well, there’s always Orange July.
  3. I will continue to foster community with other book bloggers.  I’m really enjoying The Classics Club, and had fun with a group read sponsored by my book buddy Rebecca from Love at First Book.
  4. I will read more short stories.  I’m really happy with this one.  I started the year with a stack of 9 short story collections on my nightstand, and through a simple bedtime reading routine I’ve managed to finish 3 of them.

So what does April have in store?  The other day I caught Woody, my 5-year-old yellow lab, checking out my book stack:

He was curious about my reading plans, so here’s what I told him.  From top to bottom:

  • The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:  Adichie’s two novels, Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, were absolutely great.  I’d like to read these short stories before her new novel, Americanah, comes out later this year.
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald:  My husband read this last month, and is really grumpy I haven’t gotten to it yet. I want to make hubby happy, of course, and I’d like to read it before the seeing the new film.
  • The Misses Mallett, by E.H. Young:  I have several of Young’s novels in my Virago Modern Classics collection.  They are a delight, and this story of three spinsters and their niece sounds like a fun read.
  • The Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner:  Welp, This was on my March stack because of a LibraryThing group read, but I got so caught up reading Anthony Trollope that I didn’t get to this one.  Every time I checked in with the discussion thread I could tell people loved it.  So, April it is!

And finally, there’s The Dinner, by Herman Koch.  This book isn’t in the photo because I’ve requested it from my local library.  After nearly a month, I’m finally at the top of the queue.  I’m really intrigued by this dark, disturbing book that everyone seems to be talking about.

So that’s it for me — a pretty good year so far,

How is your 2013 reading so far?
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Midweek @ Musings: 2013 Reading Resolutions

Welcome to 2013 and what I hope will be another fine year of reading!  The last week of the year is always a busy blogging week, and this year has been no exception:  I have books I want to finish, there’s always a bit of blog maintenance and redecorating to be done, and then of course I need to publish a 2012 Year in Review post …  Well, that’s all done & dusted and we are now in a shiny new year, so let’s talk about what’s on tap for the next twelve months.

As I mulled over possible reading resolutions, I took a trip down memory lane to see what I “resolved” in earlier years.  I’ve come a long way from the hyper-planned, over-structured reading patterns of 2009-10.  These days I try to balance my reading across several categories of books, but leave room for books chosen “just for fun,” whether that’s due to my mood or a newly published book that everyone seems to be reading.  I like to assemble a little book stack at the beginning of each month, but I’m not bound to it, and I swapped books on & off my monthly stack several times last year.

In 2013 I want to stick with many of the same resolutions as 2012, with one twist in the form of a new personal project.  Here they are:

  1. I will read more books from my stacks than I acquire. I didn’t quite succeed in 2012, but I didn’t fail either.  I did, however, enjoy going over my stacks and pulling books that sound interesting at the moment.  Sometimes I found my reading tastes had changed since I acquired the book, but at other times I wondered why I hadn’t read the book sooner.  So let’s do that again, shall we?
  2. I will continue making progress on all reading projects, but especially the Booker Prize, Orange Prize, and Virago Modern Classics.  I don’t have quantitative goals, but will be reading books that catch my interest.
  3. I will continue to foster community with other book bloggers.  This includes reading events like Orange January/July and The Complete Booker, which I host, groups like The Classics Club, celebrations like Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and of course Rebecca from Love at First Book, my buddy from the Estella Society’s Book Blogging Buddy System.
  4. I will read more short stories.  This is my new personal project.  Not long ago, I was perusing my stacks and found nine short story collections, all completely untouched.  And I’m not even counting short stories published as Virago Modern Classics, or the 626-page volume of Elizabeth Taylor’s Complete Short Stories.  Honestly, I’m swimming in them.  And wouldn’t they make nice bedtime reading?  Well, that’s my plan anyway.  The nine collections are neatly stacked on my nightstand, and my plan is to dip into no more than one or two books at a time, perhaps one story each night before bed.  From time to time I’ll post about my short story reading, to review a completed book or talk about selected stories.  Here’s what I have to look forward to:

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

  • The View from Castle Rock, by Alice Munro
  • The Progress of Love, by Alice Munro
  • At the Owl Woman Saloon, by Tess Gallagher
  • The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Means of Escape, by Penelope Fitzgerald
  • A Chorus of Mushrooms, by Hiromi Goto
  • Mrs Somebody Somebody, by Tracy Winn
  • The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
  • The Stories of Edith Wharton

So that’s it, and now we’re off and running!

Did you make any 2013 reading resolutions?