Posts Tagged: reading

2015 Read Harder Challenge Progress

So how’s your year of reading going so far? Back at the beginning of the year, I decided to do the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder challenge as a fun way to make sure my reading is varied. I have a tendency to read a lot of the same thing, which I don’t necessarily think is a negative. But still, there are a whole lot of books out there, and I’d like to make sure I’m at least exploring them.

Here are the challenge books I’ve read so far:

A book published by an indie press: Safari Honeymoon.

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: The Colorado Kid by Stephen King. I love him but I did not love this book.

A book that takes place in Asia: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, which mostly takes place in Pakistan.

A book by an author from Africa: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who’s from Nigeria.

A YA novel: Probably 60% of what I read is YA, so…I’ve already completed this one several times over.

A romance novel: Again, I read a lot of romance. But Vision in White by Nora Roberts is one of the first true “romance novels” I’ve read.

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade: I tried to read Redeployment and decided not to after the first story. Read harder, sure, but also don’t give yourself stress nightmares. But I requested Olive Kitteridge from the library!

A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.): This is hard for me because I really don’t like retellings of myths, Bible stories, Shakespeare, etc. They only remind me about how I know NOTHING about ANY myths and I have no religious education whatsoever, so I don’t get any references. But I’ll do it, Read Harder challenge. I’ll do it. I’m thinking of reading The Wrath and the Dawn.

An audiobook: The Stephen King book I mentioned earlier! It’s his shortest book, so a good pick for a few hours of driving. But be warned: the ENTIRE thing is narrated in dialect.

A book that someone else has recommended to you: Gonna read Olive Kitteridge because of Lauren’s recommendation! But honestly, I’ve probably already read something she recommended this year.

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind: Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs. I also have Kiss and Tell by MariNaomi on my TBR list.

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: This is a little hard, since I don’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures. BUT I guess Nora Roberts isn’t seen as “literature.” Guess what? She rules. Suck it, haters. She practically owns an entire town and she’s incredibly rich and she gets to write all day.

A book published before 1850: I’m working on Wuthering Heights. It’s really hard to read Wuthering Heights when you have so many funny, romantic YA novels to read.

A book published this year: I’m a book reviewer, so I’ve already read tons of books that came out or are coming out this year.

A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”): I’m not sure if Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work! counts, but I think it does.

I still have to read a book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ, a collection of poetry, a book that was originally published in another language, a sci-fi novel, a collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people), a microhistory, a book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.), a book written by someone when they were under the age of 25, and a book written by someone when they were over the age of 65.

I’m a little surprised that I’m not doing so bad, and it’s only April, so I have plenty of time to read books that fit in the rest of the categories on the list (and I already have most of the books sitting around, which makes it easy). But I wouldn’t say that I’m really “reading harder.” If anything, I’m reading waaaaay easy. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff that will not upset me because I’ve been stressed out and anxious, and let me tell you, when you’re already having weird nightmares the last thing you want to do is read a book of short stories about war and PTSD. So I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels and lighter things. But you know? I don’t feel bad about it. I write things that are definitely on the lighter, funnier side (sort of), and I think all writers should read really widely in their genre. Still, I probably need to read some more classics.

You can find me on Goodreads if you want to know more about what I’m reading!

Reading Resolutions

My 2014 in books was, honestly, not that great. I read 61 books, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t really. Two of my jobs (writing for HelloGiggles and writing book reviews) involve reading books, which I think means I should be reading way more. And, yeah, I work a lot and I’m busy, but so are a lot of people who manage to read way more.

Even if I consider quality over quantity, I’m not super happy with my year in reading. I read a lot of books that were just okay last year. Do you know how much I hate reading an okay book? Just about as much as I hate eating an okay meal. I know that I’m more food motivated than my dog, but I just want every meal to be a completely perfect taste experience. In the same vein, I want every book to totally knock my over. Did that happen last year? No. I did read some really great books (An Untamed State, The Girls from Corona del Mar, The Start of Me and You, Vivian Apple at the End of the World, Every Kiss a War, Strange Light, Since You’ve Been Gone, and Meaty are a few examples), but I’m struggling to remember what some of the books I read were even about. Honestly, I would rather read a terrible book than a book that’s just fine.

This year I got my first gig writing straight-up book reviews (I don’t consider the writing I do for HelloGiggles to be “reviewing” since I only write about things I like). It’s hard and fun in equal measure, but mostly it’s taught me something invaluable: a lot of books are really boring. Like, so boring. As a writer, this is both incredibly discouraging and incredibly motivating. On the one hand, what if I’m accidentally writing something really boring? But on the other hand, maybe now that I know Being Boring is the #1 book crime, maybe I can just work extra hard to avoid it.

And maybe I’m being boring right now and I should just stop. The point is, I made some reading resolutions for 2015 to hopefully ensure that my year in reading is a lot more interesting.

1. Complete the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. I’ve only read three books so far this year and I’ve already completed a few of the requirements.

2. Read every book by Toni Morrison and Ann Patchett. I figured these authors were good picks because I like both of them but I’ve only read two of their books. And neither of them have such a huge catalogue that it’s totally unrealistic.

3. Read 62 books. I read 61 last year, so basically I just want to barely outdo Past Kerry.

Will I complete all of these resolutions? Probably not! But, as of late, my motto has been “progress is better than perfection,” and I’m just excited to see how far I get.

What about you guys? Do you make reading resolutions? The first book I read this year was Americanah and it was so amazing that it gave me hope for the rest of the year. Let me know your reading resolutions and, seriously, go read Americanah right now if you haven’t.

What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about what I’ve been reading. I mean, sure, I do that every week on HelloGiggles, but I do read other things occasionally. If you’re looking for a new book to pick up, here are the things I’ve read and loved recently. Also, if you’re on Goodreads we should totally be friends!

Tasteful Nudes by Dave Hill
dave hill tasteful nudes
Do you like laughter? What about happiness? Then get this book. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a LONG time. If you like David Sedaris, David Rakoff, or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I would definitely recommend Tasteful Nudes. Also, you can get a signed copy if you order it directly from Dave Hill’s website. I did and this is what he wrote in my book: “Dear Kerry, I know things have been really crazy between us lately but we WILL get through this. I just know it. Love, Dave Hill” Go buy it now! What are you waiting for?

The Shining by Stephen King
Okay, so I was under the mistaken assumption that the book wouldn’t be as scary as the movie. I was wrong. Like, really wrong. I was so terrified, and then I had a nightmare that my dad was an alcoholic. I actually liked the book better than the movie (I know!) because my favorite character didn’t die in the book. I guess that might be sort of a spoiler, but you know what? The Shining came out roughly 5 million years ago, so this one’s on you. It’s a quick read and it’s legitimately horrifying, so I would highly recommend it.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
the spectacular now
This one’s YA, but I’m not writing about it in my column because it upset me too much. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad! I did really enjoy it. The voice is great and unique, and it was really interesting to read the voice of such an unreliable narrator and think about the work that the filmmakers had to do to translate that to the screen. But…well, the ending of the book is pretty different from the ending to the movie. I’m not going to say it’s hopeless, but okay, I’m going to say exactly that. It’s sort of hopeless! I’d recommend reading the book AFTER seeing the movie.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Sorry, this book doesn’t come out for a long while and I’m just being obnoxious by bragging that I’ve already read it (perks of being a book blogger). Everyone’s been talking about it and it has a huge publicity campaign, but it’s for a good reason! This is a really weird, dreamy, creepy, great book. I started it expecting to just read a few pages and finish it later, but I ended up getting sucked in and I read it all in one day. I’m not supposed to say a lot about it, because it’s (sort of?) a mystery, but just know that you should totally read it when it comes out.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
steal like an artist
You’re either the kind of person who likes reading books about creativity or you’re not…and, duh, I very much AM. Even if you’re not into the typical “creative life” stuff, though, you’ll probably like this book. It’s inspiring while also being extremely practical about what you need to do to get creative work done (I’m very fond of the “Be boring” rule). Also, I read somewhere that Austin Kleon went to my alma mater (Miami University), which makes me automatically like him.

So what about you guys? What have you been reading lately? I always love hearing your recommendations.

What I’ve Been Reading

I always love reading (duh), but over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading even more than usual. Here are the books I’ve read and loved over the past month or so:
Tenth of December by George Saunders
It’s no surprise that this was good. I mean, George Saunders is always good. I read the last story one morning before work, and the whole walk there all I could think was, “Everyone is just trying their best!” It was pretty emotional.

no one else can have you
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Okay, sorry to be annoying because this book doesn’t come out until January, so you can’t read it right now. BUT IT IS SO GREAT! It’s funny and weird and I actually got scared near the end.

someday someday maybe
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Obviously if Loralei Gilmore writes a book I’m going to read it. Fun fact: I decided to wait out the library hold list for this one instead of buying it, and it took a couple of months! So just reading it felt like a small victory. Anyway, this was a fun, feel-good book, and y’all know I love a feel-good book.

tapestry of fortunes
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
Everything I love: a house full of women who learn something from one another, a road-trip, and copious amounts of pie. So much pie. I made a pie after I finished this book, actually.

open road summer
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Now I’m being even more obnoxious because this book doesn’t come out until April, but YOU GUYS. I loved this book so, so much. There’s country music, a dreamy dude, and so. much. romance. Seriously, I loved it, and it’s definitely going on my Best YA Romance list.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Somehow this book managed to be slow and interesting. Also sad and hilarious. Kate Atkinson is some sort of miracle worker, apparently. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and I’ve already ordered the next Jackson Brodie book from the library. Basically, if you like British detectives then you’ll probably be into this book (although I seriously didn’t understand ANY of the references in this book…I might as well have been reading another language).

What have you guys been reading? Let me know, and have a great weekend!

Ladyville Book Club: Rainbow Rowell

Now that I’ve finished all of Rainbow Rowell’s books (even Fangirl, which doesn’t come out for a couple more months, because being a book blogger sometimes leads to awesome perks), I’m sort of depressed. Okay, really depressed, because she doesn’t have any more books I can read. However, I want to channel that reading-related depression into something positive, which mostly means I’m not going to stop until I’ve convinced all of you to read Rainbow Rowell’s books, even if it means I have to literally push them into your hands. Don’t think I won’t do it!

My first foray into the wonderful world of Rainbow was her YA novel, Eleanor & Park. Just like everyone else who read it, I loved it. It was real and romantic, smart and funny, and full of music. Also Park’s dad was repeatedly compared to Tom Selleck, which was a detail I just really loved. After I posted my review, I got a copy of Fangirl and fell in even deeper love. I mean, it might be one of my favorite books ever. It’s about a girl who writes fan fiction. And is a twin. And is in college but really bad at being social. And is in l-u-v with a ridiculously friendly guy (not a brooding guy, not a sensitive bad boy, not a rebel). It’s hilarious and just plain wonderful.

So, naturally, after all that I needed to pick up her adult novel, Attachments. YOU GUYS. IT WAS JUST AS GOOD! Good romantic comedy books can be difficult to find. I’m not saying they’re not out there, because they are, but it’s difficult to sort through the cliches and the generic smut (not that there’s anything wrong with generic smut). It’s always a delight to find a book that’s like a Nora Ephron movie, one that gives you hope and comforts you while also being clever and smart and creating unique characters. That’s what this book does (not to oversell it). Also, Lincoln is great. Oh, Lincoln.

One of the things I really like about Rainbow Rowell’s writing is that she always sees overweight women as people. Yes, sometimes they complain about their weight (just as we all, no matter what we look like, can always find SOME element of our bodies to complain about) but it is not the defining factor of their lives and it CERTAINLY doesn’t make them unattractive or undateable. They don’t have to lose weight to be happy or to get a guy; their weight is just another aspect of who they are. There aren’t a ton of other authors that can do this (although, if you want some recommendations, I would suggest Meg Cabot and Jennifer Weiner).

Also, Rainbow Rowell just gets what makes people attractive. It’s not their perfection or their movie-star good looks; I mean, when you’re in love with someone, you love the weird little imperfections in their face. Their slightly-too-big nose, their ears that stick out, their hair that doesn’t lay flat ever. Rainbow Rowell’s romantic leads have weak chins and widow’s peaks. They feel real in a way that many leading dudes just don’t.

Basically, Rainbow Rowell writes perfect books and I just want you guys to love them the same way I do. Go buy Eleanor & Park and Attachments right now, and FOR SURE get Fangirl when it comes out! And after you read them all, come talk to me about how great they are! Until then, I’ll just be rereading Attachments and getting overly emotional at the ending.

Image via Novel Sounds