I Read Some Books in 2018 (But You Wouldn’t Know That From Here)
Because 2018 barely exist on this blog, there’s no public record of what I read last year. And without that record, it felt like I didn’t read last year. The facts don’t support that feeling, though. I read some books–more than I thought I had, actually–in 2018. I got plenty of use out of Libby and my library cards.
True, I did go on a few long stretches when I binged podcasts instead or listening to audiobooks during the commute. (It was the year I finally got sucked into You Must Remember This and its archives.) I didn’t read much in print, but I think I read more ebooks than I ever have before.
One advantage of digital reading is that there is a record. It’s in whatever apps you’ve used to do it. And with the help of a third app, Reading List, I was able to collect all of that activity in one place. The image in this post shows all the books I read last year.
Stats, Trends, and Thoughts: The Year in Books
Total books read: 25
I really had no idea of my book count for 2018 until I made this list. By my prior-year standards–let alone book-blogger measures–it’s a sad number. In the context of 2018 events, I’m not at all mad about it.
I felt like I’d split my reading pretty evenly betweenfiction and nonfiction. It looks like my sense of that was pretty on-point.
Format breakdown: Print 4, Audiobooks 11, Ebooks 10
My vision’s never been good, but I’ve had some new issues with it over the last couple of years. Some are age-related, and some are connected to the strain of lifelong severe myopia. Both may be complicated by medical conditions (guess who’s diabetic now, y’all?). In any case, I’m finding the adjustable fonts of e-reading are much easier on my eyes.
Author gender breakdown, by category
Fiction: Female 10, Male 4 (I count “Robert Galbraith” as female since everyone knows “he” is J.K. Rowling. Also, three of the four novels by men were by the same author.)
Nonfiction: Female 10, Male 1 (The single essay collection was also the only nonfiction I read not written by a woman.)
If I Have to Pick One: Book of the Year
It’s been the case for a few years now that nonfiction sticks with me more than fiction does. About half of my 2018 nonfiction reads really helped me better understand our current social/political climate and how it developed, and I’m glad for that.
My Book of the Year comments on some aspects of that climate, but it stands out as remarkable personal history. The audiobook version of Educated by Tara Westover was a riveting listen, and even though I’m reading fewer print books lately, I will be buying a keeper copy of this one in paperback.
I have already finished three books in 2019. I’m tracking them with Reading List, and intend to write about some of them here. I want to be a more deliberate reader again, and I think I’m off to a decent start.
There’s one big way I need to regroup going into this new year: managing my time. I need to be a realist about it
#Regroup: Managing Time
I used to be a lot better at organizing my time. Back then, one of my personal mottoes was “Organization is a defense against chaos.” I still think that’s true. But it’s also true that my own defenses against chaos have become seriously disorganized over the last few years. I’ve learned I actually can function in chaos, and I’m not sure that’s been a good lesson. I don’t think I actively cultivate chaos, but I realize I’m not trying as hard as I should to prevent it.
I missed this article about becoming a “time realist” when it was first published. But I came across it this past weekend…and it was perfect timing. I thought I’d share a few takeaways.
Three Ways to Be a “Time Realist”
Make the decision: Are you a paper or electronic calendar person? Then stick to it. I think this was my favorite takeaway:
(I)f you can remember, “Oh, I wrote that three pages ago in the upper left corner,” you’re a visual-tactile learner who should use a paper planner. If you think more chronologically — for example, if someone gave you a date like April 14, and you think, “oh that was a Wednesday” — you’re more digital-technical oriented and should use an electronic calendar.
I am absolutely the second type. Now I get why the whole paper planner/bullet journal thing has never really clicked for me!
Manage major transitions in your day like you did in school, with a timer: I have occasionally tried doing this, and it’s worked…until I started ignoring the alarm. It’s time to try it again, I think.
End every day by planning tomorrow, plus two more days: I am working on getting a lot more consistent about doing this. I tend to treat planning as something to do when I have time to do it. It occurs to me that might be a little bit backward.
If you’re working on being more of a realist about managing your own time, read the rest. It’s worth your time, I promise! Day by day, I’ll be working on better habits for every day.
On the morning of January 1, I opened the app again. I read through all the posts in it and even commented on a few. New year, new start!
I’ve been on blogging breaks before, but that’s usually meant I just didn’t post for a while. The last couple of months were my first extended break from reading blogs since I began writing my own, It was one less thing to keep up with, and it lessened the guilt over my lack of participation.
I think I had to miss both sides of the blogging coin before I could pick it back up.
about things I did instead of blogging
I wasn’t reading blogs, but I was reading plenty of email newsletters. I subscribe to daily briefing emals from the Times(es) (New York and Los Angeles), the Washington Post, and the Guardian. In addition, I get several topical weekly newsletters from each of these news outlets. I get newsletters on other topics–politics, entertainment, books, lifestyle–from other sources, (And I got a digital subscription to The New Yorker.) Most of the newsletters collect links to articles, which lead me to more reading. And this is literally not even the half of it–one day, I should do a post about all my newsletter subscriptions.
I found more podcasts to listen to on my daily commute. This year, there have been days–sometimes stretching for weeks–when my attention span is just better suited to podcasts than to audiobooks. However, one of those podcasts is bookish, and it’s wreaked havoc on my library holds!
Books aren’t the only format for storytelling, of course, and I had some good TV binges with Paul. Through the summer and into autumn, we caught up on a few shows that friends had been urging us to watch. We are caught up and ready for the next (last) seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Game of Thrones(!) (I know, but we didn’t have HBO until spring 2018), and are now working our way through Bob’s Burgers‘ prior seasons on Hulu. Oh, and there was the Thirteenth Doctor’s first series in the midst of all that. too.
Also, I’ve subscribed to the New York Times Crossword app and have started doing those every day. I did not expect it would be so addictive and fun!
about books and reading
Those are words for next time!
Meanwhile, leave me a few words about what you’ve been up to!
My #OneWord for 2018 was ACCEPT I thought it was a good choice at the time, and in retrospect, I think I appreciate it even more. I approached it like this:
I’m working on what I’d call “active acceptance.” For me, that means taking things as they come, but with intention. Most of what I can change is in how I respond to what I accept. I’m trying to figure out how that looks, but here’s what I think it includes:
Saying “yes” to opportunity
Changing “yes” to “no” when I realize it may not have been the right answer after all
Choosing my battles (and when it’s right not to have them)
Being OK with being myself and with others being who they are
2018 was challenging in so many respects…and based on what I’ve been seeing in other people’s reflections on the year, a lot of us felt that! I do feel that approaching things with this framework of acceptance in mind helped me get through, though.
I don’t intend to abandon that approach in 2019, but I do want to incorporate more active and intentional assessment into it. My #OneWord for 2019 is REGROUP.
My first attempt at putting that #OneWord into action is showing up here today to post this.
This space has been quiet. I woke it up a few times last year, and now I’m thinking about what I might do to keep it awake. I’ve missed the part of me that lives here and I don’t want to accept its absence anymore.
I’m continuing my Mid-Year Check-In with a short-attention-span set of updates. If there are any unifying themes here, it’s not necessarily by design.
I was winding down a week off from work when I drafted this. We had planned a few days away but called off the trip earlier this month so we could focus on arranging for Paul’s mom’s upcoming move into assisted living. On my third day off, I got news from across the country that my uncle had passed away.(This link is to my sister’s sporadically active and virtually unknown blog.) Uncle Peter was diagnosed with leukemia late last year and had gone into hospice at home less than a week before he died. Overall, I can’t say it was one of the better vacation weeks I’ve had.
Related: Sometimes a staycation is just not quite enough.
It was enough for a nice mani/pedi, though. I usually get gel manicures since I tend to be hard on nail polish, but I forgot to specify that this time. It’s not holding up too badly so far, though.
I’m thinking I should think about doing that more often.
Earlier this year my stepson introduced us to Jackbox Party Pack, a collection of group-participation video games. We play them on the TV using our iPhones as controllers. There are four editions (so far), and all the games require little to no “gamer” skills, which meets my basic video-game requirements. My favorite is Fibbage (trivia + bluffing), but we play Bidiots (Pictionary meets art auction) a lot too.
Back when I was a more consistent blogger, I usually prepared my week’s worth of blog posts on the weekend. Last year, more often than not, that weekend time was allotted to work; numbers took over from writing. I’m not working much on weekends now, but I haven’t been blogging either–you may have noticed. I haven’t been too bothered by the break, in all honesty–I’ve been reading, seeing movies, hanging out and goofing off–but I’m ready to figure out where blogging time fits in again.
Three Reasons To Make Time to Blog
Many of my favorite people and dearest friends live in the computer, and I miss them you!
Blogging doesn’t prove it happened., but it sure helps you remember whether it did. Especially when it wasn’t something you could photograph. (If it was, Instagram is a good substitute.)
I started this blog as a way to track and remember the books I read. I feel like I’ve been having a decent reading year, but I don’t have the record to back it up. Most of my 2017 reading is a blur now, and I don’t want 2018 to go down that same path.
I think I’ve finally found a book-related podcast I’ll stick with! For Real is a Book Riot podcast focused on nonfiction, which is where the books that most excite me these days seem to come from. It’s fun, smart, and co-hosted by my book-blogging BFF and three-time Book Expo roommate Kim Ukura, so I’m excited to support it.
Bookkeeping: The Reading Year in Review (Without Reviews)
Contributing to Shelf Awareness taught me how to craft a concise, structured book review. I’ve never really mastered the “bite-size” capsule book discussion, though–not on LibraryThing or Goodreads, not on Instagram or Litsy, and definitely not here. My book posts here tend to skew high on the word-count side.
I’d like to think I write long reviews because I read books that give me lots to think and talk about Sometimes that’s actually true. And sometimes I scrounge for things to say just to have made the time spent writing feel worth it.
I started this blog to have a record of my reading, with the intent of discussing every book I read. The intention is still there, but the fulfillment of it has been extremely lacking for at least 18 months. That hasn’t meant the end of the world, but it has meant that there’s no record of most of what I’ve read in the last year and a half.
2017 has disappeared, but I don’t really want 2018 to follow it. Here’s a list of the books I’ve read so far this year. If time and energy allow, I will come back to some of them in other posts and say more about them, but I don’t plan to “review” any of them at this point. The lists are in roughly chronological order, although they don’t account for movement between fiction and nonfiction.
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng (purchased audiobook, narrated by Jennifer Lim) [I will probably buy a paperback keeper copy of this one; I liked it more than Everything I Never Told You.]
Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty (paperback) [I read this one because I didn’t plan to watch the miniseries. After I read it, I couldn’t wait to watch the miniseries.]
Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems, all by Kevin Kwan (paperback and hardcover) [Recommended binge-reading!]
The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin (ebook from the library)
This Could Hurt, by Jillian Medoff (ebook from the library)
In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox, by Carol Burnett: memoir (purchased audiobook, read by the author) [I actually did post a capsule review of this one!]
The Monster of Florence, by Mario Spezi and Douglas Preston: true crime (purchased audiobook, narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris)
The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, by Frances FitzGerald: history, religion, politics (audiobook from the library, read by Jacques Roy) [A 2017 National Book Award finalist, this is probably the most important book I’ve read so far this year. It’s instructive, aggravating, and very enlightening about America’s present political and cultural climate. It’s on the heavy side, but not dry reading, and I highly recommend it.]
The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, by Leslie Jamison: memoir, social history (audiobook from the library, read by the author) [Jamison weaves the experiences of other writers who struggled with addiction into her own story. I thought it was well-built and well-written, and I was impressed by her narration of the audiobook.]
Educated, by Tara Westover; memoir (audiobook from the library, read by Julia Whelan) [This deserves more than a capsule and I intend to give it that. Meanwhile, you should read it!]
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara: true crime (audiobook from the library, read by Gabra Zackman with Gillian Flynn and Patton Oswalt) [The story around this book is almost as interesting as the book itself.]
The Book of Separation, by Tova Mirvis: memoir (ebook, from the library) [I’ve read a few of this author’s novels, but this memoir came to my attention via Beth Kephart.]
I have noticed some themes and trends here, but I’ll save that discussion for another time. Meanwhile, a couple of questions for you:
Have you read any of the books I mentioned here? Which one(s), and what did you think?
What book are you recommending most frequently these days?
Forgive me, Readers, for I have deserted my post (no pun intended!).
My last post here was in February–I missed an entire season of blogging (and this site’s 11th birthday on March 16).
Despite my frequent and prolonged absences from this space, I still identify as a blogger. I’ve been struggling with frequent feelings of disconnection and unsettledness. I’m pretty sure one of the causes is that my actions and identity haven’t exactly been in sync.
Identifying the problem is a necessary first step toward solving it. And hey–this is actually a problem I can solve, all by myself!
There are, of course, other factors involved here. I think we can identify disconnection, disillusionment, frustration and exhaustion as common symptoms of American life in 2018. It’s more important than ever to know what’s going on in the world. And it’s more tempting than ever to burrow under the covers.
Are you struggling to calibrate what you need to know about the Big Things with what you need to know to deal with your own life every day? I know I am.
Big Little Things
I’m not here to talk about Big Things today, though. I just want to recap some of the not-so-big things that have been claiming my attention since I was last here.
Family Life: Technically speaking, we have no “children” anymore–the youngest turned 18 in December. He’s now a high-school graduate (with honors :-)) and will be starting university at Cal State Northridge in the fall.
And so now it seems the parents are taking center stage–our parents, I mean. My father is now 89 and has had several falls–fortunately, without major damages–during the last couple of years. He continues to live on his own but requires a lot of careful watching. Fortunately, he lives in the same town as my sister and me, so that’s doable. Meanwhile, we’re preparing to move Paul’s mother into a nearby assisted-living community nearby. It’s a big shift–a much smaller space more than 100 miles from the community she’s lived in for over 25 years–and it’s been a process preparing her to make it.
And for you Winchester fans–the dog is fine.
Work Life: My current role at work is an amplified version of my former role as Controller, incorporating some of the responsibilities I had last year as (acting) CFO. That’s partly because we still haven’t hired a full-time CFO, six months after I stepped down and out part-time-interim CFO came on board. I don’t know if I’m feeling less work stress than I did at this time last year, but it feels differently stressful, if that makes sense. (And having given up the acting-CFO pay when I stepped down, there’s literally less compensation for the stress.)
And after 15 years with this agency, the 80-mile daily round-trip communt is growing increasingly tiresome. At least it still offers prime audiobook and podcast time!
“Life” Life: There’s not so much to report on other fronts, and I’ll get to what there is in another post (or maybe even two!). I have been reading, seeing movies, and watching some good TV. This isn’t looking like much of a travel year.
…because we all know what it means when you keep doing the same thing expecting different results.
Many of us have been through a reading slump or two (or 25), but the last year or so has felt different. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find books that interested me. It was more a matter of time and energy–that is, not having either--that made it hard to invest in any books I couldn’t read by ear. (Related: one of the great perks of audiobooks is that almost anyone can read them in the car…even the driver.) My most regular reading-by-eye time was bedtime, and then I was lucky if I could keep my eyes open for more than a few pages (which I might re-read the next night after forgetting them).
Also, for the first time in years, I had no real deadlines to read anything–no review deadlines! no blog tours! no pitches! Without that external motivation, it became surprisingly (and sadly) easy to use time I could have spent reading on other things. I’d spend that before-sleep catching up on email newsletters that had piled up during the workday, and reading links from those emails. Then I’d open my feed reader, weed out the posts I knew I wouldn’t read, and maybe read a few of the posts I spotted while skimming, But I’d probably put the iPad down at that point and pick up my book-in-progress in hopes of getting in those few pages.
Something’s Gotta Give, Something’s Gotta Go
About two weeks ago, I unsubscribed from two of the most active feeds in my reader. The amount and frequency of their posts were causing me to prioritize them over other sources just to keep from getting buried, and I decided I was done with that. I still get email newsletters from one of them and I’ll keep up with their posts that way. I haven’t missed the other one at all, to be honest (and for the record, it wasn’t a book-related blog). This simple act has allowed me to keep my feed reader much more manageable, and that’s been remarkably energizing.
I’ve had a few opportunities this winter to hunker down with a book for a big chunk of time during the weekend. That’s been energizing too, but perhaps more importantly, it’s been inspiring. It’s reminded me how much I like reading that way, and how much more I feel like a READER when I can read that way. I intend to prioritize that a lot better than I’ve been doing while trying not to be sucked into the Book Blogger’s Paradox.
And thanks to this renewed feeling of energy and inspiration, I put six books on library hold last week. Two of them aren’t audiobooks. Some changes come in with baby steps.
If you’ve made any changes in your habits that have made your reading life better, tell me about them!
I’m still working my way through Big Little Lies in print. When I get a block of time to spend with it I move right along, but those blocks of time are (still) tough to come by. I still think I’d get through it this way faster than I would the TV series, though.
I’m in between audiobooks right now and have been commuting with podcasts for the last week or so. I had a bit of book hangover from my last audiobook, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Suburban family drama is one of my kryptonite genres, and Ng was good at it with her first novel, Everything I Never Told You. I thought she did it even better in this one, and I wasn’t ready to jump straight into another book after finishing it.
I Heard It Through the Car Stereo
For the last few days, I’ve been binge-listening at the intersection of TV, podcasts, and audiobooks. Previously.TV recently launched a return to its roots in the TV-recap site Television Without Pity (of blessed memory, RIP). It’s posting Epic Old-School Recaps of a select group of shows, written by some of the original site’s original writers. But because it’s harder these days to make time to read online epics, the recaps are also read aloud and recorded. I’ve barely started Season 2 of The Crown, but I’m almost finished with it in recap form…and I’m loving it.
When I get to the end of The Crown, I have the latest episode of Hit Parade next in my podcast queue. During my middle- and high-school years I was mildly obsessive (is that a thing?) about the music charts. I listened to “American Top 40” every weekend and recorded each week’s countdown in a series of spiral notebooks. The notebooks are long lost, but their contents are still lodged in my head. Thanks to them, I have a freakish ability to correctly identify songs from the mid-1970s through the following decade and place them the correct year. This once-a-month music podcast totally understands that obsession. Bonus: almost every episode reminds me of an old favorite song that’s been missing from my library.
…And the Rest
February is the shortest month on the calendar, and it will be an even shorter one for work for me. I have a five-day weekend coming up while my son spends a few days with us on his return trip from Australia. (One more thing I’ve been reading–his Facebook updates from Down Under.) Two weeks after that, it’s another five-day weekend, hanging with fellow Whovians at Gallifrey One. It will probably be one more month that’s short on reading, though.
How has your January been, and what are you looking forward to in February?
I really want to try to get a post up at the beginning of each week, either sometime on Sunday or first thing Monday. Don’t be surprised if it’s the only post that makes it some weeks–because I won’t be!–but I really like the weekly look back/look ahead so many of us do on weekends.
Books Report: Recent Reading
Audiobooks:In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett reminisces about the making of her landmark comedy/variety TV show (1967-78). I grew up watching that show and I’ll say more about the book if I get time. But until then, I’ll tell you it was a delightful listen and a fine First Book of the Year (started and finished in the first week of 2018!). Also, this dress will never not be funny:
Print and e-books: I finished my last book of 2017 during the last weekend of the year. Mad World: An Oral History of the New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s by Jonathan Bernstein and Lori Majewski was another trip down Memory Lane, except for the parts I missed the first time around. I would have liked a bit more about some of the artists (and lyrics to the featured songs). I also found the format a little repetitive, but overall this was a fun read.
This Saturday morning at Starbucks, I started reading Big Little Lies by Lian Moriarty. Many of you have probably read it already and/or watched the TV series. We didn’t have HBO when the show originally aired–and I’m not sure when I’d get around to watching it now that we do–but I’ve heard so much good about it that I decided to go to the source material.
And Some Reading ABOUT Reading
If one of your goals for the new year is reading more/better–however that looks for you–both the LA Times and Apartment Therapy want to help. They have some of the same suggestions and you may have heard them all before, but I thought I’d pass them along anyway.
We took advantage of the holiday hiatus for most of the shows in our DVR rotation to binge Season 1 of The Crownon Netflix. SO good, but we’re taking a little break before starting Season 2–it’s a lot of drama. Also, the recordings are starting up again and we don’t like to let those get too backlogged.
On that note, is anyone else watching the new episodes of The X-Files? We’re in, but I anticipate much yelling at the TV.
January is such a weird month. The first full five-day work week of the year is bookended by two holiday-shortened ones. I’m starting this one by moving back to my old office with a new title: Assistant Vice President (AVP) of Finance. I suspect that for a while, it will look like a lot like what I did as Controller but with some added elements from my time as Interim CFO. The adventure continues, but I really hope the road will be a little less bumpy from here on out…
Back to the commute means back to audio in the car! I think I may be starting out the week with podcasts, though. Just like the DVR, I don’t like those to get too backlogged either. That will give me a few days to decide on my next audiobook, too.
And I will leave you today with a very tired dog. Sometimes daycare really leaves Winchester dog-tired!!