I won’t begin by stating that it’s been months and months since I’ve used my blog to write anything of substance. Or maybe I will.

And I cannot say that I will write with any regularity after this moment, either. I suppose I felt bogged down by own need to create racing logs and monthly book synopses, realizing at a certain point I could either attempt to keep up or I could allot some of that writing time to other pursuits. As with all of life and its finite time, I had choices to make. Then time just felt too long. Other days, I wanted to write but felt I had absolutely nothing of significance to say. I follow several bloggers who are significant all the time. That’s not me. I am fully open to the reader who says, “Yeah, but who cares?” and passes on.

Yet I find another year (my natural rhythm seems to be to embark on new goals in July, so my personal year is July 1st to July 1st) has just passed, and I have missed public writing a little bit. Or rather, I have missed a space which I am convinced few people read but which gives me the room for just a little bit of a voice. I can never now catch up on a year’s worth of race reports, homeschool months, book synopses, and hikes; so, in this sense, this space feels almost new. I suppose if new readers come to this space, they will have access to all of my archives. Whether the narrative voice in those archives is still fully me with another year of evolution, who can know?

Four Julys ago, I became a runner. We know how this is turning out. That was a physical lifestyle change. Two years ago, I knew that part of returning to my vibrant self post-motherhood was to carve out my life as an avid reader again. Young children had meant a book here and there but with no real plan of attack or direction; and since books and words are as vital to my existence as air (it has often felt), I had to address this off-balance part of my life. So I set a goal to finish at least one chapter book a week, starting in 2014. Since then, I have read 171 books: all of the 2014-2015 set was methodically written up on this blog. I also became a swimmer that year (2014), and as with all three changes I have to say that it helps me to have a tangible, quantifiable goal to pursue. If I have a number, a quantity, an objective, I will prioritize to pursue it. This has turned out to be an average of over one book per week.

I’d like to say I would just be able to get things done, but I know I will procrastinate or get sidetracked unless I have a target or a measurement. It’s unromantic to say “I must read at least one book a week.” No doubt. Very unromantic. But it has also meant when I am mid-way through the week and see how many pages I have remaining, I have to look at my actions and choices when the kids are finally in bed. A target makes me accountable to myself.

The first year I read whatever pleased me. All of the write-ups are here. My only parameter for myself, as always, was to read widely in a variety of genres, mixing up fiction and nonfiction almost if not strictly in an alternating pattern. I read logic, math, science, politics, running books, feminist theory, fiction. I made the discovery—or rather, my friend Steve helped me to discover—Haruki Murakami, now a favorite of my whole life. It was a year of feeling the world completely open again, my mind engaged in ways that refreshed me both for home life and talking with adults. It was a year of feeling in balance again, mind-and-body, and being able to direct that balanced energy into caring for, and teaching, Katie and Eric—as well as entertaining myself and being able to carry on an interesting thought-life with myself when doing the utterly mundane: like folding laundry. Wait. Who are we kidding? I don’t really fold, ever… More like “putting away laundry” and stuffing it in drawers. It is probably bizarre that I would rather iron than fold to begin with.

This year I had a few different rules going in to my reading goals. First, I was going to read mainly whatever I could find at the library, or books I already owned but had never yet read. This was partly to save money, but it was also a ruse by which to force myself into considering books that might not have been on my radar otherwise. Additionally, I was going to seek out actively books that were against any confirmation bias: whatever I might already think about an issue, I was going to read books that challenged my views and presented counterarguments. Finally, I would pursue some of the literary canon I had missed either in high school or college, missed either by circumstance of who taught what or what I had happened to pick up for fun during breaks or not. It’s not possible to read everything, and I had some canonical holes, I felt. Still do…but they are fewer. This later mutated into pursuing works I think will become part of the modern international canon, and I decided at a certain point to start catching up on Man Booker Prize winners. I will have to continue that project into the coming year (now until next July).

I also count all chapter books I read with my kiddos, because I do not make a true line between youth literature and adult literature. Good writing is good writing. Literature is literature no matter the target audience.

So, from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016:

1. Flora and Ulysses (Kate diCamillo)
2. The Martian (Andy Weir)
3. Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)—-ugh!
4. Bad Feminist (Roxane Gay)
5. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (David Selznik)
6. The Strange Library (Haruki Murakami)
7. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)
8. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Mary Roach)
9. Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank (Randi Epstein)
10. 1000 Lashes Because I Say What I Think (Raif Badawi)
11. The Story of the World Vol. 2
12. A Long Walk to Water (Linda Sue Park)
13. The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Jill Lepore)
14. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)—-fell in love with Vonnegut.
15. Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)
16. Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder) —all the Wilders are re-reads
17. Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
18. Beloved (Toni Morrison)—one of my favorites now
19. White Noise (Don DeLillo)
20. No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy)—also fell in love with McCarthy
21. On the Banks of Plum Creek (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
22. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)—re-read, a favorite
23. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) —re-read, almost yearly
24. The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
25. California’s State Parks
26. All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy)
27. Sign of the Beaver (Elizabeth George Speare)—re-read
28. Silent Spring (Rachel Carson)
29. Hear the Wind Sing/Pinball (Haruki Murakami)
30. By the Shores of Silver Lake (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
31. The Crossing (Cormac McCarthy)
32. Find a Way (Diana Nyad)
33. Ben and Me (Robert Lawson)
34. Cities of the Plain (Cormac McCarthy)
35. The Long Winter (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
36. The Quest for the Diamond Sword (Minecraft)—yep
37. Born to Run (Christopher McDougall)
38. The Mystery of the Griefer’s Mark (Minecraft)
39. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)—re-read
40. The Endermen Invasion (Minecraft)—I am a good mom
41. The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction
42. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)—re-read
43. Desert Lore of Southern California (Choral Pepper)
44. Into Thin Air (John Krakauer)
45. Across China (Peter Jenkins)
46. The Longest Trail: Writings on American Indian History, Culture, and Politics (Alvin Josephy)
47. The Mystery of Meerkat Hill (Alexander McCall Smith)
48. Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories (Simon Winchester)
49. 140 Great Hikes In and Near Palm Springs (Phillip Ferranti)
50. The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms (Amy Stewart)
51. Akimbo and the Elephants (Alexander McCall Smith)
52. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes (Eleanor Coerr)
53. Red: A History of the Redhead (Jacky Harvey)
54. Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded (Simon Winchester)
55. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Haruki Murakami)
56. All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys in a Desert Landscape (Lawrence Hogue)
57. Weird California: Your Travel Guide to California’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets—too weird for me!
58. The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House (Kate Brower)
59. The Light Between Oceans (M. L. Stedman)
60. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O’Brien)
61. When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)
62. Pedro’s Journal (Pam Conrad)
63. The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
64. Al Capone Does My Shirts (Gennifer Choldenko)—a favorite
65. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket)
66. Soul Surfer (Bethany Hamilton)
67. A Brief History of Seven Killings (Marlon James)—most challenging book this year, Man Booker Prize winner, not at all brief, much in patois, required outside historical research
68. The California Naturalist Handbook
69. Old Yeller (Fred Gipson)
70. Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)—re-read
71. Black Star, Bright Dawn (Scott O’Dell)
72. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Daniel James Brown)—made me want to row crew
73. Sing Down the Moon (Scott O’Dell)
74. Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Mary Ruefle)
75. Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)—-re-read
76. Game Changer (Douglas Richards)

And that’s that. Instead of bogging my writing down with explaining them all, just know that in person, I LOVE to talk books. I am always on the search for recommendations from others, too. A couple of people recommended #59 to me, and it was one of my favorites this year.

Whatever you do in your life, please do not miss Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Let it affect you and hurt you and change you.

Vonnegut was the voice I had been waiting to find my whole life.

I have many cozy memories of staying up a bit too late devouring McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. One of the most memorable reading experiences of my life.

My wild seat will never make an attempt to climb Mt. Everest. Whatever other trouble I get into, it won’t be up there.

Go Set a Watchman never should have been published.

#64: Proof that some of the best literature in this world is “children’s” lit.

So far, for this next go-round (July 1, 2016 to next July 1st), I have read:

1. Lawn Boy (Gary Paulsen)
2. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (e. l. konisberg)—re-read
3. Run the World: My 3500 Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe (Becky Wade)
4. Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)—please read this
5. The Vegetarian (Han Kang)—Man Booker Prize 2016
6. Multiple Choice (Alejandro Zambra)
7. The 13 Clocks (James Thurber)

I finished the last two today (one on my own and one with my road trippin’ family), so I am in that free space of choosing my next book. It is a glorious, free space—but I also always feel the need to know quickly. I usually have a stack or list or know what’s coming, but right now I do not. There’s a Neil Gaiman essay collection I might pursue; there were also some science books recently recommended by Bill Gates. I do need to choose tonight. If possible.

What are you reading right now? Ideas are great!

 

 

 

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