2020 Reading Challenges and Other Plans

I don’t have a lot of reading plans for this year, but I’ve got a couple of things I want to tackle.

First, I’m going to finally read Tom Jones (more on this tomorrow).

Secondly, I’m going to re-read the first twelve Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker—I’ve been wanting to re-read the series for a while now, and I’m going to force it this year. I used to read the entire series over a three-day weekend each year, but once I got married, my wife seemed to want me to interact with her for those 3+ days, and I only sporadically read individual volumes since then. It should actually work out pretty well this way, I do one a month (should have no problem fitting that in) which allows me to cover the best of the series, ending with a transition point to the series.

Thirdly, I’m part of the Book Blogger Novel of the Year Award Panel. You’ll hear more about that later.

And that’s about it—otherwise, it’s just read whatever seems interesting that I can get to.

I’m tweaking my approach to Reading Challenges this year. Bookstooge asked in a comment section a few months ago why I did these things* and it got me thinking about it—I’m tired of just doing the “How Much of X Have You Read?” Challenges—they really don’t do anything for me other than getting me to track stuff that I don’t need to. I prefer the ones that make me think of book selection differently than I usually do—preferably the ones that have some sort of interaction between participants.

* Yeah, it may take me longer than it should, but I do try to respond to everything.

The two exceptions to this are the Goodreads Challenge, which takes no effort at all and the Library Love Challenge—yeah, it’s largely a “how much” challenge, but there’s good interaction over on Goodreads, and I like the idea of celebrating Libraries anyway.

So, here’s what I’m going to be up to:

Library Love ChallengeThe Fourth Annual Library Love Challenge
Hosted by Angel’s Guilty Pleasures & Books of My Heart.

The Third Annual While I Was Reading Challenge

Ramona Mead’s got some great categories this year, and while the Facebook group isn’t super-active, it’s an interesting little group. I’ve had plenty of fun with this challenge the last two years and figure I’ll keep it going.

2020 TBR Reading Challenge
2020 TBR Reading Challenge

I saw this one while blog hopping recently, and it looked like fun. Similar to the above, but it’ll stretch me in different ways.

I’m supposed to tag 5 people to go along with this…hmmm….Okay, I challenge kerrimcbooknerd, Witty & Sarcastic Book Club, happytonic, Kelly Curtis, and brainyjaney. You all should give this a shot.


Similarly, I saw this on Twitter a week or so ago and it also struck a chord.

So, some fun ways to track reading and think about what I’ll read, and some moderate goals. Leaving 2020 for a lot of “whatever seems like a good idea at the time” kind of reading.

All this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, obviously. Maybe a salt lick. Remembering all too well the poet’s lines:

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Looking back at 2019 for Books and the Blog

Programming Note: Over the next few days, I’ll be looking back over 2019—but trying to come up with some new material, too. I know a lot of people have already done that, but I’m a stickler—I can’t start doing this kind of thing ’til the year is over (for good reason, I read 3 things that will likely end up on best-of lists after I started seeing “Best of 2019” posts).

As we kick off 2020, as is my custom, I wanted to take a glance back at 2019. 275 books read (plus comics, picture books, short stories, and the like that I don’t know how to count)I exceeded my goal (nothing like exceeding an arbitrary number to boost the ol’ ego), too; more than 83,000 pages; 378 posts (short of my goal by a couple hundred, but 98 more than last year, so…yay). I had some strong gains in trafficviews and visitorsactually, strong gains doesn’t quite cut it. Consider my mind boggled. I’m also seeing good growth in followers here and on various social media fronts, which is encouraging as all get outnot just growth in numbers, but the level of and amount of interaction is up to the point that my socially awkward self doesn’t really understand it.

So here’s my breakdown of books by genre. Genre labeling is more difficult lately as I’m reading a lot of hybrids (most of us are, they’re being produced more), but I tend to go with the overarching genre (for example, Brassley’s The Drifting Lands books are fantasy novels in a SF setting, I went with Fantasy). Basically, everything’s the same, with just a percent or two of adjustment. It’s been forever since I’ve read a Western, although I had one checked out from the Library for a couple of months, but I couldn’t manage to get to it. Theological books went up a tad in actual numbers (thanks to the Vos set). Still, for someone who doesn’t plan too thoroughly, the percentages stay remarkably consistent from year to yeartastes (and series I follow) apparently stay the same.

Genre 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Children’s 7 (3%) 11 (4%) 7 (3%) 5 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Fantasy 28 (10%) 30 (11%) 7 (3%) 31 (13%) 17 (9%) 11 (7%) 15 (8%) 12 (6%)
General Fiction/ Literature 21 (8%) 22 (8%) 29 (10%) 27 (11%) 17 (9%) 7 (4%) 30 (16%) 30 (14%)
Horror 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (.4%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Humor 4 (1%) 3 (1%) 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (1%) 3 (2%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller 105 (38%) 107 (38%) 102 (37%) 61 (25%) 64 (34%) 62 (37%) 63 (33%) 73 (35%)
Non-Fiction 25 (9%) 22 (8%) 10 (4%) 11 (5%) 8 (4%) 4 (2%) 2 (1%) 11 (5%)
Poetry 0 (0%) 1 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Science Fiction 30 (11%) 25 (9%) 27 (10%) 37 (15%) 16 (8%) 17 (10%) 14 (7%) 11 (5%)
Steampunk 1 (0%) 3 (1%) 1 (0%) 2 (1%) 7 (4%) 3 (2%) 3 (2%) 11 (5%)
Theology/ Christian Living 34 (12%) 25 (9%) 30 (11%) 33 (14%) 42 (22%) 42 (25%) 37 (19%) 10 (5%)
Urban Fantasy 25 (9%) 29 (10%) 45 (16%) 36 (15%) 19 (10%) 20 (12%) 26 (14%) 48 (23%)
Western 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 0 (0%) 1 (0%)

Have a great 2020, hope you find plenty of good things to read!

2019 While I Was Reading Challenge

I finished this challenge last week and posted about the last couple of items this week (the other reading challenges I participated in this year were just “how many of X can you read?”, so there’s no real endpoint). Like last year, I thought it’d be no trouble whatsoever to get this done, and I’d just finish this by reading what I’d normally read. I was almost right. But not really.

I struggled to find one in a country I wanted to visit, well, just one, anyway–but Ireland (preferably Ronan Boyle’s Ireland, if it only existed) did the trick. I purchased another book for the “one word title” item, but didn’t find the time for it. Thankfully, Jacka’s books are always one word, so I ticked off that box anyway. I’d picked the last two books months ago, but struggled to find time for them. It all worked, it was nice to have something to force me to read some of these and

I’m doing this challenge again next year, I like the way that Romana Mead makes me think a little differently about what I choose to read—and because I enjoy reading some of the discussion on Facebook between participants. Am hoping I don’t have to race to get this finished next year, but . . . I think I know better.

Here’s my official list:

While I Was Reading 2019 Challenge

✔ A book with a curse word in the title: The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind by Jackson Ford
✔ A memoir or biography of a favorite celebrity: Riding the Elephant by Craig Ferguson
✔ An essay collection: Death Valley Superstars by Duke Haney
✔ A book with a one word title: Fallen by Benedict Jacka
✔ A classic you’ve been meaning to get to: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
✔ A book written by a comedian: Riding the Elephant by Craig Ferguson
✔ A book set in a country you’d like to visit: Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles by Thomas Lennon, John Hendrix
✔ A book by an author you’ve never read before: Flight of the Fox by Gray Basnight
✔ A book recommended by someone you trust: An Accidental Death (Audiobook) by Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson
✔ A book with your favorite animal on the cover or in the title: Heart of Barkness by Spencer Quinn
✔ A book mentioned in another book: The Art of War by by Sun Tzu, James Trapp (Translator)
✔ Read a book with “how to” in the title: How to Kill Friends and Implicate People by Jay Stringer

Thanksgiving 2019

Happy Thanksgiving/Turkey Day/Thursday

When I think about all the great things that have happened around the blog and behind the scenes this year leaves me at a loss for words, let me list a few things I’m thankful for—a very incomplete list, I assure you:

          bullet The readers of this blog, the authors who’ve corresponded with me/provided books for me to read/encouraged me—even promoted this here project.
          bullet The publicists, publishers, book tour hosts, etc. I’ve been working with this year who’ve especially made things great—I typically hesitate to mention any by name, so as to not inadvertently miss anyone and cause offense (and make me feel bad). But I want to mention a few by name this year—Lola’s Blog Tours, iREAD Book Tours, Bloodhound Books, Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers, Love Books Group, Let’s Talk Promotions, Lori Hettler of TNBBC Publicity and Emma at damppebbles blog tours. You have expanded (and pushed) my boundaries this year, exposed me to some great reads I’d have not tried, and put up with my quirks and memory lapses with grace.
          bullet Books
          bullet Authors!
          bullet Books
          bullet Coffee (and other beverages both caffeinated and adult)
          bullet Books
          bullet Time to read
          bullet Books
          bullet Easily finding an appropriate image for this post for the third year in a row—actually, two of them! (it was oddly difficult before)
          bullet Books
          bullet Audiobooks and talented narrators
          bullet The Nampa Public Library (and The LYNX! Consortium)—and their generous grace period, which is now late fine free!
          bullet Books
          bullet Rediscovered Bookshop, Rediscovered Bookshop – Caldwell and Libro.fm
          bullet Books
          bullet Goodreads, WordPress, NetGalley, BookLikes
          bullet Books
          bullet Evernote
          bullet Books
          bullet Organ Transplants and the good people at St. Luke’s Lifestyle Medicine (just to get serious for a moment)
          bullet Authors!
          bullet Authors!
          bullet My supportive, understanding and encouraging wife and kids who do a pretty decent job pretending to care when their old man drones on and on about what he’s reading or what’s going on with the blog.
          bullet Again, all of you who read, follow, like, tweet, comment, email, etc. this page—you have no idea how much every little bit is appreciated.

New Bookstore! Rediscovered Bookshop in Caldwell

I’ve mentioned Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise a time or three (or more)—it’s my go-to Independent Bookstore and has been for a long time. Well, last week they opened a new location—in my county, about 11 miles closer to me (but it seems closer than that). Which is good, I’ve been trying (and not really succeeding) to do a better job of shopping indie and doing less online, but it’s just too inconvenient to get into Downtown Boise as often as I want to. I expect (hope?) that this new location will make it easier for me to stick to my resolution.

I managed to stop by tonight for the first time, and walked away with a nice little haul (sorry for my poor photo quality):

I saw The White Man’s Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon out of the corner of my eye—kudos to whoever shelved it. This looks like a lot of fun. And what’s a trip to a bookstore without a good impulse buy?

And a 1975 hardcover edition of Rex Stout’s A Family Affair—it’s a book club edition, not the original printing, but it’s close enough. Best of all, I got it for a song. I’d have paid 5x what they asked for without blinking (Mrs. Irresponsible Reader probably would’ve blinked, though).

Lastly—and this is the personal touch that makes local indie stores invaluable—I was trying to special order a copy of Tom Jones, but one of the clerks insisted they had a copy. Their inventory didn’t show one, but he went off and looked through books that hadn’t been entered yet and came back with this spiffy hardcover in a slipcase. No online store is going to do that.

The location is fantastic—there’s a coffee shop right across the street, and right now there’s an ice skating rink, too. The space is great—and you can’t ask for friendlier, more helpful staff. It’s got it all.

Trying to Plan the Rest of 2019/Cutting Myself Some Slack

I’ve been feeling really under the gun lately—I’ve mentioned (I think) that I over-committed for Sept./Oct. I still have 2 books I told authors I’d read in October (and one other to write about). Plus a few new releases that I meant to read this fall that aren’t so new anymore. I still have one book that I’m committed for this month, and a short one next month (maybe one more in there…I’ll check my calendar later). Plus a handful of things that are on my “I will read this in 2019” list.

For some reason that I have trouble articulating (and I know that some of you get this, and many of you don’t understand), between some of those goals and the 50 days remaining in 2019, I’m feeling a lot of pressure.

All self-imposed, I realize, but that doesn’t change it.

So you know what I did this weekend? I took a look at a few of the things on my “Must Read in 2019” list and put them on the “Probably Get to in 2020” list. Including 5 library books—one habit I fell into (pre-blogging even) is that a library due date trumps just about anything else when it comes to reading. And I don’t take things back to the Library until I’ve read them. These are on their way back, though. I would’ve taken care of them Saturday, but it was too late by the time I decided this.

Fewer books on the “Must Read” list equals fewer books on the “Must Write About” list. Which is good—because that list is still ridiculously long. But I’ll do what I can, I’ll be a little briefer about some things than I want to be (some things), and probably do a few more “Quick Takes” posts.

You know what? I felt so much freer just by giving myself that option. And yeah, I realize that I’m probably not still going to be able to finish everything on my “Must” lists this year, but it seems a little more attainable.

I’m not saying that feeling is going to last, or that I’m not going to find a new way to apply stupid pressure to myself. But for now…I’ll take it.

Right after I scheduled this post (naturally), I saw these tweets from David W at FanFiAddict:

Which tie in nicely to this post on their blog (also, one I didn’t see until after I wrote this). Followers and ARCs aren’t my hangups (well, occasionally that ARC thing, but I get over it pretty easily). It’s the reading and writing pace (as people who’ve been here for a bit know all too well). “Just remember: THIS ISN’T YOUR JOB. You started a blog to share your enjoyment of books with others…Don’t fret over what you can’t do, but be excited about what you can.” That’s exactly what I was trying to tell myself. It was reassuring to see someone else say that about the same time. Thanks, David!

The Mail I Get. . .An Unexpected Blast from the Past

Imagine my surprise last week when I received this submission from my “You Want Me to Read Your Book?” form (slightly redacted to protect the sender):

I’m not sure this is the wisest thing I’ve ever done. In fact, it seems somewhat irrational, considering you found my last book a bit like chewing on glass [HCN: That’s an exaggeration. Possibly not much of one, but it’s an exaggeration. It was maybe like chewing on kale. Or stale Grape Nuts (which is more glass-like)] Maybe worse, because nothing is as bad as a bad book. But here I am again. Back for more.

Now, I’m not a sadist. I’m actually fairly thinned-skin. I realize, however, that of all my reviews, yours was the one that taught me the most. Getting five, four, or even three-star reviews feels great—but it does little in making me a better writer. Difficult as it was to swallow, your two-star review helped me immensely as a writer. You put your finger on why my book didn’t work and revealed many of the flaws in my writing. It eventually prompted me to go back and release a second edition of the book, one that is hopefully less overwrought and far more accessible than the version you read.

And so, I’m back for more. Because I’m hoping in having you review another book I might continue my growth towards being a better writer. Who knows, maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, I have a second book out… It is much more accessible… I would love to have you read it. Anyway, I hope you’re well. Happy reading,

Now, I have a habit of ignoring emails from authors I don’t give positive reviews to. It’s a habit I forced on myself after one horrible experience with someone I gave a positive review to, but he objected to one point; and an insult-filled rant from another author who didn’t appreciate me calling his pile of trash a pile of trash. If this author’s name had done more than ring a faint bell, I probably would’ve skipped it, too. But I’m very glad I didn’t. This is great to read — not because of what he said about me, but because he found a way to take something he didn’t like said about his work and turn it into a positive. Would that we all could do that.

Of course, I’m going to say yes to this. How can I do otherwise?