Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Wrap-Up: Thoughts and Stats

And so we close the book on 2018...

As I said in the previous post, this has been a year of distraction for me... primarily political. As a result, it has not been especially productive in terms of reading or blogging.

  • My overall numbers are the lowest - ever.
  • I did not accept any books for review.
  • I did not join any challenges - not even the goodreads challenge.
  • I participated in only a handful of events and readalongs.
  • I did not write formal book reviews, opting instead for one paragraph reaction/ratings included with my weekly wrap-up posts.
  • I pretty much read what I wanted, when I wanted.

Number Of Books Read
46 - the lowest number, ever (I won't blame it all on politics... this was our first full year of retirement and life seems busier than ever!)

56% / 44% - the same as last year

Female/Male authors
80% / 20% - a record!
Also worth noting, all of my favorite books of 2018 were written by women.

New authors/ tried-and-true authors
50/50 split - I've been less adventurous than usual

In translation
none - How is this possible??*#@!!

4 -  positively dismal :(

29 - 17 audio only, 12 read/listen combinations
**over 60% of my reading included an audio component this year, the most ever. More walking is a good thing!

Shortest & longest book:
Lift  by Kelly Corrigan, 96 pages
The Duke's Children  by Anthony Trollope, 840 pages

Most popular & least popular book:
(based on number of goodreads ratings)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine  by Gail Honeyman - 324,105 other readers
I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays  by Elinor Lipman - 977 other readers

Repeat authors:
Meg Wolitzer  - 3 books read this year
Anthony Trollope  - 3
Min Jin Lee  - 2
Kelly Corrigan  - 2
Elin Hilderbrand  - 2

2018 bookish highlights:

  • Finishing our #PalliserParty
  • Nonfiction November
  • Visiting The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA
  • Lakeside Musing's 10th anniversary (which I failed to celebrate!)

Plans for 2019:

  • continue reading literary fiction, classics, and nonfiction... but MORE of everything!
  • post weekly updates
  • join a few fun events (like Nonfiction November)
  • participate in Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge
  • read more of my own books
  • participate in readalongs (Did I really not do one with Care this year?)

Thank you all for reading and talking about books with me again this year.
Happy New Year 2019!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

My Favorite Books of 2018

Reflecting back on 2018, this seems to have been a year of distractions... mostly political. I often found it hard to concentrate on reading and that's reflected in my overall numbers. Still, I read some great books. These are my favorites of 2018 - obviously not all were published this year.


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
My number one book of the year... and my book club loved it, too.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
Meg Wolitzer is at the top of her game here... this is a brilliant, well-written novel. I read it shortly before the movie was released, but still haven't seen the film.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
I read three novels by Meg Wolitzer this year. This, her most recent, is a character-driven story that's hard to put down. A read/listen combination for me, Rebecca Lowman's narration is perfection.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
I loved the structure, writing, and the way this story slowly unfolded... easily a 5-star read!

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
One of a handful of  2018 releases I read, this 5-star book was reminiscent of The Big Chill.

Improvement by Joan Silber
These short stories are connected only tangentially, but form something unique and beautiful when woven together.

Much more contemporary than Pachinko, and a rollicking good story!

This is the book everyone seems to have read. I still find myself thinking about Eleanor.


by Nina Willner, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
My favorite nonfiction this year. Excellent on audio.

by Debby Irving, narrated by the author
An eye-opening book! I went on to read several other race-related titles.

by Kate Moore, narrated by Angela Brazil
A read/listen combination, this book has everything I love in nonfiction - science and medicine, a legal battle, human drama, and good writing, too!

Honorable Mention:

I'll be back with one more post of final stats and thoughts to wrap up 2018 and a look ahead to 2019. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Late December Update and Mini-Reviews

December is nearly over, and it's been quite a month. The girls were home for the holidays, my sister-in-law stayed with us for several days, and we hosted or attended family gatherings galore. It was wonderful!

I'm still recovering from a bad cold and bronchitis, which I unfortunately shared with my husband. We had planned to leave for Florida today, but with neither of us feeling 100%, it's taking longer to get Christmas put away and pack for the trip. We're hoping to hit the road early New Years Day.

Before I post my 2018 wrap-up and favorites, I want to tell you about my final few books of the year. I still may finish my current read, Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny, over the weekend though...

The Dukes's Children by Anthony Trollope

It's taken two years, but I've finally finished the Palliser series! The Duke's Children was a fitting conclusion to Trollope's grand story, though I was particularly disappointed in the fate of one character. As always, I approached this long classic as a read/listen combination. I began reading the newly restored edition, which contains 200 pages previously cut by the publishers. Unfortunately, there is no restored audio edition so, after much frustration, I switched to the standard/free ebook.

The Duke's Children is described as "a compelling exploration of wealth, pride and ultimately the strength of love." It was easily a 4-star read for me, despite the fate of the above-mentioned character... and Simon Vance's annoying and overly sharp American accent.

Overall, I much prefer the Barsetshire Chronicles and would love to reread that series one day. But in 2019, it's time to move on to Trollope's stand-alone novels... possibly beginning with Rachel Ray  or Miss Makenzie.

Finally, I want to thank my intrepid reading companion, Audrey, for sharing this Trollopian adventure with me. I've enjoyed our #PalliserParty so much and am already looking forward to the next project... whatever it might be.

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

It's a story we've all read before. Husband dies suddenly and tragically; grieving family discovers his alternate, secret life. To be honest, I almost set this novel aside at 25%... but then somehow Elin Hilderbrand (or maybe the tropical vibe) managed to suck me in.

Set in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as opposed to her usual Nantucket, Winter in Paradise is the first in what will be a series of three books. As expected, this episode ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, begging the reader to turn the page... but we'll have to wait until next year. It's a far cry from the Quinn family of the Winter series, but I'll likely return for more.

Improvement by Joan Silber

I loved this book! In fact, Joan Silber is one of my favorite author discoveries of 2018. Improvement is actually a collection of short stories... connected, but only tangentially. They take the reader from New York City, to Turkey and Germany, and, when woven together, form something unique and beautiful. I look forward to reading more of this author. Thank you, Amy, for the recommendation.

I hope you've managed to find time to read during this busy season, too. What book will carry you into the New Year?

Monday, December 17, 2018

A Monday Update: December 17, 2018

We're midway through December and holiday preparations are in high gear... the shopping is mostly done (though I'd better get busy wrapping!) and I spent several afternoons baking with my mother. Last weekend we visited out NYC daughters, took in The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, ate at my favorite restaurant, visited the American Museum of Natural History, and, of course, spent time in the bookstores.

This past weekend was pretty low-key. My annual winter cold arrived early and I spent most of yesterday on the couch.

Current reading//

The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope

The sixth and final Palliser novel is so good! I'm reading with Audrey and, again, we seem to be strangely in sync with our progress. If I'm not feeling better, I may spend another day reading and possibly even finish...

Book club//

My book club's annual holiday luncheon was last week... delicious food, a chance to catch up, and an excellent discussion. We talked about Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and decided to stay in South Africa for another month with The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. I won't be around in January, but it sounds very good. Have you read it?

On the blog//

For the first time in years, I've signed up for a challenge!

In the kitchen//

At this time of year, quick and easy dinners are a must. After an afternoon of baking Christmas cookies with my mother, the last think I want to do is cook. Last week I made Four-Spice Salmon from the New York Times, Lemony Lentil Soup from Gimme Some Oven, and an incredibly easy Sweet and Sour Chicken in the slow cooker from The Kitchn. Notes on the chicken: I left it in the crockpot longer than recommended and I might add some pineapple chunks next time.

The week ahead//

So much to do... I really need to get over this cold! Our daughters are coming home on Friday and, hopefully, my SIL will also be visiting. We'll have dinner for twelve on Christmas Eve and our traditional brunch with the girls on Christmas Day. Later, we all go to my sister's for a "Yankee Swap" and dinner.

I'll be back here after Christmas with my list of favorites, 2018 wrap-up, and plans for 2019.

How was your week? What are you reading?

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019

While reviewing my reading list and statistics for 2018, I was struck by its haphazardness and began to wonder whether I'd carried the whole free-range reading idea a little too far. In addition, my classics reading is dramatically lower. I'll have more to say in my year-end posts, but for now it's clear that more structure is needed in 2019.

To that end, I have decided to take part in Back to the Classics Challenge 2019 hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate.  It's been years since I've participated in any reading challenge, but this sounds like a good one.

Karen says:
I hope to encourage readers and bloggers to tackle all the classic books we've never gotten around to reading. And at the end, one lucky winner will receive a $30 (US) gift of books from or The Book Depository! The rules and the prize are the same as last year, but I think I've come up with some fun new categories. 
If you're new to the challenge, here's how it works:
Complete six categories, and you'll get one entry in the drawing;
Complete nine categories, and you'll get two entries in the drawing;
Complete all twelve categories, and you'll get three entries in the drawing.
Here are the twelve categories and the book I've selected for each. My choices will probably change as the year progresses, but I understand that's allowed ;-)

The Categories:

1. 19th Century Classic: Rachel Ray  by Anthony Trollope

2. 20th Century Classic: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest  by Ken Kesey

3. Classic by a Female Author: Delta Wedding  by Eudora Welty

4. Classic in Translation: Grand Hotel  by Vicki Baum

5. Classic Comedy: Cold Comfort Farm  by Stella Gibbons

6. Classic Tragedy: The Return of the Native  by Thomas Hardy

7. Very Long Classic: Wives and Daughters  by Elizabeth Gaskell

8. Classic Novella: The Bunner Sisters  by Edith Wharton

9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean): The Grapes of Wrath  by John Steinbeck

10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia): Some Prefer Nettles  by  Junichiro Tanizaki

11. Classic From a Place You've Lived: The Beautiful and the Damned  by F. Scott Fitzgerald

12. Classic Play: Our Town  by Thornton Wilder

This challenge will help me make some much-needed progress with my second Classics Club list, too. Wish me luck!  Have you considered this challenge?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Midweek Update: December 5, 2018

And now it's December.

November was a blur... the first half in Florida, then back to New York for Thanksgiving. We'll stay here through Christmas, enjoying time with family, buried in snow.

Thanksgiving was the best. We hosted dinner for twenty, then twenty-two for "leftovers" on Friday. The annual Family Christmas Party, complete with Yankee Swap, was at my cousin's on Saturday, and more holiday activities on Sunday. The girls returned to Manhattan Monday... I needed two days to recover!

As for the books, Nonfiction November is history (my summary is here) and our #PalliserParty is back... the grand finale is now underway.

Finished this week//

by Clemantine Wamariya

This is the first book I've read about the Rwandan genocide. When the author was six years old, she and her older sister were separated from their family and spent the next six years as refugees in various African countries. They were then granted refugee status in the U.S., where Clemantine eventually went on to get a degree from Yale. An intense read, but I found the shifts between her time as a refugee and her experiences in the Unites States jarring. A chronological timeline would have been preferable.

by Elinor Lipman, narrated by the author

I've been a fan of Elinor Lipman's novels for some time, but didn't know she'd published an essay collection until Penny mentioned it on goodreads. The book is divided into four sections: Meet the Family, On Writing, Coupling Columns, and Since Then. Topics range from the light-hearted to more serious subjects... from golf and All My Children (remember that soap opera?) to widowhood and caring for aging parents. I loved the audio version - it's short, under four hours,  and she reads it herself!

Current reading//

The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope

"The truth is he's a nasty, brawling, boasting, ill-conditioned little reptile."

As always, it's a delight to return to Trollope's world. And what could be better than sharing the experience with a like-minded reader? Audrey and I, in an effort to finish the series by the end of the year, have started reading the sixth and final novel. Our #PalliserParty is nearly over.

Like the other books in the series, this is a read/listen combination for me. I have purchased a copy of the newly-restored (and nearly a third longer) edition, but my frustration is mounting as there is no corresponding audio version. I love listening, but hate to miss anything.

Up next//

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

My library hold is here at last. It's become my tradition to read one of Hilderbrand's winter books around the holidays. This is the first in a new series, and her first novel set outside of Nantucket - it takes place in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. I can't wait to get started!

On the blog//

Nonfiction November Week #5: It's a Wrap

It's time to start thinking about year-end posts... my list of favorites, a new project (I miss Trollope already!) and goals for 2019. I really need a reprise of the TBR Triple Dog Dare... I seem to be losing ground in that department. What do you say James?

That's it for me today....  what's new with you? What have you been reading?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Nonfiction November Week #5: It's a Wrap

Nonfiction November is wrapping up this week with a look at books added to our reading lists.
Week 5: (Nov. 26 to 30) – New to My TBR (hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey): It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book.

Let's begin with Nonfiction titles I've read this month... all were recommended by fellow bloggers and/or Nonfiction November participants:

Recommended by Angela at Musings of a Literary Wanderer, this was a 5-star read and a nonfiction favorite this year. My brief revere is here.

by Trevor Noah, narrated by the author
Plenty of bloggers list this among their nonfiction favorites. It's been in my audible library for quite some time and is my book club's December selection. I can't wait for the discussion... it should be a good one.

by Kelly Corrigan, narrated by the author
This book was mentioned by so many  bloggers in their "My Year in Nonfiction" posts, including Susie at Novel Visits, Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves, and Melissa Firman among others. It was a very good audio, but keep the tissues handy.

Lift by Kelly Corrigan, narrated by the author
This short book (under two hours on audio) was recommended by my friend Les at Coastal Horizons. I listened to it immediately after finishing Tell Me More. That may have reduced its impact, but Lift was still a worthwhile listening experience.

by Elinor Lipman, narrated by the author
I've been a fan of Lipman's fiction for years, but never knew she wrote nonfiction until Penny at Literary Hoarders mentioned this title. I immediately downloaded it from my library via hoopla... loved every essay!

by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
Clemantime Wamariya was just six years old when she, along with her fifteen-year-old sister, fled their Rwandan village, spent another six years in refugee camps and wandering around Africa, before finally landing in the United States. This book tells her story. I learned about it earlier this month fromTara at Running 'n Reading and Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves.

Some Additions to my TBR list:

The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco CantĂș
(recommended by Tara at Running 'n Reading)

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
 (Robin at A Fondness For Reading)

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
(Katie at Doing Dewey)

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves)

The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More by Annie Raser-Rowland,  Adam Grubb (Louise at A Strong Belief in Wicker)

God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright
(What's Nonfiction?)

My Nonfiction November Posts:

Nonfiction November Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction
Nonfiction November Week #3: Reading About Race

And finally, thank you to our hosts:

Katie at Doing Dewey
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Julz at JulzReads
Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness
Rennie at What’s Nonfiction

I appreciate your time and effort... this is my favorite blogging event of the year!

Monday, November 19, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? - November 19, 2018

It's Monday and we're back in snowy central New York. The view from my window is a painful contrast to last week's beach walks, but I'm really happy to see my parents and siblings. We'll stay up here through the holidays.

Finished this week//

by Trevor Noah, narrated by the author
I finished listening to this book on the plane Friday night. It seems like everyone has read it, so  I don't plan to write a review. This is the December selection for my book club and I'm sure we'll have a great discussion... it really is as good as everyone says :)

Current reading//

by Kelly Corrigan, narrated by the author
This was recommended by several bloggers during week 1 of Nonfiction November... and I'm loving it, too!

by Laura Shapiro
Purchased on the recommendation of a book club friend, this book has been on my shelf for at least a couple of years. I love books about food almost as much as books about books... this one is very entertaining so far.

On the blog//

Nonfiction November, Week 3: Reading About Race

In the kitchen//
I'm gearing up for Thanksgiving. We will, as usual, host dinner for my family. The crowd will be slightly smaller this year... under 20.

The week ahead//
I'm making my final grocery lists this morning, then we'll battle the early holiday crowd at Wegmans. Thanksgiving set-up and serious cooking begin tomorrow. Our Manhattan daughters arrive tomorrow evening. So many activities planned between now and Sunday.... no wonder it's my favorite week of the year!

How was your week? What are you reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Nonfiction November, Week 3: Reading About Race

As Nonfiction November moves into week 4, I'm playing catch up with week 3's prompt:
Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert - hosted by Julie @ JulzReads: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Reading About Race

Though it's been a couple of years, I must begin this post with Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book has had a profound impact on the way I think about race and the racial issues facing our country today.

 I read a few more books about race this year:

In this book, the author speaks very candidly about her awakening to race, racial issues, and her previous pattern of avoidance. She comes to realize that white IS, in fact, a race. This was a fascinating book... I've never read anything quite like it. It sent me in search of hard information... something more scientific and less subjective.

by Robin DiAngelo
This turned out to be just what I was looking for... not as personal, backed up by research. It also includes plenty of resources and suggestions for further reading. But before tackling those lists,  I returned to memoir...

This is my book club's December selection... and fits in nicely with my theme. Noah talks about his childhood in South Africa during and after apartheid. This extended my "race in the US" scope, but kept me reading on topic.

Books I'd Like to Read

by Shannon Sullivan

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Can you recommend other books for my list?

Previous Be the Expert/Ask the Expert  posts:
2017 - Books About Books 
2016 - Supreme Reading (The Supreme Court)
2015 - Nonfiction Foodie Favorites


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