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?


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