The entire world has changed seemingly overnight. No, that’s not true. COVID-19 had been brewing and building for months and months. Festering and threatening overseas. We knew it would come our American way, and yet. Yet! Here we are. I have been laid off from my job; have been quarantined for 40 plus days; have not seen the inside of a store of any kind; have not driven a car or talked face to face with another human being besides my Kisa. For over a month, I have been separated by screens and paranoia. I couldn’t even say goodbye to one of my closest friends for fear of contamination before he stole across borders towards a new home. Words like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Hangout, and Live Stream rule my daily existence. My insanity has been kept in check by these words, walking 8-9 miles a day, writing letters, and finishing chores I always said I would get to but never did (sewing ripped clothes, making curtains, hanging art, you name it). The one activity I haven’t done much of is…read.
Nothing bothers me more than someone saying, “think of all the time you have to read!” They mean well but they just don’t know. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time reading. When I could get away with it, my nose was constantly in a book. In the dead of winter, when the summer tides of friends had gone out, I was left with my sister and a handful of kids close in age. Close, but not quite. Dead low tide was a boy one year older. A girl three years younger. A boy two years older. A boy four years younger. No one exactly shared my birth year. I found myself turning to friends within the pages of books. Lots and lots of books. Lots and lots of friends. My dad was not a fan of these relationships. He viewed fiction as leisure or worse, laziness. “Get outside! Get some fresh air!” was his constant bark from early October through May. His bark was so biting I grew up fearing fiction was a form of loafing; something to never to be caught doing in broad daylight. I remember smuggling Nancy Drew under my shirt when I went to the school bathroom; ducking under covers with a flashlight to join Bilbo on his great adventure; climbing trees with Stephen King clenched in my teeth. Hiding to hang out with a paperback became normal.
In 2006 when I started the BookLust Challenge, I thought I had slayed the old insecurities. I thought I could spend time with a book without guilt. For fourteen years I held onto this belief as a private gospel…until I got laid off and I couldn’t sit on the couch with a book. All the old feelings of leisure, loafing, laziness came flooding back. Guilt. I realized I only read when I was killing time, waiting for something else. Constructive book devouring? I don’t know. For years, I could juggle reading 5-6 books at a time and finish 10 in a month. But! That was when I was on hold with a vendor, bored in the boardroom, waiting in line at the grocery store, fighting nerves in the doctor’s office, sitting as a passenger on long car/train/plane/boat rides. Reading kept me from waiting for anything. Take all the time you need while I finish this chapter…
I have been out of work for one month, collecting unemployment equal to my take-home pay and yet I’ve only managed to finish two books. I guess I could try to tell myself I am waiting to go back to work, but that’s too abstract for my too literal mind. Mayday! Mayday, I can’t read.
I always said I will die before I officially finish the reading Challenge. Now I know it to be true.
I started this book challenge thing in November of 2006. Since then I have read over 1,000 books, thanks to Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust series. I’ve had fun. I’ve learned a lot. But, it’s time for a change. No, I’m not quitting the challenge…just changing some things up a little. All things have a natural progression. If you were to look at my first reviews in 2006 I didn’t mention an author fact or any book trivia. In a lot of reviews I didn’t even find a favorite line to quote as proof I read the book. Those elements of the review evolved slowly over time. Recently, I found two more details that need to change and, unlike the previous changes, these come with an announcement instead of a slow introduction.
The first is simple. If Pearl says something specific about a book or author I want to note it, so I’m starting a “Nancy said” sentence right after book trivia. If she didn’t say anything other than to list the title, oh well. I think this addition to the review is a natural one, since I have been mentioning what Nancy said about some titles. Case in point: Pearl liked Halberstam’s The Fifties and I made note of that.
The second change is very dramatic (to me in my own little world anyway). This change literally throws all my comparison stats out the window. I am moving the anniversary to a calendar year. For ten years now I have counted the books read between December 1st and November 30th as a complete year. It’s too complicated that way for reasons I can’t get into right now. Let’s just say a January 1st to December 31 cycle will work best. Let the (new) games begin!
Can I talk about books and running at the same time? I just have to. In the August batch of the Early Review program for LibraryThing I “won” a book called The Boy Who Runs by John Brant. I was pretty excited to read it because as you may have guessed from my other ramblings besides books I’m pretty excited about running. [Reading about running is probably the next best thing to running.] Notice I said I was pretty excited to read it. Past tense. Was. It would have been all well and good if I had actually received the book. Because I haven’t. Not yet. Bummer.
Fast forward to this week. Another message on LibraryThing. “Congratulations, you have won Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham.” Another Early Review book! Under normal circumstances I would be beside myself with joy. Besides being excited about books and and being excited about running I am pretty excited about yoga for athletes. [I’ll give you an example: I won Yoga for Runners by Christine Felstead in 2014 and I STILL use it as a bible for routines both before and after runs. I not only read and reread her book, I went on to buy not one but two of her yoga videos. I became a huge fan all because of LibraryThing and the Early Review program.] But, getting back to my original rant. Notice I said would be beside myself with joy. Would be. I’m not beside myself with joy because in the past 12 months I haven’t received three books (four if you count Dorothea’s book that I can’t seem to get ER to acknowledge). Given that track record there is a chance Cunningham’s book won’t make it to me. Bummer. It’s not LT’s fault. I know once I’ve “won” a book it’s up to the publisher to get it to me.
The good news is Cunningham’s book is slated to be published this coming Tuesday. I’ll wait a month and borrow it from my local library.
Has anyone else noticed this? My reading has gotten out of control. And when I say out of control I mean Out.Of.Control. Case in point: in 2013 I only read four books off the Challenge list. Natalie Merchant, my sister, my job and a friend all made book recommendations that I took. Four books. In 2014 I read ten books off the Challenge list. Five were all about running and five were gifts or recommendations. Ten books. In 2015 I read fifteen off Challenge list books. Fifteen books! We are only 2 1/2 months into March and already I have read nine off-Challenge-list books. This has GOT to STOP. At this rate I will never, ever finish the Challenge list. I keep spending time with books I shouldn’t. I’m pulling my hair out. You just can’t see me.
As of right now I am currently reading two books that are not on the Challenge list. Both are books that should have been Early Review books. So, here is the plan: I am going to finish up those books (In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White and Why the Grateful Dead Matter by Michael Benson) and then return to reading from the list as much as possible. I need to stop reading titles not indexed in the Lust books, drop books that have nothing to do with the Challenge and reload the ones that do. The end.
This should be my favorite month because I’ve been so deeply tied to Just ‘Cause (think pink) and I love, love, love Halloween. But, all I can think about is the run. Here are the books, by the way!
Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan In a Strange City by Laura Lippman By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman Recognitions by William Gaddis Maus by Art Spiegelman Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan) The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat In Xanadu by William Dalrymple The Assault by Harry Mulisch Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London Alma Mater by P.F Kluge Old Man & Me by Elaine Dundy Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy Good Life by Ben Bradlee Underworld by Don DeLillo Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce Herb ‘n’ Lorna by Eric Kraft Polish Officer by Alan Furst– Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan Walden by Henry David Throreau Reservations Recommended by Eric Kraft Selected Letters of Norman Mailer edited by J. Michael Lennon Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose Broom of the System by David Wallace Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan Little Follies by Eric Kraft Literary Murder by Batya Gur Bob Marley, My Son by Cedella Marley Booker Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery Southern Mail by Antoine de Saint- Exupery Measure of All Things, the by Ken Alder Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson Royal Flash by George Fraser Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan ADDED: Castle in the Backyard by Betsy Draine Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan Where Do You Stop? by Eric Kraft Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma Petra: lost city by Christian Auge From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese Flashman at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser What a Piece of Work I Am by Eric Kraft Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan Murder Duet by Batya Gur Flashman in the Great Game – George MacDonald Fraser At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc Grifters by Jim Thompson Snow Angels by James Thompson
So Many Roads: the life and Times of the Grateful Dead by David Browne
Short story: Drinking with the Cook by Laura Furman Short Story: Hagalund by Laura Furman Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin Not so Short story: The Last of Mr. Norris by Christopher Isherwood short story: Jack Landers is My Friend by Daniel Stolar short story: Marriage Lessons by Daniel Stolar Light in August by William Faulkner Not so Short story: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood A Comedy & A Tragedy by Travis Hugh Culley
Feed Zone by Biju Thomas Leaving Small’s Hotel by Eric Kraft Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan by John DeFrancis Faster! by James Gleick
Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett ADDED: Families and Survivors by Alice Adams Inflating a Dog by Eric Kraft
Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett
Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser
Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving Petty by Warren Zanes
Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Homicide by David Simon
- Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (AB)
- Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett
- Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser
- ADDED: A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez (ER)
- ADDED: Crows Over a Wheatfield by Paula Sharp
- ADDED: Time Traveler: In Search of Dinosaurs and Ancient Mammals from Montana to Mongolia by Michael Novacek
- Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (Nov)
- Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser (Nov)
- Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (Nov)
- Andorra by Peter Cameron (Nov)
DNF = Did Not Finish; AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review; DNS = Did Not Start; EB = E-Book
May is going to be a crazy month. I have no idea why I have so many books scheduled for this month. Have I gone mad? I doubt I will get through nine, count ’em, nine books in 31 days but there you have it. This is the list. In other news May
is was: a trip to Toronto & a half marathon; & will be a trip to Bolton and a 60 mile walk. I think I am crazy. Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan(DNF) In a Strange City by Laura Lippman By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman (AB) Recognitions by William Gaddis(DNF) Maus by Art Spiegelman Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz (AB)
Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson (ER) Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan) The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (AB)
In Xanadu by William Dalrymple The Assault by Harry Mulisch Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose
Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore
Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London
Alma Mater by P.F Kluge
Old Man & Me by Elaine Dundy
Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
Good Life by Ben Bradlee Underworld by Don DeLillo Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban
Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan Finnegan’s Wake by James JoyceDNF Herb ‘n’ Lorna by Eric Kraft Polish Officer by Alan Furst – AB Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan Walden by Henry David Throreau Reservations Recommended by Eric Kraft
Selected Letters of Norman Mailer edited by J. Michael Lennon – ER
Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle
Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur
Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe
Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose
Broom of the System by David Wallace
Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan Little Follies by Eric Kraft
Literary Murder by Batya Gur
ADDED: Bob Marley, My Son by Cedella Marley Booker (ER) ADDED: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Southern Mail by Antoine de Saint- Exupery Measure of All Things, the by Ken Alder (AB)
Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson
Royal Flash by George Fraser
- Fifties by David Halberstam (Apr – DNS)
Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur
Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan(DNF) ADDED: Castle in the Backyard by Betsy Draine (EB)
Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan(DNF)
- ADDED: Where Do You Stop? by Eric Kraft (May/Feb)
Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren (ER)
- Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur (May)
- Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser (May)
- Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma (May)
- Petra: lost city by Christian Auge (May)
- From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman (May)
- Jordan by E. Borgia (May)
- Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (May)
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (AB/May)
- Flash at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser (Jun/Apr)
- ADDED: What a Piece of Work I Am by Eric Kraft (Jun/Feb)
- Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett (Jun)
- Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Jun)
- Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill (Jun)
- Millstone by Margaret Drabble (Jun)
Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan(DNF) Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan(DNF)
- At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft (Jul/Feb)
- Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill (Jul)
- Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme (Jul)
- New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc (Jul)
- Grifters by Jim Thompson (Jul)
- Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Jul)
- Snow Angels by James Thompson (Jul)
- Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill (Aug)
- ADDED: Leaving Small’s Hotel by Eric Kraft (Aug/Feb)
- Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser (Aug)
- Possession by AS Byatt (Aug)
- In the Footsteps of Ghanghis Khan by John DeFrancis (Aug)
- What Just Happened by James Gleick (Aug)
- Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (Aug)
- ADDED: Inflating a Dog by Eric Kraft (Sep/Feb)
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (Sep)
- Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser (Sep)
- Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett (Sep)
- Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (Sep)
- Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Sep)
- Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Sep)
- Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (Oct)
- Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill (Oct)
- Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett (Oct)
- Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser (Oct)
- Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (Nov)
- Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Collin Cotterill (Nov)
- Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser (Nov)
- Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (Nov)
- Andorra by Peter Cameron (Nov)
DNF = Did Not Finish; AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review; DNS = Did Not Start; EB = Electronic book
As you may or may not know and as you may or may not care, I miscounted the books left to go in my Book Lust Challenge. I had previously decided I was going to embrace the new number and move on. Obviously, I didn’t embrace and I haven’t moved on. I am still trying to figure out how I miscounted. But. But! But, in that figuring out, I think I’m beginning to get answers. Go figure.
The root of the problem lies in what was indexed. Across all three Book Lusts the editors were not consistent with what information should be included. In Book Lust any book mentioned in the introduction was not included in the index. Full titles were not listed. A lot of the poetry and short stories were missed. In all, there were over 140 mistakes in the index of Book Lust. Now, let’s look at More Book Lust. 18 titles didn’t make it into the index and most of those were either poetry or short stories. Full titles were included (unlike Book Lust). In Book Lust To Go instead of missing information there was an overabundance of information. For starters, take the titles Le Marriage and Le Divorce. These two titles are indexed twice – once under L for Le and once under M and D for Marriage and Divorce, respectively. Two titles, four entries in the index. Duh. Another issue – only in Book Lust To Go is the series title indexed along with the individual books within the series. Example: Kristen Lavransdatter is the name of the series and it is composed of The Cross, The Wife, and The Wreath. Three books, four entries in the index. Interestingly enough, Kristen Lavransdatter is also indexed in More Book Lust but only by the series title. There is no mention of The Cross, The Wife or The Wreath. Surprise! Bottom line, I don’t really know how many individual titles I have to read. Meh.
So, as you can see (clear as mud) I am trying to sort out the titles. This is going to take some time. I’ll try not to go crazy.