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My annual reading recap and refresh post is a little late this year, but when I originally planned on posting it, I had not actually reached my goal of reading 36 books last year yet….so I’m glad I waited!
Initially, I did not consider the year a success in the reading department. I made a lot of plans at the end of last year, first and foremost to read 36 books in 2018, as well as be part of two reading challenges. I only just barely met the 36 books goal and did not complete any of the reading challenge fully. I’ve racked up excuses in my mind, but what it boils down to is that I just didn’t have time to read. With homeschooling and client work and picture study aids and writing magazine articles and, well, life in general, I just didn’t have a whole lot of extra time to sink into books. In some regards, I think putting the goals on myself actually made reading really unenjoyable because I was discouraged by falling behind and, with the challenges, felt that I was stuck reading books that I really didn’t have any interest in because they fit a category for one of the challenges. I’m offering myself grace in this, though, and learning from it for next year.
Anyway, I don’t really do new year resolutions but I do like to go over goals and challenges in terms of reading at the end of the year to share how I did and what I’d like to do in the coming year. As I mentioned, my main goal overall was to read 36 books and in my post at the end of last year, I said I was not going to count children’s books because this reading challenge was supposed to be for me! But then I got to the end of the year and was sorely behind (thus sorely sad), so I started looking at some of those children’s chapter books I read and asked myself why I couldn’t count them? Most of them I enjoyed reading as well, so there was really no point in putting yet another needless rule on myself. Thus I counted them and no guilt ensued. So this is a new rule going forth….I can count children’s books for the overall count and for challenges as long as they fit the rules (for instance, in Back to the Classics, she only allows 3 children’s books total to be used). I think this makes more sense especially as my kids get older the the books I read with them are not necessarily only for kids anyway!
(Books published before 1968.)
- 19th-century classic: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (review here)
- 20th-century classic: Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher (review here)
- Classic by a female author: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (review here)
- Classic in translation: The Wife by Sigrid Undset (review here)
- Children’s classic: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (review here)
- Classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (review here)
- Classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (review here)
Classic with a single-word title(I started to read Orlando but had a difficult time getting into it) Classic with a color in the title
- Classic by an author who is new to you: Right Ho, Jeeves by P.H. Wodehouse (review here)
Classic that scares you
- Re-read a favorite classic: Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder (review here)
I discovered just a few weeks ago that I never actually signed up for this challenge, so this is all just on my own. I managed 9 of the 12 categories with two of them (besides the one category specifically for children’s books) being children’s books. Two are Jane Austen because she has become my default when it comes to classics. I read Understood Betsy, James and the Giant Peach, and Farmer Boy with B. I also have all of the Kristin Lavransdatter books on Kindle and I read The Wreath last year, so The Wife felt natural for this year’s book in translation. However, it took me soooooo long to read. That was another problem. Whereas most of the classics I read in 2016 and 2017 were surprisingly compelling and I had few troubles getting through them, this year I just really, really struggled. Even Jane didn’t deliver well and Mansfield Park was a beast (500 pages!).
Modern Classics Challenge 2018 (10/12)
(Books published after 1968.)
- Book from the 1970s: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (review here)
Book from the 1980s
- Book from the 1990s: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (review here)
- Book from the 21st Century: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (review here)
- Nonfiction: Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (review here)
- Biography or Historical Account: Vermeer: A View of Delft by Anthony Bailey (review here)
- Fiction: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (review here)
- Children’s Book: Poppy by Avi (review here)
- A Banned Book:Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (review here)
- An Award Winning Book: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (review here)
- A Book in Translation: The Awakening of Miss. Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (review here)
- A Book Made into a Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (review here)
I heard about this one in January and decided it sounded like a nice counter to the Back to the Classics Challenge. I did actually sign up for this one last year, but I’m not sure if I want to sign up for both this one and Back to the Classics for 2019. She just announced the categories for 2019, and regardless whether I sign up or not, I’ll most likely at least play along at home.
Admittedly in this one, the Harry Potter series dominates because I finally read through all of the books for the first time earlier in the year. I keep track of what books might fit for each category in a Google spreadsheet which I share with a few friends and when one of them found out I was reading the HP series, she went ahead and put all of the books into each category they’d fit into for me. 🙂
- a classic you’ve been meaning to read: Right Ho, Jeeves by P.H. Wodehouse (review here)
- a book recommended by someone with great taste: Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (review here)
- a book in translation:The Awakening of Miss. Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (review here)
a book nominated for an award in 2018 a book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection
- a book you can read in a day: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (review here)
- a book that’s more than 500 pages: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (review here)
- a book by a favorite author: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (review here)
a book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller
- a banned book: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (review here)
- a memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (review here)
- a book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own: Swing Time by Zadie Smith (review here)
A friend of mine really likes this challenge, so I added it to our shared book-reading spreadsheet. I used to do this one before I found the Back to the Classics Challenge and it’s not one you actually sign up for, so there’s little pressure to complete all the categories. I think it adds nice variety and allows you to read a book of any age.
Goals for 2019
My overall goal of 36 books last year, with the intent that I finish one non-fiction, one classic, and one modern novel each month, was a challenge, but I also don’t feel that I really made reading as much of a priority as I should. I felt good about 36 last year and I feel good about it again this year, so I’ll go with it. Three books per month….that’s all!
At this point, I think I’m only going to sign up for the Back to the Classics Challenge this year because it’s the most important to me and two years ago, when I did it the first time and that was the only one I did, I read 46 books. I’m wondering if part of the problem with how much I read this year was that I put too many rules on myself, which I’m prone to do.
I’m also primarily looking at books that are 300 pages or less (unless the category calls for more). In 2018, the (non-children’s) books I read ranged anywhere from 96 pages to 870, with the average being 394 pages. The Harry Potter books in particular were very long, but many of the books I had on my list were 500+ pages and that’s just not realistic, unless I’m only aiming to read long books. It’s made all the worse if it’s a book that I really don’t care for but feel like I have to get through to meet the requirement, which means it’ll take me months to get through. If I don’t like a book, I’m going to put it down. Life is too busy to read books I don’t like right now.
I’m also going to make use of Brandy’s Mother Culture Habit Tracker sheets to try and be more intentional about my reading. Despite the chaos of life right now, I feel like I should be able to fit 30 minutes a day in somewhere, even if it’s just an audiobook while I’m folding laundry. Maybe? Hopefully?
So here are a few ideas for the Back to the Classics Challenge in 2019…
- 19th-century classic: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1818)
- 20th-century classic: Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R. Tolkien (1949)
- classic by a female author: The Cross by Sigrid Undset (the final book in the Kristin Lavransdatter series which I’ve read over the last two years)
- classic in translation: Candide by Voltaire (French)
- classic comedy: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
- classic tragedy: 1984 by George Orwell or Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (because I have to put that somewhere on my list every year and then never actually read it)
- very long classic (>500 pages): The Once and Future King by T.H. White (639 pages)
- classic novella (<250 pages): Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley (152 pages – I own The Haunted Bookshop but have never read this one)
- classic from the Americas (includes the Caribbean): The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (Mexico)
- classic from Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia): Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
- classic from a place you’ve lived: My Ántonia by Willa Cather (Nebraska) or Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (Minnesota) or Song of the Lark by Willa Cather (Colorado)
- classic play: The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
Of course many, if not most or all, of these will most likely change throughout the year, but these are more reasonable in length than the ones I’ve listed in the past, so I’m excited about this list.
Is anyone else doing any of these challenges? If so, I’d love to hear what you’re planning to read!