The 2016 Reading Challenge Begins

I write every November. Without fail, I write at least 50,000 words in the month of November. And the rest of the year, I do write a handful of blog entries (at 101 Achievements, not so much here), and I do some freelance contract writing on the side. But that’s it. November, some blog entries, some contract assignments and… that’s all I’ve got.

And that’s fine, for someone who doesn’t have in her heart that maybe someday she wants to be a writer. For someone who wants to make a go of this full-time, the occasional blog post or month of feverishly adding to word count isn’t enough. So 2016 is going to be different. I have promised myself this: 2016 is going to be a year that I take a better approach to working on creative pursuits. This, obviously, means working on writing, but it also means other creative pursuits, like cooking and dancing and reading.

I’ve been a member of Goodreads for a few years now, although I don’t always keep up with updating it. Each new year, they send you a little note that’s like, ‘Hey you, why not decide on a reading goal for the year!’ So this year, I did. I decided (quite arbitrarily) on 40 books. I’m not the fastest reader, but I thought that was manageable.

A couple of days later, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a reading challenge she had embarked upon. Curious, I looked at the list, and what do you know, it’s 40 different books.

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So here it is: the forty types of books I will read in 2016.

I have a very real tendency to read only the same types of books (mostly supernatural YA books), and I am optimistic that this will get me out of my comfort zone. I’ll be using this blog to talk about what I’ve read. I’m 2.5 books in so far, which is technically ‘behind’ schedule, but I always catch up on reading over vacation, which is coming up at the end of next month.

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First up was A Book Written By A Celebrity. For Christmas in 2015, I got this book by Betty White, as well as Rue McClanahan’s autobiography (because I have a kind of serious Golden Girls addiction). While I wouldn’t really count this for the autobiography category, it definitely fits ‘written by a celebrity.’

I really loved If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t). It’s not a full account of Betty White’s life, but more like little bits of advice and interesting anecdotes from the adventures of her first 89 years. Betty White is SO sweet and positive and full of energy. Her attitude really reminds me of her Golden Girls character, Rose Nylund (although clearly the smarter, more sensible edition of Rose). Betty White holds true to her values, and she approaches things with such good spirits.

Of course, she won me over with her discussions on her work with animal rescue. She donates a lot of time and money to animal causes, and she’s a girl after my own heart in that way.

But I think the chapter that spoke the most to me was about her decision to remain childfree. As a childfree 30something, I get comments all the time, discouraging my choice. They range from the standard, ‘oh you’ll change your mind!’ all the way to ‘well that’s not fair to your husband that you refuse to have kids’ (nevermind the fact that he doesn’t want them either). It wears you down sometimes, feeling like you have to always be on the defensive when the question ‘do you have kids’ comes up.

Betty White addresses this so succinctly: “Barbara Walters once asked me if I had ever desired to have a child. The answer is, I never did think about it.”

Just: boom. mic drop. didn’t think about it. let’s move on.

She goes on to discuss what an individual choice it is for every woman, to decide whether or not to have kids, but she never apologizes. She’s not defensive. She’s just like, ‘hey, I’m 89 (the book was written in 2011), I never had kids, I’m happy with my decision, and if you want them, fine, but if you don’t, fine also, you do you, and you might mean childfree.’ I have a LOT of respect for someone who can put it so simply and matter-of-fact-ly.

And also, the next time I get a comment from a nebby person, I can be like, ‘Me and Betty White! We just love our dogs!’ So thanks, girl, for helping a fellow childfree broad out.

Overall rating: 5 of 5 stars. Enjoyed the book start to finish. It was an easy read, but you can take your time through it, really enjoying all the stories. Betty speaks from the heart, and I loved every minute of it.

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Book #2 will not receive as positive a review, unfortunately. My second book was my Book With A Blue Cover, Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella.

Let me start by saying that I will read pretty much any book that Sophie Kinsella puts out. She’s hilarious. I feel like, across my reading experience, British authors tend to do Chick Lit a lot better than American authors do, but this book feels kind of flat for me. (Some mild spoilers ahead, most of which you can get from reading the back of the book.)

The premise is this: Lottie, a 30something who’s just itching to get married and start a family, breaks up with her longtime boyfriend after an embarrassing non-proposal at a restaurant. In her usual style of ‘unfortunate decisions’ (a term her sister Fliss has coined to explain the bad choices Lottie makes immediately after a breakup), she hooks up with her first love, Ben, a man she hasn’t seen since the summer they spent together in Greece 15 years earlier. Both of them having recently been through crises (Ben has just lost his father and been forced to take over the family business, despite any experience in doing so), they decide to get married and go back to the place where they met and fell in love.

What follows is a series of awful decisions by most of the characters. Yes, it’s got some hilarious moments, but they are overshadowed by the cringe-worthy ones. The ending ties up neatly, but not in the way I started out hoping that it would. Honestly, I just felt like there was something missing, which is not something I often feel after finishing a Sophie Kinsella novel.

Overall rating: 3 of 5 stars. Still funny, but I was kind of disappointed with the characters’ behaviors in a few scenes. And the ending just didn’t quite work for me. In the middle of the book, I felt a very clear emotion of, ‘this is how I would be happy to see this end up,’ and it just didn’t end that way. While the ending made sense by the time it happened, and characters’ actions in the chapters leading up to the climax reinforced *why* it had to end that way, I was just kind of underwhelmed.

All 40 can’t be great! And besides, this is probably the first Sophie Kinsella book I’ve been this disappointed with, so it’s not like I’m going to give up on her as an author.

I’m about halfway through book #3 right now, which is Logan’s Run. This fits into a couple of the categories, so we’ll see where I end up counting it. Loving it so far though.

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2 down, 38 to go.