Thursday, October 2, 2014

2014: Kelly's Status Report (October)

Dear Jenny,

2014 hasn't gone quite as smoothly for me as our first few years of doing this and I'm not sure why.  I've been reading, but I've been getting bogged down posting. My last status report was in June. I have since read all five of those books, but only posted about 3 of them. So let's see how it's going...


Books that are DONE! (Woo-hoo!): 4

You already know about these, but hey -- I gotta pat myself on the back for getting something done around here!

Completed books, awaiting blog posts: 4

I have finished all of these, but still need to write about them:
  • Detroit City Is the Place to Be by Mark Binellimk
  • Digressions on Some Poems By Frank O'Hara by y Joe LeSueur
  • On Being Brown: What It Means to Be a Cleveland Browns Fan by Scott Huler
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
If I write one of these per week, I can be done by the end of October -- that seems doable, right? Sure.


Books in Progress: 2

I am reading two books at one time right now (the Baker is essays, so I spread them out) and they are:
  • Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle
  • The Size of Thoughts by Nicholson Baker 


Have not even started: 2

I'm not 100% sure what these will be yet, but I think I finally have to give up on Don't Know Much About History. After February, I did not stick to my "chapter-per-month" plan and since I've been on a crusade to "abandon books with abandon" this year (I have abandoned 9 books!), I think that's got to go.

After that, the longest page count is Stones from the River, so I'll just give it the boot right now. That leaves:
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
  • Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet by Tim Gunn
(Unless I cannot get through one of those and then I will bring back Stones.)

I have, once again, done a year-end page count and I have to read a little over 15 pages per day to make it, which is totally doable (there are 90 days left in the year today, FYI). The key is the writing! Aaaaand yes, I do realize I have just spent 30 minutes writing this "status" post... aaaaand I could have been writing a book post instead. Whatever.

How's it going over there? You're already planning 2015, aren't you? ;)



  1. Oh, I think you'll like The Sisters Brothers. It's a little wacky, sure, but I totally enjoyed it. (That's a pretty vague recollection, I know.)

    My goal is to finish Postwar (maybe just be continuing with the audio book, maybe by buzzing thought the last few chapters in my pBook.) I'll try to read Please Look After Mom and one other, not sure which.

    This has been a tough year, I agree. Maybe we should think about a different reading challenge for 2015? Inject some freshness into the proceedings?


    1. You know... I deal with this issue a lot at work, which is... when something goes "wrong" one time, people immediately want to figure out: What needs to change?

      So we had 3 successful years and then one bust year. Does that mean we need to change something? Or just that this one year was an anomaly?

      I'm all for freshness, but I'm also all for acknowledging: "Eh. Everyone has an off year every once in awhile." No? I guess I feel like... 3 successes + 1 fail = majority successful. Keep on truckin'.

      But I am also willing to be swayed! Especially if you feel like "Yeah -- this just isn't working for me anymore!" I actually think it's fine. Thinking about it harder... in *my* life, I know what happened this year: 1. The beginning of the year was consumed with ToB reading, and then 2. My book group increased our meeting frequency and I did not adjust my reading schedule accordingly.

      Also, for some reason, I have really wanted to *talk more* about the books I read this year... not sure why that is, particularly. I have just felt more affected by these books and have more to share. Perhaps I should re-visit an earlier technique I used with Tess of the D'Urbervilles (My 2nd book! Back in 2011!) and give you reports along the way... it's hard to know when a book is going to give me a lot to say (although I suspect Arc of Justice will be one -- Whew!) Or... maybe I need a form. Our nephew is in 3rd grade and he has some sort of form for book reports -- maybe I should use that? Heh.

      One more thing I did not do this year is write "preview" posts. I wonder if that also helps lay down the foundation for talking about the book later.

      I still blame the ToB for getting so far behind early in the year... Ok. Perhaps our big change is that we don't start TBR books until April? :)

    2. What if our plan was to pick at least one book in common that we could read together. I like to talk about books *with* you and maybe that would be fun?

      I mean, I still love this crazy thing we have going! I like going back and reading my old posts, too. It's amazing how it jogs my memory. Maybe the pre-during-after post works better, especially if there is a lot to talk about?

      So now, I'm going to go read some Tess posts....woot!

    3. I love the "common book" idea!

      Ok -- How many and how do we pick it/'em? We should start thinking about this right now! :)

      Re: Pre-during-after... I think, for me, yes... Posting more often motivates me to post more often (if that makes sense). In fact, I have *just* begun Arc of Justice and I already have a ton of thoughts -- I should just start slapping 'em up here.

      We should also maybe address the beginning of the year/ToB issue. I don't read as fast as you do so now that I have been doing that, I get bogged down during the first 2.5 months of the year. I don't want to discuss ToB books here (save it for the site!) but I do want to manage my reading load better during that time, esp. now that my book group meets monthly.

    4. I don't know. We'll have to think about it---maybe a classic that we've both wanted to read? There have to be books we both have that would fulfill this?

    5. Well, we have this post from 2011 listing Entertainment Weekly's "100 Best Reads from 1983-2008." We marked down what we had each read (I just updated it, as 3 of the books I had not read then have since been covered this *year* in my TBR: Poisonwood Bible, On Writing, and Presumed Innocent [which you could not remember if you had read when I read it -- according to this list, you have. :)])

      Sorry... parenthetical digression there, but... maybe you update the list if you've read any more of these books, then we look to see what books we have both not read and then figure out if any of them have would be considered "TBR" books for both of us.

      Seems like a slightly more focused start than trying to pick from all the books in all the world, right?

    6. Yes, this is a great idea. The only one I added was Cloud Atlas. So let's each look at the list of ones neither of us have read, and maybe we can each pick one? That way, we'd have *2* books on the list next year that would be the same.

    7. So we each pick one and the other says "OK -- we're reading that together?" Or... should we have some back-and-forth (like, if I pick one that you had vowed never to read... you say, "Um... I heard that was terrible... let's not read that..." [I would totally respect that!])

      So maybe...we each pick *3* and then the other one picks the *1* from that that we are both going to read...? So then it's sort of a joint effort? (Or am I over-complexifying this?)

      Also... I just have to say: it's *kind of* weird that *three* of my TBR books *this year* happen to be on that list, right? I mean, none from 2012 or 2013, then *3* out of the *8* I have read in *2014* are on that list?! That's weird.

      Ok! There are 40 books that neither of us have read. Here they are:

      5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
      8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
      14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
      19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
      23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
      24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
      30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
      33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
      35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
      36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
      42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
      43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
      44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
      45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
      46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
      47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
      49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
      51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
      55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
      56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
      58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
      59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
      61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
      62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
      64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
      66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
      74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
      75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
      76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
      79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
      83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
      85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
      86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
      87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
      90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
      91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
      94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
      95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
      97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
      98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)

    8. I like your plan. Let's each pick 3 and then do some crosschat to figure out which ones. We could possibly put more than 2 on the list for next year. I mean, maybe if we're reading more books that are the same it would be a good change?

    9. Okay, I'm looking at books on Amazon & I'm looking at my shelves to see if I have any of these.

      Here are 3 books I actually own:
      On Beauty by Zadie Smith
      The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
      The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

      Books I'd like to read:
      A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace.
      The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
      A Sight for Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell

      What are your picks?

    10. Heeey... If we read that DFW, will we have to be drunk all month long? Heh.

      Of this list, I only own American Pastoral which I have always felt has the potential to piss me off, but I have kept it because it was a gift and literally *pressed* into my hands.

      I used to own The Year of Magical Thinking, but I got rid of it, which leads me to believe I wasn't that interested in reading it. (Oh shit -- I just read the synopsis of that book and now I remember. Someone gave it to me. But there's no way I could handle reading that book.)

      Oddly, I have the first few Sandmans checked out of the library right now... would you have easy/free access to those? If so, that would be one I would want to read (obviously, since I have it checked out!)

      Since you picked six, I will also pick six... if we choose 2 from each of our lists, that's 4 "shared" books + 8 "independent" books. Seems like a good ratio. (And hell... if it's not working for us, we can just change our minds!)

      American Pastoral, Philip Roth (since I own it)
      Selected Stories, Alice Munro
      Sandman, Neil Gaiman
      World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow
      The Night Manager, John le Carré *
      Underworld, Don DeLillo **

      * My grandfather was a big le Carré fan. It's not a genre I typically read, but it's on this list, so I'd try it.

      ** I have read another DeLillo book and I believe I enjoyed it (you know I can't really remember books that well), so I just looked this one up and the intro seemed like a sign: "The novel opens on October 3, 1951" Weird, right?!

      Oh, and I'm going to go ahead and pick from your books right now:
      - On Beauty by Zadie Smith
      - A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace (drink!)

    11. I feel like the DFW choice is sort of corrective---how have I never read *anything* by this man? Ugh.

      Okay, I'll pick American Pastoral (since you own it) and Sandman. I was thinking Underworld but...832 pages. Ugh. I am tempted by the le Carre, but let's save that for another year.

      This is fantastic! I kind of wish it was 2015!

    12. PS. Glad you were not interested in The Year of Magical Thinking, either. Just no.

    13. I rejected EL Doctorow because I believe he is of the "no quotation marks" persuasion.

    14. I have not read any DFW either. I have a vague sense that I will not like it, but let's give it a whirl!

      Re: Sandman -- This is the first graphic novel as a TBR, right? I read a lot of graphic novels but have never put one on my list (I guess I usually read them right away!) I was skeptical about Sandman for a long time, but I've read more by Gaiman lately, so I'm in. (Despite the flaws in American Gods -- heh. The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Neverwhere are both great. Also, he seems very charming!)

  2. Maybe you should just write up those 4 books in one blog post---Make a top ten list? Find something in common in those 4 and talk about that? Maybe if you're creative in your reporting, you'll enjoy writing about it more?

    1. Oh no. That sounds even more overwhelming. That's like.. a thesis or something.

      It's not that I don't enjoy writing about these books -- it's just that I have *too much* to say! Seriously -- most of my books this year, I have wanted to tell you *all about them!*

      Also, a few years back, I shit out a review of Wind up Bird Chronicle and I ended up regretting it when we read it for book group this year and I was the only one who enjoyed it!. I want to get my thoughts down!

  3. Ok. After mentioning Tess here, I just went back and read my many, many posts about that book. And... it made me so happy to read all the stuff that I wrote! Check these out:

    - Tess Preview: Includes hilarious book cover modification.

    - Tess, Part 1: Bonus Kaesea photo!

    - Tess, Part 2: Too much detail and yet... I enjoyed reading this again!

    - Tess, Part 3 (aka "Oh, Tess"): Your comment is *hilarious*: "I can only say how happy I am that you are reading this and not me. There would definitely be a Tess-shaped dent in my wall by now. "

    - Final Tess: Re-reading this has reminded me that I did, in the end, love Tess. I'm so happy that I wrote that!

    Reading all of this has made me glad that I am trying not to poop out reviews. Hey, Kelly from 2017, I hope you come back here and re-read this stuff and thank me!

    1. That's hilarious. I'm reading them all again RIGHT NOW.