2016 End of Year Book Survey

2016 End of Year Book SurveyHow can I be so tired of this year when it seems to have gone by so fast? Out with the old, hooray! But first, a quick, nerdy look back at this year’s reading.

Best Books in 2016

1. Best book you read In 2016?

2. What was a book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

Definitely Sorrow’s Knot. The world building was just so disappointing.

3. What was the most surprising (in a good way!) book of the year?

I didn’t expect to enjoy Croak as much as I did. A surprisingly original story.

4. What book did you read and recommended to people most?

The Wicked Boy. Have you read it yet? Why not? Stop reading this and go read that right now!

5. What’s the best series you discovered?

I didn’t do much serial reading this year. But I’m interested in seeing where the The Golem and the Jinni series goes. The next book comes out in 2018, though, so it’ll be a bit of a wait.

6. Who’s your favorite new author you discovered?

Torn between Kate Summerscale (The Wicked Boy, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher) and Andrzej Sapkowksi (the Witcher series). I love the level of detail both authors put into their books.

7. What was the best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I was nervous about Vermilion. I don’t reach much Steampunk, and the book ended up being more violent than I like. But it gave me all kinds of interesting feelings, so I enjoyed it.

8. What was the most thrilling, unputdownable book of the year?

The Winter People kept me up at night. As did Half the Sky, but for totally different reasons.

9. What book did you read this year that you are most likely to re-read next year?

Probably The Wicked Boy. I’m still trying to decide whether or not I agree with the author’s theory that his mother’s abuse is what led Robert Coombes to murder his mother.

10. What’s your favorite cover of a book you read?

2016 best book covers

11. Who’s the most memorable character you met this year?

Robert Coombes from The Wicked Boy. What led him to murder his own mother? And how can a person who commits such a crime go on to become a war hero?

12. What’s the most beautifully written book you read?

Meet the Austins was a lovely, quiet read. Madeleine L’Engle writes from childrens’ perspectives so well. The book reminded me of Wilder’s Little House series, which has always been a favorite.

13. What book had the greatest impact on you?

I really enjoyed Lincoln’s Battle with God. It gave me even more insight into and appreciated for a man I’ve respected for several years.

14. What book do you can’t believe you waited until this year to finally read?

I’ve always found Craig Ferguson hysterical, and couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of his book, American on Purpose, until this year. He’s done a lot of interesting — and stupid — things, and I like his views on life.

15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read?

I loved this quote from Studs Terkel’s Working:

The white-collar guy is scared he may be replaced by the computer. The schoolteacher is asked not to teach but to babysit. God help you if you teach. The minister is trapped by the congregation that’s out of touch with him. He spends his life violating the credo that led him into the ministry. The policeman has no relationship to the people he’s supposed to protect. So he oppresses. The fireman who wants to fight fires ends up fighting a war. People become afraid of each other. They’re convinced there’s not a damn thing they can do.

And I love Craig Ferguson’s maxim from American on Purpose:

Between safety and adventure, I choose adventure.

16. Shortest & longest book you read?

17. What book had a scene in it that left you reeling and dying to talk to somebody?

The Winter People was a total nail-biter!

18. What’s your favorite relationship from a book you read this year (be it romantic, friendship, etc.)?

I really enjoyed the relationship between Geralt and his ward Ciri in Blood of Elves. It’s a cross between a father-daughter and mentor-mentee relationship. Both characters are smart, stubborn, and powerful. And they enjoy needling each other.

19. What’s your favorite book you read this year from an author you’ve read previously?

I’ve loved Clive Cussler for a long time, and that love affair continued this year with The Kingdom. Fun book, and narrator Scott Brick is one of my favorites.

20. What’s the best book you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else?

Definitely Half the Sky. I didn’t do a full review, reading it was one of the things that changed my life this year.

21. What genre did you read the most from this year?

Tie between Mystery/Thriller and History.

22. Who’s your newest fictional crush from a book you read?

Geralt from Blood of Elves! He’d make a terrible boyfriend/husband, so it’s probably best that he’s not real.

23. What’s the best 2016 debut you read?

The Wicked Boy, for sure! Author Kate Summerscale has other great books too.

24. Which book you read this year had the most vivid world/imagery?

Blood of Elves. Fantasy authors are the best at world building, period.

25. What book was the most fun to read?

Heroes Are My Weakness. Modern gothic romance!

26. What book made you cry or nearly cry in 2016?

Half the Sky. It made me cry, and it made me so angry.

27. What book did you read that you think got overlooked this year (or the year it came out)?

Why are there people in the universe who haven’t read The Wicked Boy?!

Looking Ahead

1. What’s one book you didn’t get to in 2016 that will be your biggest priority in 2017?

My lovely family usually gives me lots of books for Christmas, so I imagine I’ll have a look through those and see what strikes my fancy in the moment. I don’t have any priorities right now.

2. What book you are most anticipating for 2017 (non-debut)?

At this exact moment? Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners (Therese Oneill) and Witches of America (Alex Mar).

3. What 2017 debut do you anticipate most?

I don’t pay much attention to debut dates.

4. Which series ending in 2016 do you anticipate most?

I don’t pay much attention to this either. I am hoping to finish out Rachel Aaron’s The Legend of Eli Monpress series.

5. What’s one thing you hope to accomplish in your reading/blogging in 2017?

Same as always: to read interesting things by interesting people, and talk about them with other readers.

How did your 2016 reading shake out? What are your reading goals for next year? Let’s talk!

2016 State of the Blog and Wrap-Up

State of the BlogIt’s just a few days til Christmas. I haven’t recovered from Thanksgiving yet, but soon I will be stuffing my face with even more delicious things and wallowing in a sea of wrapping paper. I’m hoping for good things in 2017, but first I want to take a look back.

First, the basics

  • Books read in 2016: 58 (32 since 7/1)
  • Audiobooks: 5 (0 since 7/1)
  • Ebooks: 9 (7 since 7/1)
  • Pages read: 19,528 (10,504 since 7/1)
  • Books reviewed: 33 (18 since 7/1)
  • Books not enjoyed: 3 (2 since 7/1)
  • Books not finished: 0 (0 since 7/1)
  • Library books: 38 (23 since 7/1)
  • Re-reads: 4 (4 since 7/1)

Genre breakdown (year totals)

  • Fiction: 33
  • Non-fiction: 25
  • Young adult: 6
  • Fantasy: 8
  • History: 14
  • Memoir: 6
  • Mystery/Thriller: 14
  • Humor: 5
  • Gender/sexuality: 6
  • Paranormal/supernatural: 7
  • Period piece: 5
  • Children’s literature: 4
  • Reading for work: 3

Reading challenges

  • Charity Reading Challenge: 58 books @ $2/each = $116 donated to Camfed
  • Monthly Motif Challenge: 12/12 – COMPLETE
  • The Mount TBR Challenge: 3/6

Mount TBR is a bust once again. I think it’s time to switch it out with something new. But I’m so proud of myself for completing the Monthly Motif Challenge, and definitely excited to donate $2 for every book I read in 2016.

Some thoughts

  • My reading is down from last year (when I read 73). The goal-oriented part of me is sad, but my rational side thinks I made good reading choices.
  • Fiction is still beating out non-fiction, but the ratio is much closer this year than last.
  • As much as I enjoy young adult novels, it’s been nice to see that number drop this year.
  • The commute to my new job is much shorter, so I haven’t listened to any audiobooks since April. I don’t really miss them.
  • I’ve gotten hooked on podcasts. Currently I’m subscribed to more than 20. It’s a sickness.

Looking ahead

  • I’ve sent my Christmas wishlist to my family, so fingers crossed I get some yummy books to take me into the new year!
  • I recently learned that Emily Nagoski (author of the fabulous Come as You Are) wrote what some people call a feminist version of Fifty Shades of Grey. I’m so in I could explode!

How did your 2016 reading turn out? What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

Want to change the world? Educate a girl.

2016 is almost over, and with it my reading challenges. Normally this is when I look at how I’ve done with the year’s reading, and gloat a bit about completing the challenges. But this year it’s different — this year, one of my challenges helped me find a new calling.

Let’s back up

A little over a year ago I was surfing around Netflix, looking for something to watch on a night when I had nothing else to do. In the documentary section I found Girl Rising. It follows nine girls living in places like Nepal, Cambodia, and Haiti as they stand up for their right to an education and freedom.

Girl Rising opened my eyes to some pretty horrifying statistics:

  • 65 million girls are out of school globally.
  • In a single year, an estimated 150 million girls were victims of sexual violence.
  • In developing countries, the number one cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth.

It made me so mad. I loved school so much, and couldn’t imagine how horrible it would have been to not be able to attend just because I was a girl. Everything I am is the result of what I have read and learned, and it infuriated me that so many girls were being left behind.

Especially when I learned things like:

  • A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult.
  • 10% fewer girls under the age of 17 would become pregnant in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if they had a primary education.
  • If India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, its GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.

I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know where to start. I asked a friend of mine who works for Child Legacy International (they do some amazing things, please check them out!) if she knew of any organizations that focused on girls’ education.

That’s when I learned about Camfed. Their mission — to educate girls in some of the world’s poorest regions — is critical to making the world a better place for everyone.

But you know how it goes. You read an article or watch a documentary that gets you all fired up, you follow an organization on Twitter and you sign up for their newsletter…and then you never put your money where your mouth is. And that’s where this story almost ended.

First steps with the Charity Reading Challenge

In late 2015 I learned about the Charity Reading Challenge, in which participants pledge to donate a certain amount per book they read to the charity of their choice.

I liked the idea that my reading could help fund another girl’s education. So I pledged to donate $2 for every book I read in 2016 to Camfed. I signed up and started reading, glad that I’d found a way to give a little to a good cause.

But fate wasn’t done with me yet.

A heartbreaking email

In early September I got an email from Camfed that broke my heart.

Every September we face one of our most difficult decisions. We have to draw a line between the girls who will go to school and those who will not – we simply do not have the resources to help every child who needs support

We are facing a crisis that will condemn even more girls to a life of exclusion. A reduction in funding due to recent global uncertainty has pushed 3,500 more girls below that line.

I imagined what it would be like for those girls to hear that they wouldn’t be able to continue — or start — their education. What would it be like to see your brother head off to school while you have to stay home? What if not going to school meant being married off to a stranger because you are a burden on your family’s resources?

When I visited Camfed’s website, I read that $240 can send a girl to school for a full year.

$240. That’s less than my monthly car payment. I donated that night.

Since then I’ve imagined over and over someone from Camfed telling a girl in Ghana or Malawi or Tanzania or Zambia or Zimbabwe that she will be able to go to school this year. How did she react? What’s her name? Her favorite subject? What does she want to be when she grows up?

Then I remembered that the company I work for matches charitable donations — I’ve submitted that paperwork already, which means two girls get to go to school.

Just getting started

I’m still planning to donate $2 to Camfed for every book I read this year, but that won’t be the end of this adventure. I’ve found something that ignites my passion, that makes me want to participate in something bigger than myself.

I don’t know exactly what that participation looks like yet, but I do know that it includes others. If you’re passionate about girls’ education and empowerment, or think you could be, I encourage you to:

  • Read Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky. Take at least one of the actions they list at the end.
  • Read more about Camfed and the other organizations Kristof and WuDunn describe.
  • Consider donating to Camfed so they can meet their goal of educating 1 million girls by 2020.

Today is Thanksgiving. This year I have more than ever to be thankful for. I’ve found a calling, a cause, and I hope you’ll join me in this fight.

Update: Donations from people in September and October got 343 more girls above the line and into school. So badass.

State of the Blog: June 2016

State of the BlogYea, yea, the usual drivel about how fast the year is going. Let’s just get to the numbers!

The basics

  • Books read since January 1: 26
  • Pages read: 8,842
  • Books reviewed: 16
  • Books not enjoyed: 6
  • Books not finished: 0
  • Library books: 14
  • Ebooks: 3
  • Audiobooks: 5

Genre breakdown

  • Fiction: 14
  • Non-fiction: 11
  • Fantasy: 5
  • History: 9
  • Memoir: 2
  • Mystery/Thriller: 10
  • Paranormal/Supernatural: 4
  • Young adult literature: 1
  • Children’s literature: 2

Reading challenges

  • Charity Reading Challenge: 26
  • The Mount TBR Reading Challenge: 3 of 6
  • Monthly Motif Challenge: 6 of 12

Kickin’ ass and taking names! Check out my reading challenge progress.

Some thoughts

  • I’m at about the same place with my reading now as I was at this time last year. I was feeling like I’d fallen behind, so it’s nice to look at the numbers and realize I’m keeping pace with myself from year to year.
  • I’m doing better with my reading challenges than in previous years. I think I found a handful that are the most fun for (and valuable to) me.
  • The last 12 months have been awful, but have taught me so much.

Looking ahead

  • I’m also really enjoying stretching my creative writing muscles with writing prompts. Going to keep this up in the second half of the year.
  • My book-buying ban continues, but I’ve amassed some gift cards that are begging to be used. Time to stock up on psychology texts and other books I can’t find at the library!

How’s your reading going this year?