50 books for 2013

I was updating my reading list on goodreads January 2nd when a little box on the sidebar quietly invited me to a reading challenge for 2013. It said something like “I will read ____ books in 2013.” I’ve seen and been tempted by these challenges before, but stayed away fearing I wouldn’t be able to accomplish one. But this time I did a quick calculation in my head, thinking, What’s realistic…okay, how about 2 books per month…that’ll bring me to 50 books a year. So I entered 50 and clicked “Share” to announce my plan on Facebook, thinking that once I make it official, I’m accountable.

It was only when I turned to tell Max that I realized, D-oh! 2 books a month comes out to 24 books a year, not 50. (I know, I know, what I need to enroll in is a math, not reading, challenge.)

But maybe my momentary mind lapse was a Freudian slip. It dawned on me: why not? Why not stretch myself and read 50 books? The very definition of a challenge means to do something that’ll make you sweat. I’d read around 25 books last year without much pain at all, and I figured a challenge is something that should take me beyond my lower limit.

To my surprise I got very excited, because a reading challenge is like a triathalon for the inner homebody nerd in me. Not only will I get ripped cerebral muscles when all is said and done, but I’ll have pushed myself to a new frontier!

And so here I share with you what’s on my to-read list so far, organized by category, which is how I had set up my original non-numerical reading challenge.

Oh, and I’ll share the rules I’ve made for myself as well:

1) I’ll count 500-600 page books as 2; 600-900 page books as 3. I do not plan on reading anything longer than 900 pages!

2) I can change this reading list at any time.

3) I will not beat myself up if I don’t reach 50.

4) I promise I will make time to get off my butt as well.

Goose Bumps (how I felt when I initially read these books’ descriptions, excerpts, reviews and/or authors’ other work)

1) Tiny Beautiful Things (Cheryl Strayed)

2) Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

3) The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

4) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

5) The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

6) Hikikomori and the Rental Sister (Jeff Backhaus)

To become happier, healthier and more centered

7) Wherever You Go, There You Are (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

8) Domino: The Book of Decorating: A Room-by-Room Guide to Creating a Home That Makes You Happy (Deborah Needleman et al)

9) The Eat-Clean Diet for Family and Kids: Simple Strategies for Lasting Health and Fitness (Tosca Reno)

To better understand my family’s roots and history

10) Red Sorghum (Mo Yan)

11) Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Jung Chang)

Emotional jolting

12) The Light Between Oceans (M.L. Stedman); finished (and took a day to come to grips with the story).

13) Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love (Xinran); in progress

To experience someone else’s life

14) Wild (Cheryl Strayed)

15) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)

16) Turning Japanese (David Mura)

Because these have been sitting on my bookshelf and are calling out to me

17) Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (Anne Lamott)

18) Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (Anne Lamott)

19) Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (Anne Lamott)

20) Atonement (Ian McEwan)

The Masters, not only because I should, but because I want to

21-22) Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)

23) Complete Stories (Flannery O’Connor)

24-25) East of Eden (John Steinbeck); in progress

When I want something great but packed light (short story collections)

26) Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri)

27) Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri)

28) This is How You Lose Her (Junot Diaz); in progress

29) Drown (Junot Diaz)

30) A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (Yiyun Li); in progress

Funny takes on serious issues

31) Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple); finished (and loved it).

32) Then We Came to the End (Joshua Ferris)

On losing it

33) The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath); to re-read

34) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

How’s and Why’s

35) Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)

36) People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo – and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up (Richard Lloyd Parry)

37) NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children (Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman); in progress

Based on recommendations

38) Rules of Civility (Amor Towles); finished

To review (as part of a review program I belong to)

39) A Thousand Pardons (Jonathan Dee); in progress

40) Hearts on Fire: Twelve Stories of Today’s Visionaries Igniting Idealism into Action (Jill W. Iscol with Peter W. Cookson, Jr.)


Of course this list may go through some adjusting, especially as half the fun of reading for me is choosing the book (I’m actually a little disappointed that I already have 40 slots accounted for).

And I’ll likely be writing about reading a bit more this year, and tying in the themes of my books with the themes of our lives. I look forward to that.

What’s on your list for 2013? Are you taking on a reading challenge or have you ever done one? And do you have any recommendations for me? I’m especially on the look out for humor and emotional jolts 😉

16 thoughts on “50 books for 2013

  1. Cecilia,

    Great list of books. I’ve set up a similar goal. I am reading certain number of books every month. Some reads on my list this month: NW by Zadie Smith, The Magical Journey By Katrina Kenison, and If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black. Next month’s list also includes Quiet, The Fault of Our Stars, and The Light Between Oceans.

    I can’t wait to hear your reviews and exchange our thoughts on the common books we have on our list. I am a big fan of Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz. I am curious about your insight on these reads.

    I’ve read almost every book by Anne Lamott. I adore her writing (especially her nonfiction). She just published a small non-fiction read call Help Thanks Wow. Check it out if you get a chance. Her book on writing/life instruction (Bird by Bird) is my go-to guidebook on writing.


    • Hi Rudri, I love that we have similar reading interests 🙂 I am loving Junot Diaz so far. I picked it up on a whim and was very surprised to read his voice. So now I’ve added his two other books to my list.

      I love Anne Lamott in particular too – in fact, she and Junot Diaz are two writers whose writing styles I want to read and study this year. Their voices are so distinctive, so refreshing to read.

      I have heard of Zadie Smith’s new book but not the other two, so I will check them out!

  2. What a great goal! I haven’t set myself a list or even a number goal. But maybe…

    What a tremendous list – those I’ve read I loved, the rest are now on my radar to investigate further.

    I’m in the middle of Nurtureshock (fascinating, isn’t it?) and read The Fault of Our Stars last month (the characters are still haunting my mind). Oh, and I’m reading The Round House. Even just the first few pages are stunning.

  3. Nice to hear from you, Kate! Oh, how could I forget The Round House?! I actually want to read that too. I’m glad you are enjoying it so far.

    I agree – Nurtureshock is eye-opening and I definitely recommend it. For Kindle readers, I think they’re selling it for under $4 right now. Great book.

  4. How exciting! You can do this and I want to join you…at least in reading some of the books from your list. There’s something about holding a book, turning the pages, and creating worlds in my head that I can only get from reading. When I tell others that I regularly read, they often ask how I have the time. The thing is, as with any thing in life, if you want to do something, you just have to decide to do it. You make sacrifices and choices and you just get it done because it matters to you. That’s all. So, I have no doubt you’ll have a very productive reading year!!

    • Thanks Jessica! Why don’t you join me? We can be reading buddies 😉 I totally agree – you just have to make the time. I’ve used “being a mom” as an excuse for not doing more of everything from exercising to reading. More reading may mean less time on the internet or tv…but we can find the time if we make it a priority.

  5. So you finished Stedman’s book! What did you think? I also have “Atonement” and “Quiet” on my list of future reads. 😉

    • Sorry for the late reply, Diane! I loved The Light Between Oceans, as painful as it was to read. I did feel, though, that the end was a bit rushed, and I’d wondered how plausible her choice was? I don’t want to discuss too much lest I let out a spoiler, but all in all I Ioved the very human tragedy of the whole story. I could relate to both the husband and the wife and it made me think of other examples in my life of good people making (inadvertently) hurtful choices…

  6. Wow! You are a fiend! I love the categories here, and I can’t wait to hear more about your progress. I am ashamed to admit that 2012 was not a very good reading year for me. I’d go for days without reading, preferring to just veg in front of the TV instead to catch up on Downton Abbey or The Good Wife while I fold laundry 🙂 Two years ago, we didn’t have cable and the TV was rarely on as I was either reading or writing.

    I really want to get back into the habit again. It’s embarrassing to call myself a lover of books only to see your list and realize that I’ve only read two of them! Kudos to you though for challenging yourself this year, although I’ll be happy with 12 books,at the rate I’m going! That is one book a month right? 😉 (I LOL’d at your math in the beginning.)

    • Justine, as you know, I came up with “50” entirely due to my remedial math. No way could I have even attempted this until my son turned 8. It will come. Right now you are exhausted by the end of the day, and mindless channel surfing or tv watching may be the best remedy for those long days with little kids.

  7. So many suggestions! (I’m so jealous of anyone wit the time to even dream of reading this much!)

    I will admit, yesterday I shut everything down and turned everything off and read for three hours… a book I’ve wanted to dig into for ages!

    It was sublime.

    Now if only I could manage even a fraction of that every other day, I’d be content. (I’m thinking it’s a matter of changing some habits, but also timing in the day – when the brain is ready for it, tasks are behind me, but the eyes aren’t too strained from hours at the laptop.)

    And I’d be happy with one book a quarter! (Pitiful, I know, but that’s what I’m hoping for.)

  8. I’ve always thought a year needed more months anyway. Why not 25?

    Also: “Wild” was wonderful and horrible all at the same time. And you can’t go wrong with Anne Lamott. Have you read “The Blue Jay’s Dance” by Louise Erdrich?

    • I heard Cheryl Strayed on NPR when Wild came out, and I admired her then. I would love to read it. No, I have not read The Blue Jay’s Dance – do you recommend it?

  9. I am going to have to check out these books now! They all sound so fascinating! I was reading two books a month, but I’ve been slacking recently. I love reading books! Cheers to more reading in February!

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