My reading challenge: January in review

As you know, thanks to a slight miscalculation in which I thought there were 24 months in 2013, I’d made a pledge to read 50 books this year. So I thought that, at the end of each month, I’d sum up my month of reading and share it with you.

So in January (drumroll please…), I finished 6 books (!). It’s a record for me, though I do need to add a disclaimer, which is that 2 of the books were books I’d started in December.

Here, in descending order of my personal enjoyment, are my books from January:

1. The Light Between Oceans (M.L. Stedman)

This is How You Lose Her (Junot Diaz)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple)

2. The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

3. A Thousand Pardons (Jonathan Dee)

4. The Rules of Civility (Amor Towles)

I loved my top 3, and consider myself lucky to have read 3 (4) winners in one month. And each was so radically different in terms of reading experience. The Light Between Oceans, about a young mother who nearly lost herself after losing several children through miscarriage and a stillbirth and then decides to keep a baby that doesn’t belong to her, was gut wrenching. Parts of the ending felt a bit rushed for me, but I am hard pressed to find another story that can pull me any more deeply into the complex and raw emotions of (as one reviewer so aptly put it) good people making tragic decisions. With few exceptions I am usually not afraid to plunge into the emotional deep end when it comes to a good story, and it did take me some time to “get over” this book…

This is How You Lose Her: I fell in love with Junot Diaz’s voice. He is real and street and brutal and poignant. By telling the “love” stories of recent immigrants (both legal and illegal) he gave a Pulitzer Prize winning voice to individuals whom much of the reading world would never otherwise hear. On varying levels, as a first generation immigrant myself, I could relate to or see or understand the world that he painted, and for that reason I found my new literary hero in Junot Diaz. Someone like me, only much more talented and courageous, has made it.

I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette right after The Light Between Oceans and it was perfect timing. Bernadette, about a woman/wife/mother who has a nervous breakdown and then disappears, is light and funny and suspenseful and all substance.

The Fault in Our Stars, about two dying teenagers who don’t hesitate to fall in love, made me cry for about 15 pages non-stop. In my last post I’d written about my fear of losing my spouse, and this 16 year-old protagonist captured perfectly the feelings of love that I’ve experienced but have not been able to articulate.

A Thousand Pardons, The Rules of Civility…they are both critically acclaimed but somehow just didn’t quite do it for me. Pardons was enjoyable but not compelling to me and I just didn’t feel drawn to nor did I particularly like the main character in Civility.


My brother thought I was mad to undertake this, but it was actually a fun month. The more I read, the more I had to look forward to. Of course, I could have been on a start-of-a-reading-challenge-high (because today on February 1 I would really like nothing more than to veg out in front of the t.v.). And the only pressure I did feel was in trying to finish books to avoid the 25 cent/day late fee at the library. I was fairly busy in January, as work had picked up, I actually did slightly more housework than usual (we had guests from Korea), and Fred was preparing for a martial arts competition (though his increased practice time = more time for me to sit in a café and read). Max also started watching DVDs again and it has been a ritual for us to do this together. Where I did sacrifice my time was in reading blogs, writing and, most of all, sleep.

And exercise. Is it considered a sacrifice if I never really did much of it to begin with? 😉

My goals for February: fewer books, fewer potato chips (a bad habit I’ve picked up recently), more sleep, more blog reading, more writing, and more exercise (I got a trampoline for my birthday).

How was your January? Did you have any new year resolutions or goals that you were working on?

10 thoughts on “My reading challenge: January in review

  1. I am such a sucker for posts about books. Of the titles of your list, I’ve only read the John Green book, which I found completely unique and really interesting. I have the Junot Diaz on my nightstand and hope to get to it soon. (Famous last words.) My latest book obsessions were Wolf Hall and its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. Both warmed the cockles of my history nerd heart.

    Happy reading!

  2. I’m amazed. Six books! Wow! So glad you liked Junot Diaz, although I’ve not read the book you mentioned here. I’d like to though.

    I recently started watching The Good Wife (past seasons) and have not been able to “put it down”, which means less time for reading and blogging for me. Don’t know why but I’ve been craving mindless recreation these days and something I can do while cleaning or folding laundry. TV fits the bill, but I’m not exactly proud of it. I wish I would dedicate more time to reading and writing.

    • Justine, I think the reason I was able to read more recently is because I had cut down significantly on my work load. In past years the ONLY thing I wanted to do at night was watch DVDs. I had no energy left to do anything that required any kind of brain work. Your kids are still so young, and those early years of mothering take a lot out of you. I didn’t read a thing back when my son was small. There is nothing wrong with tv – just take care of you! xo

  3. 6 books! That is awesome. It does require sacrifice (which you described in your post). I am on my own reading challenge. I will probably write about my recommendations sometime this month.

    The Fault In Our Stars is on my list. Glad you recommend it.

    Love posts about books and what people are reading. Hope you do this monthly!

    • So glad you enjoyed this, Rudri, and I am also enjoying writing about books and reading. I do plan on writing about this regularly and I look forward to your future post(s) about your books! Will be curious to know what has been on your list 🙂

  4. Those library fees are good motivation, aren’t they??

    And since I’ve become a mother, I’ve shied away from sad stories. I just can’t (don’t want to?) handle make-believe tragedy when there’s so much of it going on around me. I did just finish “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” which I felt I needed to read to initiate some kind of catharsis over the passing of our sweet dog Polly earlier this year. I finished the book around 1 a.m. and spent two more hours crying. Catharsis indeed. Exhaustion, too.

    • I understand what you mean, Stacia. I like a deep emotional story but I stop at stories about parents losing children. I can’t do it.

      I am curious about The Art of Racing in the Rain. I’m glad you picked it up to help you with your grief over Polly. Oh Stacia…hugs to you. I am so sorry.

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