2017 book report

One of my resolutions for 2018 was to correct my lapse in reading. In 2015-2016, I steadily increased the number of books I was reading, meeting my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal each year. For 2017, my goal was 20 books. I failed to meet my goal for the first time in two years. 

For the last two years I've also put together a little recap of my reading activity, an idea I borrowed from my friend Erin at like/want/need. I've always enjoyed doing them, and in the spirit of my 2018 motto, I've decided to dive back into blogging with an easy start - my 2017 Book Report.

Past Book Reports: 2015, 2016

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Seeing these covers laid out like this makes me cringe a little - because a good chunk of these books were audiobooks I have already read! It definitely throws into sharp relief how little reading I did last year. 

  • GOAL: 20 books

  • READ: 16 books

  • BOOKS BOUGHT AT INDIE STORES: 9 - this is the one positive from last year! Almost every physical book I read was purchased at an indie store.

  • FAVORITE: A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Predictable, but dystopias are my favorite genre and it was far and away the best book of the bunch. Honorable mention to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, my second-favorite HP book, and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry (Fredrik Backman).

  • LEAST FAVORITE: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. This was very much NOT a book for me. I read this for a book club I attended one meeting for and quickly realized I was out of my element and that I needed to find a different club.

  • LONGEST: The longest book I "read" (really listened to on audiobook) is an HP book for the second consecutive year - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 759 pages.

  • SHORTEST: An exact tie between What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell and On Love by Alain de Botton - both 194 pages.

  • FUNNIEST: Continuing with my theme of reading mostly sad, dark or serious books, not many funny ones in this bunch. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is the clear winner here, although I find Half-Blood Prince to be very funny in parts.

  • SADDEST: Honestly don't think I can choose one - a lot of these were quite sad. I guess if forced to choose I would say that The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan would probably be it. I need to balance out some uplifting books...

  • BEST COVER: Not a lot of great covers here. I always love the HP illustrated covers, but my favorite is probably The Association of Small Bombs.

  • WORST COVER: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - a boring cover for a boring book.

  • MOST OVERRATED: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek again. It astonishes me that this has 4+ stars on Goodreads.

  • READ OFF MODERN LIBRARY TOP 100: 0 - in my last book report, I said I needed to focus on this in 2017. So much for that... at this rate I will finish this list when I am 100.

  • READ FOR BOOK CLUB: 3 - I read the first two books for a book club I stopped attending, and I was able to join a great new club at the end of the year!

  • AUDIOBOOKS: 5 - the last two Harry Potter's and Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy. I genuinely loved listening to these series from my childhood and I miss them now that I've finished. I started on some embarrassingly nerdy and VERY childish series after that - I refuse to put them on Goodreads though...

  • GOAL FOR 2018: I decided to try to keep my same goal (since I didn't finish it last year). I'm already doing much better this year having read 6 books already!

hello, 2018!

September 2017 - Chicago sunrise on Lake Michigan.

September 2017 - Chicago sunrise on Lake Michigan.

I had been intending when I posted a few weeks back to try to get one blog post written per week. But life's been a little hectic lately - between last minute work trips, the holidays, and packing up to move for the first time in seven years, I've been a little overwhelmed. But rather than feel guilty that it's been nearly a month, I decided to take a few minutes during lunch today to write a little bit about some of my plans for the upcoming year. 

My motto for the year is "Perfect is the enemy of good."

It's an English variant of an old Italian proverb, and it's so applicable to me because I'm a horrible perfectionist. It's a real battle for me not to completely give up on something once I perceive that I've "messed up" somehow. Missed a run on my training plan? Better start over completely. Accidentally skipped a side quest in a video game? I'll have to just replay the whole thing. It's a terrible quality of mine that seeps into just about every aspect of my life, and it's the biggest thing I want to combat this year. To that end, I'm not really making any resolutions officially. 

2017 was also a really positive year for me personally - I feel like in many ways I really "got my shit together". I've started making some loose plans to help me continue improving in some key areas, but per my 2018 motto, I'm not going to stress if I slip up or don't execute these plans flawlessly.

HEALTH & WELLNESS

This is probably the biggest area I struggled with in 2017. It was a very busy year, and while I did manage to get into the gym for workout classes fairly regularly, I also wasn't nearly as active as I was in 2016. I also developed some unhealthy eating habits - getting takeout a lot due to poor time management/sheer laziness, and eating while bored or stressed. 

  • I ran my first half marathon in 2016 with an injured foot, but I came really close to finishing under two hours anyways! This year, I want to run another one and hit that milestone.

  • I also want to get into a routine with my favorite workout classes 2x a week.

  • I'm going to be attempting a Whole30 starting the second week of January, after I move. This is definitely my most ambitious undertaking for 2018!

  • My new apartment will have a MUCH better kitchen and I got some good kitchen supplies for Christmas this year - I want to add at least 5 new go-to recipes to my repertoire and I also would like to try to bake 5 different kinds of bread now that I've got a decent oven to work with.

  • I'm a night owl and I struggle to go to bed with enough time to get a good night's sleep. Definitely something to work on this year.

FINANCIAL

Some poor habits, an extremely tight budget, and a bad relationship left me in a not so great situation a few years back. I've made loads of improvements since then, but it's still one of my weakest areas personally. I want to continue making progress in a few key areas this year.

  • One of my biggest challenges is setting and sticking to a budget. I still have a tendency left over from being broke to spend freely when I have extra money, in case it disappears suddenly.

  • Reduce reliance on credit card debt - see above point for reasoning why.

  • Build up my savings - I have had some large unexpected expenses wipe out my savings every time I make some significant progress on them (thanks a lot, unreliable car).

  • Cut some spending where possible, like eating out too frequently or making impulse purchases.

PERSONAL

I've found that having consistent routines helps me be more productive both personally and at work. I'd been doing pretty well with this, but really fell off the last few weeks. I need to make sure I can adapt these routines even when I get super busy.

  • Since I'm not at all a morning person, I need to try to get up early enough to set aside a short amount of time to relax with a cup of coffee and a book or some of my favorite blogs. Seems counterintuitive, but those few minutes help me be more productive throughout the day.

  • In the same vein, a regular night routine helps me fall asleep more easily. This includes some self-care type stuff, like taking a few minutes to do a sheet mask.

  • Between my job, normal millennial phone usage and my video game hobby, I spend a lot of time staring at screens. I want to reduce the amount of mindless phone scrolling I do and make sure I stop using electronics right before bed (to help my sleep quality).

  • Another area I really didn't do well in during 2017 was reading. In 2016 I was a part of a few book clubs that have since fallen apart, and I fell out of the habit of reading. I've joined another book club and I want to take a few minutes a day to read before bed at the very least.

  • Writing helps calm my anxiety and brings some order to my chaotic thought processes. Whether it's blogging here or writing in my personal journal, I need to do more of it in 2018.

A bit of a long entry, but I like writing down these kind of plans! I feel like stating this stuff publicly helps me feel more accountable to my goals. If you've got your own resolutions or plans for 2018, I'd definitely love to hear about them!

2016 book report

Last year, I got the idea of doing an annual book report from one of my favorite blogs, like want need. It was a nice way to revisit all of the different books I read throughout the year. I realized suddenly that it's already halfway through March and I never posted one for 2016! You can read last year's book report here

This year I tried something different - I had been wanting to reread the Harry Potter books (my favorite books of all time, no shame), but I didn't want to spend my already limited reading time just rereading the same books over and over again. My friend Maggie gave me the idea to listen to audiobooks during my commutes, and that has been awesome. Not only are the Harry Potter audiobooks really well done, it's made my dreary hours in the car so much more enjoyable. The audiobooks are quite expensive if purchased individually, but with an Audible subscription you can get them for much cheaper. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial and get one free book credit *here!

  • GOAL: 16 books - though I see now that when I wrote last year's book post, I thought I'd read 24!

  • READ: 17 books

  • BOOKS BOUGHT AT INDIE STORES: 7 - this is slightly down from last year, which is probably because I started Book of the Month Club as well as threw in some audiobooks

  • FAVORITE: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. A close second was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

  • LEAST FAVORITE: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This book wasn't bad, really. It just felt like an attempt to capitalize on all the hype from Gone Girl, and it wasn't nearly as well done.

  • LONGEST: Although I listened to the audiobook instead of reading it, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix is easily the longest at 870 pages. Next was A Thousand Splendid Suns (372 pages).

  • SHORTEST: The Pearl by John Steinbeck - 96 pages.

  • FUNNIEST: This is one of the reasons I like doing these reviews... not one of these books is really "funny", and most were kind of depressing. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is pretty lighthearted, I guess. Maybe I should read some at least a funny book or two this year...

  • SADDEST: Quite a few sad books in this group, but I think Sophie's Choice is the clear winner here. Runner up would be All at Sea by Decca Aikenhead, a memoir about the aftermath of her partner's drowning death.

  • BEST COVER: I do really love the Harry Potter cover illustrations, but Dark Matter's cover is my favorite out of the new books I got.

  • WORST COVER: I really disliked the covers for both Sophie's Choice and Under the Net.

  • MOST OVERRATED: Definitely The Girl on the Train.

  • READ OFF MODERN LIBRARY TOP 100: 3 - books #94-96. I really didn't read enough of these this year, I need to focus more on that list in 2017.

  • READ FOR BOOK CLUB: Only 4... my book club sadly fell apart last year.

  • BOOKS FROM BOTM CLUB: 2, and I still have a whole pile to get through. I actually stopped ordering them until I can catch up!

  • AUDIOBOOKS: 5, which is quite a few for someone who never enjoyed an audiobook before in her life.

  • GOAL FOR 2017: Trying to keep things reasonable and just adding 1 book per quarter, so 20 books.

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a look back, a look forward

What a year 2016 was. I have so many mixed feelings about it, because it was really a total roller coaster. It was also, however, one of the best years of my life on a personal level. I've heard/thought enough doom & gloom about 2016 to last an eternity, and I'm ready to appreciate the good parts in order to start 2017 off on a good note. I've got a couple resolutions for 2017, but mostly I want to just keep doing more of what I've been doing.

I traveled all over the US and across the pond to spend time with friends & family. I watched my youngest sister graduate. I got to attend FIVE weddings, celebrating friends from grade school, high school, college, and afterwards. 2016 included my first vacation with my boyfriend, and then we went on a couple more trips for good measure. I visited some great friends, and some friends visited Chicago too! I saw Hamilton from amazing seats with great company. I ran my first ever half-marathon. I made new friends and rekindled old friendships too. 

Some of my 2017 resolutions:

  • Read 20 books (up from 17 in 2016)

  • Run a half-marathon in under 2 hours - I was close this past year, but an injury made the last couple miles a struggle

  • Work out 4-5x per week

  • Volunteer 2x per month

  • Update this horribly neglected blog at least a couple times per month

  • Learn something new - maybe finally take a real swing at learning French?

 
I also will be spending 2017 livin' large & getting into trouble in honor of my Uncle Kevin, who passed away suddenly late this year. He was one of the coolest guys around, and had a laugh that filled the room. We miss him immensely.

I also will be spending 2017 livin' large & getting into trouble in honor of my Uncle Kevin, who passed away suddenly late this year. He was one of the coolest guys around, and had a laugh that filled the room. We miss him immensely.

 

2015 book report

One of the most satisfying things I accomplished in 2015 was to fall in love with reading again. I had always been a voracious reader - my parents actually used to punish me as a kid by taking books away - but somehow, particularly during a tough period of my life, I stopped reading almost completely. I decided a few years back that I wanted to read Modern Library's Top 100 Novels, and from 2012-2014 all the reading I did was various attempts at struggling through Ulysses, and that was pretty much it. 

Then, this past year, I realized it made way more sense to start reading from the BOTTOM of the Top 100 list. I also put together a book club with some friends, which provided some great peer pressure to actually finish what I started reading. It really helped me to reintroduce reading back into my life, and I once again have piles of books all over my apartment because my bookcase is too small. 

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  • GOAL: 12 books

  • READ: 12 books! I actually thought I had only finished 11 and was really disappointed, but then I remembered that I read Coming Clean on Kindle at the very beginning of the year, before I really started using Goodreads.

  • BOOKS BOUGHT AT INDIE STORES: 9 - going to local bookstores is one of my favorite things and I willingly shell out money to buy my books there. #hipster

  • FAVORITE: Easily Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.

  • HATED: The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy. This is supposed to be a "wildly funny" novel, according to descriptions, and the first couple dozen pages involve the main character beating his wife and trying to strangle his kid. Har har. I can't believe this made the Top 100 Novels list; it's awful.

  • LONGEST: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - 447 pages.

  • SHORTEST: The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain - 116 pages.

  • FUNNIEST: Most of these books were not at all funny, so definitely One More Thing by B.J. Novak, though I wasn't a huge fan of it.

  • SADDEST: Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, told from a child's point of view during the Holocaust. Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller is a memoir about a childhood spent living with hoarder parents; very sad in a totally different way.

  • BEST COVER: I bought The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman entirely based on the cover, so that's a clear win. Honorable mention to The Postman Always Rings Twice.

  • WORST COVER: The Ginger Man's gross illustration matches its repulsive interior.

  • MOST OVERRATED: I know everyone loves Devil in the White City, but it left me cold, despite being from Chicago and loving the history of the city.

  • READ OFF MODERN LIBRARY TOP 100: 4 - I made it through books #100-97 (I finished #96 a few days into the new year).

  • READ FOR BOOK CLUB: 8

  • GOAL FOR NEXT YEAR: I'm being ambitious and going for 24, double what I finished this year. I'm on track so far!