Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Reading Challenge Wrap-Ups

I've already joined all my challenges for 2018, so it feels a little weird to go back and revisit the 2017 ones now, but I still like to see how they all turned out right at the finish line. I already discussed these 2017 ones quite a bit back in October when I debated what I would (or would not) join again in 2018. I am standing by my decision to join very few this year which includes skipping a fun challenge I did really well on as well as two that line up perfectly with my reading goals, but I just don't want to be bothered with all the tracking -- or the "pressure"! I actually think I might do better reading from my own shelves and reading new books I buy if I don't have challenges hanging over my head. We shall see!

Goal: Read all the Sherlock short stories and novels.

This one is not actually over yet, but I abandoned ship many months ago. I enjoyed the few stories and one novel I read, but I do not work well on a schedule. At all. I'll get back to these in my own time. AND there is now a fantastic Stephen Fry narrated Audible edition, I have so many hours of listening to look forward to :) :)

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Hosted by Novel Night
Goal: 50 books published prior to 2017

I have 114 books logged for this challenge, plus tons and tons of backlist picture books (though I gave up on submitting those after September!). I'm in the middle of a couple more backlist books I may or may not finish before the end of today. I had not made myself any goals for the Hogwarts mini challenge which included 4 different (optional) scavenger hunts, but I've completed and submitted all of them! As of yesterday, I only had one book remaining for the Hermione's Library hunt, a title with the letter Q in it. I had not been counting any picture books for the scavenger hunts (even though they do count), but decided being one book shy, I would sneak one in. I chose The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by one of my very favorite storytellers Carmen Agra Deedy. It was definitely a book for me, rather than for my son, so I'm calling it good enough :)

This challenge looks like a huge success for me on paper (ahem, screen), but I'm still not joining it again for 2018 (tempting as it is!) because I feel I spent WAY too much time tracking and logging stuff for it. I'd rather get that time back for more reading or blogging.

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Hosted by Julie @Smiling Shelves
Goal: Konisgburg level which requires 75+ points

I chose the highest level for this challenge and blew past my goal! I rounded out the year with 100 points and am so happy with all the wonderful Newbery and Caldecott books I read this year.

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Original artwork by Charles Haigh-Wood (1856-1927)
Hosted by Becky @Becky's Book Reviews
Goal: Complete Checklist of 102 categories

I loved this challenge! If picture books aren't your thing, I totally get it. And even if they are your thing, maybe it seems silly to have a challenge for books that often can be read in 15 minutes (or less!), but I really liked how this helped me pick up titles, authors, and illustrators I never would have before. Sure, I completed lots of categories without even trying, but having some categories I needed to seek out in order to cross them off was a little bit like a bookish treasure hunt :)

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Goal: My Shelves and I are Going Steady, 51+ books

I only read 37 books for this challenge this year. That might sound pretty good to a lot of people, but it's a lot lower than I was hoping for! I read lots more from my shelves if I could count books purchased during 2017, but those count for the final challenge below, not this one. I'm not joining ShelfLove again, but since I am giving myself a monthly book budget in 2018 (more on that soon!), I sincerely hope to read many more that are already on my shelves now in the coming year.

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Hosted by Book Date
Goal: Maximizing Returns, 61-80%
Status: FAIL!

I actually stopped tracking this sometime in the fall. I went to a few too many garage sales and made a few too many Book Outlet bargain orders and just got tired of logging everything (and watching my stats drop!) Maybe that should have motivated me to stop picking up new books altogether, but challenge stats aren't going to dissuade me from picking up a $5 bag of used books at a community fundraiser garage sale or $1 books from the library sale shelf. Even without official numbers, I know I didn't hit 61% and I quite likely missed by a LOT. While I still find reading books I buy in a timely manner to be a worthwhile goal, I don't want the pressure of tracking it all. In 2018, I'm giving myself a limited monthly book budget, so I'll have to decide if I want to spend it a pile of cheap used books, a cartful of bargain books, 1 or 2 brand new books or audiobooks, or some combination thereof. This should keep things in check by forcing me to be more discerning in what I pick up -- which should in turn help me read (most) of them in a reasonable amount of time. And if I pick up some $1 bargains that I don't read for a few years, so be it!

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How did your reading challenges go in 2017? Are you joining any for 2018?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Bookish Reading Plans: How'd I Do?

Before I finalize my bookish plans post for 2018, I thought I should take a look at how I did on my plans for 2017:

1. Continue writing short reviews on Goodreads, but... 
2. remember I don't have to review every book! 
YES! I did both of these. Almost every book I read got logged on Goodreads and I "reviewed" many of them with just a line or two of my thoughts. Lots more books got only a star rating -- or occasionally nothing at all if I was too undecided.
YES! I demolished my goal for this challenge and loved so many of the books I read for it. I'd like to up my ratio of Newbery to Caldecott books in 2018 though. The Newberys I read in 2017 were some of my very favorite books of the year, so lets keep 'em coming!

4. Read a variety of picture books
YES! I read at least 1 book for each of the 102 categories in this challenge. Hopefully I can get a post together soon with some highlights!

5. Read poetry and short stories
YES! There is room for improvement, but I definitely read more poetry and short stories than I had in previous years.

6. Read classics
SORT OF. I read some classic children's novels (and bunches of classic picture books), but I didn't really get around to the classics I had in mind when I made this goal. 

7. Read at least five new-to-me authors (thanks Jade!)
YES! Lots more than five, actually.

8. Read (A LOT) more from my own shelves (#ShelfLove!)
Well.... I did do (slightly) better than in 2016, but there is a LOT of room for improvement. 

9. Read new books I buy during 2017 in a timely manner
SORT OF. I bought a lot of books in 2017. Book Outlet bargains and used books were a pretty large percentage of my purchases. I also frequented (that particular word is oh so appropriate here!) my local indie and various online book sites. I read a lot of these books, but there are still an embarrassing number of unread ones on my shelves. This is why there will be a book budget for 2018 -- more on that soon!

10. Use the library, but not as much as I have been (to help with #8)
I THINK SO? I feel like I had a better balance this year, but I didn't really keep track. Striking a good balance between library and purchased books continues to be a work in progress.

11. Implement a book buying ban for YA and adult titles (exceptions for books to be read right away)
MOSTLY. I bought relatively few YA and adult titles in 2017, but I definitely did not read every single one I did purchase. I more than made up for the decrease in YA and Adult with an increase in Middle Grade and Picture Books. That wasn't exactly the point of this goal, so here's another good reason for my new 2018 book budget!

12. Use my wishlist shelf on Goodreads as a sort of waiting period to discourage impulse purchases
SORT OF. I used my wishlist shelf, but it didn't curb my impulse purchases as much as I hoped it would. 

13. Spend less time researching, browsing, and shopping for books
NOPE. This is going on my 2018 list again for sure. And I need to remind myself of it any time I get sucked into a bookish internet black hole. I have found an awful lot of great books through my browsing and researching, but it really is not the best use of my time to do as much of it as I have been doing.

14. Better curate my bookish email subscriptions, newsletters, and blogroll
MOSTLY. This is also going back on my 2018 list since it's a continual work in progress. I'm much more careful than I used to be about curating my feeds, but the overwhelm can easily creep back into the various corners where I get my bookish news. When Feedly or email or Instagram, etc., etc. start feeling like a chore instead of an inspiration, I know it's time for another cull.

15. ENJOY reading and sharing books with my son
YES! This is really always the most important goal. I definitely did enjoy my own reading as well as reading with my son and I hope for lots more of that in the new year!

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How did you do on your reading goals for 2017? Are you making any new ones for 2018? I'd love to know!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge: Sign-Up Post

I know, I know. I said I was done with challenges. But I'm making one exception. Anne Bogel recently launched the eighth year of her Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge though this is actually my first year joining. I've seen it in the past, but always skipped it because I felt I had already joined too many other challenges -- which I most certainly had! But I only joined three this year focusing on children's books, so this one really resonated with me when Anne explained her reasons for bringing it back. Apparently she was seriously thinking about not doing a challenge for 2018, but I'm really glad she changed her mind! I'm paraphrasing as best I can from my memory of her Instagram story, but basically Anne said her goals are to help people: get more out of their reading lives, get better at choosing books that will be great reading experiences, establish a reading habit, make time for reading, and focus on quality over quantity. So I decided this was exactly what I needed for my "adult" reading in 2017.

I do have a pretty well established reading habit, but it's almost all kid-lit lately. I love kid-lit, but I've realized I am seriously out of the habit of choosing titles outside of Middle Grade and Picture Books. They are generally less of a time commitment, so my reading outside of those categories has been steadily declining. I'm not abandoning kid-lit by any means, but I'd like to make more time and space for great adult and young adult titles in the new year -- and this seems like just the thing to help me do that!

More info & sign-up on the Modern Mrs Darcy site!
Image from Modern Mrs. Darcy

Are you joining for 2018? If you're looking for a category based challenge, I can't think of a better one. Anne carefully chose the 12 categories based on feedback of what has actually worked for real readers. Plus, there are all kinds of fun goodies to download when you join like a phone wallpaper, bookmarks, and goal trackers. Here's to a year of great reading!

Monday, December 4, 2017

2018 Reading Challenge Sign-Ups

So, I really am quitting most reading challenges for 2018. I went through all the pros and cons and very few challenges made the cut to re-join for next year. I will sign up for the broad, number-based Goodreads challenge in the beginning of January as I always do. Once again, I will set a very high goal that reflects all of the types of books I read including picture books, chapter books, poetry, short stories, and graphic novels which enable my stats to climb so high. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with this one, but at this point it feels like a tradition.

The other two challenges that made the cut had a common theme: children's literature. Why am I not surprised?! I decided I would join the Picture Book Reading Challenge again as long as the categories were mostly different -- and they are! So that one is a go and my goal is to complete the entire checklist again. I've been rocking the Newberys and Caldecotts lately and have a LOT more of them on my TBR, so the Newbery Reading Challenge is also a go and I'm aiming for the highest level again.

And I'm sneaking just one new challenge into my lineup. Becky who hosts the Picture Book Reading Challenge also has a similar Middle Grade Reading Challenge that is just too tempting to pass up! I figure this one will work for two main reasons: first, it overlaps with the Newbery Challenge and second, like the picture book challenge, it features an awesome checklist of options. I have found the checklist format is pretty ideal for me in terms of keeping track. I have no delusions of completing all 104 categories for this one, but I know I can complete the minimum of 6. I won't set a goal higher than 6, I'm just curious to see how many I can check off by the end of the year. Becky has even ruled that counting a single book for two qualifying categories is allowed (but not more than two!)

Both picture book and middle grade challenges have an option to focus on a single author's body of work which I'm really intrigued by. Deciding on just one author will be a difficult choice, but I definitely want to at least consider this option for both challenges.

MY GOAL: Konigsburg level = 75+ points

Point System
3 points for a Newbery Medal Winner 
2 points for a Newbery Honor Book 
1 point for a Caldecott Honor or Medal Book

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Original artwork by Charles Haigh-Wood (1856-1927)
Info & Sign-Up
MY GOAL: Complete Checklist + Complete Option 2

Option 1: Read six picture books of your choice.
Option 2: Choose one author to focus on. Perhaps read through an entire author's work.
Option 3: Read as few as six, or as many as you like, from the checklist below
1. Title beginning with A
2. Author beginning with A
3. Title beginning with B
4. Author beginning with B
5. Title beginning with C
6. Author beginning with C
7. Title beginning with D
8. Author beginning with D
9. Title beginning with E
10. Author beginning with E
11. Title beginning with F
12. Author beginning with F
13. Title beginning with G
14. Author beginning with G
15. Title beginning with H
16. Author beginning with H
17. Title beginning with I
18. Author beginning with I
19. Title beginning with J
20. Author beginning with J
21. Title beginning with K
22. Author beginning with K
23. Title beginning with L
24. Author beginning with L
25. Title beginning with M
26. Author beginning with M
27. Title beginning with N
28. Author beginning with N
29. Title beginning with O
30. Author beginning with O
31. Title beginning with P
32. Author beginning with P
33. Title or Author beginning with Q
34. Title beginning with R
35. Author beginning with R
36. Title beginning with S
37. Author beginning with S
38. Title beginning with T
39. Author beginning with T
40. Title or Author beginning with U
41. Title or Author beginning with V or W
42. Title or Author beginning with X or “Ex”
43. Title beginning with Y
44. Author beginning with Y
45. Title or Author beginning with Z
46. An alphabet book
47. A counting book
48. A color word in the title
49. A number word in the title
50. Concept book of your choice— picture book
51. Concept book of your choice — board book
52. bedtime book —board book
53. bedtime book — picture book
54. book that rhymes —picture book
55. book that rhymes — early reader OR board book
56. holiday of your choice — board book or early reader
57. holiday of your choice — picture book
58. wordless picture book
59. new to you author
60. new to you illustrator
61. favorite author
62. favorite illustrator
63. free choice
64. fairy or folk tale adaptation
65. fairy or folk tale traditional
66. a title with the word “first” in it
67. a book set in the state you live
68. a book set in a place you’d like to visit
69. a book set in an imaginary place
70. a book set in the past — fiction or nonfiction
71. a book set in the present
72. picture book for older readers — fiction
73. picture book for older readers — nonfiction
74. early reader — fiction
75. early reader — nonfiction
76. picture book with photographs
77. one word title
78. long title (four or more words)
79. oversized book
80. tiny book
81. a book about playing (hide and seek, tag, or peekaboo, etc.)
82. a book about school
83. a book about hobbies (art, dance, music, crafts, sports)
84. a title that is a question
85. a title that is an exclamation
86. an award winner or an honor book
87. a collection (of poems OR stories)
88. a book with animals (fiction)
89. a book with animals (nonfiction)
90. a book about books or reading
91. a book celebrating family
92. first book in a series
93. any book in a series
94. book with an adventure or misadventure
95. a book about a pet
96. A title with the word “yes” or “no” in it
97. A title with the word “big” or “little” in it
98. a classic published before 1968
99. a book you think should be considered a classic
100. Out of print
101. Library book
102. Impulse Pick
103. Board book published in 2018
104. Picture book published in 2018

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Girl reading a book by Federico Zandomeneghi
Info & Sign-Up
MY GOAL: Minimum of 6 from checklist (but hopefully a lot more!) + Complete Option 2

Option 1: Read six middle grade books of your choice. 
Option 2: Choose one author to focus on. Perhaps read through an entire author's work. 
Option 3: Read as few as six, or as many as you like, from the checklist below

1. Title beginning with A
2. Author beginning with A
3. Title beginning with B
4. Author beginning with B
5. Title beginning with C
6. Author beginning with C
7. Title beginning with D
8. Author beginning with D
9. Title beginning with E
10. Author beginning with E
11. Title beginning with F
12. Author beginning with F
13. Title beginning with G
14. Author beginning with G
15. Title beginning with H
16. Author beginning with H
17. Title beginning with I
18. Author beginning with I
19. Title beginning with J
20. Author beginning with J
21. Title beginning with K
22. Author beginning with K
23. Title beginning with L
24. Author beginning with L
25. Title beginning with M
26. Author beginning with M
27. Title beginning with N
28. Author beginning with N
29. Title beginning with O
30. Author beginning with O
31. Title beginning with P
32. Author beginning with P
33. Title or Author beginning with Q
34. Title beginning with R
35. Author beginning with R
36. Title beginning with S
37. Author beginning with S
38. Title beginning with T
39. Author beginning with T
40. Title or Author beginning with U
41. Title or Author beginning with V
42. Title or Author beginning with X or “Ex”
43. Title beginning with Y
44. Author beginning with Y
45. Title or Author beginning with Z
46. 2018 Newbery Winner or Honor
47. Newbery Winner or Honor from 2010-2017
48. Newbery Winner or Honor from 2000-2009
49. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1990-1999
50. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1980-1989
51. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1970-1979
52. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1960-1969
53. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1950-1959
54. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1940-1949
55. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1932-1939
56. Newbery Winner or Honor from 1922-1931
57. Notable Children's Book from 2018 or 2017
 58. Any book by a Wilder Award author
 59. verse novel
 60. graphic novel
 61. biography or memoir
 62. nonfiction
 63. poetry
 64. audio book
 65. first in a series
 66. any book in a series
 67. last book in a series
 68. favorite author
 69. new to you author
 70. British author
 71. Australian author
 72. Canadian author
 73. translated into English from another language
 74. American author
 75. set in the state you live
 76. set in a place you'd like to visit
 77. set in an imaginary place you'd like to visit
 78. picture book for older readers
 79. book about a pet
 80. animal fantasy
 81. fantasy
 82. alternate reality
 83. science fiction
 84. adventure
 85. action/suspense
 86. mystery/detective
 87. realistic fiction
 88. school setting
 89. multiple points of view
 90. historical fiction -- world war I
 91. historical fiction -- world war II
 92. historical fiction, your choice
 93. historical fiction, mystery or suspense
 94. oh the sads
 95. happy, happy ending
 96. laugh until you cry
 97. coming of age
 98. "diary" or "notebook"
 99. classic, your choice
 100. out of print
 101. library book
 102. impulse pick
 103. published in 2018
 104. YOUR pick for Newbery 2019

Bonus/alternate picks:
 made into a good movie
 made into a horrible movie
 book from your childhood
 free choice
 multiple authors
 orphan child
 vacation setting or road trip
 first crush
 new book by favorite author
time travel or steam punk

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Are you joining any challenges this year?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Big Library Book Clear Out

Very often I have an embarrassing number of books checked out on my library card. Well, I thought it was embarrassing to have 40-50 books out at a time until chatting at book club one month, my friend who is a librarian looked up her own account and had out approximately 80 -- I'm not alone! I still feel awkward going up to the desk when I have a dozen or more picture book holds to pick up all at once, but I'm pretty sure that's just my own hang-up. I don't think anyone working at the library is actually upset or surprised when patrons make heavy use of their services -- or at least I hope not!

But let's go back to that dozen holds thing for a second. Whenever I go into the library to pick up a huge stack, I always feel the need to return a huge stack first. Granted, I usually only put in a lot of hold requests when I'm ready to move onto a new season/holiday/author/illustrator, etc. which often means I am done with an earlier season/holiday/author/illustrator, etc. It's always very satisfying to do a Big Library Book Clear Out and gather up all those ones I'm done with -- especially if I've actually read all (or most) of them. Hence, today's return pile -- which only includes TWO unread books.

The OUT pile

I feel lighter clearing those books out of the house. I feel a sense of completion and accomplishment. And then....

The IN pile

I take out a new stack! I'm not the only one who does this, right? Sometimes I do feel like I go overboard and then I make sure to return any hasty selections I'm having second thoughts about. I think my new stack is pretty well rounded though -- there are some for Christmas, some for the Diverse Books Club, and a couple of stragglers for the 2017 Picture Book Challenge. I've been spending the last few days of November on a hodge podge of library books and other "catch-up" type reading to clear the path for all those Christmas-y books in December. I think I'm just about ready!

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Tell me how you use your local library! Do you ever take out big stacks? I'd love to know :)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Vacation Bag TBR #2: December Book Stack

I usually am not an early person when it comes to Christmas -- getting a tree, decorating, cards, gifts, baking -- none of these things usually happen immediately after Thanksgiving around here like they do for many. They definitely don't happen before Thanksgiving (if that's your thing though, it's all good) and usually I'm lucky if they happen at all! Last year when my son was 1 1/2 years old, I ended up with a tiny table-top tree and called it a day. I'm hoping to do a real tree this year, but that remains to be seen. I usually like to do things bit by bit over the weeks leading up to Christmas, though I can certainly see the appeal of getting it all done early. But since becoming a mom, it feels like a whole new ball game! Even if I wanted to get the ball rolling earlier, I'm not sure I could realistically manage it -- and I'm OK with that.

The one thing I can dive right into though is seasonal books! I love reading Christmas-y books in December, but usually don't get around to as many as I would like. So as I did for the fall, I thought I'd pull them all out so I can see what I have when it's time to choose my next book. A curated stack or shelf of options seems to work for me as long as I don't look at this stack like a to-do list. My intention is not to turn my Christmas reading into a homework-like obligation, but rather to narrow my focus and avoid the decision paralysis that happens when staring down my entire collection.

From the bottom of the stack up you'll see:

* 3 Christmas anthologies
* a Christmas cookbook with accompanying stories from famous chefs/authors
* a Dickens collection
* a vintage children's magazine anthology (which isn't all holiday stories)
* 7 middle grade books that are about Christmas, take place around Christmas-time, or have some sort of Christmas element in them
* the classic A Miracle on 34th Street illustrated by Tomie dePaola
* a slim collection of children's poetry by Jack Prelutsky
* a collection of 12 short stories (with recipes)
* two illustrated children's story/poem collections

Too many to list! Leave a comment if you have any questions about titles :)

I also pulled out all the Christmas picture books and the stack is bigger than I thought! We may not get to every single one this year, but I'm sure we will read plenty of them over the next four weeks. A few of these have already been read recently -- and I will admit that a couple get read year round! I also have submitted my library requests from the running list of Christmas books I kept as I went through various author or illustrator backlists earlier in the year. We will not run out of things to read, that's for sure! I fully expect little man to latch onto a handful of favorites though, so some of these I may end up reading on my own if they are ones I really want to revisit during the season.

And let's not forget audiobooks! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is an annual re-listen for me. And I'm already listening to My True Love Gave to Me for book club. I have more than enough to choose after those two -- some new, some re-reads -- if I have any additional listening time :)

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I know I have more here than I can possibly read in a month, but that's alright :) What are you reading this time of year? Do you have any good winter reads or books for other holidays? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, by David Mikics
Date: October 2013
Format: Hardcover
How did I get this book? Borrowed from the Library
Goodreads | Publisher

I don't write many book review posts these days, so it's a bit ironic that I'm reviewing a title I didn't even finish! I didn't finish it on purpose though and when I started writing this up on Goodreads, I got a lot more long-winded than I expected. So here we are.

The idea of slow reading appeals to me -- partially because I am a slow reader by default and always have been. The idea of speeding up the "movie in my head" has really not ever appealed to me, despite the fact that I would be able to read more books in the same amount of time if I did. So I guess when I spotted this title, I was really just curious about the benefits of slow reading since I felt like it was something I was already doing. In truth, Mikics' "slow reading" means much more than just a literal slow pace and it was interesting to see what "rules" he has come up with. He very clearly states these are really only guidelines and that he has no intention of ruining the reading experience with mandates -- he feels the "rules" should help readers enjoy books more, not less, and that each reader should only take what he or she can use -- which I feel is important to point out because I have seen other reviews criticize the very idea of reading "rules."

All that said, I really enjoyed and got a lot out of the Introduction, The Problem, and The Answer chapters. After that I skimmed and skipped (which is rather the opposite of what the author is advocating!) because the examples were mostly classics I have not read. I was honestly not interested in another person's analysis of books based on the advice given, just the advice itself. I think a lot of the ideas here can apply to any kind of book, it was just way beyond me to have so many points of reference I was unfamiliar with. At some point, I'd like to discover some of the books discussed for myself rather than read Mikics' analysis of various snippets.

I think the strongest part of this book was the discussion in those first few chapters of reading in the digital age. I don't want to be alarmist, over-dramatic, or demonize technology, but I could completely relate to many of the descriptions of distraction and discontent related to too much screen time. It is making me rethink my relationship with screens and validating the feeling that I really need a break from it all sometimes -- and that break is well spent if I take the time to read instead.

I'm glad I borrowed this from the library instead of purchasing it because the book as a whole didn't work for me. But I'm very glad for the parts that did resonate with me and I copied a TON of quotes into my reading journal. Those first chapters are definitely worth a read if slow reading appeals to you in any way -- or if the distractions of technology are leaving you feeling a little frazzled or sapping your concentration. But if you'd like to take a peek at the "Rules," check out this Huffington Post article which abbreviates those 130 pages very nicely.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Reading Journal #1 Complete!

It's been almost two years since I first mentioned starting a journal of quotations from books I read and I've finally filled it up!

Scribble courtesy of a certain small someone :)

Last pages -- it's full!

To the best of my memory, I had only started using this first book journal a few months (at most) prior to that blog post in January 2016. In the beginning, I only used it sparingly. I wasn't very consistent about marking passages as I read or copying them over after finishing a book. Even though I wanted to record memorable quotes, I wasn't in the habit of doing it, so it didn't always happen. I would be reading as usual and then something would really stand out and I would remember: "Oh yea, that's the kind of thing I want to record in my journal!" And then I would immediately get this feeling that I had surely missed other lines I should have recorded from my recent reading. I didn't want to turn my reading into homework, but I just knew this was a record I would love to have and look back on in years to come, if only I could figure out a good way to do it.

So this is pretty much how it went -- in fits and starts -- until quite recently. I had tried various things including marking down page numbers on a note pad (digital and paper) and snapping a photo of a page on my phone to return to later. Theoretically these methods should have worked just fine, but I still had a hard time following through. I also went through a big audiobook phase and while I love that format, it's not well suited to noting and marking quotes. Sure, it can be done, but it's certainly more complicated without a printed text in front of me and audio bookmarking proved to be a real pain for this purpose.

Book darts!

But over the last few months I finally started using my journal more consistently and the vast majority of this first one is filled with quotes from 2017 (which isn't even over yet!) And during the past two months I really hit my stride thanks to book darts -- which I have Modern Mrs. Darcy and the Read Aloud Revival to thank for. Book darts are exactly what I didn't know I needed to make this whole reading journal thing a success. They are easy to use, don't interfere with or interrupt my reading experience, and make it super simple to return to marked passages later on. Book darts are sort of like fancy paperclips that don't damage my pages and allow me to bookmark a specific line so I don't have to go scanning and searching for what exactly I wanted to remember on a particular page. They're great! If you have any desire to keep a reading journal, I can't recommend book darts highly enough.

The secret to successful book dart use -- thank you RAR!

Since I have a toddler, I was a little worried about having tins of small metal bits around the house. But one final tip from Sarah Mackenzie in her recent masterclass solved that problem too -- putting a bunch of book darts on my book's title page before I start reading. Eureka! Now I don't have to tote the tin from room to room, it's not just sitting around waiting for my toddler to crack open, AND it's easier than ever to grab a dart when I come across a line I want to mark. Now, I don't delude myself into thinking my son couldn't figure out how to pull them off the pages if he really wanted to, but they are a lot less enticing while attached to the pages of a closed book than sitting in a tin that makes a really cool noise when you shake it.

I used so many book darts in this one!

I don't want to overthink this whole process as I am reading, so I often mark more passages than I actually end up using. But that is the beauty of it -- when I am done reading, I can simply go through dart by dart and decide what I really want to remember from that particular book. If I decide not to copy a particular quote, I just remove the book dart and move on. And what I like best now that I have a "system" in place is that I have built in some time to reflect on and think about what I have read as I decide what I most want to remember and what has really resonated with me. Of course, I always want to dive into a new book, but this new little ritual has helped me slow down just a bit which is definitely a good thing for me.

New journal!

So, now I'm onto a brand spanking new book journal which is so exciting to me! It's kind of like that new-school-supplies-in September feeling when I was a kid (or was that just me?) Now that I've been doing this a while, I've figured out what works best and am making some minimal changes for this second journal. This time around I'm including page numbers and creating a heading for each book instead of noting title and author after every single quote -- which can get really tedious if I have a lot of quotes from a single book.

Slightly new format!

I never imagined I would need more than the 50 darts that come in the cute What Should I Read Next? tin, but I often have a couple different books going at the same time and I used nearly all 50 when I read The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction! So I figured it would be nice to have an extra and ordered a tin of 125 on Amazon. The Modern Mrs Darcy ones are adorable, but the Amazon tin was definitely more economical. And truthfully, if I had bought a tin with 125 the first time, I probably wouldn't have bothered with a second!

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Have you ever kept a book/reading/quote journal of any kind? Have you tried book darts? Do you have any other tips or tricks? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (Review + How I'm Using It)

I got a peek at this family reading journal while watching a free master class by Sarah Mackenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival. It was only mentioned briefly because endorsing a specific product was not the point of the class at all -- a commenter brought it up, so Sarah held hers up to show viewers what it looked like. Boy, am I glad I caught that brief glimpse! This is basically the family reading journal for my son I never knew I needed. So I bought four. (Yes, really!) One is for us, two were gifts for the kids of friends from book club, and the last one is still TBD. It's definitely going to become a future go-to gift for anyone I know who likes to read aloud. There is also a distinct possibility I'm going to fill ours in sooner rather than later -- even with room for nearly 400 entries! -- and move onto a second one.

So what's in this thing and why is it so great?

109 pages for Journal Entries
Most pages have 4 entries, with some drawings and quotes interspersed to reduce some pages to 3 entries. Each entry has a line for title, author, illustrator, # of pages, date finished, who shared the story, star rating, and an empty spot for notes, doodles, etc.

A Feature Lists section to record...
New Words We Like! (86 entries)
Our Favorite Quotes (71 entries)
Most Memorable Characters (51 entries)
Most Surprising Story Twists (38 entries)
Books That Made Us Laugh (41 entries)
Books That Made Us Cry (41 entries)
Books That Changed Us (37 entries)
Our Very Favorite Books! (38 entries)

10 Adventure Quests to complete
Each of these include a Quest, a Sub-Quest, and an Arch-Adventurer Quest depending on how challenging or in-depth you would like to go with each topic. A few of them also have an additional Bonus Quest.

World Explorers
Time Travelers
Genre Hoppers
The Serial Bookworm
The Literary Zookeeper
High Adventure
Myths & Legends
Newbery Quest
Caldecott Quest

You guys, this thing is gorgeous and if you have any desire to keep a reading record for your family, I can't think of anything more perfect. 

Even though it has a very specific set up, there were still quite a few decisions for me to make regarding how exactly I want to use this journal. First of all, since I discovered it when my son was nearly two and a half (and it's only been published since November 2016 anyway), the biggest question has been how to handle all those books from the last 2.5 years. Thanks to Goodreads, I do have a record of them all (barring any accidental omissions), but there were just way too many. So I decided I would only record books I loosely call "favorites" -- basically anything that's been on repeat that my son, myself, my husband, or any combination of us has really loved. So basically that eliminated: 1. books we read but didn't keep because none of us loved them, 2. books we read only once or twice and returned to the library, and 3. books still in our collection that have not yet stood the test of time or that the jury is still out on because they're still too advanced, out of season, etc.

I also made the decision to print out book covers to paste onto the entry squares. I know this is going to add bulk to the journal and the more we use it, the more it will start bulging with the extra thickness they add, but at least for the picture books, I really wanted to include that visual element. The artwork is such a vital part of picture books, I wanted some representation of it in our journal. Also, at this point, I don't have a whole lot of notes for most of these books. I've placed the covers in such a way that I still have a little room to write and have only just started adding in a few notations. I've been working in stages and this has been a really fun project, even if I'm a little impatient to have it all caught up to our current reading!

For the time being, I decided to leave the "story shared by" line blank. I know my son and I have shared every single one of these books. My husband has also read the vast majority of them aloud or has been in the room with us when I read them aloud at bedtime. A lot of them have also been read with his grandparents and various other relatives. I don't want to box us in by trying to figure out who did or didn't share a particular picture book one of the many, many times it has been read aloud. Someday when we move on to novels that won't get re-read a zillion times, I will definitely use this line. I feel much the same about the "date finished" line -- I also decided to leave that blank because picture books are never really finished if we keep reading them over and over again!

I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do about the Quests and Feature Lists. On the one hand, if I start them now, they would really be more for me than for my son. I think these sections will really shine once he is old enough to listen to chapter books and novels, have more input and opinions about the books we read, and can help find the various books needed to complete the quests. On the other hand, since I'm fairly certain I'm going to be filling in more than one of these journals, I still may go ahead and start working on them with books from these early years anyway.

So, have I convinced you yet? This journal is awesome, really. If you need a Christmas, holiday, birthday, or baby shower gift (any kind of gift really!) for a bookish friend or family, I can't recommend it highly enough!

The Rabbit Room
(I got our first on Amazon, then ordered the others through my local indie)