Books-on-the-Nightstand Summer Bingo

I’m very late posting this, but once again I am participating in the challenge hosted at Books on the Nightstand, for their Summer Bingo Challenge which runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Each reader generates their own card and can tweak it if so desired (I edited the list of options only so far as eliminating the genres I simply “don’t do” such as Horror and Manga. I regrettably didn’t delete Romance, but I am going to make myself find something that can qualify and not make me gag.)

The rules state that you can consider it a WIN if you complete any row, as would be true in Bingo, but I”m going to make it my personal goal to fill in all 25 squares, and perhaps even go on to fill a 2nd card.

As I write this on July 16, I have completed 16 of my 25 squares. I suppose I shall just list my categories, and fill in the books I’ve read for them…

1) Published 100 years ago (i.e. 1915)

2) An academic/campus novel:  Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee [6/22]

3) That was turned into a TV show or movie: The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Dayby  Cornelius Ryan [6/9]

4) About a disease:

5) Poetry:

6) Reread something: A Rule Against Murder: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book 4)by Louise Penny fills the bill nicely [6/28]

7) That “everyone but you” has read

8) A library book: How to be bothby Monica Ali  [6/2]

9) A classic you should have read in school: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  [5/27]

10) Set in a place you want to visit: The Rocksby Peter Nichols (set in Mallorca) [6/22]

11) With a one-word title: Outline by Rachel Cusk [5/27]

12) By a Canadian author: Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book 1)by Louise Penny (the first category I filled in during my re-read of this series) [6/22]

13)  “Free Square” I’m not sure if this counts as a Joker, and we can count any book, or if it’s just a gimme. If I hear an answer to that I’ll update this accordingly. I’ve certainly read a number that I could put in here if needed.

14) Revolves around a holiday: A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery Book 2)again by Louise Penny [6/26]

15) Recommended in a BOTNS episode: Dark Placesby Gillian Flynn [6/13]

16) With a place name in title: Howards Endby E.M. Forster [6/26]

17) Audiobook: The Paying Guestsby Sarah Waters [5/30]

18) YA novel:

19) The last published book by an author before they died:

20) Romance:

21) Re-read a favorite (yes, this is suspiciously like #6 above, but both categories were apparently in their database of suggestions): To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [7/12]

22) Part of a series: Finders Keepersby Stephen King [6/6]

23) About books/bookstores/publishing:

24) An author debut: The Beesby Laline Paull [5/24]

25) With food as theme:


Updates (mea culpa)

Clearly, letting even one self-imposed deadline fall by the wayside encourages me to let more slide. And then the backlog is daunting so I just say, “I’ll have more time tomorrow; I’ll do it then.” So today is the cliff: one more postponement and I’ll crash over the edge. Don’t want to do that, so we’ll have a quick rundown of recent reads…

I had fun re-reading a book from childhood, The Little Prince and noticing once again how well the illustrations enhance the story.

I raced through the first five books in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles series. I mentioned the first one in an earlier post, but this time I consumed volumes 2-5 without a break.

In nonfiction I enjoyed Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home but then I always like books about books. I wish the author had given us a few more of her impressions from her “year of reading from home” rather than mostly a listing of books she had on her shelves. I also read (or listened to) Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century because although I used to love Perry’s historical mysteries, I’ve categorically refused to read any more of them since learning she herself is a convicted murderer. I have no problem with someone living a productive life after serving one’s time, but I think it’s the height of poor taste to choose murder mysteries to make her (very good) living. After reading this book, I have more complicated feelings toward her and I’m not sure if I’ll stick with my ban forever. Please note, however, that the narrator for this audiobook is really annoying and I will definitely not listen to any others she may have narrated.

A much better nonfiction read is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption and this one I highly recommend. Thought-provoking, discouraging and hopeful all at once. I need to come back and add more thoughts on this one, but I must get this post up, so for now I suggest you go find the book and read it.

I also recommend David McCullough’s latest book The Wright Brothers, who are probably my hometown’s most famous local boys.

In general fiction I’ve read Aquarium, The Bone Tree, The People in the Trees, and All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoyed all, but am not sure that any will make my top ten list for 2015.

A quick trip through At Bertram’s Hotel was an easy reminder that Agatha Christie can be relied upon for a good read. Casino Royale was my first time to actually dive into one of the books behind the James Bond film series. It also qualifies in two challenges: my TBR one and the Literary Birthday one. And I finally read Anna Karenina from start to finish, and thoroughly enjoyed it! (this one counts in my Back to the Classics challenge.)

There have been a few other books, but as I’ve already lost the draft for this post TWICE, I’m going to post as is and come back to add the rest of the links and perhaps a few more thoughts.

Currently I’m working my way through the shortlist for this years Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize, but those will be covered in another post.

Other March Reading

A quick run-down on other books I’ve finished this month but hadn’t yet blogged…

3/23/15 Only Time Will Tell (Clifton Chronicles Book 1)by Jeffrey Archer. The author can always be counted on to tell a good story and keep it moving. Like so many of his other books, this one begins with an underprivileged but bright young person and follows them as they rise into the circles of the rich and famous. There are  four more books already published in this series, and I look forward to seeing Harry Clifton traverse the 20th century.

I finished The NIV Bible in 90 Daysand enjoyed this quick trip through the entire Bible. Now for some deeper reading of it during the rest of the year.

As the end of March loomed, I realized I hadn’t yet read anything for my literary birthday challenge (anything by a dead author who was born during this calendar month) so I found The Inspector-Generalby Nikolai Gogol. This is a comedy of misunderstandings in a small Russian village where absolutely everyone in office (major or minor) is corrupt. The rumor starts that someone is here from the government to inspect how they are performing their jobs and everyone tries to outdo the others in impressing the young man they are certain holds their fate in his hands. It was an amusing, quick read and will meet not only the literary birthday challenge but another task in the Read Harder challenge as well as one in the Back to the Classics challenge.

Finally, I finished the book I had begun before picking up A Little Life and becoming lost in it. A Separate Peaceis set at a boys’ academy just at the outset of WW2 and captures the last of their innocence before their world changes. Not what I expected, but a good read for time and place. This will also count toward the classics challenge as my choice for 20th century classic.

The Best Book I’ll Read in 2015? A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life: A Novel

I don’t even know how to begin discussing this except to say that it’s books like this that make me so grateful to be a reader. It’s my first five-star (new) read of the year and it was a slam dunk for that rating. To say that it’s “about” four friends during college and afterward is to completely miss the point. Their enduring friendship is a mainstay of the book, but it’s ever so much more than that. To be honest, everything revolves around Jude St. Francis, a brilliant and sensitive man who has endured unspeakable horrors in his earlier life. But he wants to protect everyone in his life from all of that (and really, from him) by keeping everything to himself insofar as possible. We learn his backstory very gradually, and come to appreciate what a triumph his life really is, even as we see that some damage can never be fixed. His self-loathing is blind and all-consuming, although everyone who meets him sees a jewel of a person, brilliant and loving and loyal and kind and courageous and stubborn. Like attracts like, and his friends would go to the ends of the earth for him. I cried many times during this book and for most of the last 50 pages. Hanya Yanagihara has truly written a masterpiece. I am quite certain I won’t read a better book this year, and I will never forget — or get over — these characters.

A word of caution: for those who have PTSD issues regarding abuse, I’d be cautious going into this one. But while it is dark — very, very dark at times and at length — there is also great hope and humanity throughout.

Heartwrenching and oh-so-beautiful.

This one will count  toward my “Read Harder” challenge.

2nd Annual Love for Books Readathon, February 9 – 15

To join in, sign up here. The rules are simple and non-constraining. Read anything you like and set any goals you like. There will be a small prize and perhaps some mini-challenges along the way.

I’ve been averaging about 165 pages per day so far this year, so to make it a challenge, I will set myself a goal of 1,400 pages for the week. That should allow me to finish my two current reads and one or two more.

Current stats:

The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthI am currently on pg 392 of 467

Natchez BurningI am currently on pg 460 of 853

I’m also working through The NIV Bible in 90 Days and am on page 375 of 1088

I will come back and update this post as I go:

My Reading Progress

Read: The Narrow Road to the Deep North (75), Natchez Burning (320), The NIV Bible in 90 Days (69), The Burgess Boys (42)
Pages read: 506  (I had no idea I’d read this much!)
Total # of pages:
Books completed: The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Read: Natchez Burning (73), The NIV Bible in 90 Days (43), The Burgess Boys (241), Reamde 19[in audio]
Pages read:
Total # of pages:
Books completed: Natchez Burning

The NIV Bible in 90 Days (74), The Burgess Boys (53), The Quiet Game (Penn Cage Book 1)(314)
Pages read:
Total # of pages:
Books completed: The Burgess Boys

Read: The Quiet Game (32), Reamde (71)
Pages read: 103
Total # of pages: 1427
Books completed: none

Total pages read for #LfBReadathon:  1427

Total Books finished: 3

So, I barely met my goal, despite the promising start. In my defense, we spent the weekend going to all eight of the Best Picture nominees for the 2015 Oscars (some good movies in there!) and that really cut my opportunities to read. It was fun to participate in this little challenge, though.

2015 Literary Birthday Challenge

I’m wary of committing to too many book challenges — that I might find it chafing against what I want to read, or that I simply won’t follow through… but I think I’ll give this one more a try. I signed up for the event hosted by You, Me and a Cup of Tea because it sounded easy enough and rather fun. Chasing down birthdays for the authors of books I want to read this year provided me with plenty of opportunity to procrastinate when I could have been doing things like folding laundry or, say, actually reading.

The idea is that each month I will read one book by an author who was born during that month. Goodreads has a group page set up  and there are links on that page to lists people are compiling of authors who would meet the criteria. I am planning to come back and update this page with each relevant entry.


January     The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien  1/10/15

February    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark  2/25/15

March    The Inspector-General, by Nikolai Gogol  3/30/15

April     Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington  4/19/15

May      Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming  5/4/15

Now, I think that should be the end of the challenges I enter. Sometimes I have already found it confining to keep up with 2-3 book clubs, although I certainly read enough books to do so if I would just choose those which I am “supposed to read.”

I can’t believe that a new reading year is about to begin! 2014 has had quite a few delightful reads, so I will close this post by listing what I wound up deciding were my ten favorite new-to-me books of the year.

1  How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by  Louise Penny
I’m just not sure books get any better than this one, though one must have read the preceeding books to fully appreciate it.
2 The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
I laughed my way through this whole book. I loved the sciency nerdy stuff and thought there were a lot of good insights into media coverage, human resourcefulness and the value of persisting.
3 The Golem and the Jinni (P.S.) by Helene Wecker
From the description, this would not seem like my kind of book at all, but I simply loved it. Beautifully written, and very much a charcter-driven book. I will be re-reading this one in the near future.
4 We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I knew nothing whatever about this book when I read it (inhaled it, really). I’m glad for that, because if I’d known more I couldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
5 Twelve Angry Men (Penguin Classics) by Reginald Rose
I’d seen the (great) movie long ago, but had never read the play. I highly recommend it.
6 The Return of the Soldier Rebecca West
A surprisingly powerful novella on the effects of shellshock in the aftermath of WW1.
7 Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
This one was very painful to read. The author put it all out on the page – her raw emotions and golden memories. Gradually, one sees her find her way forward after her nearly unthinkable loss.
8 The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli by Lisa Abend
I loved this book about the workings at one of the world’s most famous restaurants, and the lives of the apprentices who were a part of it for one season.
9 Station Eleven by Hilary St. John Mandel
More than post-apocalyptic, this reads as a literary novel that follows human nature in the wake of a worldwide flu pandemic. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I was going to.
10 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

In the end, I had to put this one on my list because it was just such a fun read.

I had to leave off several that could have qualified but perhaps were just nudged out by one or more of the above.

Book Riot’s “Read Harder” Challenge

Here is another challenge in which I will be participating over the coming year. I thought it would be a fun way to nudge me into some specific areas I might not otherwise drift with my reading. I will come back and update this as I check things off the list during 2015.

There are 24 tasks in the Read Harder Challenge (or roughly two per month). You can tackle them in any order, make any changes, do them all in a month or spread them out over the year. Make the challenge yours!

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65   As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust  1/14/15

A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) One More Thing: Stories and More Stories  3/8/15

A book published by an indie press  All the Dancing Birds  1/2/15

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ  A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara 3/29/15

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own   The Lord of the Rings  1/10/15

A book that takes place in Asia  The Great Zoo of China  4/4/15

A book by an author from Africa  The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith  1/22/15

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)

A microhistory  Proof: The Science of Booze  4/21/15

A YA novel

A sci-fi novel   The Book of Strange New Things  1/3/15

A romance novel

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade   The Narrow Road to the Deep North  2/9/15

A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)

An audiobook   Sheep-Pig  2/1/15

A collection of poetry

A book that someone else has recommended to you  Winter Garden  1/13/15

A book that was originally published in another language  A Doll’s House  1/23/15

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over)  Home of the Braised, by Julie Hyzy  1/25/15

A book published before 1850  The Inspector-General, by Nikolai Gogol 3/30/15

A book published this year  The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins 1/17/15

A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)

The original post on Book Riot can be found here

As of 4/21/15 I have completed 17 of the 24 assigned tasks.