On setting reading goals and books read in September

Good news!

I reached my goal of 72 in August, and this month, I reached my Goodreads goal of 80 books.

You may ask yourself why I set such a “low goal” if I read 120 books last year.

My purpose for my reading life this year was to read deeper and sometimes longer books as well as fun books. I saw a tendency in my reading life last year to skip over some books if they were over 400 pages and I wouldn’t be able to finish them if the month had only a few days left. This year, I wanted to create space to read longer books than I had been reading.

It’s working beautifully because I am reading longer books and I’m getting through books I’ve had on my Kindle for a couple of years.

I’ve also surpassed my non-fiction reading goal which was 24 for the year; I’ve read 29 as at the end of September.

I had an audible goal too of 12 books for the year; I’ve read 16. I find that two a month is my comfort number.

Do you set reading goals?

Do you find that it enhances your reading life, or do you feel that it diminishes it?

And now onto my books read during September.

I really loved both non-fiction books I read: Hello Mornings by Kat Lee, and Grace not Perfection by Emily Ley.

I re-read Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, and again LOVED it!

If you’re a Gretchen Rubin Four Tendencies fan, tell me if you agree with my take on the characters:

Erica and Oliver – both Upholders, one leans to Questioner and one to Obliger

Vid – Obliger

Tiffany – Rebel

Clementine – Questioner

Sam – Obliger

Just some fun 🙂

Other mentions:

If you can, get Maeve Binchy’s book on Audible for all the beautiful Irish accents.

I am in the minority as I did not love Joshilyn Jackson’s The Almost Sisters, BUT it was a great book club discussion, and that I always love.

I’m reading Off the Clock (35% through – will report back next month) and that rounds up all the books I’d set aside to read in September.

What were some of your notable mentions or favourite books read this month?

What makes a good memoir?

Bryant Park, New York City

When people tell me they don’t like to read non-fiction, I get what they mean with business-y or other types of non-fiction.

But I do feel like there’s a beautiful segment of non-fiction that is very overlooked, and that is the memoir.

3 reasons to try a memoir

  1. A good memoir reads like a story, especially if told well, and if you generally read only fiction, this is an easy way to access a genre you usually don’t read in a fun way.
  2. Good memoirs usually have an interesting story and you don’t need to know anything about the author’s life to enjoy it.
  3. If you don’t have a lot of time, get a book on audible, preferably read by the author.

5 favourite memoirs I heartily recommend, especially if you listen on audio

  1. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Amy Chua
  2. Stories I only tell my friends – Rob Lowe (you don’t need to be a fan – I wasn’t!)
  3. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Then there’s a subgenre of memoir that I love – it’s one where there’s a project for a certain length of time – and the author then writes a book about it.

3 of my favourite project memoirs are:

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (I’ve read this one twice and enjoyed it even more 6 years later)

The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

Year of No Sugar – Eve O Schaub

Do you read memoir? What were some of your favourites?

And now, onto my reads for August.

I decided to only read books I wanted to seeing as it was my birthday month and my word of the year is FUN, and it was indeed a lovely, lovely reading month.

Interestingly, when I took photos for Instagram on Tuesday, I noticed that I read 5 non-fiction and only 4 fiction. I have to give a shout-out to The Year of Less, which is exactly the kind of project-based memoir I love. Those 5 non-fiction reads pushed me over my non-fiction reading goal for the year, which was 24. I’ve now read 27 non-fiction this year.

I’m still thinking through all the insights but I will add that I had $55 worth of stuff in a shopping cart, and after finishing this book, I clicked the X and told myself I don’t actually NEED any of those things. YAY Cait Flanders 🙂

My favourite fiction read was The Good House by Ann Leary. I did ask in the book club if people were interested, and there was no reply, so I read it on my own. And now I’m sorry I didn’t push a bit more because this would have made an excellent book club read. So many things to discuss.

What were some great books you read in August?

The kind of books I love to read

I’ve only read one book in this pic so far and didn’t really love it 😮

I mentioned in this post a few months ago that it’s quite life-changing when you know the types of books that don’t work for you; you can skip right over certain books and know they’re not for you even though many other people might love them!

In the same way that you should now what you don’t want to read – here’s my list – you should also know what you do want to read, so that others start to know your style and won’t miss the mark buying you books.

Funny story – last year and this year for my birthday, two different friends bought me books I’d already read and loved. They were quite disappointed that I’d read the books but I was thrilled because they got me!

I’m reading The Ensemble in this pic

So what do I love?

  1. A hopeful tone (a serious title can have either a depressing or hopeful tone) even if serious subject matter (e.g. Still Alice)
  2. Good relationship dynamics (anything Joanna Trollope)
  3. Project-based memoir
  4. Memoir that is not fan memoir (Lab Girl)
  5. Strong protagonists (there’s at least one in each of Liane Moriarty’s books)
  6. Non-fiction that is solid in concepts but still practical (I know how she does it)
  7. Contemporary fiction that is not soppy (The Ensemble)
  8. Most Irish fiction (Roisin Meaney – but here are my favourite authors)

Do tell – what kind of books do you love to read?

An aside – I was chatting to Dion about a book that sounds like the type of thing I would like, but then I said, “it does say the author was a winner of a Man Booker Prize so probably not”. You see, I also have the dubious honour of not liking Book Prize books or enjoying any Academy award-winning movies, except one (Crash) 🙂

And if you’re interested, here are the books I read in July.

Fiction/ Non-fiction

8/3

Physical/ Audible/ Kindle

3/1/7

It was a great reading month – I only had two books rated 3 stars. The rest were 4s and 4.5 stars.

For full details, friend me on Goodreads

What was the best book you read recently?

My monthly recap for July

I’m smack-bang in the middle of birthday season at the moment, so I’m not going to wait for the actual end-of-the-month before doing my monthly recap.

As an aside, can you see how this Upholder is breaking loose?! The Four Tendencies deep dive course really helped me to clarify why I do things and question whether I want to continue doing them. When I figure out Instagram TV, I’m going to do a little video on my learnings from the course.

Moving along.

Let’s talk about my highlights for July

1. Our family beach holiday. We were in Ballito for a week and I read 5 books, got to nap on the couch one afternoon, watched Wimbledon, and took many many walks on the boardwalk. Also, something weird happens to my body at the coast – I wake at 6.20 every day (I would wake at 9.00 if left to my own devices in Johannesburg)  – so I got to watch so many sunrises.

2. I’ve read 10 books thus far. I should finish on 12 for the month.

3. I crossed off something from the house to-do list which was to put in a shower in the kids’ bathroom. It came about in a really standard way for me which is I became irritated with having a messy bathroom every day when I got home from work as the kids used to use my shower. Dion and I are both very neat in our bedroom/ bathroom so I asked for a quote, changed the hardware out once and then paid the deposit and the shower was done.

4. I’ve done all the birthday planning. Two parties down, Dion’s birthday on Friday and mine on the 6th with a lunch on Sat 4th. Last year we had both the twins’ parties on the same weekend – mayhem – so this year we had 1 per weekend. Of course it feels like I’m entertaining for 4 straight weeks (which I am) but it’s been a whole lot more manageable. I’m only two parties in, but so far so good.

5. And for work, I survived the year-end madness 🙂 I was also up to date two days after returning from leave which is a feat that I’m particularly excited about.

Noteworthy mentions of the organising kind

  • I made updated travel lists and have put them in an A5 flipfile right down to which little travel pouch to use for my bedside table stuff. I’m super thrilled about this tiny little task that took about 10 minutes because now I don’t need to THINK every time I travel. I will just whip out my little flipfile and follow my lists.
  • We used Uber for our holiday again and it was great.
  • I ran a little giveaway on Instagram for Mandela Day and while I thought there’d be a lot more people putting up their hands for a free coaching session, I only had 4 takers, which means those 4 get 17 minutes each 🙂

Tell me about your highlights and organising mentions this month.

This is how we feel about beach holidays 😉

 

Books I read in June, the best book so far this year and one I don’t want to tell you about

In May I read 7 books and last month I read 8.

But best of all, I read two fabulous books.

Have I mentioned before that I consciously set my goal lower than last year? I wanted to feel like it was more fun – in other words, not feel like I need to get stuck into the next book 5 minutes after finishing the last one and also read longer books without concerning myself that it was taking days and days to read.

Here are the 8 books I finished:

Fiction/ Non-fiction: 6/2

Physical/ Audible/ Kindle: 0 (how is this possible? I don’t know either!)/ 3/5

Two books received 5* from me on Goodreads:

  1. Three wishes by Liane Moriarty. This is my second reading of the book – this time I listened to it on Audible and LOVED it even more. Highly recommend especially if you have multiples but certainly not necessary.

2. The Ensemble – Aja Gabel

I certainly don’t want to gush and put you off the book but do yourself a favour and get this one. And then sink into it over a weekend with a day or so on either side. This book drew me in and would not let me go. I didn’t even want to leave my couch the entire weekend. It is utterly wonderful and the best book I’ve read thus far this year. I actually can’t believe this is her debut novel.

The Ensemble

And then a book I read while Dion was driving us back from our holiday in the Drakensberg… that I almost don’t want to tell you about (insert “shocked face” emoji here)

The life changing magic of not giving a f**k – Sarah Knight

I bought it on Amazon sale because I was intrigued enough but not willing to spend “proper book money” on it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k: How to stop spending time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like (A No F*cks Given Guide) by [Knight, Sarah]

Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

I thought the actual concepts were really good. She gave good examples of the four areas – things, work (this section alone is worth the read!), friends, acquaintances and strangers, and family.

This book is going to be really, really useful for all obligers (on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework).

However, my rating is lower due to the overuse of the f-word.

I didn’t find this book to be making fun of Marie Kondo’s book at all. The author and I are both huge fans of Marie’s method and her overall question, does this spark joy?

So, definitely if you’re an obliger and you don’t mind excessive use of the f-word, get it. It will empower you and help you to work with those inner vs outer expectations.

Now tell me, what was the best fiction and non-fiction you read this month? And seeing as we’re half way through the year, dare I ask – are you half way through your reading goal?

PS I first found out about The Ensemble on Modern Mrs Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide and it is the first of three books that I want to read this “summer” (it’s winter in South Africa ;)) I want to read 8 books overall but 3 of those before the end of August.

Here is my winter fun list if you’d like to take a look.

What are your nos with books

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I only read 7 books in May. That feels like a little and it is the least in any one month I’ve read for a long while. Still, I’ve now read 45 for the year, which is an average of 9 a month, and is not shabby at all.

Here’s the haul:

 

Non-fiction: Fiction 2:5

Physical: Audible: Kindle 3:1:3

Notable reads

  • Both non-fiction (I probably should write about those)
  • Something in common – Roisin Meaney

Something in common was a gorgeous, gorgeous book and I devoured it in a day and a bit. It’s very typically Irish fiction (not much is rosy and “perfect”, but is all very real, with a sense of hope and warmth woven through the pages).

If you haven’t yet tried the author, I always recommend The Daisy Picker but this one will be my new favourite to recommend. In fact, get whichever you like – I love them all 🙂

 

Book club mention

We read Behold the Dreamers in book club and I rated it 4 on Goodreads, but that’s a 3.75 pushed up to a 4. I wanted to like this book more than I actually did.

Have you read it? What did you think?

And now for the bookish discussion:

Anne Bogel interviewed Laura Vanderkam on the What should I read next podcast early this year.

It’s one of my favourite interviews primarily because of how well Laura knows the type of books that work for her and those that don’t.

I was so impressed by her self-awareness that I’ve started keeping track of the type of things that I don’t want to read about:

  • Abuse of children
  • Slavery
  • Suffering
  • People in mental hospitals
  • Historical fiction, esp. war settings.
  • Most blog to book titles (blogs and books are very different writing styles and most bloggers should not be writing books)
  • Fan memoir (where you can only follow along and appreciate the book if you’re a fan of what that person has done)
  • Most multi-generational books (exceptions are Maeve Binchy novels like Tara Road)
  • Weak protagonists – the person doesn’t have to be likeable, but they need to have something interesting – I need to care about them in some way)
  • Too much weirdness (Where’d you go, Bernadette and one of this month’s reads, The Time of my Life)
  • Too many viewpoints/ characters (I feel like I’m unable to care about them all…)
  • Titles described as “laugh-out-loud romantic fiction” (I usually don’t find them funny at all, and there’s usually gratuitous s*x
  • Nicholas Sparks 😉
  • Young Adult fiction (I can manage about 1 a year)

As Anne Bogel says, some books are not bad; they’re just not for you.

So tell me, what did you read in May? And what do you not want to read?

In April I realised how I prefer to consume my books

Let’s get all the book stats out of the way because there’s something I want to discuss with you.

I had a good reading month in terms of number of books read, but only a few really good ones.

Books read in April

Books read: 10

Non-fiction/ fiction: 3/7

Physical/ Kindle/ Audible *: 4/4/2

*there’s a little story about the one Audible book

I listened to most of Chasing Slow on Audible but I really wasn’t enjoying it at all and I realized that the author might be coming across more whiny due to the narration. So I switched to the Kindle version (I bought the Kindle version on sale first and added $2,99 for the Audible narration) and I actually enjoyed the last 30% much more.

As at end April, I’d read 38 books for the year. My challenge is 80 books.

The little teashop of lost and found – Trisha Ashley

Now let’s talk about how I prefer to read my books.

I have a general rule where I read non-fiction Monday – Thursday, and then I read fiction Friday to Sunday. This is purely for practical purposes so that I actually get enough sleep for work. I have zero discipline when it comes to putting down a book so this is my Upholder way of making sure my life works for me.

So this month, I read two fiction books outside of my rules, in other words, during the week.

The reason is also very interesting to me – I didn’t have any non-fiction books that were calling to me on my physical bookshelf, and I didn’t feel like reading on the Kindle either. Remember one of the reasons I read a lot is that I always have a lot of good books to read. This is why I said in this Instagram post I probably need to declutter this bookshelf because if I don’t feel like reading them, perhaps they should go to someone else.

This is the story of a happy marriage – Ann Patchett

I then picked up fiction because I wanted to read those, but because I can only read a bit before bed every night, it took me probably 5- 6 days to finish a book I usually finish in 2 – 3 days.

And, here’s the thing, when I take that long to read a work of fiction, I just don’t feel like I can immerse myself fully in the story and fully enjoy it.

I don’t mind taking weeks to finish non-fiction because I like thinking through what I’m learning, but I want to dive into fiction and be done with it.

Isn’t that interesting?!

Does whether you read a book over a shorter time affect your enjoyment of that book? Do you have book rules for yourself? (I do realise this is a very “upholder” thing to do) 

So that’s what I learned this month:

  • I need to stick to my rules for the week
  • I need to declutter that bookshelf and have compelling non-fiction (it’s one of my 18 in 2018 goals actually)
  • I need to dive into fiction first thing on a Friday night to be sure I finish by Sunday afternoon 🙂

Did you learn anything new about your reading life this month?

The best book I read in March that’s still freaking me out

From Goodreads, in reverse order

March was a good reading month for me.

I finished reading 9 books, although my children told me that The Break by Marian Keyes was so long, it should count as two books 🙂

The breakdown was 6 fiction and 3 non-fiction.

My physical/ kindle/ audio ratio was 2/5/2.

But now, let me tell you about the best book I read last month.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was a book club read, and in fact, it was on our list from last year, and I kept moving it forward on our list. I’m so, so glad we kept this book on because I loved it.

My standard practice is to read the book club read on the weekend before book club. I usually start on Friday night, and read Saturday and Sunday.

This time I knew it was difficult subject matter so I kept postponing my reading (!). I was cleaning, organizing, faffing, doing everything else possible but finally on Saturday night, I buckled down and started reading because I knew I needed to get on with it.

And I couldn’t put it down. It was utterly compelling, so authentic and real and just beautiful writing.

The reason I’m still freaking out about it? Because what do you have if you don’t have your mind… or words to communicate? Oh man!

I loved the narrative style because we could see the progression of her disease in her writing – it was all done so well.

I want to encourage everyone to read this book if you haven’t yet. Even if you’ve watched the movie (which I will now do!)  with my favourite Alec Baldwin (!) and Julianne Moore, do read the book. The writing is just beautiful. It is such a heartwarming story.

I also highly recommend this for a book club read. We had such a fantastic discussion – I loved it!

I actually gave it 4.5* because of how I didn’t really want to read it and the reading was hard in parts, but since Goodreads makes you have whole numbers, 5 it is, since it was much better than “just a 4”.

One of my favourite parts of book club is how we all rigorously debate our ratings.

This photo was taken on the Sunday night, when I was well hooked!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

What was the best book you read in March?

PS here is my book club post on Instagram

The book that forever changed how I view nature

 

Books I read in February 2018

February was not the best reading month for me (I read 8 books vs 11 in January) and I know exactly why:

I read 4 fiction and 4 non-fiction.

As much as I enjoy learning from the non-fiction, it does mean that I take longer to read and finish those books.

One of them had chapters that would be 18 minutes long (according to my Kindle) and then it’d take much longer to actually finish. The Kindle is usually really good about estimating my reading speed so this was a bit frustrating for me.

Still, we have a long weekend at the end of this month, which means an extra book for me 🙂

I had two 5* books this month and the first one is the book that has absolutely changed how I look at nature and seasons.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

I bought this book on an audible sale late last year after hearing a bit about it on the internet.

I honestly loved this book and can’t wait for a re-read, or re-listen. I have studied science but not botany so the study of plants is not really my thing, and yet she explains things so that everyone gets it.

I loved the way it was structured with short chapters on the science and then longer chapters on the memoir part of it all.

It really was a great read. I bookmarked huge sections on autumn  and falling leaves, which I will definitely listen to soon as the southern hemisphere is now in autumn!

Here are some favourite quotes:

“Looking up, you notice that the leaves at the top of any tree are smaller, on average, than the leaves at the bottom. This allows sunlight to be caught near the base whenever the wind blows and parts the upper branches.”

“My strongest memory of our garden is not how it smelled, or even looked, but how it sounded.”

“It takes a long time to turn into what you’re supposed to be.”

“The very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers—my inability to let things go coupled with my tendency to overdo everything—were exactly what my science professors liked to see.”

“The very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers—my inability to let things go coupled with my tendency to overdo everything—were exactly what my science professors liked to see.”

As for my favourite fiction book of the month, I again loved reading What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

This was the very first Liane Moriarty book I read and I’ve caught up with all of them so I’ve started re-reading. At first I read the Kindle version and since I have an older Kindle, I didn’t pick up all the nuances in formatting, which added to my enjoyment of the book this time around.

I thought a lot more about this book reading it this time around, probably because 10 years ago I myself was going through infertility and didn’t know if I’d ever have children. I felt closer to Alice this time because the concept of losing 10 years of my life is rather…frightening!

One of my favourite quotes:

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best– well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”

How was your reading month?

What was your favourite book – fiction, non-fiction or both?

PS Here’s how the rest of my month went.

What went well in February?

Hello friends

I want to tell you something kind-of interesting.

lots of reading

 

I have 6 questions on my monthly review sheet and my intention is to use a different question as an example every month to show you how I use them.

Last month I answered the question “what energised me this month?” and this month I scheduled in just the blog draft title “what went well this month”?

Do you know? I haven’t had the best month. In fact, it’s been one of the more terrible ones in a long, long time.

Probably why I haven’t really felt like writing this post about what went well, because not much did.

Still, let’s see. There’s a reason I need to focus on what went well, so let’s do it 🙂

magnificent walk

What went well this month?

  1. I had 8 friend dates. That’s a lot, even for me, because two from January got pushed back. That was truly the highlight of my month.
  2. We had a wonderful book club last week – great discussion, lovely people, challenging and energizing.
  3. I took two wonderful walks (the goal was four) but at least they were picturesque and gorgeous!
  4. I walked more than 5000 steps 79% of the month.
  5. I read 8 books. I will tell you more about this next week because there were some lessons in there for me, and perhaps for you too?

That’s it.

Book club!

Of course I could probably make a list of 10 things that did not go well, and I have acknowledged some of the more important ones in my bullet journal, but I’m very glad to see a clean slate today now that it’s a new month.

Tell me what went well for you this month.

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