Sunday Salon: Reading Through the Year

109 Books.

That was my cumulative reading total for 2018.

In recent years, I’ve set a goal of reading 100 books per year. Goodreads kindly keeps track of my progress, and I periodically check in to see how i’m doing. I’m not obsessive about it. I reached the goal in 2016, but fell short in 2017.

When I hit 100 books on December 5 this past year, I decided to try for 110, and almost made it.

Looking back on the standouts from 2018, there was a lot of literary fiction, even more historical fiction, a little memoir, and a few mysteries. I rarely write written reviews on Goodreads (doing more of that is another goal I have for this year) but I always rate them using the built in Goodreads star system, and I’m stingy with five star ratings. The book has to engage me completely - you know, one of those you eagerly anticipate picking up again. It has to have complex, well defined characters and thoughtful, pertinent themes. The author’s use of language and description must be sophisticated without being obscure, and detailed without being pedantic.

Glorying in Autumn With Eyes Wide Open

These are autumn’s glory days. Though the calendar says the season is waning, it seems to be in full performance mode in our backyard, which would be right at home on the campus of Harvard with its carpet of crimson and gold. Today was the first day in quite a few that we’ve had the benefit of any sunshine, and you all know there is nothing quite as spectacular as a November sun high in the azure sky, spotlighting nature’s own extraordinary palette.

Already August

Seasons come and go so quickly, don’t they? Already it’s August. My little grandson has been here for the past 10 days, and will go home to Texas next week to prepare for his first day of school on August 16. I’m happy that Michigan schools continue to schedule opening day after the Labor Day holiday - mid-August seems too early to begin the autumn rite of passage that is First Day of School.

Summer Reading: Clock Dance/White Houses

On the New Release shelves at my local library, a select few books are classified as “Lucky Day” books. In high demand, they’re available on limited one-week loan, with a hefty $1 dollar a day fine if they’re overdue. I was there on Monday and grabbed up Anne Tyler’s brand new novel, Clock Dance, as well as Amy Bloom’s White Houses. I almost snatched Meg Wolitzer’s new one too (The Female Persuasion) but figured my chances of reading three novels in one week (especially THIS one week) were pretty slim.

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Well, it’s Wednesday morning, and thanks to two very sleepless nights, I’ve read both my Lucky Day picks, and am wishing I had The Female Persuasion waiting for me in the tote bag.

Anne Tyler’s novels always delight me, and Clock Dance was particularly so. There is always something so poignant about her characters - their quirkiness, their neediness, their willingness to just step off into life, sort of like stepping of a cliff into thin air. In this one, Willa Drake, a 62 year old woman whose life is seemingly going just fine, finds herself plunked down in the middle of just such a cast of characters and realizes there are some very important elements missing, elements this very unlikely group of people can help restore for her. It’s quintessential Tyler, and was a lovely way to pass the wee hours of a sleepless night.

White Houses is an entirely different kettle of fish. It’s a fictionalized account of the relationship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hitchcock. Told from “Hitch’s” perspective, it’s an unflinching look at historic figures who have been idealized by time but were, of course, simply human beings with flaws and frailties, needs and desires. Amy Bloom places them squarely within the confines of history, but also beautifully conveys the timeless depth of emotion between these two women. 

I am reading a LOT this summer (21 books since June 1) partly fueled by the aforementioned trouble sleeping, but also by the fact that there’s been little of interest to watch on television. Historically, July is always a big reading month for me. Things will likely slow down starting today - my son and his family are coming for their annual summer visit, and having my 6-year old grandson in the house will keep me occupied and probably tired enough to sleep all night long!

How’s your summer reading coming along? Anything particularly striking your fancy?