Missing The Mark

This year’s reading challenge goal was again 100 books. I missed my goal by two.

Yes, I could have fudged things and read a couple of kids books just to say I got there but that didn’t serve the spirit of the challenge.

Instead of mourning the failure, I’m choosing to be glad that I read 98 books and that I enjoyed most of them. There was again a nice mix of fiction and non fiction including a handful of photography books.

Out of them all, there were just a few I didn’t like. There were probably eight or ten others that I started but didn’t enjoy. Life is too short for mediocre books. I don’t have time for that and will shamelessly put down any book that clearly will not serve me.

Here are the fiction books I liked best.

William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land was my favorite because it was so beautifully and thoughtfully crafted. It’s a coming of age story with a journey that is full of twists and turns. Components reminded me of many other wonderful books like The Wizard of Oz, Homer, Huck Finn and more.

City of Girls was written by Elizabeth Gilbert who also gave the world Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn’t what I expected but it’s a page turner. I was surprised to realize I only read the one Adriana Trigiani book this year. Her work is all excellent. Give her a try if you ever have a chance. My gateway to her world was Big Stone Gap a few years ago. While I haven’t read her entire catalog, I have read most and enjoyed them all. They’re easy reads that pull you right in to the beautiful worlds she creates and keep you promising just one more chapter.

I also really liked The Four Winds which chronicles a family’s Dust Bowl experience. Many readers complain that it starts slow and that it’s depressing. Honestly, I felt like author Kristen Hannah made it purposefully slow to emphasize the desperate monotony of life for the main characters. Also, it’s hard to gussie up the Great Depression. Her last few books of historic fiction have all been extraordinary and I would recommend giving her a chance if you haven’t yet.

These were my favorites on the non fiction side.

I have come to appreciate memoirs. Nerves of Steel tells the story of Tammie Jo Shults whose entire career has been record breaking. You might remember her from the news a few years ago when she successfully landed a badly crippled Southwest Airlines flight. Before that she was one of the first female fighter pilots for the US navy. She’s humble and a great storyteller.

Another interesting woman I read about was Dorothy Kilgallen. I already wrote about her and this book earlier this year and you can read that story here.

Tulsa 1921 recounts the race massacre that destroyed a huge swath of Tulsa, Oklahoma a century ago. This is a devastating story not told in history class and one we should all know. Read the book to find out why.

Joy At Work taught me a lot of things including how to keep my inbox manageable to improve my work life. I’m planning to read it again this year because there’s still much opportunity for improvement.

Hill Women tells the story of a young Appalachian woman who credits those who helped on her road to success. It was written in response to Hillbilly Elegy which preaches a bootstrap mentality and which many Appalachian people like myself found to be just another stereotypical depiction of the region. Hill Women was my favorite nonfiction book of 2021.

With 2022 there’s a new reading challenge and I’m again aiming for 100. The challenge keeps me moving forward, always reaching for a book when there’s free time and happily picking up a new book as soon as the old one is done. I have a bunch already lined up for the year and look forward to diving in.

Have questions? Ask them in the comments. I’m always happy to talk books!

Missing The Mark

This year’s reading challenge goal was again 100 books. I missed my goal by two.

Yes, I could have fudged things and read a couple of kids books just to say I got there but that didn’t serve the spirit of the challenge.

Instead of mourning the failure, I’m choosing to be glad that I read 98 books and that I enjoyed most of them. There was again a nice mix of fiction and non fiction including a handful of photography books.

Out of them all, there were just a few I didn’t like. There were probably eight or ten others that I started but didn’t enjoy. Life is too short for mediocre books. I don’t have time for that and will shamelessly put down any book that clearly will not serve me.

Here are the fiction books I liked best.

William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land was my favorite because it was so beautifully and thoughtfully crafted. It’s a coming of age story with a journey that is full of twists and turns. Components reminded me of many other wonderful books like The Wizard of Oz, Homer, Huck Finn and more.

City of Girls was written by Elizabeth Gilbert who also gave the world Eat, Pray, Love. It wasn’t what I expected but it’s a page turner. I was surprised to realize I only read the one Adriana Trigiani book this year. Her work is all excellent. Give her a try if you ever have a chance. My gateway to her world was Big Stone Gap a few years ago. While I haven’t read her entire catalog, I have read most and enjoyed them all. They’re easy reads that pull you right in to the beautiful worlds she creates and keep you promising just one more chapter.

I also really liked The Four Winds which chronicles a family’s Dust Bowl experience. Many readers complain that it starts slow and that it’s depressing. Honestly, I felt like author Kristen Hannah made it purposefully slow to emphasize the desperate monotony of life for the main characters. Also, it’s hard to gussie up the Great Depression. Her last few books of historic fiction have all been extraordinary and I would recommend giving her a chance if you haven’t yet.

These were my favorites on the non fiction side.

I have come to appreciate memoirs. Nerves of Steel tells the story of Tammie Jo Shults whose entire career has been record breaking. You might remember her from the news a few years ago when she successfully landed a badly crippled Southwest Airlines flight. Before that she was one of the first female fighter pilots for the US navy. She’s humble and a great storyteller.

Another interesting woman I read about was Dorothy Kilgallen. I already wrote about her and this book earlier this year and you can read that story here.

Tulsa 1921 recounts the race massacre that destroyed a huge swath of Tulsa, Oklahoma a century ago. This is a devastating story not told in history class and one we should all know. Read the book to find out why.

Joy At Work taught me a lot of things including how to keep my inbox manageable to improve my work life. I’m planning to read it again this year because there’s still much opportunity for improvement.

Hill Women tells the story of a young Appalachian woman who credits those who helped on her road to success. It was written in response to Hillbilly Elegy which preaches a bootstrap mentality and which many Appalachian people like myself found to be just another stereotypical depiction of the region. Hill Women was my favorite nonfiction book of 2021.

With 2022 there’s a new reading challenge and I’m again aiming for 100. The challenge keeps me moving forward, always reaching for a book when there’s free time and happily picking up a new book as soon as the old one is done. I have a bunch already lined up for the year and look forward to diving in.

Have questions? Ask them in the comments. I’m always happy to talk books!

Happiness Is….

Happiness is a good book, a thunderstorm and an early bedtime. This new-to-me author has been surprisingly good and I’m on the edge of my seat, ready for the rest of the story.

Sadly, life has been too busy lately to do much reading so I take advantage of whatever free time is available after work to plow through.

What small thing brings you happiness?

Winchester Book Gallery

Bookstores are a weakness for me. It’s especially fun to seek out independent booksellers which often specialize in a different caliber of books than the chain stores or a big box store.

I always look for bookstores in my journeys.

Winchester Book Gallery in Old Town Winchester, Virginia is a favorite of mine. It’s tiny but they have packed a ton of good stuff inside and even kindly offer a public restroom – something that’s increasingly hard to find in Covid times.

The employee working the cash register was delightful too. She asked where I was from and seemed truly excited that I had stopped by. We agreed that the best vacation souvenirs are books.

A hallway from the grown-up books to the children’s section features some great advice including the above message on the wall. It’s terrific advice, if you ask me.

I regret not photographing the children’s space because it was a really sweet area for little ones. In fact, the interior of this entire store is small but quaint and cozy. It’s the kind of place you might wish to linger on a rainy day.

Find Winchester Book Gallery online for more information and be sure to visit if you’re in the area.

Do You Believe In Resolutions?

What’s your stance on New Year’s Resolutions?

Studies show that about sixty percent of us make resolutions but only about eight percent of us follow through on them.

I’m a planner and a goal setter so I usually have two or three of varying size.

One of my 2020 resolutions was to read 100 books. Check!

Another was to travel as much as possible with a couple of big trips in mind along with some weekend getaways. That clearly didn’t work out.

And there were some smaller ones that fell to the wayside but others came to light as the year progressed. For example, I log the miles that I hike and intentionally walk every day and am very close to reaching 500 miles.

Planning is in my nature and one of my stronger skills. I’m good at breaking down a large project into small pieces that can be completed in phases. Sadly, 2020 sort of beat the desire to plan right out of me.

And yet, here I am, contemplating goals for the new year. It isn’t productive to wait for the flip of a calendar page to start but a new year feels like a fresh start and an irresistible opportunity to take a run at planning again.

The picture above is from a Denver sidewalk. Most of us will never make it to the moon. But what’s the phrase? Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Reading, walking and traveling may not get me to the moon or the stars but these things will give me opportunity to improve myself and that’s pretty good too.

100 Books

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Mason Cooley

On a cold January day early this year, the Goodreads app prompted me to participate in a Reading Challenge. I like books and read a lot so it seemed a good idea.

However, I have no idea how many books I actually read in a year. That tally has fluctuated through my lifetime but I have never actually tracked it..

For example, I always had my nose in a book as a kid but my days as an English major robbed me of the time needed to read for fun. Reading became my job and there was rarely time or energy left for recreational books when I had Jane Austen and William Faulkner to keep me company.

Then my career and life began to keep me busy and I have found myself in literal reading deserts. This has changed in the last couple of years and I have prioritized learning as my horizons have expanded to include some different authors and topics.

Long story short, I signed up with a random number to strive toward.

A hundred books in twelve months.

For what my goal lacked in strategy it made up with loads of catchiness. A hundred books sounds pretty cool.

In those early bad weather months when the pandemic was picking up steam and the weather wasn’t great, I read constantly. Reading was an amazing source of adventure, calm, joy and learning.

Then my number decreased as the temperature rose. Warm weather inspired more hiking while blue skies sent me out chasing barns, bridges and other scenery with my camera in hand.

I checked in last week to discover that I was five books behind schedule.

Five.

At first I was resigned to surrendering my goal but some friends encouraged me to buckle up and plow through as much as I can.

Here we are on December 8 and I’m proud to say that I’m back on track, actually a book ahead of schedule.

All year I have read what pleased me – books big and small and pulling from a vast selection topics. Sadly, my brain is beginning to feel a little mushy and with good reason. The pandemic and election have dominated the conversation and my social media feeds are padded with fake news stories and memes that are distressing at best.

So I’m allowing myself to take a break from some of the harder books and enjoy holiday stories like “A Christmas Carol” or the Civil War Christmas tale “No Tears For Christmas.” I’m even rereading some of my favorites from the Mitch Albom collection.

While shorter and easier to consume, these stories are comforting yet sometimes thought provoking.

After all, isn’t that what reading should be about? Entertainment alone is great and reading for learning is wonderful but how amazing is it to just read for fun and for a slice of enlightenment too!

As an aside, I’m going to be inconsolable if December 31 finds me a book or two shy of my goal! Wish me luck!