2022 Reading Goal

I fell short of my reading goal this year and that’s ok. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not falling short. I’m missing it by about a fourth.

That’s still ok.

I began setting a Reading Goal for myself a few years ago when the Goodreads app asked if I wanted to. I had no idea how much I could read in a year so I just randomly chose 100 books.

I met or exceeded my goal a few times but this year was different. My interest in reading ebbed and flowed. I sometimes tore through two or three books quickly. Then would fall into a rut where I couldn’t finish anything.

Part of it has everything to do with me and my health. The brain fog has improved drastically but continues to be an occasional problem.

Part of the problem is that my go-to fiction category is historical fiction. A lot of the newly published titles have been formulaic and frankly, terrible. It’s like the publishing world caught on to the fact there’s money to be made in this genre and just started churning it out as quick as possible. It has become the Hallmark Christmas movie of the publishing world. Bleh.

Long story short, a lot of the historic fiction I attempted this year got tossed in the DNF pile – Did Not Finish for all of you who aren’t excited about reading.

My friend Johnna jokingly suggested I dive into the stack of vintage storybooks that I collect to hit my goal. While tempting, it isn’t really within the spirit of what I’m trying to accomplish.

This year will end at 75 books. That’s not shabby considering I work full time, travel and have other hobbies.

The 2023 goal will remain at 100. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, here are the ten books I enjoyed most. In random order:


Bambi: A Life In The Woods by Felix Salten – most people think that Bambi was created by Walt Disney. Instead, the classic cartoon fawn was created by an author and critic in Austria. Early children’s literature wasn’t what it is today and this 1926 is downright dark. It it’s also beautifully written and poetic in places.

A Christmas Memory by Richard Paul Evans – Evans is the king of heartwarming Christmas stories and this one is no exception. It’s a story of tragedy and survival, kindness and unlikely friendship. It’s also an easy heartwarming read.

Final Girls by Riley Sager – this author has taught me to enjoy a good thriller. His books usually keep you guessing and turning the page for more. I didn’t see this ending coming.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw – this is another one that kept me hooked despite the fact the title has nothing to do with the content. It involves a missing person and a reclusive community known as Pastoral where a man disappears while searching for that missing person. I was a little sad when it ended.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani – so far, I haven’t met a Trigiani book that I didn’t like. Her books focus on rich characters and beautiful settings. From Appalachian Virginia to New York City to old world Italy, every book is special. This one is no different, weaving stories of past and present that draw the reader in and inspiring thought.

As a side bar, listen to the Big Stone Gap audiobooks. This series was my gateway into the Trigiani universe and they’re still among my favorites.


The Deepest South Of All by Richard Grant – the author is an award winning journalist who moved to Natchez, Mississippi and wrote this amusing book about the life and characters of this town. This wins the award for one of the strangest reads of the year.

Dirt by Mary Marantz– I bought this book at Ollie’s for $3 and had low expectations. Turns out, it is one of the best pieces of contemporary Appalachian nonfiction that I have read. This memoir was written by a woman who grew up in a single wide house trailer in the mountains of rural West Virginia. Generations of her family were loggers but she escaped this harsh and dangerous lifestyle to attend Yale Law School. It is well done and I recommend it to any child of Appalachia.

Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh – this is a slender volume and an elegant meditation on solitude, relationships and contentment. She wrote it while on vacation at the sea and it is teeming with wisdom. And yes, she is that Lindbergh. The Lindbergh baby was her child.

The Growing Season by Sarah Frey – this was another standout. Sarah Frey grew up dirt poor, helping earn the family money as a young child selling produce to store managers. Today, her family company, Frey Farms, is one of the largest fresh produce growers and shippers in America. If you have bought a watermelon in this country, you likely have bought one of her melons. If you’re looking for a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” story, this one is extraordinary. I admire her work ethic, creativity and good old fashioned scrappiness.

The Face Of Appalachia by Tim Barnwell – this was a souvenir from Asheville, North Carolina. I bought this volume of local photography because the images are extraordinary and the book is signed. The photographer spent years convincing strangers to let him make their portraits in their natural environs. Think homes, storefronts and even chicken yards. These images all seem to be from the eighties and captured scenes and the faces of people who are likely almost all gone now.

But it’s not just images. He captured oral histories too. This guy’s work is the stuff of dreams, the kind of photography that I would love to practice. The author has published other books and I’m dying to see them all.

I feel pretty uninspired when looking back over this year’s reading. You wouldn’t believe the stack that I couldn’t finish including one in particular that was truly disappointing.

There’s a lot of good stuff in my To Be Read pile and I’m excited to get started again. What are you reading? I’m always up for a good recommendation!

The Saturday Night Ghost Club

My current read is The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson. I’m nearing the end and, in typical Brandi fashion, find myself slowing down because I hate to turn the last page of a quality read.

This book has been on my radar for a while but I have been on a non fiction kick for several months, struggling to get into most fiction pieces I have tried. My fiction reading is consequently falling far behind.

To be completely honest, I picked it up this weekend specifically because I like the title and cover. A Saturday Night Ghost Club sounds awfully fun, doesn’t it?

This is a coming of age story, set in 1980s Niagara Falls. It reminds me a little of Stranger Things or Stand By Me and is chock full of great one liners and beautifully crafted paragraphs.

Here’s one of my favorites:

Reality never changes. Only our recollections of it do. Whenever a moment passes, we pass along with it into the realm of memory. And in that realm, geometries change. Contours shift, shades lighten, objectivities dissolve. Memory becomes what we need it to be.

This book is deceiving because it seems like a short, simple story but it is humorous, sad, beautiful and poignant.

Here’s one more quote that is appealing to me:

As far as I was concerned, there was nothing wrong with being an odd duck. I figured some people have edges that don’t allow them to slot into the holes society expects them to fit into, that was all.

That’s right. There’s nothing wrong with being an odd duck. Embrace your odd duckness (no, that’s not a word but I’m going with it) and know that you’re always welcome here.

What are you reading now?

Sit A Spell

This looks like a great place to sit and read a book or plan an adventure. I’m eight books behind in my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge so a peaceful place to read sounds incredible.

This lake is my go-to place to walk so I literally have never sat down here for even a minute. In fact, you rarely see anyone sitting on the benches around the lake. Is life really so busy that we don’t have time to sit and relax on a gorgeous fall day?

Seems kind of silly, doesn’t it?

One Dollar Book Swap

You know how we teach children not to take candy from strangers or go with them to find a lost puppy? I evidently need a refresher course as I found myself going to the oddest place for the promise of bargain books Saturday morning. One Dollar Book Swap is located in the back of a building in an industrial neighborhood in Dayton.

The maps app on my phone was directing me to turn at a place that clearly isn’t a bookstore and I was convinced she was lost. It was a little confusing and somewhat troubling at first but it worked out great!

Luckily, there’s a sign on the building that directs you down a gravel driveway to the back where there’s a loading dock entrance to what can only be described as used book paradise.

This is a no frills kind of place with a selection of over 200,000 books and no price tags because everything is just one dollar. They also have a large selection of dvds and it’s all neatly organized by category.

It would be especially nice if you have kids, including older ones who like chapter books. I enjoyed searching for vintage Little Golden books and found a number of treasures throughout the store. In fact, these aren’t junk books. I found some best sellers as well as some really obscure stuff. My best treasure though was the Forks Over Knives Cookbook that retails for like $30. It’s in great shape and, yep, was just a dollar.

I’m glad I went. Next trip I may take a few things to trade in for store credit. It seems like a good way to unload a few unwanted items for new materials.

Want to go? They’re located at 1723 Webster Street in Dayton. Find them on Facebook for hours and updates!

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?

Limited Horizons

Several days ago, I wrote about the National Comedy Center and how I didn’t especially enjoy it. I’ve noticed a recent trend in conversations both on and offline that are reminiscent of the philosophy behind this museum.

The Comedy Center uses artificial intelligence to show visitors comedy they will find appealing based on their individual tastes. This is accomplished through a kiosk where visitors create a comedy ID by selecting the comics, actors, tv shows, movies, comic strips, etc. that the visitor enjoys.

Some of the choices seemed rather obscure to me. Some looked like things I might enjoy or want to learn about. Some of the older choices made me wonder how familiar the average guest is with their work. Would a young person enjoy Charlie Chaplin if they were exposed to his brand of entertainment? What trendy podcast might I enjoy if I ever heard it?

The point is that our tastes are developed based on what we believe is the best of what we already know. Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know and, at a museum kiosk, may discount something we would enjoy because we aren’t familiar with it. This skews the formula used to entertain us.

Is this why I went to this museum? To see more of the same stuff I know I’ll like? I actually went hoping to expand my horizons and maybe find some new laughs rather than view a greatest hits of material already in my consciousness. The museum areas where I discovered new stuff were the ones where I didn’t scan my ID. Scanning that ID was a guarantee that I would be shown clips of things I already like.

Instead of expanding my horizons, it felt like this place limited mine.

It probably sounds like I’m picking on the Comedy Center and that’s not the intent. After all, it is a beautiful space with some great stuff and that embraces technology in a truly unique way. It would just be nice to see them help visitors embrace something new.

This isn’t the only place I’ve had these thoughts lately. I belong to a few book clubs on Facebook where I’m noticing a similar trend. Members will post requests for recommendations that are prefaced by a phrase like ” I only read historical fiction” or they only read a certain author or won’t read nonfiction at all. They read a book they liked and want to read another one just like it.

This always catches my eye because it’s so far removed from my own way of thinking. You bet I’ll obsess over the work of a single author if it’s good. However, I read a lot of other things too.

It’s wonderful to be passionate about something but life would be awfully dull if we just stuck with what we already know. Personally, I’m interested in most everything and don’t want to limit myself to just the comedians I already like or the books I’m sure will please.

Maybe I’m the weird one but it’s just such a big world out there – I can’t imagine not wanting to explore it.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them!