Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reading Resolutions for 2018

I posted last month about how I failed all my reading goals. Well, it's the very end of the year and time to look back and see if that's true and see what we want to do for next year.

Last year, I set a few reading resolutions, as I have done for many years.

I wanted to finish the 2017 Read Harder Challenge. NOPE. Not even close! I started it, but due to developing circumstances throughout the year, I had way less time for reading this year. So when I wanted to read, I wanted to read what I wanted to read, not what a challenge told me I should be reading. So, yeah. I gave up pretty early on. Ah, well.

I wanted to read at least 30 children's or teen nonfiction books this year. Well, nope. I read 23 children's or teen nonfiction books. But I also read a bunch of adult nonfiction books.

I wanted to read at least 50 teen books this year. Again, nope! I read 42 teen books this year.

I wanted at least 25% of the books I read to be by people of color. As of Dec. 23, I had read 172 books total, according to my GoodReads page. 71 of those books were written by authors of color, which is 41%. Yay! A goal I met! And probably the most important goal to me, so we'll call this year good.

I had set a goal of reading 201 books this year and that didn't happen. It was partly because I had less time to read and partly because I read way more adult books, which just generally take longer to read than youth books.

Let's look ahead to 2018.

I'm not going to set a GoodReads goal because at this point in my life and career, reading more just isn't my goal. I have looked at Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge and many of the categories fit with personal goals for my reading this year (particularly to read more adult genre fiction). So I'm going to attempt it this year and we'll see how it goes.

I have a number of ideas for reading projects that I want to try this year.

I want to focus on a couple of authors that I always mean to read more of: Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich are my picks for this year. So I'm going to attempt to read at least two books by each of them this year.

I find myself drawn to short stories and that's a genre that I have not picked up much lately! So I'm doing a Short Story Project and aiming to read at least 6 collections of short stories this year.

I need to expand my genre reading and I'm hoping to get Reading Wildly back off the ground this year, but I'm not sure what it's going to look like yet, so no official goal on that one (yet?).

And I loved concentrating on reading diverse voices this year, so I'm going to up the ante and say that I want at least 40% of my reading this year to be books by people of color.

And I'm super geekily excited about trying out this detailed Reading Log created by Book Rioter Rachel Manwill. I love all the things it tracks and that it automatically calculates percentages for you (arg, another goal for myself this year should be to learn about spreadsheets!). So I will be putting that to good use this year.

What are your reading goals for 2018? How are you going to read better this year?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Books to Send out 2017

What are you reading to send out 2017? What great books are on your TBR pile to start 2018 off right?

In my new position, I don't have to worry as much about taking vacation days on the same days as other people. Or about what days we'll be inundated with kids due to school breaks. So I took next week off! Yes, I've worked my last shift of 2017 and I have the next week and a half off. Of course I have scheduled myself PLENTY of reading! Here's what's on my TBR pile for next week:

I'm in the middle of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Del Ray Books, January 2017). It's an atmospheric fairy-tale-esque fantasy set in Northern Russia and I'm digging it. It's not a quick read, but one I can sink my teeth into, and I love how it's pitting old religions and superstitions against new ones and how it examines feminism.

I'm also in the middle of Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Simon & Schuster, April 2017), which is another read just perfect for these winter months. I had started it weeks ago but my library copy was due back. Luckily, my library ebook came in right before my vacation - score! This Swedish import deals with a teen hockey team that might be their backwater town's last hope for prosperity. It's a great read heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics, too!

So many bears... but there are also a few other things high up on my to-read list. Our next Family Book Club pick is The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (Simon & Schuster, October 2017), prequel to her popular book Practical Magic (which I have not read). Set in the 1960s and about witches, from what I gather. We'll see!

And because you can never have enough fantasy in the wintertime, I've also got The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager, November 2017) on my stack. This was my Book of the Month pick for December and I started the very beginning and I'm in love with it already. Great voice, strong female lead... I'm in.

(Do you want to try Book of the Month now that you know they offer great books like this one? Use my referral link to get your first book for $9.99 + a free tote [and I'll get a free book, too!]. No apologies for the shameless plug - I love Book of the Month and I love getting free books, too!)

Here's to a week off for reading! I'd love to know what's on your TBR pile right now!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Books You Can Sing

My 16-month-old niece S is obsessed with music. She goes to a wonderful preschool where they must sing a ton of songs because when you start singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider", it's like the sun just came out after a long winter. Even better if multiple people are singing the same songs together. She seems amazed that we all know HER songs and she loves anything she can dance or move to.

My sister-in-law requested books that are songs for Christmas for her this year and I wanted to share what she's loving and what I bought for her. (Kelly, if you're reading this, stop if you want to be surprised!)


S already has some favorites. Since her go-to song for a couple of months now has been The Itsy Bitsy Spider, I've already gotten her Annie Kubler's board book version and Richard Egielski's super cute pop-up version (for when she's a little older).


She also has most of Annie Kubler's song books, great choices for their simplicity and the diverse cast of illustrated babies featured in the books. She asks for these by name ("Row Row!" and "Itsy!"). She also loves "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" (although she concentrates mostly on the toes). These are sure bets for baby gifts or for storytime staples.

For Christmas this year, there will be some new additions to her library!

The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night by Peter Spier (Dragonfly Books, 1961). This is a song that's important to my family; I have many pleasant memories of singing this traditional story-song with my parents in the car and they still will burst out with it when prompted. It's important to me to expose S to this music, but we're all a little rusty on the words. Buying this book for her library will help us remember to sing it with her and give us happy memories as we remember how fun the song is. She may be too little now to sit through all the verses, but with this book in our collections we can keep revisiting it any time we want.

Do you have traditional songs that have been passed down in your family? If there's a book version, that makes a great gift. Not only do you get the fun of reading/singing it with the young ones in your life but it can help preserve the words, which may have become fuzzy since you were a kid!


The More We Get Together by Caroline Jayne Church (Cartwheel Books, 2011).
You Are My Sunshine (2011).

These board books are super cute, although they are woefully monochromatic. They feature shiny illustrations, which are pretty eye-catching and I love these songs that emphasize love and friendship.

Every Little Thing by Bob Marley and Cedella Marley (Chronicle, 2012).
What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele, George David Weiss, illustrated by Tim Hopgood (Holt, 2014).

Based on popular songs, both these books send really positive messages without being didactic. I would love for my niece to internalize the messages that every little thing is gonna be alright and that we live in a wonderful, colorful world. Of course we're singing tons of nursery rhymes with her, but I wanted to expand her options of sung books and give her parents something a little different to choose if they want.

It's going to be a musical Christmas at our house this year! What are your favorite books to sing?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#libfaves17: Abby's Favorites of 2017

If you've been on Twitter recently, you might have noticed that librarians all over the world have been tweeting their top ten favorite books with the hashtag #libfaves17. Checking out this hashtag is a great way to see what books librarians are loving this year, find books you may have missed, or collect titles to put on a book list or display.

I, too, have been tweeting along, but I wanted to compile my list (with some BONUS PICKS because who can choose just 10 books?). I present to you my personal 2017 Favorites (with the caveat that of course I have not read every book and of course I have not even read as many books as I really wanted to this year). This list is in alphabetical order because, really, who can choose actual favorites???

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking, October 2017). Stop and go read Akata Witch if you haven't already. This sequel won't mean much without it. That said, this was an amazing sequel, which is awesome because the first book came out in 2011! This book continues the adventures of a team of Nigerian (and American-Nigerian) tweens battling the big bad dark magic threatening their existence. For middle schooler and high schoolers who loved the magic and adventure of Harry Potter, these books are a must-read.

All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (Dial, September 2017). Imogene was raised in a Renaissance Faire. Homeschooled by two parents who both work at the local Faire, Imogene had rather a unique upbringing. And now she's turned 11 which is the age she can begin to squire at the Faire and she's taken on yet another challenge: she's heading to middle school. Victoria Jamieson has been so clever here with how she infuses Imogene's personality and behavior with Renaissance-isms that it really adds another fun layer to this book that's about lots of things that middle-schoolers struggle with: starting at a new school, figuring out who your friends really are, dealing with strict teachers... For the Ren Faire lover or any comics lover in your life.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (HarperCollins, June 2017). This is a visceral and powerful story that needs to be widely read. The strength it has taken for Roxane Gay to write about her body and her experiences this way; we as readers are privileged to be let in. And the things she says about her body and the way fat peoples' bodies are perceived and treated in our culture - I kept saying YES over and over again. She is speaking truths here that are not easy, that are not comfortable, but that need to be said and acknowledged. This is a book that I read as a digital galley and then pre-ordered and bought with my own cash money because I needed my own copy on my shelves.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press, September 2017). When a nomadic artist and her daughter drift into the town of Shaker Heights, Ohio in the late 90s, their landlords the Richmonds will never be the same. Multiple moving storylines come together in a really satisfying way in this story that deals with belonging and ownership, motherhood and daughterhood, race and inclusion in a planned community. This was pick for my book club and we had some really great discussions about it.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, October 2017). You had me at Jason Reynolds. No, but seriously, this is a book that does a lot with a very few words. Will knows what you do when someone you love is killed: you get revenge. And that's just what he sets out to do. But when ghosts from his past start appearing in the elevator on his way down, can they change his mind? This was one of the most powerful books I have read and I can't get over the ending of it. If you or your readers like intense books about contemporary issues, grab this book.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick Press, September 2017). This book is fantastic, a must-read and a must-add. Collected here is art in many forms - poetry, essays, photography, and other visual art - all by modern Native American women. If all you know about Indigenous people is the Thanksgiving myth you learned in school, pick up this book and educate yourself. These pieces are powerful and they speak volumes in just a few words. This is another one that I checked out from the library but then bought a copy for my shelves. I want to be sure that my niece will be able to read this one day when she's old enough.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (Walden Pond Press, May 2017). I am the first to tell you that I have read nowhere near enough books to make qualified guesses about this year's Newbery Award, but this one just keeps sticking in my mind and won't let go. It actually took me a long time to figure out if I loved it or hated it. Set on an island where every year an orphan appears and every year and orphan leaves, the kids have the run of the place. They also follow the rules. Until one year they don't. I found this book both maddeningly frustrating and also so incredibly relateable.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (Bloomsbury, February 2017). Jade is dealing with a lot of different stuff - body image issues, being socioeconomically different than most of her classmates at her private school (she attends on scholarship), and hearing about racial violence in the news, stories her white classmates don't pay attention to. It could be a lot for one book, but Renee Watson pieces it together masterfully with even the format of the book (told in short chapters, scenes, and vignettes mixed with longer chapters) mirroring Jade's chosen art form: collage. This is a YA book, but I think a case could be made that it fits on the upper end of the Newbery criteria.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks, May 2017). This gripping and horrifying true story, part medical mystery and part courtroom drama, brings to light a forgotten chapter in women's history. In the 1920s, radium was all the rage and doctors advised people to take it for health. Radium was starting to be everywhere, including on the luminous dials of watches so you could tell time in the dark. The numbers and watch hands were painted with a glow in the dark paint, painted by hand, painted by women working in the dial factories. And to make their brush points fine enough, the women shaped the tips of the brushes with their mouths, ingesting small amounts of radium every time the brush touched their lips. No big deal - radium is healthy for you! Except it's not. In fact, it's deadly. And the companies knew that (or they knew it wasn't good for you), but they did nothing. They denied that young women were getting sick and dying. And because the companies were giant, rich companies, they thought they could get away with it. Until they couldn't. This is riveting narrative nonfiction and it was a book I couldn't put down.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (Dutton, 2017). Okay, so you know that I'm a John Green fangirl, so now I will tell you that this is my favorite of his books. Intensely personal, this novel features a character with severe anxiety and OCD. When a reward is offered for information about a missing billionaire, Aza and her best friend rekindle a friendship with the billionaire's son. But it turns out to mean much more than just solving a mystery to Aza. I appreciate how much of himself John Green puts into this story as he explores the spiral of Aza's thoughts.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial, October 2017). Here's another sequel not to miss, but make sure you've read The War That Saved My Life, one of my favorite books in recent years. I was so hopeful for this sequel and it did not disappoint. Kimberly Bradley has a way of writing characters that lets the reader get right into their souls. I am a very character-driven reader, so this is a series that is right up my alley.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, June 2017). This is a heartbreaking masterpiece. In a blend of poems, vignettes, and prose chapters, Sherman Alexie gives us his memoir. This raw, fiercely personal memoir delves into Alexie's painful childhood, his discoveries about his family, and some of the awful things that were done to him and members of the Spokane Nation by white people. Alexie digs deep into his reactions and feelings after his mother's death; Alexie had a complicated relationship with his mother that is maybe even more complicated after her death. I listened the audiobook, which is read by the author, sometimes with obvious emotion, which was an extremely powerful experience. This read has inspired one of my Read Better goals to read more (much more!) of Alexie's work this coming year.

It pains me to leave out some of the other books I've loved this year! Do me a favor and visit my GoodReads profile where you can see all the books I've rated five stars this year. Feel free to add me as a friend!

What were your favorite books of 2017?