Tag Archives: LibraryThing

My Goal for 2023

In conversation with a LibraryThing friend, I said my goal for 2023 was “less social media and more good books.” She said she needed to turn it into a poster, print it out and post it over her laptop.

I went ahead and created a quick graphic in Canva.

Happy Friday! LibraryThing members have been hosting an unofficial social distancing weekend readathon since April 2020. We informally sign on and then report our reading results including number of pages and hours along with other details such as non-reading activities and snacks. I participated last weekend and have signed on for this one as well. With the start of the new year and various new challenges, I have been pulling books from my shelf, checking them out from the library and buying them from Better World Books. Here are the stacks of books I want to read in the next few months:

I’ll end with a weird coincidence: Doomsday Book, in the right hand pile, is used and came from Better World Books. But, it is signed with the inscription: “To Karen, Gode health & long life! Connie Willis” I think I can hear the Twilight Zone music playing.

Happy reading!

What Are You Reading?

Painting by Gary Melchers of  a woman sitting in a chair reading by an open window that looks out to a flower garden where another person is standingI am fortunate to have lots of bookish friends who share their reading on social media. One is an honest to goodness bookstagrammer. While I don’t have that kind of energy, I am committed to writing more about my reading. Currently, I share my reading with a small group via the LibraryThing 75 Books a Year group. I have belonged for 8 years and gotten increasingly involved over time, which mostly means writing, reading and responding to other people’s posts. The groups use an old-fashioned discussion forum that predates Good Reads by some years and the larger website is wiki-based. I have developed friendships with several people and met three of them face to face when we did a meetup in Colorado. The others, including a retired British coal miner who I also follow on Twitter, are virtual friends only. We use the platform to share our reading and through those conversations, we share our lives as well. It has become my community of choice as I spend less and less time on other social media platforms, especially Facebook.

So, what am I reading? Short answer: anything I want.

The longer answer is that I make an effort to read a wide variety of writing. One way I do that is by participating in LibraryThing challenges, especially the annual Bingo card. At the beginning of the year, a group of volunteers with input from the community come up with a list of 25 reading topics that are then programmed onto a Bingo card. You can see a screenshot of mine below:

a bingo card with topics for reading

Here are a couple Bingo card books that I enjoyed and might not have discovered if it weren’t for the challenge:

When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson tells the story of cousins who take the road trip of their lives to the Toronto Pride celebration. Mark and Talia, cousins who haven’t seen each other for a long time due to a rift between their sibling parents, reunite at the family cabin for the summer. They are mostly there to clean it out to sell it. They are both in same-sex relationships with Talia’s partner identifying as non-binary, using “they” as a pronoun. Both of them want to get to Toronto for the Pride festival even as they try to figure out the mystery of why their parents don’t get along. The book was written with an eye to educating the reader but the story was fun and upbeat as well. I particularly liked the depictions of older gay couples who tell their stories and also offer support for the next generation.

Zahrah the Windseeker is the first book by Nigerian American writer Nnedi Okorafor. Wikipedia classifies it as young adult book, but I think it would be fine for an older elementary audience as well. Okorafor tells the story of Zahrah, who lives with her family in the Ooni Kingdom on the edge of the Forbidden Forest where no one who ventures returns. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah was born dada,  meaning she has vines growing out her hair, an unusual phenomenon and one the community regards with suspicion, believing such people to possess magic. Their suspicions are correct because as the novel opens, Zahrah is just discovering her powers. She and her best friend decide to explore the forest and quickly encounter almost deadly danger. In order to save her friend, Zahrah must return to the forest. I loved the book: the forest is filled with fantastical creatures that set the imagination alive. But, the characters are very real human beings living in this world and we get to know them and love them even as Zahrah learns to love herself.
And just to show you the range of reading I do, the last Bingo card book is April Lady by Georgette Heyer. I generally don’t read romances but have heard Heyer mentioned by readers I respect. She did not disappoint as she crafted her tale of the Cardross’s: Gile with the fortune who married for love despite his family’s disapproval, and Helen, who also married for love, but seems to be more interested in the money as she amasses a pile of bills. The book is a romp through the Regency world as Helen tries to hide her spending from her husband through silly and ultimately unsuccessful schemes. Fun and frivolous with a little history to give it some redeeming value, I suppose.

Filling Out My Bingo Card

I spent an enjoyable afternoon considering my reading for 2020 through the lens of the Bingo card challenge at LibraryThing. This challenge is a collection of 25 reading prompts from “a book with a red cover” to “a book by a non US/UK female” and everything in between. I only had one square left on my card last year and found that the challenge had me think about books in different ways.

Participants in the challenge share their reading in a wiki. It’s always interesting to see which books people choose as there is rarely a particular genre attached to the prompt. That book with the red cover could be nonfiction, fiction or poetry.

I try to find a balance each year between planning my reading and finding space for serendipity. Part of the fun of the Bingo card is seeing how books fit even when you didn’t realize it.

Getting Started with January Reading

Picture of a pile of booksI have pulled together several LibraryThing challenges to compile my January reading list. The photo shows most of them but it doesn’t include the digital reads including The Big Burn, the story of the August 1910 fire that burned large parts of Idaho and Montana along with other states. A timely read that is part of a “natural disasters” challenge. I am also hoping to get in an Agatha Christie mystery, specifically Evil Under the Sun. (Checking that one out from the library via Libby.) It meets the alphabet challenge with both the A & the U represented! Plus, I want to read more of the classic crime mysteries, and Christie is the queen.

A disclaimer: I have no illusion that I will finish Annals of the Former World but the challenge was to read a challenging book. I have a scientist friend who reads this book often and almost exclusively and will be happy to know I have picked it up. My goal is to finish Book 1 by the end of the month. I don’t want to have to rush the reading just to meet a challenge. (It’s not like there are prizes or even badges for the LT challenges. They are friendly, pretty loosely defined and mainly there to encourage reading. I’d be happy just to finish Book 1.)

The collection of essays from Philip Pullman are meant for browsing. One particular essay led to my first read of the year: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. I’ll post a review tomorrow but the short version is that it is a fascinating, radical “fictional” version of the life of Jesus Christ.

LibraryThing logo

Real Life Reading Logs

LibraryThing IconI have belonged to LibraryThing (LT) almost since it began and have written about it over the years.. My “thingaversary” is October 13, 2005. In LT lore that means that this year I get to buy 16 books on October 13, one for each year and one more for good luck. In those 15 years, I have moved from cataloging my reading to becoming part of a robust reading community. I join the 75 Book Challenge group each year and have a core group of friends.  But, I have not been as involved as I might be so this year I am committing to making that my main social outlet online. I have followed a few more people and am making time each day to check their posts.

For me, LT provides a model for an authentic approach to encouraging reading and writing  in the classroom. I know there is a lot of pushback against reading logs that track number of pages or minutes of reading, and while most of us on LT do some kind of statistical tracking, the focus is on sharing our reading  with others. Our stats also go way beyond number of pages: we think about our reading in terms of genres, geographic, racial and ethnic diversity, and so forth. We record them and then reflect on them personally and communally.

On Twitter, Michael Bonner asked about tips for increasing middle school literacy. There are specific skills to teach, but they can be taught and practiced through authentic reading, particularly at the middle school level. My answer to him was simple: let the kids read and write and talk about their reading and writing. (As always, I gave credit to my early mentor Nancy Atwell.) I would add that we should use the widest definitions of reading and writing and talking that we can to throw out the widest net. We can listen to text. We can read through images. We can talk through video.

And, the world of contemporary middle grade and young adult literature is rich these days. I haven’t compiled my list of best reads for 2019 yet, but I know it will include Finding Langston and Dear Martin and books by Jacqueline Woodson and Elizabeth Acevedo and Angie Thomas  and  Julie Murphy. Not sure where to start? The Nerdy Book Club is in the midst of announcing its awards for 2019 with lists from picture books to young adult fiction and everything in between. They’ve been doing it since 2011 and reading through all the lists would be a pretty amazing challenge.

For now, I’m busy setting up my LT thread, planning some of my reading and connecting with old friends and a few new ones. If you’re looking for a group of serious but fun readers, consider LibraryThing. Meanwhile, best wishes for a year of good reading and sharing.