I 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.
I 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.
My goal each year is to read at least 75 books. I track my progress in a group at LibraryThing. This year, I am on track to finish the goal by the end of August. I’m at 73 and am reading the two books that will put me at the goal: The Incredible Crime by Lois Austin-Leigh and Puddin’ by Julie Murphy. You can see my whole list here.
The first book, written by a great-great-niece of Jane Austen, is a British crime mystery written in the 1930s during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Besides the mystery, these books are a glimpse into life between the two World Wars as Britain moved away from its class system. One of the wealthier characters who lives on an estate in the country is described as “fedual.” There is smuggling and possible wrong doing at Cambridge and I am hooked.
Puddin’ couldn’t be more different. It is a sequel to Dumplin’, which I read earlier this year and loved. The focus has moved to two of the other characters from the first novel although the whole group is still connected. Body image continues to be an important theme.
Clearly, I enjoy reading a wide variety of books. It is a reminder that our kids are the same. Maybe reluctant readers just haven’t found their niche. It is imperative that we give them as wide a choice as possible if our goal is to help them learn to love reading as a personal, powerful activities. I read everything I was assigned in school, but I always had my own book tucked in my bag ready for a free moment. Maybe some kids need to start with the book in the bag rather than the titles on the syllabus.
This is the time of year when the Library Thing community starts creating groups and challenges for the new year. One of my major goals for 2019 is to read books from my own shelves or from the library. It is time to do some serious shelf cleaning. Library Thing challenges provide a way to browse the shelves, connecting with books that have just gotten lost.
I am always part of the 75 Books a Year Challenge as my main community. Various sub challenges break out from that group that provide ways to make decisions about which books to read.
The BingoDOG Challenge is just what it sounds like: you complete a Bingo card by reading books that meet certain criteria. I’m also “loosely” doing a few other challenges such as the AlphaKIT. Each month features two letters of the alphabet and either author names or title words must start with one or both of those letters. For instance, I get a double hit because January’s letters are A and Q and I read Anna Quindlen‘s book Blessings. I am reading a few other A and Q books, all of which have been sitting on the shelves for awhile.
I have started making various piles related to the challenges as well as just books I want to read in general. I tag the books Read in 2019, and you can follow the tag.
One of the points I made during my talk with librarians was how books help create community, both face to face and online. When I moved to my current home, I tried to get involved in the town but a crazy work schedule kept me from really finding a place.
Now, my schedule is better, but I need an easy way to connect: no committee meetings or event planning. I found it at my local library. A real life book group that meets once a month. Finding time to read is no problem as I average about 75 books a year. We’ve read a few books I already owned and a few I probably would not have read. The latter were often pleasant surprises as I was sure they were the kinds of books I didn’t like.
My virtual community is, as I have written before, LibraryThing. It was started in August 2005 and I had an account by October 13, 2005. I was looking for the same thing the developer was: a way to catalog my books and reading. Now, almost 13 years later, LibraryThing has become my community as well. I belong to one group–75 Books a Year–where we share our reading and love for books even as we challenge each other to reach an annual milestone. As I have become increasingly frustrated with Facebook, I am finding myself spending more time on LT. As I told the librarians, Facebook seems to be about what divides us. LT is about what unites us.
Sometimes we can get lost in the crowd of social media where number of followers and posts and how many people you reached is more important than the quality of the connection. Moving to a smaller, more focused online community has helped me think more about quality.