Wednesday, January 03, 2024

2024 Reading Goals

My goals are pretty simple for 2024 but I like to write them down so that I can look back, at the end of the year. So, here goes:

1. 2024 brings the return of the full-year book-buying ban. I have two exceptions, books for book group discussion and library sale finds. However, I can only bring home as much as I donate. So, if I take a single book to donate when I work in the library sale (I'm a volunteer!), I can only bring one home. If I'm miserable, mid-year, I will allow myself one Book Outlet purchase, but only one. And, I'm going to do my best to avoid even that.

2. Read from my own collection, particularly the floor piles. I have too many books, hence the buying ban. There's no longer any remaining shelf space (partly because I gave my son 3 bookshelves, last year — that's one way to force yourself to go through your books!) I do also plan to work on thinning the many remaining titles on my shelves.  

3. No floor piles by the end of the year. Good luck to me. 

4. Read what calls to me. The only exceptions will be books read for my book group and any unsolicited arrivals that appeal to me. I still occasionally get a book in the mail and I will always read those in a timely manner if they interest me. 

My numerical goal is set to 100 at Goodreads because that's usually an easily achievable number (I don't want my book goal to become something stressful) but I'd like to try to read more novels. I have a handful of remaining manga and graphic novels and I always have a nice stockpile of middle grade books, so I have books to turn to if I'm feeling bogged down and need something light. But, I felt like I read a bit too many very short books in 2023, so I want to stretch myself a bit. 

I usually choose one or two classic chunksters to try to read (last year, I read one of the two I chose). This year, nah. If I feel like reading a classic chunkster, I will. But, I'm not going to make any particular title a goal. 

The same is true of genres. I have some things I'm letting float around in my head that I'd like to focus on: more classics, some Japanese and Australian titles. But, I find that if I let books call to me rather than making a plan, I enjoy my reading more. Challenges, in particular, seem to bog me down, which sucks but it is what it is, so I'm just going to let my own needs dictate how I read. 

By the way, is that image above beautiful, or what? It was taken in Poland by someone called @freestocks and I found it at Unsplash, a great place to find free images. 

©2024 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos. 

Books Read in 2023

 [All links for each month lead to the same summary post with brief reviews]













©2023 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

Everything I Read in December, 2023


144. The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen - I bought a copy of The Little Reindeer after reading the review of a friend who has a knack for choosing children's books with wonderful illustrations. The Little Reindeer is the story of a little girl (who is herself dressed like a reindeer). When she looks out the window and sees that it's snowed, she decides to go investigate. In the forest, she finds a collar and then the reindeer who lost it. She helps the reindeer, putting the collar back on him, and then he flies her home. It's a basic story but the illustrations are lovely, as expected. I especially liked little touches like the cut-outs that allow the reader a peek at the following page and the bits of pretty foil highlights, here and there. While not exactly a Christmas book, it has a Christmasy feel to it and I may add it to my annual Christmas book rotation. 

145. The Way of the Househusband, Vol. 6 by Kousuke Oono - Aaargh, I only have one book left in this series! Volume 6 has Tatsu and his wife helping a friend with her finances with some helpful hints on how to save money. They also do some dog-sitting (the cat is not thrilled), and Tatsu is shown trying to remember a key phrase that will help him get a bonus item for his wife, among other stories. As usual, I found myself smiling a lot while I read the book. This is such a fun manga series. I'm going back on a full book-buying ban in January so I might do the sneaky thing and buy a few before the end of the year. Update: I did the sneaky thing. There may have been other last-minute panic buying. 

146. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg - Believe it or not, I have never read this book or seen the movie till this year. But, I was in the mood for some new Christmas reads, so I bought a copy. If you haven't read The Polar Express, the tale is about a young boy who is watching for Santa Claus when a train comes along. He throws on his robe and slippers and goes on the train to the North Pole with other children in their pajamas. There, he meets Santa and is given the first gift, a bell. But, there's a hole in his pocket so he loses it. The next morning, it's in a box under the tree. But, only the children can hear it when it rings. I liked it! I can't believe it took me so long to get to this one. 

147. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess - An old favorite, I read How the Grinch Stole Christmas aloud to the cat (Fiona). She wasn't particularly interested so she came and went while I continued to read aloud. Sometimes, I miss the fun of reading aloud to small children and I just read aloud for the joy of it. It didn't matter if only the trees were listening. I still love the Grinch. I have never seen the live action movie because I love the cartoon too much and can't bear the thought of seeing a completely different version. I get stupidly weepy when the Whos down in Whoville begin to sing and the Grinch's heart grows 3 sizes. 

148. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore - I can't find the copy of The Night Before Christmas that my aunt and uncle sent to us when my sister and I were young so, again, I bought a new copy. The wonderful thing about children's books is that if you ever find the original, kids' books are always in demand so it's easy to find them new homes. My new copy has lovely illustrations, the best I've found since I misplaced the childhood copy, but nothing beats the original, which was brilliantly illustrated -- by far the prettiest I've ever seen. Hopefully, I'll locate it someday. Still love this beautiful poem. 

149. Spy School: Project X by Stuart Gibbs - In this latest installment of the Spy School middle grade series, author Stuart Gibbs pokes fun at the ridiculous conspiracy theories of QAnon. Bad guy Murray creates conspiracies including that hero Ben is a lizard person and then offers a reward to whoever assassinates him. With a price on his head and everyday people who read X's conspiracy website able to recognize Ben, danger is all around him. Will Ben and his friends be able to escape the assassins and find Murray to put a stop to the lies before it's too late? I can't say it enough; I love this series. Action, adventure, thrills, and even a little romance make it loads of fun. 

X. Scout Stories #3: New York Issue by Nick Carr - I followed Scouting New York for years (before Carr relocated and changed his screen name to "Scout Stories") and now location scout Nick Carr is gradually releasing some of his stories in zines. This third issue is by far my favorite of the three, stories about his favorite places in New York City and histories of those locations or details spotted, complete with photographs. He has updated many of the stories to include what's happened since he originally wrote about the locations or objects. I remembered several from his early posts and was happy to see updates. The rest were new to me and equally fascinating. 

150. The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold by Evelyn Waugh - Gilbert Pinfold is a moderately successful author. He has a lovely wife and a large family living in a farm house. They've had a spot of bother with a man who used their fields but otherwise life is pretty decent. But, Gilbert has had trouble sleeping. To combat this difficulty, he drinks alcohol and a couple of potions. His doctor prescribes him some gray pills. He looks awful. His wife decides that he needs to go on a journey for the sake of his health. But, once he's onboard ship, he believes the wartime communication system has been tangled up as he's overhearing voices from various parts of the ship. I found this one pretty weird, to be honest. But, I like Waugh's writing so I was never tempted to give up. Also, I selected Ordeal for my Zoom book group so I kind of had to finish. Update: A video of an interview with Evelyn Waugh clarified a lot about the book and made it so much more interesting and revealing. 

151. Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous - My most recent stationary bike read is a translation (probably from the Italian) about the residents of an apartment block who have differing opinions about each other, theories about who is peeing in the elevator, and thoughts about whether or not Amadeo is an immigrant and responsible for the murder of one of the residents. The story goes from one voice to another with Amadeo's the one that reappears throughout. Amadeo's real name is an Arab name and he's from Algeria. But, he speaks Italian so fluently that everyone just assumes he's Italian. He is also the kindest of men. So, when one of the residents turns up dead and Amadeo disappears, the residents are certain he did nothing wrong. But, who is Amadeo, really, and what has become of him? A fun read. 

152. The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg - In this middle grade classic, a teacher returns to her classroom 10 years after a car accident has left her paralyzed. She has chosen the four students who will compete in the local academic quiz competition and everyone wants to know how she selected them. They aren't, after all, necessarily the students you'd have expected her to choose based on their academic success. Slowly, the author reveals details about each of the students, how they met, how they became not just a team but the best of friends, and how she knew that The Souls, as they call themselves, were the right people for the competition. This was my "emergency book for when the cat wants to make biscuits and I'm stuck" and it was so good that I second the little golden Newbery award stuck to its cover. 

153. The Story of the Snow Children by Sibylle von Olfers - A very short children's book about a little girl who thinks she sees snowflakes and then realizes they're snow children. Her mother is away and the children invite her to go along to a castle, where she eats and plays with the princess and the snow babies until she's worn out and then is driven home by polar bears. It's super short but such a sweet little book that's become part of my Christmas book rotation. I doubt I'll read it every year but I liked it even better this year than last because I was less focused on the fact that a child wandered off while left home alone, which sounds like horror from a Mom perspective. Beautiful illustrations and, as I said on Goodreads last year, there's a "timeless sense of transport to a magical other world". I agree with myself. 

154. Ollie's Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow - Another tiny book, this time 30 pages long, the story of a child who gets a set of skis and then waits impatiently for snow. When it finally arrives, he skis into the forest and meets Jack Frost. Mrs. Thaw is rudely chided for trying to melt things too early and Jack Frost takes Ollie to meet King Winter in his palace. There, he gets to make snow forts and go sledding during break time for the children who are making Christmas gifts. There's something very warm and nostalgic about this story. It's lovely.

155. A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas - Since I first read this book, I've felt obligated to reread it every Christmas season (even if I manage to read nothing else Christmasy). It's funny and a word lover's delight, the story of what it was like to be a small boy in Wales, waiting for cats at whom to throw snowballs (they never show up), calling for the fire brigade when a neighbor has a kitchen fire, opening fabulous gifts and watching as the aunts buzz around, one of them drinking a little more than she should, while the uncles all smoke and fall asleep in their chairs. You can hear Dylan Thomas reading this poem online via YouTube if you don't own a copy. Mine is getting fairly beat up but I love the black-and-white illustrations that are every bit as comical as the prose. 

156. Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies - I've only seen the movie a single time and didn't really remember it at all but I thought it would be fun to read this Christmas classic about Santa on the verge of being kicked out of his nursing home and bringing Christmas cheer before being taken to court to determine if he's a lunatic who needs to be institutionalized or, in fact, the real Kris Kringle. Honestly, I can see why I forgot the movie. I found the story average. I liked it and might reread it in the future but it will never be a favorite. 

157. Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry - A lifelong favorite, I bought a new copy of Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree in 2022 because I haven't seen my childhood copy in ages (it's probably packed away in the attic). It's made it onto the yearly rotation. I love this wonderful rhyming story about a wealthy man whose tree is too tall so the top, chopped off to make it fit, goes through many more choppings of its top until the final, tiny bit ends up in a mouse hole in Mr. Willowby's home. 

158. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote - I read Capote's Thanksgiving collection of three stories about childhood memories after Thanksgiving but I missed the illustrations in my older copy of just A Christmas Memory, so I opted to read it a second time. I reread A Christmas Memory annually; it's another favorite. 

159. 2023 Short Story Advent Calendar by Various Authors - This will be my last Short Story Advent Calendar because it's a bit pricey and I don't feel like I'll be able to indulge when my husband retires but it was a good selection to go out on. There were a lot of contemporary stories and a few by well-known authors like Chekov and Cather. Surprisingly, there was one story I recently read in this year's selection. As always, I took note of favorites so that I can look up the authors' other work, although I won't be buying in 2024. 

160. What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez - The narrator, a writer, has a friend who is dying of cancer and an ex who is convinced that there's no way back from the impending climate change apocalypse. A neighbor of the narrator has a son who would like someone to look in on his mother but it quickly becomes unbearable as the elderly woman has become an angry, round-the-clock, right-wing news viewer. And, when the narrator's dying friend asks an uncomfortable favor of her, it sends her into a bit of a tailspin. But, what can you do when someone is going through the worst time in their life and asks for help? I bought this book because I was curious to read something by the author. This story bounced around a lot and was a bit triggering for me, although it was provocative, with some interesting and very discussable topics, like whether or not one should bring a child into a potentially disastrous world and the pros and cons of euthanasia. I found it compelling enough to finish but it was just an average read. 

161. The Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - I found my gorgeous leather copy at the library sale and may have emitted a little squeal because I've been looking for a complete edition (or set) for literal decades. I spread the reading of this book out over the entire year, just dipping in for a story or two, now and then. My conclusion is that there's good reason Sherlock Holmes is an enduring classic. I enjoyed every minute of the reading. I had read random Sherlock stories in no particular order, in the past, but I found it much more satisfying to read the entire works. 

Here are the flatlays (so many children's books that it required two separate photos)!

So, that ends 2023! I had two more books that I expected to finish and then I decided to ditch one, a series book so I'm getting rid of every one of the books in that series, which I bought (oh, well), and I chose to take my time with the other and let the reading continue into the new year. Ending with Sherlock is not a bad thing. It was a wonderful set of stories and I'm happy to have finally found and read a complete edition. 

Happy New Year! My complete list of books read will be posted shortly. 

©2023 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.