What I read in January

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What I read in January 2017

With a goal of reading 40 books this year, I needed to get off to a fast start. Forty books will officially be the most books I’ve ever read in a year. Although I love reading, my time is limited–I am amazed at my friends who manage 50–80 books, full-time work, and full-time parenting. I read six books in January, which would put me on pace to read 72 books this year. Let’s see if I can keep it up.

I know that reading is about quality not quantity, but I get SO much pleasure from logging my progress and seeing what others are reading on Goodreads. That’s probably why the idea for the My Reading Adventures journal I created to help kids log, reflect on and think more deeply about their reading.

But despite believing that reading many types of high quality books is important, I’m sometimes left wondering if shorter kids chapter books “count” toward my reading goals. I typically consider the length of the book and the quality of the writing. It’s an imperfect art, but you’ll notice I’ve included two chapter books in this month’s log.

Self-help

The Miracle Morning by Hal Eldon

I started a Miracle Morning practice last year. Or more precisely, I started trying to practice the Miracle Morning model last year, although I’m still inconsistent with it at best. The thing is, I never read the book. I just found information about it online (partly because I’ve been on the wait list at the library forever). In Hal Elrod’s famous program to reclaim your day, he advocates for a morning practice of the length of your choosing that incorporates his Life S.A.V.E.R.S—silence (meditating), affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading and scribing (writing). The book itself is not mind-blowing, but I have found the practice to be an excellent way to stay true to my goals and life purpose on a regular basis.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was added to my reading list by several entrepreneur friends. I’m not one for business books—the writing, the tone, ugh—but this one was instantly different. It’s all about embracing your own creativity and pursuing it for as long as you can and as long as it makes you happy. I love Gilbert’s mix of whole-hearted optimism and real-life pragmatism. I will return to this book whenever I get in a creative rut.

Chapter books

Dory Fantasmagory Series

Earlier this month, I reviewed Dory Fantasmagory, which is one of the most original and fun chapter books I’ve read. This genre is typically targeted toward the earliest independent readers and often isn’t that enjoyable for adults. This one is a lovely exception.

Dory, known to her family as Rascal, is a highly imaginative six-year-old girl. All she wants is to play with her older brother and sister, but she can’t convince them that any of her ideas sound fun. In the absence of playmates, Dory invents a few of her own: her best friend/monster Mary, a dim-witted kidnapper called Mrs. Gobble Gracker, and a gnomelike fairy godmother named Mr. Nuggy. Dory lives in a state of half-reality, half-fantasy that brings laugh-out-loud moments that both preschoolers and parents will relate to.

We loved it so much that we immediately ordered the second book in the series, Dory Fantasmagory and the Real, True Best Friend. Dory’s family is so used to her imaginary playmates that they don’t believe her when she makes a real, live friend in first grade.  Dory meets Rosabelle on the first day of school, and marvels at her sophistication. When Dory reveals her imaginary friends, Rosabelle quickly integrates her own imaginaries into the story. My only complaint about the second book is that it reveals that Dory already had a pretty great friend named George who doesn’t seem to get his due from Dory or Annabelle.

There is, by the way, a third book in the series. We’ll order it as soon as Bean finishes re-reading the first two with her dad.

Middle Grade

Flying Lessons and Other Stories by Ellen Oh

Any parent knows that reading time is hard to come by, but traveling for work last week I had eight glorious hours of uninterrupted flying/reading time. On my first flight to San Diego I devoured Flying Lessons and Other Stories, a compilation of 10 short stories from diverse authors. The anthology was edited by We Need Diverse Books co-founder Ellen Oh, and what a wonderful group of writers she recruited. Notable names like Matt de La Pena, Kwame Alexander and Jacqueline Woodson contributed stories that share stories of youth of color both from a contemporary American and a historical international perspective. I didn’t put it down from start to finish (except for that one part where an elderly woman passed out on me while trying to walk to the bathroom. Don’t worry, she’s fine now.)

Adult Fiction

All the Good Parts by Loretta Nyhan

I read All the Good Parts early in the month because I bought my entire book club a gift box from Once Upon a Bookclub, which is a fun subscription service offering a monthly book paired with gifts that help you experience the story. We read All the Good Parts as our January book, and we resoundingly disliked it. Rarely is our opinion so unanimous.

The story centers on a 39-year-old single woman who learns from her doctor that her biological clock is ticking. She decides she wants to have a baby but has concerns about her financial stability and her ability to find a suitable father. She has no male friends so she begins an inappropriate baby-daddy search through the few male acquaintances she has in her life (including her own home-healthcare patients, her brother-in-law and a homeless man she befriends). Many reviews of this book say it’s laugh-out-loud funny. I found it lacked an authentic voice, had an unrealistic plot and even more unlikeable characters. For the record, I am now reading a novel that came in my December Once Upon a Bookclub box and I like it a lot.

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