100 Books, One Year

Reading books can change your life

What am I doing here?

I am a reader. I am, and have always been, a person to devour books, of course not in a literal sense, but the kind of person to max out the borrowing limit on my library card, and binge read all the books I could get my hands on. I made a profession out of reading, completing various degrees in literature and education. I hoard books like they might be a dying art, filling just about every empty space in my house with books. I’m hoping you might see the picture I’m forming – I’m a person who just can’t cope without books. They are an integral part of my life, and they are a critical part of my identity. My family even refer to me when there’s some kind of question needing an answer. Ask T – she’ll read and find out. Continue reading “What am I doing here?”

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Hitting 100

So, yay for me! Last week, I reached the magic 100th book. I know, I haven’t posted about a book in ages. It started to feel very formulaic and regimented and to put it bluntly it didn’t feel fun and I just would rather be reading. But I’m still going to keep posting. I’m just going to post a bit more…fluidly. Post about the ideas and authors I’m exploring rather than one post for one book.  

But anyway, I reached 100. To be honest it felt like reaching my goal fell a little flat. Book 100 wasn’t exactly an amazing book, and I sort of hoped it would’ve been a bit more of a non-event book. I’d been keen to read Rosie Waterland’s The Anti Cool Girl for some time so I was glad it turned out to be 100. I enjoyed the journey of the book, but it was a bit depressing. While the book was actually okay, it just wasn’t the right book for number 100. Rosie seems like a pretty incredible and resilient character, and I’m in admiration of her ability to rise above her extraordinary childhood. 

I thought I could redeem it with a newer book, Nicola Moriarty’s The Fifth Letter. I bought this book on a whim (and a pretty decent price) having heard good things about it. I liked the concept but I just felt the whole thing fell a little flat. The writing was fine, the use of voice and character were acceptable, it was just all a little forgettable. Or did I just have high expectations because I so badly wanted a book of number 100 to be a fireworks-worthy moment? Why was I suddenly having a run of less than great reads? 

And why do I feel so underwhelmed about reaching my goal? 

When I first started this journey I could barely read a page in an hour. It was slow going, but I’ve improved my reading speed back to how I used to be before I lost, then regained, my vision. My best time was an entire novel in 3 hours- John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines. Which, while we are on the subject, is his least-decent book. Again, totally underwhelming. Anyway, back to the subject. I feel like when I started I set myself what was, at that stage, an almost-insurmountable goal. But I’ve completed the goal in only three quarters of the time I had. I’ve still got four months left to go until July/August and I feel at this stage I could easily smash out 120. Or 130. 150 would be amazing. And then, what about next year? Do I set myself an even bigger goal? How far do I take this thing? Even without a reading goal, I still know I will read just as often, so it’s not about having a motivation.

It’s about growing, and for me it’s about deciding how I want to grow next. 

Perhaps after all it wasn’t the books that were underwhelming, but my own feelings about reaching a too-easy goal. 

Does anyone have great ideas about reading list goals they’d like to share? I’d love to hear them. 

International Women’s Day

So this post has absolutely nothing to do with books. Or maybe it has everything to do with many books but it isn’t about one book. 

Today is international Women’s Day and it’s all over my Facebook wall and my twitter feed. Heck, tonight it was even a feature on the radio. It’s good! I’m not complaining. I love that we live in an age where women – successful, strong, intelligent, capable women- are standing up to say ‘hey! Don’t forget us, and the contribution we make!’. 

In my house, nobody mentioned Women’s Day. I cooked dinner, and washed up, and got one of the two kids off to bed. This was all after having listened to my husband talk about himself and his own ‘tough’ day. I use ‘these’ because I’m fairly sure if you didn’t have to separate two cranky screaming preschoolers who wanted to push each other around while simultaneously making work related phone calls and cleaning the floor from mushed up weetbix then it isn’t really as ‘tough’ as you think. 

Then I cleaned the toilet because nothing says love like helping a three year old learn the difference between pooping into the toilet rather than pooping near the toilet. Bless. 

Please don’t think I’m complaining. I adore my kids and know that I am seriously lucky that I get to stay at home to be with them. It’s not forever, so I’m committed to enjoying it while it lasts. What drives me to the complete ends of frustration is that not a single man I know values this shit that I do. Every time my husband speaks about how things get done at home he exposes himself for his complete lack of comprehension of how hard it is, and how lonely, and how sometimes it makes you feel a strange kind of grief and emptiness at the same time as feeling wonderfully full of love you could fly. He doesn’t get it, and he doesn’t try to. Because even though I think maybe he knows I’m a pretty OK mum, he does not value it. I don’t make money cleaning weetbix off the floor, or wiping smeary hand prints from the windows, or helping to volunteer at my son’s preschool, or taking them for their doctors check ups. None of that stuff gets counted in the mini-economy of our life; if it can’t be measured in a budget and a dollar sign, then for my husband, bless him, it doesn’t truly count. 

So what do I want for international Women’s Day? 

I want men, and women, to remember that our contributions as women sometimes cannot be measured or counted, but that which can’t be quantified is sometimes the most significant stuff of our lives;

That cleaning toilet-training toddler poo is as valuable to the good of our world as going to work 

That just because I made the decision to stay at home with the kids doesn’t make it the easiest work; what I’d give for an actual lunch break! When I did work, I went to work for a break! 

That I matter. That I matter as much as the woman in the corporate world

That I matter as much as my husband

That I matter as much as my kids, because if I’m not well, they can’t be well-loved;

And I want this every day, not just today. 

Which brings me to my final point. Women represent approximately 50% of the world’s population. Why do we only get one day to be celebrated, being 1/365? Shouldn’t we get something more like 182/365? And in that same token, men get 182 too! Because Men’s rights matter too- but no more, and no less, than the rights of women. And while we are at it, let’s divvy the days up so that let’s say 10% of the Australian population are LGBTI (my statistics are not real- just for demonstrations sake) then they get 36 days. And so on. I don’t want to celebrate women tokenistically once a year. I want to feel courageous enough to celebrate my strong, human, incredible women peers- my mum, my sister, my grandmother, my school mum friends, my favourite authors, regularly, so often that it becomes a habit, not just on one day of the year. 

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler (Book #25)

I like books written by funny ladies, it seems. I’m not an overly huge fan of Poehler, in fact I don’t really know too much about her apart from having seen her in a few movies. But I was drawn to this book because I like books written by women that I think might have the capacity to cut through some of the BS and speak with honesty and wit. This book certainly did that.

Continue reading “Yes Please, by Amy Poehler (Book #25)”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (Book #24)

Have you read this book? It’s one of those ‘classics’ that always ends up on ‘books you should read’ lists but until a month ago or so I knew nothing about it apart from it being written by the very incredible and quote-worthy Angelou, and that it was one of those ‘you should read this’ books. But I hadn’t read it, so I finally got around to picking it up at the local library, to try to ‘cross it off’ the one day list.

Continue reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (Book #24)”

Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs (Book #23)

I apologise outright to all those who think the world of this book, but I just…didn’t. Didn’t warm to the central voice, didn’t enjoy the storyline, didn’t relate to the characters, didn’t see the point in it all, didn’t, didn’t, didn’t.

I am grateful to Burroughs for his honesty in telling the story of what has been quite an incredible and complex life story. I have plenty of empathy for Burroughs the person who has lived through obviously quite a bit of shit (‘scuse the language). But that’s about it.

For all the hype around this book (and it’s subsequent film, which I’m yet to see, and now wonder if I will bother), I am left rather deflated, with very little to say.

Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch (Book #22)

I realise I’m likely to be painting myself as a rather odd sort of character, what with my Star Wars nerdiness, and my obsession with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, etc., but please bear with me, Dear Reader Friend. It doesn’t end there. I am also a Gleek. I’ve long wished that the world would turn into a giant musical. Random outbursts of song that everyone just launches into in complete synchronicity, choreographed numbers, backing vocals and harmonies complete. It will never happen, of course, because that kind of theatrical complexity requires hours and hours of rehearsal and skill on behalf of the participants, but it is my dream, and I don’t have to justify it with logic. For that reason, I love Glee. It gives me a chance for a little while to indulge my crazy dream and imagine that the world, or at least the world of a small town high school, has become what I have always hoped it would be.

Continue reading “Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch (Book #22)”

The Consolations of Philosophy, by Alain de Botton

So, you’ll be aware that I recently read A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton. While I was fairly underwhelmed by the previous title, I felt that the writing was promising, and had heard only wonderful things about de Botton’s work, so I felt that a second-chance was due. Continue reading “The Consolations of Philosophy, by Alain de Botton”

Book 20! I’m a fifth of the way there!

I’m officially one fifth of the way there, to my goal of 100 books in one year!

Unfortunately, book 20 was a total disappointment.

Continue reading “Book 20! I’m a fifth of the way there!”

So Anyway, by John Cleese

Years ago, when I was working as a teacher, I used to be surrounded by other teachers. And I’m not sure if you know, but all different types of secondary school/high school teachers are their own special category of nerd. I feel qualified to say that because I too, am a total nerd. The science guys were science-y technical nerds, and the drama teachers were oh-so-theatrical (and awesome), and the history staff knew all the random factoids. I was one of the English/literature staff, and we, of course, are book nerds, with the occasional film or poetry nerd thrown into the mix. I’ve taught in a few places now, and I’ve discovered, that pretty much every school has one very particular, specialised nerd – the Monty Python nerd. Sometimes you’ll even discover a little patch of them, congregated together, quoting Python and saying things that non-Pythons just don’t understand. I had the good fortune to work with a matching pair of Python-ites, and distinctly recall, in my earliest days of teaching, halfheartedly laughing as I pretended to know what they were talking about. A real, special and unique breed, with a totally foreign language. Who cares about the parrot? What? Why are we still talking about the parrot?

Continue reading “So Anyway, by John Cleese”

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