2015 Reading Goal: Progress Report #2

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I haven’t been doing as well with my reading goal this year as I had hoped to do. My goal is to read at least 25 books this year (complete books, which means I can’t leave a book unfinished if I want to count it toward my goal — which is unfortunate, since there are a couple of books I didn’t have any desire to finish!)

So far this year, I’ve read now 4 books. At my last update, I’d read 3, so I did manage to finish a novel in the meantime. The one I read was Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (a post about this book coming soon).

I’ve been really enjoying reading books by Neil Gaiman lately, as well as Haruki Murakami. I have a whole post already typed up about my fascination with Murakami’s writing, in fact, so that will be coming soon to the blog.

The thing that makes me nervous about that is that I can’t go on reading the same two authors forever! So far, in the past year, I’ve read at least four books by Neil Gaiman (maybe even five) and NINE books by Haruki Murakami. Nine! I’ve read only about three books by other authors that I actually completed, and some others I didn’t even manage to finish. I just can’t get into stories by other authors right now. I’ve tried, but I keep coming back to these two. There’s just something about their writing. They are not even all that similar, but both of them seem to have the ability to create wonderful, intriguing worlds that I don’t want to part with.

For right now, I’m still really into the writing by these two awesome authors, but I definitely need to find some other good books and authors to try out.

I’ve been testing out some other genres, and I’ve found that I had a hard time getting drawn into some older “classics” that I probably should have read before, as well as memoirs. Then again, it could just be the authors’ styles that I didn’t really like. What I have found is that I enjoy sci-fi/fantasy a lot more than I ever expected to, though I’m not sure why I am surprised by that! I grew up loving Harry Potter, after all, and that’s definitely a fantasy story. I guess I just tried so hard to like the books that I felt like I should. Now I’m starting to realize that some books just aren’t my type.

Does anyone have any recommendations for books that they’ve enjoyed?

Advertisements

How I Learned to Love my e-Reader

BookvsNook1

I’ve always loved the experience of reading a book—a real, physical book. There is just something about books: the fresh, unread smell of a new book, full of newly-printed pages that no ones eyes have touched yet; the smell of a dusty old book, whose pages have been read and loved many times, and which evoke memories of previous readers who have also escaped into this story at one point in their lives; the crisp pages full of someone else’s words and thoughts and creations; the binding and cover that draw you in despite that old saying to “never judge a book by its cover.”

BookvsNook2

I never thought I could read a book on a screen. For me, that would ruin the experience of reading a book in the first place. Books were meant to be held, to be flipped through, to be experienced. I didn’t think this was possible with an e-book.

BookvsNook5

The problem with books for me became the issue of carrying them around. I am the kind of person who likes to have a book with me at all times, just in case. You never know when you’ll be stuck with nothing to do and wish you had brought a book. Unfortunately, some books are big. Some books are heavy. Some books get torn or bent up when you put them in a purse or backpack and carry them around all day. So, despite my love for physical books, or maybe even because of my love for them and my desire to keep them in good condition, I began to toy with the idea of getting an e-book reader.

BookvsNook3

One day a couple of years ago, I came home from work to find a present wrapped up and sitting on the kitchen counter for me: a Barnes & Noble Nook.

BookvsNook7

I’ll admit, it took me awhile (over six months if we’re being honest) before I finally took the plunge and read a novel using the Nook. But since that day, I’ve carried my Nook around with me everywhere. I use it almost daily, and I spend so much more time reading than I ever have before. It fits in my purse and doesn’t get damaged from carrying it around. It’s full of endless amounts of stories and when I finish one book I can immediately begin another. And most importantly, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I still get to escape into a story and get lost in it just like I would with a physical book.

BookvsNook6

I’ll always love books. I’ll always love pretty covers and bindings and getting to turn the pages, and I’ll always have bookshelves in my home full of the books I love. I still buy books. I still read them. The difference is that now, rather than have a bunch of books on my shelves that I saw in a bookstore one day and plan on reading someday, I download books onto my Nook that I want to read right then and there, and I do read them. And I always have them there with me and I can pick them up and read even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.

BookvsNook7

What I’ve really learned about books from getting a Nook is that the words themselves are the experience. The story is what it is all about, and if you have that, it doesn’t matter you’re reading it on paper or a screen.

Stardust

In January, I completed the book Stardust by Neil Gaiman, my first book of 2015. Neil Gaiman has quickly become one of my favorite authors.

“The sky above was a deep color–blue, perhaps, or purple, not black–sprinkled with more stars than the mind could hold.”

My first Neil Gaiman novel was actually his most recent, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and it was very dark and strange and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Months later, during the summer of 2014, I was looking for something to read and I decided to give American Gods a try. It was an incredible, fantastic, unforgettable book, and is now one of my favorites. It’s also gotten me really interested in mythology as well as made me much more aware of how much Americans are obsessed with and drawn to tourist traps (I’ll have to do a review of this book on the blog later!).

I’d seen the movie Stardust awhile back and really enjoyed it, but hardly remember it at this point so while I had a vague idea of the premise for the story, I couldn’t remember much else. I decided to read the book because I was looking for something that was not quite as dark or as long as the Murakami books I’d been reading before it. I needed a break so I decided to go for something by an author that I knew I liked but would be a little bit lighter of a read.

“The sun shone in their eyes, half blinding them and turning their world to liquid gold. The sky, the trees, the bushes, even the path itself was golden in the light of the setting sun.”

Stardust is very much like a fairy-tale, so much so that it takes place in a world called Faerie, separated from the “real” world by a wall. I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t read it, so I will just say that a boy from the town just outside the wall ventures into Faerie and discovers all sorts of magical things on his journey.

“The squirrel has not yet found the acorn that will grow into the oak that will be cut to form the cradle of the babe who will grow to slay me.”

Neil Gaiman has a fascination with mythology, folk tales, and fairy tales, and he gets the inspiration for much of his writing from these tales and ideas. One of my favorite things about his writing is the way he combines these sorts of mythical ideas with the real world. Stardust doesn’t exactly take place in the modern real world in the way that American Gods or Neverwhere do, but it still is a sort of combining of reality with a world of magic and myth.

Adventures are all very well in their place, he thought, but there’s a lot to be said for regular meals and freedom from pain.

Has anyone else read Stardust or seen the movie? Did you like it? Let me know what you think!

2015 Reading Goal: Progress Report #1

This year I set a goal for myself to read 25 books. Last year, I read a total of twelve, but 10 of those were in the last 6 months of the year so I decided to base my goal off of those six months and increase my number by a few for 2015.

So far, I haven’t been doing as well as I’d hoped. I try to read every day but with working two jobs and taking classes I’ve been exhausted and have had a hard time fitting in the time to read anything.

At a goal of 25 books for the year, that’s a little over two books per month. So far this year, I’ve only completed three books and it’s been about two months already.

In January I read Stardust and Neverwhere, both by author Neil Gaiman, and in February I spent some time trying to read some different genres and authors but couldn’t find any books that I wanted to stick with.

I started a couple of books and read them for a few pages before deciding I wasn’t interested (you can download samples of ebooks onto your Nook to try them out for the first ten pages or so, and then purchase them if you like them).

There is one book that I even spent a couple of weeks reading but just could not bring myself to finish. This book was called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, written by Dave Eggers. I have heard great things about Dave Eggers as a writer and so I picked up this book because it sounded interesting.

I tried so hard to like this book but I just could not get into it. The story is truly heartbreaking and it should be a really enthralling read about a young man who ends up raising his little brother. But I just didn’t want to read it anymore. I may go back to it at sometime and try to complete it, because I hate leaving books unfinished, but I just needed to take a break and read something else.

I didn’t like the author’s style. It reminded me a little bit of reading The Catcher in the Rye. Now, I know there are a lot of Catcher in the Rye fans in the world but let me tell you, I HATED it. The main character was totally obnoxious and annoying and whiny. And sure, the main character doesn’t always need to be likable, especially in a memoir because at that point the main character is really just the author himself. But I just couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t get lost in the book like I can with a book I really enjoy, and that’s really important to me.

Ultimately, I decided to find something else to read. I went back to one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami (more on my love for Murakami’s writing to come in a later post), because I know I can always count on his books when I want a good read, and so my third book of the year so far was Kafka on the Shore.

Hopefully I can get back on track with my reading goal for this year. I’ve been home sick the past few days so I’ve gotten quite a bit of reading in. I also try to read on my lunch hour at work each day. Even if I don’t meet my goal, though, I’ve definitely been reading much more than I ever have and that’s something to be proud of for sure.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

DSC_0030

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

I recently read the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It was quite the journey to read but it was definitely worth it. I thought that I had read this novel back in high school, but either I did not really read it (as was the case with so many books I was supposed to read in high school) or I did not fully comprehend it at the time.

“Dancing, fighting, singing, crying, laughing, winning and losing love every hour. Work all day for money, fight all night for love.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a beautiful story about marriage, race, class, love, death, and life. Janie, after a long journey away from the town of Eatonville, Florida, returns with a long story to tell about where she has been and what has happened to her and her husband, Tea Cake. She begins her story back when she was a young woman. After meeting her first husband, Janie first travels to Eatonville where she and her husband settle down and become leaders in the town. Janie learns about marriage and happiness, as well as unhappiness and pain, and over the years begins to learn what she truly wants from a marriage and from her life.

After her first husband passes away, Janie truly begins to become herself. She falls for Tea Cake, and the two go on a long journey, living and loving and truly being human.

Janie returns home in torn and tattered and dirty clothing, with the whole town wondering where in the world she has been. In her own words, alternated with the words of the author, Janie tells her story.

“He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place.”

Hurston’s writing is truly incredible, from the early 1900s southern dialect that immerses you in the characters’ language and in their world to the perfectly crafted similes and metaphors in the narration that give life to the story.

“Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”

“You got tuh go there to know there. Yo’ papa and yo’ mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh. Two thing’s everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”

If you have a chance, please read this novel. It is a shame that Hurston was never truly recognized for her work until after her death, but fortunately this novel is now accepted as a literary classic and her writing will continue to be read and appreciated for generations.

“They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”

What Megan Reads

Hello everyone, my name is Megan. Welcome to my blog, and thank you for stopping by. This blog will focus on what I’m reading, what I’ve read in the past, books I would like to read in the future, and reading goals I’ll set for myself to help me get there.

I’ve always loved reading, but throughout high school and the first couple of years of college it began to feel more like a chore to read. I enjoyed a few particular books that I read throughout those years, but for the most part I felt uninterested in them and really sometimes dreaded having to read for classes. Recently, however, I have fallen back in love with reading thanks to my decision to venture into science fiction and fantasy, a genre I hadn’t previously spent a lot of time with or even thought that I would enjoy. Now I spend several hours per week reading, and complete at least a couple of books per month.

On this blog, I’d like to do book reviews, a little bit of analysis, and even just talk about books I love or loved when I was younger without really having a set format for discussion. One of the things I’ve always disliked about reading for classes is the need to pick apart the author’s writing and try to find out the reason for each and every character, every word, every comma. To an extent, analysis can be a wonderful thing. It can take you deeper into a story and make a book into an even more fulfilling experience that can really change the way you look at yourself and your life. But I feel that enjoying a book and just appreciating the way the words are put together is much more important and fulfilling that understand each and every one of the author’s motives or trying to find a motive where there probably wasn’t one to begin with. I absolutely love to read books, and to talk about books, and that’s what I want to do here.

I’d also like to talk a little bit about reading goals. I have set myself a goal to read 25 books in 2015, and I’d like to also set goals for myself for how much time I’d like to spend reading each day, week, etc. I’d still like to keep reading fun for myself, but in order to reach that goal of 25 books this year, I need to plan out just how much time I can and should spend reading this year.

I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts here. Thanks for following along!

–Megan