Many people make New Year's Resolutions. Over 70% never achieve them.
Every year I set goals. I accomplish them. (Okay, here's my secret: I make them easy enough to actually accomplish!)
Last year, I signed on for several book challenges. I finished all of them. In the process, I read award winning books, read lots of books from the library and my TBR, passed on books I'd read, wrote reviews for all my books, and read more books than I've ever read.
It was a good experience.
This year, I will try to finish eight challenges. What challenges are you trying this year? Are there any I missed that I should take on?
It's that most excellent time of the year for me. I have time to read.
So, what to choose?
The best books, of course.
A simple Google search, right?
See for yourself.
Publishers Weekly Best Books 2009 Top of the top included Shop Craft as Soul Craft which bored me to tears. But it also had In Other Rooms, Other Wonders which I am reading and loving right now. Hey, all the authors are male. How can that be?
Library Journal Best Books 2009 I ought to like this one as I am in that occupational group. The librarians chose their favorite 31 reads of 2009. Though I have a goodly number on my wishlist, I've only actually read one, This is Where I Leave You. Not for all tastes; I wanted to wash the narrator's mouth out and send him off to timeout, but there is no denying that the book vividly depicts a young man's perspective.
New York Times 10 Best Books of 2009 I've only read (well, I'm reading...only fifty pages in) one book, A Gate at the Stairs. Not much on this list pushes my buttons. I wonder why.
Best Books of 2009: NPR Lots of little quirky lists here. I went ga-ga over Best Books for a Book Club this morning and added almost everything to my Amazon wishlist.
Librarian Nancy Pearl's 2009 Under-the-Radar Books Truth is this is actually a subset of the NPR Best-of lists, but I love Nancy Pearl so much that I wanted to give her a spot of her own here. Not that I always agree with her, but she is Uber-Librarian, dedicated to helping readers find good books. I've only read one of this list, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, but it was very, very fun. Now adding a few of her other picks to my wishlist and reveling in the news that Pearl is working on a new Book Lust, Book Lust To Go, filled with travel picks. Good news.
And I'm on one of those wonderful reading runs where everything I pick up is fantastic.
I think I can explain it. I've been reading mostly children's picture books (Cybils nominees and then Christmas books) for the past two months. I've had time to save up a nice little stack of good books.
Look what I'm reading:
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro (Halfway through...don't want this book to end...not much happiness, though)
Cold by Bill Streever (On lots of year end Best of 2009 lists and rightly so)
Gone With the Wind (Who's gonna argue with the amazing-ness of this book?)
Look what I just finished:
No Impact Man (Author Beavan decides to live without trash or electricity or non-locally produced food...really, anything that adversely impacts the world...for a year)
Super Freakonomics (Just as fun as the first book)
Look what just arrived for me:
How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly (ARC from the author)
Truly, Madly by Heather Webber (ARC from friend of author)
Now & Then (ARC from friend of author)
Stones Into Schools (Latest from Three Cups of Tea author from the library)
Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs (Another book I've been anxious to read from the library)
(Now that's a bold title. I want to make sure you are not thinking I'm going to pit other wonderful decisions in my life---my decision to marry my wonderful husband, or my decision to finish my master's degree before I had kids, or my decision to have my wonderful bambinos, or, mercy, my decision to follow Christ, for example---against this small decision. But this has proved to be a small, but an excellent decision for my life, and I want to share it with you.)
I am often asked, "How in the world do you have time to read SO many books?"
I have an easy answer: "I do not watch tv."
I gave up watching tv in 2003.
This is the decision that has changed my life.
(1) It is as if I have an extra four and a half hours a day (Yes, that is the AVERAGE time people watch tv every day. Mercy!)
(2) I am not subjected to the relentless call to buy, buy, buy, get, get, get, more, more, more and the cruel judgment that I am not as beautiful, as popular, as whatever, as others.
(3) I do not have to hear about all the disturbing details of celebrity lives.
(4) I do not have to hear about all the murders and abductions and stealings that go on.
(5) Facts about tv: Studies show that people who watch the most tv are the most depressed. Studies show that people who watch the most tv are the most overweight. Studies show that people who watch the most tv are paranoid about the world and think it is a terrible place, filled with people who are ready at a moment's notice to cut your throat. I do not want to be depressed or overweight or paranoid.
(6) I can do many things. I can read. I can cook. I can take pictures. I can rock on my front porch. I can visit with people. I can walk. If I want to try something I've never done---say, learn to hula---I can do it. I have time.
(7) And, finally, I am happier, much happier, without tv.
So, what do you think? Anyone else out there tv-free? Anyone else contemplating it?
(Note: I am not obsessive about this. If someone tells me about something fantastic on tv, I might watch it. And I watch movies now and then.)
Photo Credit: beedieu from Creative Commons Flickr
I joined in with the Readathon...read lots and lots of children's Christmas picture books for school...was a stop of the Advent Tour...and now I'm combining all of this for my Sunday Salon post!
I was ready to go yesterday morning with Christmas music, candles, and heaps of Christmas books. Then I discovered a winter storm had knocked our Internet connection out! So I had to run up to Starbucks to post.
The Internet was finally restored yesterday afternoon. I had several other distractions, but I still managed to read 64 Christmas books and visit a lot of blogs and host a small Readathon contest.
BTW, I asked, in my contest, for readers to name five of their favorite Christmas children's stories. I will keep this open all day today if anyone else would like to join in. The winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift certificate. I will announce the winner tomorrow.
So, out of all those books, what do I recommend?
Funny: Mrs. Claus Takes a Vacation A New, Improved Santa Pooch on the Loose Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas Pirate's Night Before Christmas Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake Santa Claus, the World's Number One Toy Expert Wombat Divine I See Santa Everywhere Mooseltoe
Heartwarming: The Gift of the Christmas Cookie An Orange for Frankie Great Joy Too Many Tamales Santa's Book of Names Santa Calls The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy
Beautiful Illustrations: What Dogs Want for Christmas Waiting for Christmas Bear Stays Up for Christmas Drummer Boy
Surprising: Snowmen at Christmas How Santa Really Works Uncles and Antlers The Peterkins' Christmas Merry Christmas, Merry Crow Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree Merry Un-Christmas
Learning Something Important: The Wild Christmas Reindeer Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll Christmas Trolls The Longest Christmas List Ever Yoon and the Christmas Mitten
Different Ways to Celebrate Christmas: Tree of Cranes Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Night Tree The Soldier's Night Before Christmas Twelve Days of Christmas Dogs Texas Night Before Christmas
Classic: Amahl and the Night Visitors A Christmas Memory How the Grinch Stole Christmas A Christmas Carol The Night Before Christmas The Littlest Angel
A big thank you to my wonderful public library, the Brazoria County Library System, which let me go over my checkout limit for this readathon.
And because I am so full of Christmas cheer and because I might forget later:
And what do I have planned to read? Wonderful Christmas stories for children.
In the spirit of Readathon and in the spirit of Christmas, I will give a prize. It will be a $10 gift certificate to Amazon. It is open to anyone anywhere. I will randomly select someone who leaves a comment below, listing your five favorite children’s Christmas story books. Please include your e-mail address, with enough spaces to thwart those who would use e-mail addresses for their own purposes.
Here are mine, before the Readathon:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss A New, Improved Santa The Night Before Christmas, a pop-up book, illustrated by Robert Sabuda The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree
This contest will run the entire time of the Readathon.
NOTE: A winter storm has unexpectedly knocked out our Internet connection. I am posting this from Starbuck’s. I’m not sure when the connection will be restored.
I'm hours and hours into the Readathon. Here are a few more Christmas picture books I've read and reviewed.
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree is too tall for his house, so the tiptop must be cut off. And it's just right for the upstairs maid, but it's just a wee bit too tall. So the tiptop must be cut off and that's just right for...and so on, and so on. Ages 4-10. 9/10.
Wombat Divine by Mem Fox and illustrated by Kerry Argent
Wombat really wanted to be in the Christmas pageant, but what part could he play? Ages 4-8. 9/10.
Henry and Mudge in the Sparkle Days by Cynthia Rylant with pictures by Sucie Stevenson
Three little stories about Henry and his dog and his parents. Ages 5-8. 8/10.
Make a Joyful Noise: A Pop-Up Book of Christmas Carols by Francesca Crespi
Beautiful pop-ups for four Christmas carols. Ages 4-12. 9/10.
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto and illustrated by Ed Martinez
Oh dear. Maria just wanted to try on Mama's ring while they were making tamales. Trouble. Ages 5-10. 9/10.
The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
The jolly postman delivers delightful Christmas mail to fairy tale characters. Ages 5-10. 8.5/10
Where Did They Hide My Presents? Silly Dilly Christmas Songs by Alan Katz and David Catrow
Little songs set to the tune of Christmas carols. Ages 6-10. 8/10.
Froggy's Best Christmas by Jonathan London and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
Froggy wakes up and experiences his first Christmas. Ages 4-8. 8/10.
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell and illustrated by Sergio Leone
A four-year-old boy enters heaven and turns everything upside down. But he atones for it all and bestows a treasured box up on the infant King. Ages 5-10. 8.5/10.
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten written by Helen Recorvits and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Yoon tries to find a way to have Santa visit her, but her father insists that her family is Korean and not a Christmas family. Ages 5-10. 8.5/10.
Merry Christmas, Merry Crow by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Jon Goodell
A crow gathers this and that. Best part: the ending. Ages: 4-10. 8.5/10.
Amahl and the Night Visitors written by Gian Carlo Menotti and illustrated by Michele Lemieux
Amahl must walk with a crutch and he and his mother struggle to survive in the desert. One night they are visited by three kings and three shepherds who are following a star in search of the King. Best part: Amahl and his mother talk back and forth. Ages 8-12. 8.5/10.
Careful, Santa by Julie Sykes illustrated by Tim Warnes
Santa has lots of troubles delivering presents. Ages 4-8. 8/10.
The Twelve Days of Christmas Dogs by Carolyn ConahanA friend keeps giving dogs as gifts. Best part: the show at the end. Ages 5-10. 8/10.
The Christmas Train by Ivan Gantschev
A boulder falls on the train tracks and a girl must save the train using her Christmas tree. Best part: the lamb the girl’s father had for her. Ages 5-10. 7/10.
A few more hours have passed and I've finished lots more children's Christmas picture books....
The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas written by Trish Holland and Christine Ford and illustrated by John Manders
Sergeant McClaus arrives at the army camp with presents for all the soldiers from those who love them safe at home. Best part: The last line: ‘As the camp radar lost him, I heard this faint call: “Happy Christmas, brave soldiers! May peace come to all.”’ Ages 5-12. 7/10.
Ten Little Christmas Presents by Jean Marzollo
Ten Christmas presents sit in the snow for the animals. Best part: Anticipating what was in the packages. Ages 2-5. 7/10.
Heart of a Snowman by Mary Kuryla and Eugene Yelchin
Owen builds a snowman every year on Christmas Eve, only to see it melt by Christmas Day. Owen finds himself taken away to space where he is studied to find out why his snowmen are so perfect. Best part: the illustrations. Ages 5-10. 7/10.
Reindeer Christmas written by Mark Kimball Moulton and illustrated by Karen Hillard Good
Every year two children and their grandmother leave treats for the woodland animals. One Christmas they are visited by a reindeer who brings a special reward. Best part: the wish. Ages 5-10. 7/10.
Bear Stays Up for Christmas written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
Bear, with the help of his friends, tries to stay up for Christmas. Best part: the illustrations. Ages 2-8. 7/10.
The Longest Christmas List Ever by Gregg and Evan Spiridellis
Trevor always forgets to put something on his list. He decides to start early, the day after Christmas, and he writes down everything he wants on a list that stretches from his house all the way down the street. Best part: writing his long list. Ages 4-10. 7/10.
Mrs. Claus Takes a Vacation by Linas Alsenas
Mrs. Claus is tired of never getting to go anywhere and so she decides to travel around the world. Santa worries about her while she is gone, but his worries are unnecessary; Mrs. Claus is having a wonderful time. Best part: Mrs. Claus sunbathing. Ages 4-10. 9/10
Santa Claus, the World’s Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee
How does Santa manage to find just the right gift for every child? Well, it takes a lot of work. Best part: Santa’s extensive files. Ages 4-10. 8.5/10
Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett
Treva notices things are missing as Christmas approaches. She discovers the culprits, two trolls, and teaches them what Christmas is really all about. Ages 5-8. 8/10
Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard
Mr. Putter and his cat, Tabby, decide to bake a cake for his friend and her dog. Best part: When Mr. Putter buys the the things he needs for the cake and he spends $100 before he ever buys the flour. Ages 4-9. 9/10.
Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Minerva Louise, a plump white chicken, is very confused about Christmas. Best part: humor. Ages 4-8. 8/10.
Waiting for Christmas written by Monica Greenfield and illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
A brother and sister wait for Christmas to arrive. Beautiful illustrations. Ages 4-8. 7.5/10
Night Tree written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ted Rand
A family goes out to decorate a tree for the animals who live in the forest. Best part: When the children sing Christmas carols and one child picks “Old MacDonald” and Mom says that okay because it’s a good song, too. Ages 4-10. 8.5/10.
The Santa Clauses retold by Achim Broger with illustrations by Ute Krause
A slow news day causes a reporter to write there is no Santa. All the Santas (and there are a lot of them) decide to go on strike. Best part: Santas sunbathing in Miami Beach. Ages 4-10. 8.5/10.
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney
It’s Ruth’s family’s turn to give the perfect Christmas tree for the village and it’s Ruthie’s turn to be the angel in the Christmas play. But how will this happen when Ruthie’s father is away at the war and there is no money for angel clothes? Best part: when Ruthie thought the doll felt just like the silk stockings her father had sent her mother. Ages 5-12. 9/10.