Saltwater Book Review’s 2017 Summer Reading Challenge – Read a Really Long Book!

Summer might be my favorite time to read. Maybe it’s the nostalgic memories of summer reading lists–was I the only one who was super excited to get that list at the end of every year? Yes? I also have a lot of memories of going to the library with my mom and stocking up on huge stacks of books, which I would sometimes spend all day reading because it was summer and I had nothing else to do. Now I have more responsibilities, so summer isn’t the reading utopia it once was, but it still gets me in the mood to relax with a good book.

A couple years ago I made myself a challenge for summer reading, which ended up being way too aspirational. I always underestimate how long summer is and how busy I will be, and I overestimate how many books I can consume. I don’t really want to worry about numbers this summer, but I do want to have fun reading. So, this year I chose just one book from my to-read list, and I am pledging to read it over the summer.

The catch? It happens to be around 1,300 pages long.

The_Stand_Uncut
Like what is this book even about? I guess I’m going to find out.

I got the idea from Infinite Summer which is a community-based challenge to read and discuss a small chunk of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace every single day. By the end of the summer, you should have finished the entire book if you read the set amount of pages each day.

I failed that challenge when I attempted it last year, mostly because I wasn’t enjoying the book very much. I liked the idea, though. Sometimes huge books can be really intimidating and giving yourself permission to take a whole season with a book is helpful.

I wrote about wanting to read The Stand in one of my very early posts in 2013. How I thought I could read The Stand in one semester, on top of school reading and all the other books on that list, I have no clue. I’d still really like to read it, but the timing has never been right for me. Every time I thought about taking it out from the library and I took it off the shelves and was immediately horrified by how heavy it was. “I couldn’t possibly fit this thing in my purse,” I’d say to myself. “Maybe some other time.”

I was listening to Stephen King’s On Writing on audiobook, and hearing him talk about the experience of writing The Stand made me pause. “I really want to read that book,” I thought. So. I did something crazy. I bought a copy.

Now I have to read it, unless I want the giant thing to take up way too much space on my bookshelf and make me feel bad about myself for the next couple of years, just like my copies of Infinite Jest and Ulysses are doing at this very moment.

An apocalyptic novel might not be the best summer reading, but when I want a fun reading experience, Stephen King is always a good bet for me. More fun than Infinite Jest, at the very least.

So, that’s my challenge. If you’d like one of your own, then I challenge you to reading a book on your to-read list that you’ve put off reading because it seemed too dang long. It doesn’t have to be well over 1,000 pages like The Stand or Infinite Jest (although Infinite Summer communities like the one on Reddit might be a good community resource for anyone interested in choosing that one). If you’d like suggestions, check out this collection of community voted Goodreads lists of the best long books: https://www.goodreads.com/list/tag/long.

If you choose to do this challenge, please let me know, either in the comments here, through Goodreads, or by email at saltwaterbookreview@gmail.com. Use the tag #summerlongreads on Litsy (I’m saltwaterlit on Litsy, add me!). I’d love to see what you’re all reading this summer!

 

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The best books I read in 2016 + 2017 Resolutions

Top 11 of 2016
(in the order I read them)

1. Saga Vol. 2-5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga is a comic series about a family caught between an intergalactic space war. It’s fun, sexy-in-a-weird-way, and feminist. What more could you want?!

2. Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell
If I had to pick a favorite of the year…it might just be Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. Read my review here.

3. Killing and Dying: Stories by Adrian Tomine
This turned out to be a year of graphic novels for me, starting with Killing and Dying, which I read last January. I wrote about it here.

4. You by Caroline Kepnes
This got a lot of buzz, and it was well deserved – this was a seriously fun, fast-paced read. Read my review here.

5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Oh, Jude. You poor thing. Reading A Little Life was an engrossing experience. Read my review here.

6. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Thanks, Obama, for the book rec. Basically, Fates and Furies is the story of a marriage; first told by the husband and then the wife. The first half, Fates (the husband’s side), was good. The second half, Furies, was truly phenomenal. I guess because women have to do everything around here.

7. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz is my favorite contemporary short story writer. His stories are quick, simple on the surface but complex underneath, and deliciously unpretentious.

8. Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart
This is a graphic memoir written about Tom Hart’s experience after the death of his toddler daughter, Rosalie. It was really sad and really beautiful, and I think graphic memoir is a perfect medium for such a story.

9. March Books 1-2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
I haven’t gotten a chance to read Book 3 yet, but I already know that this series is very important, and should be required reading in schools. It’s about John Lewis’s experience in the Civil Rights Movement, including sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the 1963 March on Washington. This is an important historical testament to the men and women who bravely fought for civil rights, and I encourage everyone to read it.

10. Alex + Ada, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Another comic – this time, one about a guy who falls in love with a robot. It’s a fun read, but raises a lot of questions about artificial intelligence, the way technology has invaded our personal lives, and the fear and uncertainty that comes with all that.

11. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
I was only going to make this a list of 10 books, but I listened to This is the Story of a Happy Marriage on audiobook and loved Ann Patchett’s voice in my ear with a fierceness, so I had to include it. She is a very smart, warm-hearted writer and I really enjoyed listening to this collection of essays about her life and writing.


2017 Reading Resolutions

Last year I chose to set my goal at 40 books. I know for some people it’s hard to find the time to read 40 books, but I read every day on my commute to work, so I usually can read about 50 books a year without effort – I probably could read 40 books even if I stopped reading everywhere except on the train. My reasoning for setting my goal low was that I wanted to simply enjoy reading without pressure. I wanted to read long books that take a whole month to read without worrying about falling off pace on my reading goal. I think this was helpful, because I had a lot of stressful things going on this year, and my Goodreads reading challenge was not something I wanted to be stressed out about as well.

In 2017 my goal is to read good books, so I will probably be DNF’ing a lot more books. I plan to be a bit more discerning about galleys and ARCs, too, although I want to keep up with new titles as much as possible. And I plan to set my goal a little bit higher at 60 books. I desperately want to be the kind of reader that can read 100+ books every year, simply because I’m getting older and my bookshelf isn’t getting any smaller. It’s just that I don’t think it’s something that’s really possible for me at the moment, unless I quit my job to be a professional reader. 60 is a good compromise.

Last year I also wanted to read books I already own, but I failed pretty badly on that. I just can’t resist the library. I did stop buying new books – I think I bought less than 5 books this entire year, which is bad for book sales but good for me because I have no space on my shelf. I donated a good amount of my book collection as well, but I’m afraid I still won’t have space for new books anytime soon.

2016 was a good year for me, despite the various disasters. I think we are all entering 2017 with a sense of trepidation, but I think it’s a good thing to not be sure all the time. It’s okay to be uncertain about the future. When we’re uncertain, we pay better attention. I do know that compared to this time last year, I have a clearer vision of myself and what I want out of life. I started the year with a lot of questions that I spent the whole year answering. I have a better plan now, and I hope to achieve a lot in 2017 –  and even if I don’t, I’m grateful for what 2016 has given me. Thank you all for reading, and have a happy new year!

The Saltwater Book Review Summer Reading Challenge

I was thinking the other day about how I have an increase in desire to read during the summer months. I think this is for two reasons: it’s something that’s nice to do in either air conditioned spaces or outside, and there is the nostalgic factor–do any of you remember the summer reading lists we used to get in school? Good times! (for nerds.)

I decided to create a challenge for myself, and anyone else who wants to join, to get me to read with more variety this summer. You’re welcome to read books from the same categories as me, or make your own categories or amount of books as you would like. The point of this is to have fun reading.

I’m giving myself from June to mid-September to finish this challenge, just so I don’t feel so rushed.

THE SALTWATER BOOK REVIEW SUMMER READING CHALLENGE

assignment 1: Read 4 Classics Written by Women

For this category, I am planning to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Beloved by Toni Morrison, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and one wildcard pick that I will choose when the time comes.

assignment 2: Read (or finish) 2 Young Adult Series

I plan to finish the Legend series by Marie Lu, plus one more series. I would really like suggestions for this, as I’m having trouble thinking of another series to read, so please recommend me one in the comments!

assignment 3: Read 1 big short story collection

This is mostly because I have a lot of these that take up space on my bookshelf, and I never seem to want to make time to read them. Right now I am deciding between The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Conner or Collected Stories by Tennessee Williams.

assignment 4: Read/Watch 1 book-to-movie adaptation

I’m not sure about this one– maybe Silver Linings Playbook? Ideally this would be both a book I’ve never read and a movie I’ve never seen. I may change my mind on this one.

Extra Credit: Read 5 books that have been sitting around on my shelf for forever, unread. (This is just because I really need to do something about my overcrowded book shelf.)

All together this is 11-16 books, which is doable in 3.5 months at the current pace I’m reading, allowing for the fact that I will want to read other books, too. If you’d like to participate in this challenge, feel free to skip categories or reduce the amount of books as needed. Or, if you’d like to make your own assignments, PLEASE DO, and please let me know about them!

And follow me on Goodreads! I am making a bookshelf for this challenge called SWBR-summer-2015, so you can track my progress. You can also talk to me on there if you’re doing the challenge as well.

Happy reading, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen. Seriously.