the problem with reading reviews…

… before you’ve finished the novel is this: you lose interest.

I know I’ve referenced Goodreads more than a few times on here. And I do love it. I’ve found several books that I might not have read otherwise… plus this 800 word prequel that Rowling wrote about James and Sirius that was pretty cute. But the problem with Goodreads is that I read reviews of books before I’ve finished them. In the case of Anna Karenina this was helpful. I realized other people in the world loathed this novel as much as I did. One reader even admitted to tossing his in a fire upon completion (I haven’t done that… I don’t think I could).

Other novels I’ve read reviews of didn’t really bother me because I didn’t care about them too much. So the reviews were merely entertaining and didn’t affect my reading too much. And then there’s this book

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

I want so desperately to like this book. I started it on December 7th and there’s no way it should take me 7 days to read. But I just can’t get into it. I mean Ms. Russell writes some beautiful pieces. Collections of words and phrases that thrill me. But this story is just plodding along and making me want to cry.

I read one of her short stories last semester in my Fiction I class. “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach” found in The Best American Short Stories 2010. I think our overall reaction to the story was that it was bizarre and dense. I mean, Karen throws in polysyllabic words one after the other like it ain’t no thing. And after two paragraphs filled with heavy words and phrases I just find myself really really tired.

So, I’ll finish it. But I may need to pick up another book and start reading two of them simultaneously. I only have 17 days left after all.

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milestones not millstones

My mother often comments that she doesn’t know how (or why) I force myself through books that I don’t enjoy reading.I have a lot of answers, but the last week of December it really boiled down to accomplishing a personal goal. When I realized 75 books in a year was within my grasp I went for it. And I’m proud to announce that I reached my goal (you could imagine me sitting on the couch, reading until the moments right before the ball dropped if you want. I won’t confirm or deny.) But here it is all officially statistic looking.

Goodreads Book Stats

As you can see I’m a very stingy giver of stars (haha). It’s like I’m afraid that if I say that I didn’t like a book the author will posthumously curse me and steal my ability to imagine or something.

Anyway, I was talking to Pam the other day about the types of books I read this year. I spent a lot of time in types of Literature and Fiction that I never thought I’d read. A good chunk of that 75 falls into the Graphic Novel category (thanks to my friend Sarah, whom I need to return them to). There was a fair representation from Young Adult Literature and some modern Literature. I even managed to squeeze in a few of the obligatory classics (though I will approach my next Dead Russian novel with much more patience).

I ended the year with The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. I sort of unintentionally created a trilogy of non-fiction about Hell. I read Love Wins by Rob Bell, Erasing Hell by Francis Chan, and then of course The Problem of Pain. My mind is still churning through all of this theological thought. And I have not resolved everything I’ve learned from the three books. But I’m okay with that. I want to be a life long learner.

I read several other books with startling similarities. More than a few had multiple narrators. A couple were about New York City, a couple were about Florida (though opposite ends). All of the non-fiction I read this year was either about popular music or Hell, that one is probably the most fun fact.

My ideas about reading in 2012 are still pretty nebulous. I will be reading The Brothers Karamazov and A Game of Thrones as part of that challenge. I’m not sure how many books I’ll accomplish this year. I’d like for it to be  more than 75, but I don’t know how many more. I think it would be fairly feasible for me to read (start to finish) two books a week. So 104 should be reasonable. And this year I may make more of an effort to consider e-books.

Jenna got me a gift card to Inkwood Books (and a year’s membership) that I’m so excited about. And my mom bought The History of Love and The Elegance of the Hedgehog for me for Christmas. I’m so happy to own those now and make pencil marks all throughout them. Those two, along with The Rules of Civility were probably the most inspiring books to me as a writer this year.

My friend Laura tweeted yesterday that she was going to attempt 75 books this year. I’m so excited for her and can’t wait to read some books along with her. And my mom and aunt have started a mini book club for themselves. It’s exciting for me to see so many readers around.

Did you make a resolution to read or write more? My advice: get some community around you. It’s always a little bit more fun when you can share the experience with someone.

And here’s the part where I want to thank you guys that have been reading a long with me through 2011. This is what my year in blogging looked like as far as views:

view summary via WordPress

October was a fantastic month for views. And these past few months have been a lot of fun for me. I promise many more anecdotes, short stories/poems, and book reviews are in store for you in 2012 (as well as some book-to-movie discussions). Thanks for sticking with me. Your first book review of 2012 will be up at 11 am tomorrow. Until then, Happy New Year and Happy Reading!