2016 Recap

AHHH. How is it already 2017??? (Gross.) I made two major goals in 2016 again: finish 40 books and check off all 24 challenges as part of Book Riot’s #ReadHarder campaign – and, well, I failed, AGAIN. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (You can see my actual goals here.)

If you’re interested, here’s how my stats broke down:

Goodreads*

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I read 30 books, or  75% of my goal of 40.

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Books I read:

Some stats:

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#ReadHarder

Book Riot introduced their #ReadHarder challenge in 2015 and I loved the idea. It got me to actually think about what book I was reading, and, in some cases, gave me that extra nudge to read something that was already in my tbr pile. I went through all the challenges and made a list to help guide my reading… but again decided to bypass that list and start reading books just because I wanted to read them. I also started a food memoir (Fresh off the Boat) and a book about religion (The God Delusion) – but didn’t find them interesting enough to finish – and couldn’t find anything on my tbr list that was 100 pages or less (although Adulthood Is a Myth came close).

I read 9 books, or 38% of my goal of 24.

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* Infographics thanks to Goodreads.

2015 Recap

I made two goals in 2015: finish 41 books and check off all 24 challenges as part of Book Riot’s #ReadHarder campaign – and, well, I failed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (You can see my actual goals here – which include books I said I would read in 2015 as part of a Top Ten Tuesday post – but that’s not even worth mentioning because I read NONE of them.)

If you’re interested, here’s how my stats broke down:

Goodreads*

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I read 31 books, or  76% of my goal of 41.

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Books I read:

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#ReadHarder

Book Riot introduced their #ReadHarder challenge in 2015 and I loved the idea. It got me to actually think about what book I was reading, and, in some cases, gave me that extra nudge to read something that was already in my tbr pile. I went through all the challenges and made a list last December to help guide my reading… and then sometime during the summer, I kind of decided to bypass that list and start reading books just because I wanted to read them. So… I didn’t accomplish my specific goals, but I did read a lot of books that popped onto my radar in 2015 (HELLO MS. MARVEL) – and that’s just as good.

I read 16 books, or 67% of my goal of 24.

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* Infographics thanks to Goodreads.

Five Favorite: Book-related Podcasts

“Five Favorite” is a feature on thewasofshall where I lay out my five favorite “x”. Sometimes they’re relevant to a season or holiday, mostly they’re not. It’s an all-around fun excuse to give my 100% amazingly awesome opinion. To see previous (and future) topics, click here. To participate, scroll all the way down.

Okay, so, I love podcasts. They can be entertaining, informative, eye-opening – anything, really, which is why it’s so hard to wade through the thousands (upon thousands) of podcasts out there to find the one (or five, or ten) that will keep you engaged for 50 (or even 500) episodes. Because I love to read and am interested in the book world, I listen to a lot of podcasts focused specifically books, book news, and authors; here are my five favorite. (Can you tell I like Book Riot???)

AllTheBooksAll the Books!: All the Books! is a weekly show of recommendations and discussions about the most interesting and exciting new book releases; hosted by Rebecca Schinsky and Liberty Hardy of BookRiot.com.

BookRiotBook Riot – The Podcast: Book Riot – The Podcast is a weekly news and talk show about what’s new, cool, and worth talking about in the world of books and reading; hosted by a combination of Jeff O’Neal, Rebecca Schinsky, and Amanda Nelson of BookRiot.com, and guests.

DearBookNerdDear Book Nerd: Dear Book Nerd is a bi-weekly advice show about life, love, and literature; hosted by Rita Meade of BookRiot.com and guests.

LitUpThe Lit Up Show:  The Lit Up Show discusses books, writers, life, love and all things literary in an exploration of how what we read reflects how we live; hosted by Angela Ledgerwood and Emily Gould of TheLitUpShow.com

ReadingLivesReading Lives: Reading Lives features hour-long conversations with guests about their reading lives: the books and reading experiences that have been memorable, transformative, and meaningful; hosted by Jeff O’Neal of BookRiot.com.

Have your own five favorite book-related podcasts? Share them! Post them to your blog, link back to this post, and then comment letting me know!

Thoughts On: Romance Novels

“Thoughts On” is a monthly feature on thewasofshall where I give my (often rambling) thoughts on a topic relevant to reading, literature, or the book business. To see previous (and future) topics, click here. To participate, scroll all the way down.

Romance novels are just one genre among many – making romantic or sexual relationships the primary plot, motivator, or “problem” – but they’re almost universally scorned and used as the butt of jokes. Some arguments include the fact that they lack depth or plot development (really?), they’re “woman’s fiction” and thus sub-par (really?!), or they’re dirty (#ugh #stop). I’m not going to give space to these arguments, nor am I going to refute them, because, to me, “romance novels” are just another genre – a genre I read more a couple years ago but something which I also read now. Is it with the same frequency that I read science fiction or fantasy? Maybe not. Literary or general fiction? No. But they’re still there, popping up on my tbr list every couple of months.

And, like any other genre, romance novels span the spectrum of well-written to pulpy trash, chaste to borderline erotica, and plot-driven to plot-less. I don’t think that romance novels should be looked down on or scorned because they are romance novels: they should be criticized if the plot makes no sense, if they characters are half-formed, or if the author needed a good editor before he or she published – exactly like every other novel or genre out there. But, like I mentioned above, romance novels are a tough sell. They’re almost always put out as either paperbacks or mass-market (no nice hard covers for these babies). They have rather ridiculous cover illustrations advertising their main characters (and those characters’ relationship). The font is most likely scripted (or maybe even “girly” [wtf does that even mean???]). Being embarrassed about reading a romance novel is a hard bias to shake, mostly because people see that cover and just assume so much shit without either reading the book for which they’re making fun or even a romance novel in general (any romance novel).

And I think that’s totally unfair.

I spent the summer after I graduated college almost exclusively reading romance novels (basically anything Rachel Gibson or Deirdre Martin had published up to that point). I had a lot of free time on my hands, and it was nice to immerse myself in quick-reads that were vaguely connected. (I also realized that I really liked romance novels featuring hockey players.) As the summer ended and I ran out of books to read, I moved on. A couple of years later, I went back to these two authors after realizing that they had each published more books, but I couldn’t get into any kind of groove after my absence. I’d already figured out each novel’s plot – girl and guy meet (or re-meet), get together, have terrific sex, have a fight, break-up, get back together – before even getting past the first couple of chapters. It wasn’t that the books had changed; rather, I’d changed.

And maybe that’s the point – I had gorged myself on a genre and then couldn’t ingest any more (like my absolute love for peanut butter and banana sandwiches – which I still, to this day, cannot eat because I ate them everyday for about four months four years ago). Maybe what binds each “romance” novel together under this single genre-umbrella is simply it’s structure – just like all “science-fiction” novels include some sort of magic in the universe that’s explained by STEM fields while “fantasy” implies that magic is inherent or unexplainable. Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel but so are all these books GoodReads users have tagged romance. I think, in the end, we readers have to stop thinking that “romance” really means anything other than an expectation that the story will be predominately about romantic love. Ignore the sneers you get on public transit and indulge in your love of romance. Because, really, you’d have to be pretty cold to not at least enjoy a novel’s two protagonists getting together.

P.S. Jessica Tripler wrote a fantastic op-ed piece for Book Riot about her love of romance novels – “When Your Favorite People Hate Your Favorite Books” – and other Book Riot contributors have written some great articles for romance newbies: “A Romance Novel Virgin’s Guide to (Reading About) Getting It On” and “10 Essential Reads for Romance Newbies.” Book Riot’s #ReadHarder challenge also includes the category “A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure” – which, in my case, was a romance novel – but then they also add “read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over.” Well said.

Have your own thoughts on romance novels? Share them! Post them to your blog, link back to this post, and then comment letting me know!