Sunday, January 17, 2016

My 2015 reading

My 2015 handwritten book list showing the first 10 items, The Ironhand, Mirror Mask, Silvertongue, Sketch, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Delivering Happiness

This is the time of year that the "Top [fill-in-the-blank] of 2015" lists abound.

For me it's booklists that always succeed in tempting me to click in. I love to see how many I've read or imagine which one will be the next great read. (Do you have a favorite book list? Send it to me!)


These are the lists that have inspired me lately...

So, inspired, I took a look at the lists of books I've read. I've been keeping lists for years and have read hundreds (but probably thousands) of books in my lifetime.

It's said that what you do every day matters more that what you do every once in a while.

Of all the daily habits that have defined my life, reading is near the top for most defining. (I don't count social media fluff-n-stuff, which soaks up so much time. This year less FB and more reading FTW! )

I do count the audio books that I listen to on my commute and while doing housework. Hearing a book read aloud is a powerful way to hear the author's voice or be transported back in time or into a new world.

I don't have a complete lifetime list, which makes me sad. There was a span of life where I didn't keep track...too busy, too tired, not reading much.

But I've started to add all the books I can remember reading to my Goodreads bookshelf. Some day I'll dig out all the old early lists and catch up...or not.

I have kept track faithfully over the last eleven years, though.

By the numbers

2005 Started to keep track again
32 Average books read per year over the last 11 
2010 Began listening to audio books regularly 
1-5 Ratings for each book: 1- hate it, 2 - didn't like it, 3 - OK, 4 - liked, recommend, 5 - loved it, must read. 
31% average for Rating 5 
In 2015...
41 books read or listened to (more if I had kept track of children's picture books)
11 books with Rating 5
66% Audio books compared to paper books 
Genres 21 fiction (11 sci-fi), 15 nonfiction (6 memoir/bio, 3 biz), 5 YA/children
Themes Creativity, sketch art and novels about art, Neil Gaiman, Ursala LeGuin 
Summer Reserved for light fluffy beach reads or YA/children's books or favorite book rereads...Crazy Little ThingThe Ocean at the End of the LaneEat Pray Love
Overdrive App of choice for reading or listening, because it's free with a library card (I have 2). Downside, it's difficult to find recent books on audio, or you have to wait. Can now listen streaming on the web, though. I mostly download the books so I don't trash my data plan when I'm away from wifi. Sometimes I use Kindle, but finding good free books is harder.
I take notes or post gems of truth on my Twitter feed, @ellenking. I used to keep a notebook of notes and quotes and enjoy looking back through them, but it's very time consuming.

Yes, I read a real book with a yellow highlighter to catch the parts that ring true. No, I won't mark your book if you lend it to me.

I do love reading on my phone too. It's easier to read faster, just flicking through the screens quickly scanning the words. I feel like I'm making so much progress in less time. Downside, highlighting and bookmarking is possible by not convenient. And it doesn't have that book smell or weight in your hand.

Some of my favorites from 2015:

Book cover of Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher, with a green roaring stone dragon with red eyes.

The Stoneheart Trilogy, Charlie Fletcher. Three books about a 12-year-old boy, Eddie, who runs for his life in London, and across time, to fight the strange powers that animate the statues and monuments. He finds friends and discovers his own power and strengths. This series would be a great read-aloud for your kids.

The Goldfinch, A novel by Donna Tartt, showing a bird peeking through a torn bit of paper

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, is about a tragic accident that allows teenage, Theo, to become obsessed with a work of art and risk so much for it. It drags a bit in the middle but listening to it on audio keeps it moving along and engaging. What part does fate play in our lives? How much can we shape outcomes? How do we handle tragic grief? What power can the love of art have in our choices? "A really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart, in ways that are particular to you. Yours, yours, yours."

The Crossroads of Should and Must. Find and follow your passion, Elle Luna, book cover showing colorful hand written letters on white paint on a brown paper-like background.

The Element, Finding your passion changes everything, by Ken Robinson, Ph.D. with Lou Aronica, book cover showing a script style title with a tiny flame below it and a colorful border. From one of the world's leading thinkers on Creativity and Innovation.

The Element, How finding your passion changes everything, Ken Robinson, and The Crossroads of Should and Must, Find and follow your passion, Elle Luna, are two books about creativity, finding "flow" and discovering what your passion is. So inspirational and informative. Maybe I'm not unique in my fears and blocks, but I am unique in my combination of talents and passions. And so are you.

Dozens of sticky notes pink, yellow and orange on my bedroom wall and closet door by my bedside table to help me organize my thoughts

I was so motivated by these two books I ended up covering my wall with post-it notes in order to organize my ideas about where I spend my time and what I love and value. Highly recommended. (The books, not the post-it notes activity.)

We Were Liars book cover, by e. lockhart, showing teenagers standing waist deep in water in the bright sun. "Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable." John Green, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars.

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart, was such a page turner. Lie upon lie. It has a surprise ending that I didn't guess at all.  Couldn't put it down.

A Kiss Before You Go book cover. An illustrated memoir of love and loss by Danny Gregory. Pink and orange water color background with hand-written title.

A Kiss Before You Go was a touching memoir of love and loss after the death of his wife, done by designer and artist, Danny Gregory. So honest, so vulnerable, so touching. Taking up sketching again helped him heal and move on. Sketching is good for the soul, just saying.

You Are Stardust, Elin Kelsey, Artwork by Soyeon Kim book cover of illustrated children in paper origami diamonds breaking off from a paper star.

You Are Stardust, Kelsey and Kim, is a beautiful children's book that reminds us of our place in the universe and our relationship to the earth. Wonderful illustrations and poetic writing. A gem to share with your child and cherish yourself.

Big Magic, Creative living beyond fear by Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat Pray Love, book cover showing pink and blue paint spatters in background and a yellow spatter partially obstructing the i in Magic.

Currently I'm finishing up Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert and loving it. I like her writing style and I'm really absorbing the ideas. We think creativity is reserved for a talented few, but if you're human you're creative. It's part of what makes humans human.

This has been fun summing up my 2015 reading. Every once in a while it's good to take inventory of the things you love. Now it's time to get back to reading.

What should I read this year?



 “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” Carl Sagan asserted in his iconic Cosmos series, admiring the “funny dark squiggles” that have the uncanny power to transport us, across time and space, into the mind of another.

Also read, Galileo on why we read and how books give us superhuman powers, at BrainPickings.

I have never known any distress that an hour's reading did not relieve. ~Montesquieu

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