Meandering Thoughts About Reading Books & The Nature Of Failure

WOULDN’T IT BE WONDERFUL IF I COULD tell you that I succeeded in doing Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 reading challenge?  The one I talked about here.

And wouldn’t it be equally wonderful if I were to write brief reviews of the 12 books I read, as I planned to do last January, vis-à-vis this annual challenge?

WELL, I DIDN’T READ ALL THE BOOKS that I thought I would because I got caught up in reading about politics online and in the newspapers, as one does when “fascism,” Merriam-Webster’s presumed word of the year, is knocking on the door.

So yes, I HAVE FAILED in my stated goal. But in the whole scheme of things I AM BETTER INFORMED about what matters now. So have I failed, or have I adapted?  

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

AND IT’S NOT LIKE I DIDN’T READ any books at all, meaning that I can still share with you, my gentle readers, a few books, written by new-to-me authors, whose thoughts and style made for interesting reading.

Thus, without further ado, moving beyond the foregoing flapdoodle and twaddle, what I want to tell you is: here are three books I read in 2016 and enjoyed.

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#1

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

This is a story about identity, the shifting nature of it, and the implications of learning someone is not who they say they are.  The story moves seamlessly among three different eras: present day England, 1960s England, and WWII London.  I found the characters compelling, the plot fascinating, and the settings atmospheric.

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#2

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge

This is a story, that is more charming than it sounds on the surface, about a rich older woman with Alzheimer’s who lives in a small town.  One day she decides to sell her stuff and the town goes bonkers as she unloads her possessions, each of which has a story of its own to tell.  There is drama and familial tension, of course, but the real subject of this novel is: do we own our stuff or does it own us?

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#3

Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan

This is a delightful memoir that I couldn’t put down.  In it the author, a lawyer practicing in DC, talks candidly and hilariously about her experiences as a temporary receptionist for her father’s medical practice in rural Tennessee.  She does this to help her family through a difficult time, spending a year working for her father, and in the process learns about true heroes, batshit crazy small town people, and what is important in life.

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

Have you, like me, failed to read all the books that you thought you would read this year? If so, how do you feel about it? If not, please tell us how you accomplished your reading goals. No doubt we all could benefit from your wisdom.

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Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

39 thoughts on “Meandering Thoughts About Reading Books & The Nature Of Failure”

  1. I always fail at reading all the books I want. Always have even when I read a book a week. I used to be voracious! I would go on vacation and no one was to disturb me unless it involved pizza or a drink. I would read 7 books in a week. Now my eyes won’t do it. They have rebelled. I can only read at specific times without falling asleep (almost instantly in some cases). These sound like interesting reads. They may end up on my “endless” reading list that never shortens.

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    1. Kate, I used to read a book a week, too. But my eyes won’t allow me to read fast enough to keep my brain engaged. Plus I read so much online that sitting down with a book isn’t quite the escape that it once was. However, maybe next year…

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  2. Although I didn’t sign up for any mass reading challenge, I too got caught up in current affairs and trying to keep up with my expanding lists of followed blogs and FB friends, all of which slowed my book reading pace. I think you adapted rather than failed.

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    1. Thank you, bobcabkings. I was bummed at first that I fell short, but then decided to think of it as an example of my pragmatic nature that goes with the flow. Or something like that! 😉

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  3. Oh, Ally and Kate! I have been lamenting The Same. Now I don’t feel so Alone.

    I want desperately to read more; truly I do. But I cannot find books which sound really engrossing enough to keep me at them. That and a terrible case of dry eyes make me a crabby reader anymore.

    But knowing I am in Good Company makes me feel better.

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    1. nance, I think we underestimate the toll it takes on our eyes when we read online. I find that while I want to read books like I used to, it’s an impossibility now. Maybe next year I’ll get a better handle on my time, but this year I certainly didn’t. Oh well…

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  4. I try not to set goals for reading books because it’s one of my pleasures, thus I don’t want to turn it into a chore. I do take pride in finishing my Book Club book every month and sometimes that IS a slog. The next book is 650 pages; I’m dreading that.

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    1. Margaret, you make a good point. By buying into these challenges I’m setting myself up to think of reading as a chore. Instead, if I trust myself to find the right book to read when I want to, I might read more. However, I doubt that I’ll be finding any 650 page books! Can you cheat and read the Cliff Notes version? Just a thought. 😉

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  5. I’m not sure I’ve ever set a reading goal – other than the summer reading programs my library had when I was a kid. I always got a prize, sometimes two since I never stop reading. All three of your recommendations sound good and will have to go on my limited list of books I actually would have to pay for. I hope my new town has an accessible library.

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    1. Zazzy, I suppose my desire to do reading challenges has to do with majoring in English Lit in college. Somehow I feel like I should read on a schedule, which is, thinking about it, crazy. But there you have it! I hope you find an accessible library, too. Have you found your town?

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    1. Carrie, I knew of Morton, but had never read a thing by her. I picked up The Secret Keeper on a whim, then found myself immersed in the story. Looking forward to reading more from her, but like you said: “so many books, so little time…”

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  6. For the past couple of years I have been trying to finish the PopSugar reading challenge. Last year I read 17 books, this year 12. I find it fun to try to match books to the different categories, but each year I picked one or two books that were harder to get through and I have a problem with not finishing a book I started and I cannot read more than one book at a time. Since I read mostly at night before bed, falling asleep in the middle of a page is also kind of hampering my progress. I do not beat myself up about it and neither should you! 🙂

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    1. Janet, made me laugh with: “falling asleep in the middle of a page is also kind of hampering my progress.” So true. I think that in the future I’ll give myself a break and decide to do a % of what’s on the challenges. A bit of structure to my reading + a whole lot of forgiveness for being human. A plan?

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  7. If I wasn’t in a book club, I know my reading of books would be way down this year. I, like you, have spent too much time reading about the election and its disastrous outcome. Yes, I’m informed, but I wonder what it’s doing to my psyche. The three novels you highlighted look like they’d be much happier reading.

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    1. Retirementallychallenged, you said it. I’m wondering, too, about how being informed is affecting me. I know that going forward I’m going to be more conscious about maintaining a balance between keeping up-to-date and setting aside specified time for me to read for leisure. You lives, you learns, eh?

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  8. I am going to toot my own reading horn – I’ve challenged myself to a book a week for almost seven years now. Sometimes it goes VERY poorly (I’m looking at you, 2009 and 30 books). And sometimes, like this year, it goes very well! I’m at 66 books, and I have almost three more weeks. I’m within shooting distance of the record (which is 68 – I actually thought it was 72 and I was going to miss it, but 68? I can definitely get there). When I started it, I also started posting to Facebook on it, which sort of served as a reminder that if I failed, everyone I knew would see I had failed. I’ve moved over to Goodreads for the most part on the ‘publicize it’ aspect, but that has been a great motivator for me. Before I did that, I was lucky to read a handful of books a year.

    Also? I apparently do nothing but read and blog in my spare time. I am not cool.

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    1. Sarah, you got this reading thing under control! What an amazing record. You’re incredibly organized, aren’t you? I see your point about making your reading plans public and I might do that. But considering how mellow I am about what people think about me, that might not be a great motivator. In fact, I might even read less, just to annoy + confuse them. 😉

      However, I take your point about starting each year by deciding the number of books that I’ll read. Easier to keep track of my own progress, even if only I know what that number is. And maybe I’ll focus on doing some of an online reading challenge. A structured approach, yet free-spirited.

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      1. I like having the goal of a certain number of books. A lot of my Goodreads friends have goals of 12 a year – one a month seems pretty do-able for everyone (particularly my friends with child menageries), and a number have 6 as well (the ones with particularly large child menageries seem to fall here). Here in ‘dress up the dog’ land, we have more free time. Much more. Clearly.

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        1. I can see myself reading 12 books a year. At one time I was a one-book-a-week woman, but then I morphed into a 2-books-a-month woman. Now I fear that without some structure I’m reading maybe 5 books a year? I dunno for sure & that bugs me, so I’m going to be more conscious about keeping track of what I read– and setting an easy goal. Good habits. I need ’em. 🙂

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  9. I don’t set goals/challenges for stuff I enjoy, like reading. That way, if I’m enjoying the journey, I win . . . no matter how many books I read.

    “A good traveler has no set plans and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

    Your book picks sounds great.

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    1. nancy, I see your point. It’s odd that I do want to keep track considering how I go with the flow on about everything else. I guess I want to prove to myself in a tangible way that I’m not a lazy slug. 😉

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      1. Keeping a list of books you’ve read is a great memory jogger ~ and proof that you’re not a lazy slug. I do the same thing by jotting down on my daily planner whether and what type of exercise I do “every” day. I don’t compile the results, but it keeps me honest. 😀

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  10. I liked The Secret Keeper, too.
    I don’t set goals to read X amount. I read a lot. I read less now that I work, but I still read 1-3 books a week. My issue is more about getting to the library and avoiding fines. :/ The Mister brings home lots of history books and anthropology type things and sometimes I have to stay up way too late reading those so he can get them back on time. He doesn’t believe in fines, but I bet you’d agree the libraries NEED the monies! lol 😛
    I must say, the last few weeks before the election, I watched A LOT of tv. I don’t think The Mister shares my crush on Rachel Maddow, either.

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    1. joey, I admit that considering my Middle Age Slacker Personality it’s odd that I do set reading goals. But somehow it’s a holdover from when I was a Type A Serious Student. Zen-Den reads lots of books about history and economics which he leaves strewn about the house so that I can find them. I believe he feels that if I stumble over one, I’ll be so curious that I’ll start reading it and he won’t be responsible for getting it to wherever it’s going.

      I don’t watch much TV news anymore. I end up yelling at the TV, no matter who is reporting [bullshitting?] on the news. Although I do understand your girl crush on RM. She’s the real deal.

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  11. Yes, I failed so I’m happy to hear you failed too! 🙂 Thank you for reminding me of The Secret Keeper – that’s one of those books I’ve been wanting to read. They all sound like good ones (so in a way, you didn’t really fail) and I love that there’s a goat on the cover of one of them!

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    1. Sheila, I had such good intentions last January, but got off course. The Secret Keeper was engrossing, and the memoir with the goat on the cover made me happy. I like your idea that by reading, shall we say selectively, I did not fail. I can go with that!

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  12. All those books on my Kindle, never the mind the paper backs? – hells bells – all the online stuff, keeping up to date, FOMO – (fear of missing out), running the home, in fact just plain and simple running – just about all the time. I LOVE reading. The bath is my best place usually. Because it’s the only time .. The Light between Oceans was excellent, As was About Grace. It’s about the only two I can remember at this moment … I reckon I’ve read 20 books at least this year, maybe more … Thanks Ally Bean – don’t worry, be happy.

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    1. Susan, thanks for the book suggestions. I find my best reads word of mouth. I used to be an avid reader, but my eyes aren’t so good anymore and my life is more complex than it once was, so this is how it is now. Can’t say that I’m depressed about any of this, but next year I’m going to be more proactive about leisure reading. Energy flows where attention goes. 🙂

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  13. My November was also eaten by election reading, sigh. It put me way behind on my Goodreads challenge.

    Take heart, Ally! I usually spectacularly fail at least one of the reading challenges I set for myself every year. It’s really the only way to live, I think. What’s the saying? “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land among the stars”? Something like that.

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    1. Akilah, I like that saying and your point of view! I can take failure in stride, and will use it to remind me to plan my time a little bit better in 2017. More books, less political tangents. Yep, that’s my plan.

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  14. Yes, ma’am. AND I’m writing a post about it. I was sure I could do 35 this year and put that number on my Goodreads challenge. I’m 10 books behind. Sure, I could speed read through the holidays but…. ….

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    1. Tara, I was tempted to do the speed reading thing, too, in order to complete this challenge. But then it dawned on me that doing so would be like being in college again earning my English Lit degree, and I’ve already done that. No need to repeat that kind of eye strain + brain overload! Once was enough. Am looking forward to your post on this topic.

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  15. So many books, so little time! You are not alone in this doll. As my girl Carrie Rubin always says…it’s a great time to be a reader. Being a writer is a little tougher! 😉

    I’ve done the Goodreads reading challenge the past three years, and I decided I’m not going to participate in 2017 because it stresses me out to tie goals to reading! This year my goal was 30 and it looks like I’m just going to miss it—unless I literally do nothing but read all New Year’s weekend. And, I need to go have some fun with humans!

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    1. Britt, I’m always optimistic about how many books I’ll read during the year, but the reality is that I rarely make my goal. I like Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge and next year might try again, this time modifying it so that I have a goal, but also giving myself some room to do my own thing. OR maybe I’ll just read whatever, whenever– and call it a win. 🙂

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