Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best of 2013: Fiction and Nonfiction & Bring on 2014!

I adore "Year in Review" lists. Every year, I hungrily devour all of the "best ofs" that I can get my hands on. I create wishlists, I binge, I lust. This year's no different.

From a personal standpoint, 2013 was an amazing year. I got engaged, I found my professional footing for the first time in my adult life, and I started to build a wonderful community in a new city. From a bibliophile standpoint, the year was a bit more uneven. The books I loved, I obsessed over. But there seemed to be far fewer of those this year than in the past couple years. There seemed to be more that I had a hard time finishing, but many left no real impression either way.

This list is comprised of books that I read in 2013, but they did not necessarily come out in 2013. That being said, here goes:

Top 10 Non-Fiction

10. Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews
Confession: I love all things Julie Andrews. I may have snow-shoed while listening to the Sound of Music soundtrack. Last week. Listening to this on audiobook with Julie Andrews narrating? There was no way this wasn't going to make the list.

9. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
This is one of those psychology/business books that I read, highlighting everything and saying "Yes!" the entire time. Carol Dweck discusses her theory of "fixed" and "growth" mindsets, and what that means for you in various aspects of your life. Essentially, a growth mindset (the one for which we should strive) is one that is focused on growth and resilience, that is open to new ideas. Practical and research-based, this is a book I intend to read annually.

8. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive Mass Extinction by Annalee Newitz
This book was fascinating. It begins with discussing the concept of "mass extinction" and how various species have survived throughout history. Author Annalee Newitz then discusses how humans have survived mass extinction in the past, and what we're currently doing to avoid it in the future. She speculates on what we might face in the coming years and what we can do as a species to survive.

7. Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller
Professionally, I organize conferences for the energy industry. However, I had no background in energy prior to taking this position a year and a half ago. This is the most balanced, pragmatic book that I have come across since beginning my quest to learn more about energy policy. Richard Muller, a physicist, writes this book as though the reader is about to take office as the president and needs a primer on all aspects of energy- from wind energy to hydraulic fracturing. The book discusses the benefits and downsides to every aspect as well as the short and long-term future of energy. A "must" first read for anyone wanting to learn more about US energy prospects.

6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
I wasn't a big fan of Mindy Kaling's character in "The Office", but this book converted me into a strong Mindy Kaling fan. The collection of humor essays is hilarious and smart. Plus, she discusses forcing her parents to watch her perform the entire "So Long, Farewell" scene from The Sound of Music by herself, as an 8-year-old sporting a bowl cut. What's not to love?

5. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Another collection of humor essays. Jim Gaffigan is hilarious and self-deprecating as he discusses parenting his five pale children. As someone who doesn't have kids, I still found this book really funny.

4. The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian and the Making of a Navy SEAL by Eric Greitens
This memoir follows Eric Greitens, a Rhodes scholar who first volunteers internationally and then joins the Navy SEALS. He currently runs a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and reintegration of veterans. His story is riveting and inspiring.

3. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Not all of Sheryl Sandberg's philosophies or anecdotes applied to my specific experiences of goals, but I love that she has furthered the crucial conversation about women, work and families. Everyone- male and female, regardless of profession or career goals, needs to read this book and weigh in on the conversation.

2. A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Amanda Lindhout was a fledgling journalist working in Somalia when she was kidnapped by Somalian rebels and held for 15 months. This is the most powerful memoir I've read in recent history. Lindhout's struggle for hope, resilience and courage is truly amazing. The book is hauntingly well written.

1. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
This book contains some of the same material of Brosh's popular web comic, Hyperbole and a Half. Brosh uses crude drawings and text to describe stories from her childhood, her insane dogs, and her battle with depression. Sometimes compared to David Sedaris, Brosh uses humor and brilliant descriptions to illustrate her life. I've yet to encounter anyone who can describe the hopelessness of depression in such an accurate way.

In college, my best friend and I classified people as "in spite ofs" and "because ofs": People who liked us despite our weird sense of humor and quirky interests, and those who liked us because of them. With her unabashed honesty and ability to find humor in her bizarre childhood behavior, Brosh is a champion for everyone searching for "because ofs".

Top 10 Fiction

10. The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes
I adore Marian Keyes. Her books are quick reads, sweet and funny, and tend evoke genuine feelings without being emotionally manipulative. Her latest book followed Helen Walsh, the youngest of the Walsh sisters (the other sisters have been chronicled in Keyes's earlier novels). I was thrilled when this came out: Helen has always been my favorite. She's off-kilter, sarcastic and seems to be completely hopeless. This book finds Helen as an out of work PI who is moving back in with her parents, including the formidable Mammy Walsh. When one of the members of a 90's boy band (poised to do a reunion show) goes missing, Helen sets out to find him.

9. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
This book will speak to most women who have experienced the post-college drunken nights, shit first jobs, whirlwind of bridal showers and weddings. I love Closes's sparse writing. She doesn't spend a lot of time on physical descriptions or character backgrounds, and for that it feels like you're gossiping with your new best friend. The vignettes within the story are hilarious- the tragic relationships, horrible bosses, and the wedding that takes place the weekend after Michael Jackson died that inadvertently turns into an MJ tribute. I could not put this book down.

8. The Passage by Justin Cronin
I picked up this book because its sequel was on a "Best of 2012" list. I loved them both equally, but this one made the list as it needs to be read before The Twelve. The book follows Amy, a six year old abandoned by her mother. She is captured by top-secret government agents who are experimenting with humans in a nightmarish way. When the experiments backfire, society collapses during the escape of vampire-ish once-humans. As a band of a few survivors work together to build a new way of life, Amy wanders through the devastated land, knowing that she alone may be able to save humanity. Trust me, I understand how corny this sounds. Cronin's character development is fantastic and the pacing is perfect. This is the best horror novel I've read since The Stand.

7. Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Clay Jannon, a web designer impacted by the great recession, finds himself working nights at a shadowy 24-hour bookstore in San Francisco. He soon realizes that this is no ordinary bookstore. Instead of purchasing books, a small group of regulars check out books for a united but unknown purpose. This book reminded me of the YA adventure stories I used to read as an awkward preteen, where a group of misfits band together and anything is possible. Also, the cover of the book glows in the dark.

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
When I was a young and melodramatic middle schooler, I was obsessed with Lurlene McDaniel, who wrote (I understand now) trashy, emotionally manipulative novels about teens dying of things. My parents laughed at me whenever I read this novels, but I would hotly contest that they were teaching me about real life issues. Looking back, I cringe. The Fault in Our Stars is the opposite of Lurlene McDaniel: what I had thought she was as a teen and realized she wasn't as an adult. Hazel meets Augusts at a cancer support group. The book follows their relationship and their struggles in a way that feels authentic. This book moved me more than any other book that I read this year.

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
How had I not read this???? I loved this story.

4. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)
Probably one of the best days of 2013 was when I found out that JK Rowling had come out with a mystery novel under a pen name. Among my friends, the post-Harry Potter JK Rowling books are met with mixed reviews. I love them. I loved the Harry Potter books, but I'm so happy that JK Rowling had the courage to move to entirely different genres. This book follows Cormoran Strike, a detective who has recently broken up with his long-term on-again, off-again girlfriend and is living in his office. He (somewhat accidentally) hires Robin, an eager recruit who is trying to start her professional career. When a starlet is found dead, Cormoran and Robin work to discover his killer. This book was funny and fun, with great twists and turns.

3. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
This book follows Scott McGrath, a once-acclaimed crime journalist who has fallen from grace. The book opens with the death of Ashley Cordova, the daughter of infamous, reclusive cult-underground horror director Stanislas Cordova. In order to redeem his credibility as a journalist and take revenge upon Stanislas Cordova (who was the reason for his downfall), McGrath sets out to discover what "really" happened to Ashley. As a mystery/horror novel, this book is immensely satisfying. Also, the mixed-media format of including press clippings/internet articles was well done and a fun supplement to the novel.

2. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who is literal-minded to the point of alienating most people he meets. When he creates a16-page survey as the logical way to find his perfect partner, his world changes in ways he never would have anticipated. I don't have a lot of patience for books with what I call "Shopaholic" characters- ditzy girls who can't pass up a sale and their bland, cookie cutter counterparts. Give me the weirdos any day. I devoured this novel. It is sweet, smart and funny.

1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
This book begins with eighteen-year-old Rosemary Cooke starting college and shedding her childhood identity for the first time. Throughout her childhood, Rosemary was known for one thing- she was raised with a chimp, Fern, as her twin. For reasons unbeknownst to Rosemary, Fern is taken away when they are six, never to return. As Rosemary navigates college and attempts to build an identity away from her bizarre, secretive family, she also grapples with the mystery surrounding Fern's expulsion from her family. This book was funny and achingly bittersweet.

Books I Wanted to Love and Just Didnt
1. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Following a group of summer camp friends from one fateful summer through adulthood. What's not to love? Every single one of these characters. This book earned much critical acclaim and I was so excited to read it. Unfortunately, I just didn't like any of these characters. And although liking characters isn't a pre-requisite to loving a book (see Choke by Chuck Palahniuk), reading about spoiled, self-absorbed and whiny characters just isn't much fun.

2. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
I was game for this book about a woman from Tennessee experiencing a "miracle" that ends up being the result of a breach in the delicate ecosystem. But this book is just too preachy.

3. The Dinner by Herman Koch
I'm a sucker for any book touted as "for those who love Gone Girl". It's not that I think that Gone Girl is the perfect novel, but that's usually code for "dark psychological thriller": which I love. However, this book again falls into the same trap as The Interestings. The story follows two families having dinner to discuss what to do after one of their sons has committed an unspeakable crime. There was nothing redeeming about any of these characters and I found that I didn't care what happened to any of them.

4. Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel
In a lot of ways, this book was well written. I loved Mantel's portrayal of Thomas Cromwell. But this book felt formless and shapeless. It seemed to be much more of a stream of consciousness than a fully formed novel, and at 604 pages, it dragged way too much.

5. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
I understand why critics described this novel as "haunting" and "beautiful", and it had all of the ingredients of a novel that would stay with me (man escaping Nazi-occupied Poland, love that has survived the decades, bizarre child who thinks he's the Messiah), but it just fell flat for me and left me feeling sad and empty.

Books I'm Excited to Read in 2014:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Panopticon by Jennie Fagan
S by JJ Abrams
Cartwheel by Jennifer DuBois
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Friday, December 13, 2013

10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Bibliophiles

If you're anything like me, you can't get enough of crazy-creative book-related items. But like any themed gift, they can veer toward the tacky and poorly made. Here are my top ten current favorites, perfect for the bibliophile on your list:

10.  Reading Mugs
Who doesn't love sipping chai out of a reading-related mug while devouring the latest Tana French novel? I could have a cabinet full of these and still find an excuse to buy more. Honorable Mention: Mug that reads: "You had me at the proper use of 'you're'".

9. Book jacket poster

Four years ago, I received a Dorothy Parker poster. I've moved several times since then and it always hangs in a place of prominence. Vintage book posters like this one are impossibly cool.

8. Literary scarves
I've seen several iterations of literary themed scarves, but this is one of my favorites. It's subtle and the graphic reads nicely.

7. Book picture frame
This is such a fun piece of decor- perfect for night stands, end tables, and shelves above fire places.
$16 Book picture frame

6. Clever bookmark
I'll get you, my pretty... Even in the age of e-readers, nothing can replace a good bookmark. Especially this one.

5. Book-themed perfume
This unisex scent is meant to evoke the smell of book pages. Bonus: It comes packaged in a book.

4. Antique book clock
I used to have a clock that looked like a plain elementary schoolroom clock but in the middle it said, "Time to Read". It got lost in the move and I've missed it ever since. I love this clock's antique aesthetic and clever re-purposing.
$22 Antique book clock

3. Dictionary shoes

Leave it to TOMS to make a shoe that is both comfortable and educational. DISCLOSURE: These were my Christmas present... to myself.

2. Book planter
 A lovely and original idea for a window shelf or a table centerpiece.
$25 Book planter

1. Biblio Origami
I stumbled across this art form while shopping for literary decorations for my wedding and now I'm obsessed. This is gorgeous, creative and original.
$125 Folded Art

None of these fit your wallet or your bibliophile? Get back to the basics and consider gifting an actual book. May I humbly recommend:

I'm currently devouring this clever, funny literary mystery. This book is so cool the cover actually glows in the dark. 

What about you? What book-related items are you purchasing or pining after this holiday season?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Biblio Reboot

I started this site exactly two years ago as a way to motivate myself to read, write and connect with other bibliophiles. I loved it and I met many interesting and kindred spirits. And then... Things started to get a little bit busy. My thesis and graduation from grad school. Our move across the country. A new job. A proposal. A promotion. Each time I've thought I was starting to find my footing, a new and exciting adventure would come along and sweep me away.

I've still been reading, I just haven't been as vigilant about writing. But I'd like to come back into the fold and begin again. Things are still going to be busy: I'm getting married in June and we're looking to buy our first house. But as I reflect on what's truly important to me and what makes me happy, I'd like to renew my commitment to the reading community.

I look forward to putting together a "Best of 2013" Reading list sometime this month. Expect regular reviews to begin again in January.

Please feel free to leave a comment to let me know you've dropped by. I'd love to become reacquainted.

Currently reading:
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel
The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman

Monday, June 4, 2012

June: A Novel Month

May was an amazing month. Spring ripened in St. Louis and has slowly turned into summer. I finished my graduate coursework and was able to spend some much-needed time with friends and family. I started my thesis with renewed vigor and energy, working under a professor I greatly admire. And I read. A lot.

May was a month of memoirs. I read some truly amazing books- really, some of the best that I've read yet this year. Then I read some that did not agree with me so much. Here is the list, in full, of books I read in May:

Haren, B. Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West (4/5)

Finch, D. The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Many's Quest to Become a Better Husband (4/5)

Winterson, J. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (4/5)

Smith, P. Just Kids (2/5)

Larson, E. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (5/5)

Strayed, C. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (4/5)

Hillenbrand, L. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (5/5)

Wiesel, E. Night (5/5)

Mahon, E.K. Scandalous Women: The Life and Loves of History's Most Notorious Women (3/5)

Brewster, H. Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First Class Passengers and Their World (4/5)

Reynolds, G. The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer (5/5)

Fisher, C. Wishful Drinking (2/5)

Beah, I. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (5/5)

Schiff, S. Cleopatra: A Life (3/5)

Armstrong, K. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (3/5)

Bolte Taylor, J. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey (4/5)

Swanson, J. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer (5/5)

Siegel, E. Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child, and a Cross-Border Search for the Truth (5/5)

The venture to read memoirs in May was a lot of fun. The "memoir" section in my bookshelf now has a satisfying hole in it. Some of the books were sitting on my shelf for a few years, gently goading me and making me feel vaguely guilty (I'm looking at you, boy soldier).

So now I'm ready to do the same with June. I'm starting with Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, about which I've heard amazing things. I'm also excited to read Elegies for the Broken-Hearted, the second-to-latest Dexter book, and a few others that have been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years, gently goading me and making me feel vaguely guilty (I'm looking at you, Cutting for Stone). As always, I am rapt for suggestions.

Currently Reading: Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child, and a Cross-Border Search for the Truth 

 Books read in 2012: 56

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I was immediately drawn to the concept of Cheryl Strayed's memoir "Wild". I feel that many of us have woken up in our mid-twenties and realized that we want to run away from our post-adolescent malaise and the less than stellar choices we've made. We look around, see how we've treated ourselves and others and want to high-tail it out of there. However, Strayed is unique in that most of us do not choose to exorcise our demons by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

At twenty-six, still reeling from the sudden death of her mother four years earlier, in the aftershocks of a divorce to a man she still loves, and dealing with the consequences of years of poor decision-making, Cheryl Strayed decides on a whim to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, despite having no hiking experience whatsoever. The Pacific Crest Trail, which starts in Mexico, zigzags through California, Oregon, Washington, and into Canada, spanning 2,650 miles.

I was interested in this book, but I was also skeptical. It has all of the makings of an instant bestseller. So it could be amazing. It could also be amazingly over-hyped. Fortunately, Strayed is a gifted storyteller: weaving together her adventure on the trail and the experiences that led her there with humor and aching honesty.

May has been the Month of Memoirs (I am using an overly generous definition, including biographies as well). Most of the books I've read this month tell the story of someone who has achieved something despite staggering odds: whether it's escaping from a concentration or POW camp, getting a college education after years as a child soldier, living with parents with mental illness, or surviving the Titanic shipwreck. One of the things I loved about Strayed's book is that it is one of redemption. She is a self-sabotaging wreck. She is attempting, in her words, to change: "Not into a different person, but back to the person I used to be- strong and responsible, clear-eyed and driven, ethical and good".

And, like any fundamental and true change, this one takes time.

And, like every change that restores someone back to the person they were before tragedy knocked them profoundly off-balance, this one is worth it.

Currently reading: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
Books read in 2012: 54

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

I spent most of eighth grade learning about the Holocaust. We reverently devoured the words of Anne Frank, a girl to whom we could relate and admire for her tenacity and humor.  We watched Schindler's List. We learned new phrases such as "D-Day" and "Lend-Lease Act". As a culminating experience of the unit, we visited the Holocaust Museum in St. Louis. I remember seeing pictures of emaciated concentration camp prisoners for the first time. Never before had I understood "starving" as anything other than a hyperbolic term used hungrily after a day spent running around outside. Photograph after photograph displayed gaunt figures staring at the camera, grotesque piles of dead prisoners, crematoriums. As with millions of others in my generation, I have since wondered, "How did this happen?"

I don't mean how did it happen militarily or geopolitically. Those contexts, we learn in school. I suppose I mean viscerally: what did it mean to be in Germany in the moments when collective consciousness began to realize that Hitler was more than an overzealous man attempting to restore Germany to glory? What did Berlin look like, smell like, feel like as everything started to change? Who fought it from the beginning? Who supported Hitler at first and then tried to back out, swimming against the current in vain? How come Hitler's actions did not incite more outrage from his citizens? Was it indifference? A misjudgment of the situation? Or, as I have always suspected, abject terror?

Erik Larson attempts to answer these questions is his book In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin. This work of narrative nonfiction follows the Dodd family. William Dodd is chairman of the history department at the University of Chicago. Larson describes Dodd as a Jeffersonian democrat who loves spending his leisure time at his small farm in Round Hill, Virginia and who is tirelessly working on a four-volume series of early southern history called The Rise and Fall of the Old South. He finds that his efforts to work on this tome are constantly thwarted by other menial, academic duties. Frustrated, he requests to become a diplomat. Apparently, it is that easy. Lickity-split, Dodd and his family are on their way to 1933 Berlin, where presumably Dodd will now have plenty of time to devote to antebellum history.

With Dodd are his wife Martha, and his two grown children, Bill and Martha. However, the story mainly focuses on William and daughter Martha, as well as the people they encounter. Young Martha uses her father's post as an opportunity to reinvent herself while relieving herself of an ill-planned and short-lived marriage. Soon, she is gallivanting with Nazi soldiers, Russian diplomats, and Jewish writers and artists. William Dodd dedicates himself to honorably representing the United States, although everyone pretty much ignores him; he is derided by officials both German and American.

Larson masterfully illustrates the subtle, incremental changes that occur in Germany in 1933 and 1934. He shows a wide spectrum of beliefs and behavior, from those who leave Germany as quickly as possible, to those who speak out against Hitler and demand their voices heard, to those who convince themselves until too late that the Nazis are a necessary inconvenience with a habit of roughhousing rather over-exuberantly. Most importantly, he shies away from hero or villain portrayals of the everyday people about whom he writes. He shows each person in all of their stark, messy humanity. Larson is a meticulous researcher and a divine storyteller.

The people in this story are fascinating and compelling. I have not yet encountered another book that approaches World War II in quite this way. I strongly recommend this book.

Currently Reading:
  • Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage: The Titanic's First Class Passengers and Their World by Hugh Brewster
  • The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live  Longer by Gretchen Reynolds
  • Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Books read in 2012: 49

Thursday, May 17, 2012

100 Days

It was freezing when I decided to refrain from buying books for 100 days.  I was suffering from some sort of literary cabin fever that required me to attempt to purchase any book whose title sounded vaguely familiar.  Bookstores around St. Louis put up pictures of me with a sign that said "Do not serve this woman".

It was with an earnest and fervent desire to become a better person that I attempted to undergo 100 days without purchasing books.  My bank account will be healthier, I reasoned.  I'll understand the value of a single book.

I did not. Instead, I spent 100 days cajoling friends and family members to purchase some book for me that I absolutely need right now.  Technically within the rules- if not the spirit- of this venture.  I obsessed over books, counted days in my planner, and attempted to read every single book I own so that I would have to buy a new book.  I did not once enter a library or borrow a book from someone else. I'm most ashamed to admit that any of the money I would have saved was spent... on dresses.  I have always hated shopping and I have no idea how this occurred. 

According to many addiction specialists, there's a difference between refraining from alcohol or drugs and "living sober".  Simply not drinking is not enough; one must create a whole and healthy lifestyle that does not have room for destructive behavior.  I was not adapting and creating a lifestyle that was pleasant and precluded purchasing books on my every whim.  I was simply not buying books.

Still, I was very technically within the guidelines I had created for myself until day 86.

I left class one night and decided to go to the delightful independent bookstore across the street. A friend of mine was kind enough to give me Blues playoff tickets so I decided to thank her with a copy of Jonah Lehrer's "Imagine", as she shares my fascination with neuropsychological books a la Oliver Sacks. 

Until this point in my endeavor, I had not actually set foot in a bookstore.  The book section in Target was difficult enough.  I had spent 45 minutes in a book alcove in the San Antonio airport over Easter weekend and nearly missed my plane, salivating over the latest Alice Hoffman book. I made the grave mistake of walking into Webster's Pudd'nhead books alone, hungry and tired.  As soon as I walked into the new releases section, I knew I would leave a fallen woman.

So I put the energy that I had into making my fall worth it. I'm still proud of my purchases: Jeanette Winterson's memoir Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? and the recently reviewed Escape from Camp 14. I was finished with each by the end of the week. I spent one entire afternoon reading at the fountains below Art Hill in Forest Park and was contented as a cat napping in a sunny patch in the kitchen.

86 days. A season passed between when I embarked on this challenge and when I ultimately failed. I successfully completed one term of classes and I was nearly finished with another. I read nearly 30 books in that time. I only needed to wait 14 measly days; 2 puny weeks.

I've given a lot of thought to the merits of this challenge, as well as the reasons it didn't work. I think I need to first learn on a smaller scale how to curb my book impulses. I definitely need to go to the library and have my card renewed. It's one of those mundane chores that has become mythic and daunting in my mind.

I've decided that I'm going to adhere to a 5:1 ratio for the forseeable future. I must read five books that I own for every one book that I purchase. I will muster my courage and renew my library card. I've always been someone who is motivated by self-initiated challenges. Two summers ago, I biked 450 miles over the course of a couple months just to see if I could. Last week, I completed my graduate coursework in under a year; a first for my program and a feat that my adviser repeatedly assured me last fall was "impossible". So it was humbling to be felled by a relatively minor challenge.

On Day 101, I carefully selected three books to reward myself for a job relatively well done. While waiting an extra day doesn't technically make up for day 86, I think it helps. I was selective when I chose my books, hopeful that they will help me. I chose:

Night by Elie Wiesel
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

and, of course:
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

Currently reading: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Books read in 2012: 46