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Thursday, January 12, 2017

My 2017 reading goals

Hi, everyone!

As promised, here are my reading goals for the new year:

1. Read 40 books total in the year.

I have discovered that it usually takes me a little over a week to finish a book (on average). Having a 40-book goal seems manageable for me. But, if I'm unable to finish this goal, I'm not going to fuss about it. Remember, read closely, not quickly!

2. Of those books, reread 7.

Rereading is such an enjoyable experience for me, yet it always seems so hard for me to go back to them. I'm going to force myself to reread seven of them this year to see how I do. I also hope to get to the point where I am mostly rereading books, or at least portions of those books.

3. Read at least 5 books from unfamiliar genres.

Typically, I stick to books from the literary fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, classics, and poetry genres. I want to read some new genres this year. Some genres that interest me right now are Young Adult, Biography, Plays, Creative Nonfiction, and Religion.

4. Read 5 books over 500 pages.

It is really easy to hit my 40-book goal while reading short books, so I wanted to make sure I didn't cheat TOO much. I want to knock some of my bigger books off the list this year, like Game of Thrones, Shantaram, Winter's Tale, War and Peace, and Infinite Jest.

What are your book goals for this year? Stay ambitious!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Making 2017 reading goals

Now that we are experiencing a new year, it is time for a lot of us to make our goals. I have a lot of general goals for my life, but I also have a separate list of goals for my reading life. I have been making reading goals for several years now and although it is super nerdy, these goals have helped me direct my reading life in many different directions. Making the conscious decision to read a diverse set of books has opened my mind. It has also helped me discover many new favorite books. If you are thinking about making some goals for your 2017 reading life, here are my tips:

1. Only make a few.

If you're like me, reading is important, but not always the first priority. I have work, school, and socializing to do. Only after that am I able to focus on my reading. Because of this, I try to make my list of general life goals longer than my reading goals.

2. Be realistic.

One year, I made too many large goals and I wanted to read lots of large, dense books. Remember, there are only 365 days in a year, and you can only use a fraction of that time for reading. If you're unsure of what you're capable of in your reading, start very small and perhaps add some goals by the month. That way, you'll have a better picture of how much you can put into your reading on a daily basis.

3. Be diverse.

After watching the Ted Talk "My Year Reading a Book from Every Country in the World," I came to realize the importance of reading diversely. I believe it's important that we make an effort to purposefully read books by a variety of different people. For a very long time I was only reading books written by people very similar to me. Reading more diversely has helped me understand and empathize with other cultures. It has made me a more adventurous and curious person. Escaping into a world completely different from your own is both an uncomfortable experience and an eye-opening one.

4. Make it about fun and reading experience enhancement.

I try to structure my goals in a way that feeds my love of reading. Setting too many hefty or ambitious goals can turn you off to the thought of reading and put you in a reading slump. Remember, when you are reading, you are visiting new places and meeting new people! If your reading goals make your experience feel like a chore or boring business trip, make your goals lighter.

5. Use social media and/or spreadsheets.

Especially nerdy people may want to take their goals to the next level. I find it very satisfying to look back on the progress I've made over the past year. Last year, I read 25 books and I have it all on record on I am planning on reading 40 books this year and tracking it again on goodreads. I also will be making a pie chart on Excel so I can see my reading statistics. I'll be tracking the amount of pages I read, how many countries I read from, and genres. In 2018, I may share these statistics with you guys.

It's now time for me to get back to my reading. Stay tuned - my next post will be a list of my actual reading goals! Happy reading.

Monday, January 2, 2017

How to get out of a reading slump

Although I love to read, there are often times where I find myself unable to pick up a book and really get into it. I find my mind wandering to other places and it is hard for me to focus on what I am reading. When this lack of focus continues for a long period of time, it's called a reading slump. I tend to fall into reading slumps when I have a lot going on outside of my reading life. I have never been able to use books to "escape" my issues. I instead need to take care of my life outside of reading first.

My last reading slump ended a few weeks ago, when the busiest school year of my life came to a close. Now that I don't have to focus so much on school, I have had a very rich reading life over break. However, some of you may still be suffering from reading slumps, maybe for completely different reasons than mine! Here are my tips for getting out of a reading slump:

1. Don't force yourself to read.

Forcing yourself to read will probably get you further into a reading slump. If the book you are reading bores you, don't read it! It's a waste of your time and energy. Instead, go out and do something that you know you will enjoy. Hopefully this reading break will recharge you and help you discover your love of reading again.

2. Try a new genre.

Let's face it, we all have our favorite genres and the books we read tend to be from that genre. But in the midst of your love of fantasy or young adult paranormal romance, there is almost inevitably a roadblock. Switch up your genres once in a while and get a feel for something you would have never expected to read. Try some obscure poetry (Like Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur), a collection of essays (Try Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace), or even a children's book (Because of Winn-Dixie or any other books by Kate DiCamillo). You may be pleasantly surprised with the book you choose.

3. Switch up your atmosphere.

Do you read in the same armchair or on your bed every day? Is the lighting too bright or too dim while you read? You may be falling asleep at your book because you've gotten so used to your surroundings and it has m made you a bit lazy. Consider going to a local coffee shop or to the library to read. Maybe get a new armchair or new lamp that invites a comforting atmosphere and helps you to focus on your reading.

4. Try rereading an old favorite.

Rereading old books is one of my favorite things to do, because I always know I'll enjoy what I'm reading. Revisiting old favorites helps you remember why you love reading in the first place. When rereading, focus on the beauty of the book, and why you love it so much.

5. Get inspired by other readers.

Feel like you're the only reader on the planet? Fear not, there are hundreds of thousands of people online just like you! YouTube is one place I like to go for reading inspiration. In the Booktube community on YouTube, you'll be able to watch readers talk about what they're currently reading, or the books they recently bought. You can browse reading blogs or listen to podcasts. The possibilities are endless! Take an hour or so to browse the internet and see what you can find, and then try reading again. You may be surprised to see how a simple hour browsing the internet can really improve your reading life.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Hey, friends! I'm glad you've stopped by to smell the books.



Today we will be talking about my most recent read: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a nonfiction book designed to help readers tune into their creativity. Gilbert addresses a lot of issues surrounding the creation of art today. She brings up a lot of questions like "Should we strive to make a living off our art?" and "Why should we continue to make art even if it isn't good enough for other people?"

The author definitely has some drastic views about how creativity works; I don't agree with a lot of the things she claims (like the notion of ideas as separate entities, floating around and waiting for a human to catch them), but she has definitely given me a lot of new ideas and perspectives about my own art.

Big Magic is not a book for thinkers and philosophers, but if you are a reader hoping to get a quick bite of inspiration and motivation, this book is for you! I believe I picked this book up at the right time: I have been very blocked and unable to focus on my personal writing because other things have gotten in the way. Reading this book was a breath of fresh air and reminded me of why I love to write and make other art: because it really, truly makes me happy.

My rating: 7/10

BOOK REVIEW: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Did you know that the cure and medications for many diseases - including polio, cancer, and STDs, were all developed by scientists studying cells from only one person? Back in the 60's, Henrietta Lacks was a young black mother, and after claiming to have "a knot in my womb," had a cancer sample taken from her cervix and it forever changed medical history.

Henreitta's cells were so special that they were able to continue growing and multiplying after they were removed from her body. Before Henrietta's special cells were discovered, every other tissue sample taken from other people usually died after a few days living in culture.



For decades, no one ever knew who Henrietta Lacks was, and neither did they know the affect her cancer cells had on medical research. The author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, wrote a three-part memoir about this woman's life and the affect she had on people around them.

The most interesting thing in the book for me was the way Skloot arranged the plot. She does an intense amount of research - interviewing family, looking up history, searching for medical records, and visiting the places Henrietta lived - and all of this is recorded in the book.

A recurring theme of this story is the idea of ethical research. Henrietta lived in a time where people of color were treated unethically in many ways when it came to medical research. In the story, Henrietta's cells were taken without her permission and she had no idea of what her cancer treatment would do to her. Skloot also brought up the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies, where many black men were experimented on and not informed of certain aspects of the study - aspects that left them dead or dying. This part of the story made me more aware of how far our medical practice has become in this day and age. I am glad Skloot did not shy away from this important topic.

Here is Skloot's website where you are able to learn about the impact of Henrietta Lacks. A movie will be out soon!

Also, check out The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. This website does a lot of charity work for victims of unethical medical research.

My rating: 6/10