Sunday, January 28, 2018

10% Happier by Dan Harris

10% Happier is another one of the books that my mother loaned me that I'm trying to get through so that I can return them to her. Much like my last read, Born Round, this is a book that I never would have picked up on my own. Its main theme of achieving more happiness, however, definitely appealed to me, so I went into this one hoping to gain some tools I could use in my own life.

10% Happier could best be classified as a part-memoir, part-self-help book. In it, ABC News anchor Dan Harris chronicles how a lifetime of being too hard on himself and making unwise decisions in pursuit of stress relief led to him having an on-air panic attack on Good Morning America. Frightened at this uncharacteristic loss of control, he began looking for ways to calm down and deal with his stress better. His search led him to meditation and the idea of mindfulness. He was very skeptical at first, as he was not a spiritual or religious person, but he decided to give it a try and see what happened. To his surprise, it actually worked for him. He went on to read several books and interview many prominent leaders on the subject, including Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and even the Dalai Lama. After years of practice and study on the subject, he arrived at the conclusion that meditation is not a magic fix for anyone's problems, but it will make you at least 10% happier if you stick with it, which isn't a bad return on your time investment. The back of the book includes an appendix of resources and tips for anyone interested in trying meditation out for themselves.

This novel was quite entertaining, and I learned a lot from it. Harris writes in a down-to-earth style with lots of self-deprecating humor thrown in, which keeps the tone light. Sometimes his jokes fell a bit flat for me, but most of the time they were spot-on, which kept things from getting too boring. He presents the ideas of mindfulness and meditation in ways that a novice can understand, which made the subject matter feel very approachable. I found it interesting to trace how his evolving experimentation with meditation affected his personal and professional life, which is a unique feature of this text that a regular self-help book wouldn't have.

While reading, I found that my brain does a lot of the same, self-sabotaging things that Harris' brain did to him, like being overly judgemental and obsessing about possible future outcomes for every little thing. Being able to relate to what he was going though made me more engaged in his journey--and more willing to look into meditation for myself. I also appreciated that he included some scientific research to back up the benefits of practicing mindfulness. It definitely helped me to believe in the potential benefits of this philosophy.

The only small issue I had with 10% Happier was that I wasn't always excited to pick it up. It wasn't boring or difficult to understand, but I wasn't rushing home to read it either. As a result, it took me longer than it should have to finish it. Ultimately, however, I'm glad that I read it. I know that the ideas in it will stick in my head for a long time, and it has given me a big push towards trying meditation for myself, which is always something I've wanted to do. I think most people would say that they wanted to be at least 10% happier, and this novel provides a way to achieve that. It was a worthwhile read.

Challenge Tally:
True Books 2018: 2/18 + 2 bonus books
Clear the Shelves 2018: 2 books donated

Total Books Read in 2018: 6

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Born Round by Frank Bruni

Born Round is another one of the books from the pile my mother loaned me that I have been blogging my way through. This one is a book that I would never have picked up on my own - the memoir of the New York Times former food critic, Frank Bruni. My mom, a lifelong dieter and exercise nut, tends to gravitate towards stories about people struggling with food. She's read quite a few books on the topic and she liked this one well enough to pass it on to me. I was only mildly interested in reading it, but my desire to eliminate the stack of loaners under my nightstand proved stronger than my lack of interest in the topic. I gave it a shot.

In Born Round, Bruni tells the story of his life through the lens of his relationship with food. His Italian heritage and his family's tendency to show their love through elaborate and plentiful meals meant that he was constantly surrounded by food growing up, and he struggled to control his appetite from an early age. As he got older and moved out on his own, his issues with eating grew worse. As a budding journalist, his hectic work schedule meant a lot of days and nights eating at restaurants or grabbing fast food. His weight fluctuated up and down over the years and Bruni tried several different strategies to keep it in check, including fad diets, drugs, an eating disorder, and personal trainers. Nothing he tried stuck for very long though, and his constant fixation on his weight took a heavy emotional toll on him.

Bruni's career in journalism, however, maintained a steady upward trajectory and he was eventually offered the coveted position of food critic for the New York Times. This was both an exciting and daunting prospect for him, as he worried that so many nights eating out in restaurants would send his weight out of control for good. In order to embark on this exciting new opportunity, he had to finally unravel his complicated relationship with food and find a strategy for eating that he could stick with. He was successful in doing this, and while he still has his off-days from time to time, he's managed to overcome being "born round."

This ended up being a fairly entertaining read. Bruni's writing is clever and friendly, and very easy to get wrapped up in. Reading his story is like having a conversation with a friend. It just feels nice, even when he discusses the difficult, emotional parts of his journey. He doesn't shy away from sharing his insecurities and fears, and there's a lot in his personal life that readers can relate to. I found myself nodding in agreement a lot throughout this book, whether it was to his description of his twisted diet logic or his exploration of the shame he felt at having to buy increasingly bigger sizes of pants over time. I've felt similarly about my weight and my difficulty with exercising, so I was right there with him. His descriptions of all the wonderful, calorie-laden meals he's eaten definitely make you hungry though - it's best not to read this one on an empty stomach.

I also found the tidbits about his career interesting, especially towards the end of the novel as he described living the life of a restaurant critic. I didn't know, for example, what great lengths critics have to go to to conceal their identities while dining out. If a restaurant managed to identify Bruni, he had more difficulty getting an accurate view of the service and quality in a place. He had to carry credit cards with fake names and even wear disguises from time to time. I also didn't know how many times a critic generally eats at a restaurant before writing a review. Bruni had to hit places at least three times before rating them, meaning that he was eating out almost every night of the week. I can't imagine living such a life, but it was interesting to read about it.

One small issue I had throughout the book was that Bruni focused so heavily on his food history that some of the major events in his life were oddly glossed over. For example, during the time period he recounts in the story, he published a book on the Catholic church sex abuse scandal that earned him a Pulitzer nomination. This was included in his narration only as a brief recollection after the fact. It felt odd that more time wasn't spent talking about what he went through writing and publishing it. I know that the point of this particular memoir is to focus on Bruni's relationship with food, but omissions like this made his story feel like it had some notable missing pieces.

However, that gripe is a small one. Bruni's memoir was still enjoyable to read and it was quite interesting see how he managed to (mostly) overcome his struggles with food while working as a restaurant critic. His story was very relatable and was told in such a friendly and heartfelt style that you can't help but root for the guy to succeed. This was a pleasant little read.

Challenge Tally:
True Books 2018: 2/18 + 1 bonus book
Clear the Shelves 2018: 1 book donated

Total Books Read in 2018: 5

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I first heard of The Radium Girls through an internet article I read sometime last year. I didn't know anything at all about the subject of this nonfiction novel, but I was instantly intrigued by the short summary I saw. It was about a group of women who worked with radium in the 1920s and the effects that the element had on their bodies. I happened to have a birthday coming up around the time I learned about the book, so I put it on my list and received it as a gift. It's been sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to pick it up ever since.

Having just finished Radioactive earlier this month, my interest in radium was already piqued. I decided that now was the perfect time to tackle this novel and learn even more about the history of this dangerous and important element. What I ended up discovering was not just an informational text about history and science, but a new favorite novel full of real-life heroes, whose strength and sacrifice made the world a safer place for all of us.

The Radium Girls tells the real-life story of several women working for radium-dial factories in the U.S. during the 1920s. Radium had recently been discovered, and was all the rage during this time period. It was unknown how dangerous radioactivity was to the human body then. People simply thought radium looked really cool, was good for your health, and could have very useful applications in consumer goods. It was added to everything from drinking water to toothpaste, with the promise that it would make buyers look and feel younger. Another popular use for the element was to use its glow-in-the-dark properties to make objects, like watches or military instruments, shine.

The women who worked in radium-dial factories were tasked with painting the numbers on watch dials with radium. Making these glowing watches was very delicate work that required small hands and a light touch, so young women were specifically solicited for these jobs. The women used tiny brushes to apply the paint. In order to produce the fine lines needed to paint accurately on the numbers, they were taught to put the brushes in their mouths and form the point with their lips. Doing this over and over again each day at work led to a lot of radium entering their system, both through their mouths and on their skin. They got a lot of paint on them throughout the course of their workday (no one thought they had to be careful - they were consistently told that radium was a healthful substance), so much so that they glowed in the dark at home. These "radium girls" were quite popular in their communities. Their other-worldly glow was beautiful and they were paid well for their work. Working at a radium-dial factory was considered one of the best jobs a woman could have at the time.

As time went on however, the radium girls started falling ill with mysterious and horrifying maladies. Many lost teeth and suffered terrible jaw infections. Some had trouble with their joints and bones. Others suffered infertility and miscarriages. Some of them began to die, experiencing tremendous pain before passing away. Since their symptoms were all so different, and their medical problems appeared at different times (sometimes years after they had left working at the factories), it took doctors and scientists a long time to figure out that the girls were being poisoned by radium. Many women bankrupted themselves trying to seek medical care for their problems.

Once it was discovered the radium was the culprit behind their illnesses, some of the women tried to sue the radium factories to get compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. In response, the companies engaged in lengthy legal battles with them, denying that radium was a poison. They falsified scientific data and told outright lies to avoid being found guilty of negligence. When it became too obvious that radium was dangerous for them to deny it, they changed tactics and used legal loopholes, like statute of limitations laws, to avoid having to pay out any settlements. The radium girls, many of whom were desperately ill by this point, had to fight a long and hard campaign to prove to world that they were, in fact, poisoned at their jobs and that radium was deadly. Their efforts helped shape U.S. labor laws today and changed the way people handle radioactive elements, which has undoubtedly saved many, many lives.

This novel was beautiful, and that's not something I thought I would be saying about a nonfiction work. Kate Moore takes great care throughout the chapters to focus on the women themselves, rather than on the laws, companies, scientists, or doctors involved. She made each woman mentioned feel like an individual, with their own personalities and desires. This made the story come alive and really underscored the fact that these women were true heroes for their cause. They had to suffer so much and give up all their dreams because of their illnesses. It would have been easy to sink under the weight of that despair and just disappear, but these ladies fought to make themselves heard. Their stories are both terribly sad and very inspirational. The fact that their work lives on in OSHA laws today is a testament to their achievements.

I really learned a lot reading Radium Girls, and I finished it quickly. This read like fiction to me, and I was completely engaged in it from beginning to end. I had no idea that these women existed before reading this book, and that's really a terrible shame. Everyone should know their story, because everyone benefits from their work they did everyday. This is one of those novels I'm going to be recommending to everyone in the coming months; it was just so moving and so good. I'm on a mission right now to cut down on the amount of books I own as I prepare to move later in the year, but The Radium Girls is definitely not going on the donate pile. This is a new favorite for me and is an excellent example of nonfiction that is anything but boring or dry.

Challenge Tally:
True Books 2018: 2/18

Total Books Read in 2018: 4

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Radioactive by Lauren Redniss

I discovered Radioactive in an article I read online when it was nominated for the National Book Award last year. An illustrated biography of Marie Curie sounded intriguing to me, and it was receiving a lot of positive attention on the book blogs I follow, so I ordered it from Amazon. I stuck it on my bookshelf when it arrived and haven't looked at it since. As this is the year that I'm attempting to read all of the nonfiction I currently own, I decided to give it a try now.

This novel is a cross between a standard biography and a beautifully illustrated picture book. It tells the life story of Marie Curie, the famous physicist and chemist who discovered the elements radium and polonium. Redniss includes information about Curie's professional and personal life, as well as short explanations of the scientific concepts she studied. Additionally, small excerpts are inserted throughout the story describing how Curie's discoveries impacted the world after her death. Nuclear power, the atomic bomb, space travel, and many more examples are highlighted, emphasizing how monumental and important her work was. Each page in the novel is accented with stunning illustrations that serve to keep the reader completely engaged in the story.

Visually, this book is unlike anything else I have ever read. Each page is a beautiful work of art that invites you to linger as you read, admiring the details of the pictures. The illustrations are done in an interesting style, more quirky than "pretty," and they feel completely appropriate to the tone and topic of the story. Alongside the illustrations, photographs and documents are included too, and the contrast between the different forms of media is striking to look at. I was impressed with everything I saw, right down to the type of paper that it was printed on (nice and thick).  I loved reading, touching, and looking at this. The cover even glows in the dark in a tribute to the strange, otherworldly glow of radium.

The text itself is very well-written. There's quite a bit of it too-- the book isn't completely pictures. I learned a lot throughout my reading, and I developed a deep appreciation for Curie as a person and as a scientist. She was a woman of many impressive firsts. She was the first woman to be a professor at the Sorbonne, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only person to win two Nobel Prizes, the only person to win her Nobel Prizes in two different sciences, and the first woman to be entombed in the Paris Panthéon on her own merits. Her intelligence and courage are awe inspiring. She worked to further scientific achievement right up until she died, even though she knew it was her work that was killing her. I don't know if I could have continued doing work that was literally destroying my body, but Curie persevered. She was a truly remarkable woman, and Radioactive did an excellent job of conveying that.

This novel was more than just a nonfiction text. It was an experience. I absolutely fell in love with Radioactive and an going around recommending it to everyone I know like a crazy person. This has become a new favorite for me and I can't wait to explore Lauren Redniss' other works. My year of trying to read more nonfiction has started off brilliantly.

Challenge Tally:
True Books 2018: 1/18

Total Books Read in 2018: 3

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

“So many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible.” 

 Back when I was assembling my original list for the Classics Club, I knew that I wanted to include a section for children's literature. I did a bit of research to explore my options, and Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth kept popping up. I had heard of this book before, of course, but I somehow missed reading it when I was a kid. I didn't even own a copy.  As this novel is pretty much universally beloved by young and old readers alike, I decided that it had to go on my list. This month, I finally gave it a shot.

The plot follows a young boy named Milo, who at the beginning of the story is shown to be a rather gloomy, unimaginative child. He is always bored and doesn't see the point in doing things like going to school, reading books, or even playing with his many toys. Everything feels like a waste of time to him and he spends most of his days moping around his house. He regards seeking knowledge as the biggest waste of time of all, because he doesn't see the point in learning things he will probably never use.

His small, dull world changes, when one afternoon after school he finds a tollbooth playset in his room. Intrigued, he builds the tollbooth, reads the instructions for it, reviews the included map, and drives through in his toy car. Instantly, he is whisked away to the fantastical Lands Beyond and the real adventure begins. Accompanied by Tock the talking watchdog and the Humbug (who really is a gigantic, ill-tempered bug), Milo visits many interesting places. In Dictionopolis, he learns all about how words are made from King Azaz. In the Forest of Sight, he learns about all the different ways one can look at things. In Digitopolis, he learns all about how to use numbers from the Mathemagician. He even goes on a dangerous quest to the Mountains of Ignorance to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason.

In each place Milo visits, he learns about how big and interesting the world really is. Soon, he abandons his original feelings of boredom and pointlessness and starts to understand how adventures lie everywhere, if you put in enough effort to find them. He also finally understands how learning about the world and going to school are important, as they will help him to figure out the problems he will come up against later on in his life. He returns home a changed boy, entirely for the better.

This book might sound boring from the description, since it places such a heavy emphasis on the importance of education, but it was actually completely charming. There is deep wisdom hiding behind the whimsy in Juster's prose that leaves the reader feeling inspired instead of lectured. The narration style reminded me strongly of Alice in Wonderland, with the impossible and absurd treated as commonplace. The puns and humor included were spot-on and were a joy to read. The characters were all very colorful and well-written as well, with several memorable figures filling up the pages. This is certainly a book that adults should read out loud to children, as it explores worthy themes in such an entertaining and engaging way.

I enjoyed everything in The Phantom Tollbooth, but I think my favorite section was the chapter in which Milo has to contend with the demons in the Mountains of Ignorance. He meets the Everpresent Wordsnatcher, who constantly twists other peoples words and presents them out of context, the Terrible Trivium, who loads people up with meaningless tasks to keep them from achieving their goals, the demon of insincerity, who doesn't mean a word he says and is afraid of everything, the Gelatinous Giant, who blends in to his surroundings because he is afraid to stand out, and the Senses Taker, who takes people's sense of purpose and duty by filling their heads with illusions of what they want to see. For each demon that was described, I could think of an exact real-world scenario to match it. This part resonated strongly with me and made me both laugh and think about how demons like this have affected my real life.

I wish that I had discovered The Phantom Tollbooth when I was a child, so that I could have that warm, nostalgic kind of love for it that only a kid can have for their favorite book. As I didn't, however, all I can do is appreciate this little gem for what it is now, a brilliant story about how to appreciate the everyday wonders in the world around us. This novel certainly deserves its reputation as a classic of children's literature. I enjoyed it immensely and will certainly be recommending it to anyone who hasn't discovered its simple pleasures yet.

Challenge Tally:
Classics Club (#28 on my list): 22/100

Total Books Read in 2018: 2

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

*There will be spoilers in this review, they are labeled*

Since 2016, I've started off my reading for the year with a Jules Verne novel. There's something about beginning the year with a grand adventure that just seems fitting to me. It feels like good luck for the year ahead--like anything is possible. I continued on with that tradition this year with Around the World in Eighty Days, a novel that, as it turns out, I was woefully underestimating.

I went into my reading thinking that I'd probably enjoy the book overall, but would dislike the following:
  1. Over-long descriptions of world geography instead of plot development
  2. Racism towards citizens of non-European countries
  3. Lack of female characters
  4. Long, boring stretches of flying in a hot air balloon 
 I'll begin by saying that I was wrong on (almost) all accounts. But let's start at the beginning.

The plot of Around the World in Eighty Days concerns Phileas Fogg, a wealthy and respectable man living in London. He spends his days following the exact same schedule of events, with mathematical precision. He's described as quite an eccentric gentleman, who must have everything planned out and implemented down to the scheduled minute. One evening, during his regular game of whist at his club, the conversation falls to the recent completion of a railway line in India. The completion of that line means that, for the first time ever, it is possible for one to travel all the way around the world using a combination of boats and trains quickly and in relative comfort. Fogg asserts to his friends that a trip around the entire world could be completed in only eighty days. His friends disagree, saying that while Fogg's timeline is theoretically correct, common delays, such as bad weather or technical malfunctions, would invariably cause the journey to take longer.

Fogg continues to disagree, saying that even with routine delays, the journey could still be completed in just eighty days. Completely confident in his assertion, he makes a wager with the group. He bets them £20,000 that he can make the trip himself within the eighty day time limit. At first, his friends try to talk him out of making the wager, saying that they are sure he will lose and don't want to see him ruined financially. However, Fogg continues to press the issue, and they eventually agree to the bet. Fogg leaves immediately, stopping at home to pack a bag and collecting his servant, a Frenchman named Passepartout, who will accompany him on the trip.

As Fogg and Passepartout prepare to embark on their journey, another story is taking shape in the background. A bank in London has just recently been robbed of £55,000. A Scotland Yard detective named Mr. Fix has been assigned to solve the case. A description of the robber given by a witness vaguely resembles Fogg, and Detective Fix becomes certain that Fogg is the man he is looking for. When he hears about the £20,000 wager, and the trip around the world that Fogg is leaving on, he is convinced that this is all an elaborate cover he's concocted to flee the country with the stolen money. Determined to catch this brazen "criminal," Fix follows Fogg on his journey, hoping to make an arrest.

From this point forward, the story becomes a true race around the world, with Fogg and Passepartout hopping from trains to ships and back again as they travel from country to country. Fogg maintains a calm and cool exterior for the duration of their travels, keeping track of their itinerary in his notebook and figuring out solutions to all sorts of travel problems as they occur. He barely even looks out the windows along the way; he is all business. Conversely, Passepartout wanders through each country they enter wide-eyed and incredulous. He's not the most intelligent man, and his blunders throughout the journey frequently put them in danger of not making the time limit. The group travels through Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Japan, California, and New York before circling back to London, and they have several adventures as they go. In one notable incident, they rescue an Indian princess, Aouda, from a group of Brahmins that would have forced her to commit suttee, and she ends up accompanying them for the rest of the trip. Fix is a constant presence in the background as well, keeping an eye on Fogg until the arrest warrant he has ordered finally catches up with him. The group has been traveling so fast that he can't manage to get the warrant in his hand and he can't arrest his suspect without it. His attempts to delay Fogg add additional suspense to the story, as they put his ability to finish the race in time in jeopardy.

*Spoilers start here*

In the end, despite several unplanned adventures, setbacks, and dangers along the way, the group manages to finish their trip in just the right amount of time, with Fogg bursting in on his club at the exact eighty day mark. He wins the £20,000, which doesn't really make that much of a difference to his life, because he ended up spending about £19,000 pounds making the trip. His name is also cleared from the robbery, with Detective Fix discovering upon his return to London that some other detective had already arrested the real robber while he was abroad. Everything ends happily, and Fogg resumes his previous life with one notable exception-- he marries Aouda, the Indian princess he rescued, and in so doing becomes the happiest of men.

*Spoilers end here*

I was really surprised by how much I loved this novel. It was genuinely exciting, suspenseful, and funny, and I was completely engaged the whole time I was reading. I raced through the story in just a couple of days, and that's not something I often say about reading classics. The characters were unique, the adventures were daring, and the omnipresent eighty day deadline created just the right amount of pressure to keep things interesting. This book was better than both Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth by a mile. It is definitely my new Jules Verne favorite.

Now, let me get back to the misconceptions I had prior to reading:

1. Over-long descriptions of world geography instead of plot development

Nope. The were certainly descriptions of different countries present, but the passages were well-written and short. Plenty of attention was paid to the overall plot and character development. This is vastly different to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth, which were plagued by scientific descriptions that went on for pages at a time. Around the World in Eighty Days struck a good balance between the educational/travel elements of the story and the actual plot elements.

2. Racism towards citizens of non-European countries

Kind of. It is clear that Verne was in favor of British Imperialism, and described several times how England had vastly improved and modernized its colonies in India and Asia. Some of the people in India and China aren't described in the most flattering of terms. However, I've read much worse in other novels from this time period (like The Jungle Book, for example). On the whole, Verne shows a fascination for and appreciation of different places in the world. It was not as bad as I thought it would be in this respect.

3. Lack of female characters

Stop the presses, because there's a GIRL in this one! The princess Aouda doesn't have a whole lot to do plot-wise, but she is shown to be a kind, intelligent, and capable traveling companion throughout the journey (and she is present for most of it). The love that blossoms between her and Phileas Fogg was quite sweet. I appreciated seeing a female character get to take part in the fun, rather than just wait around at home for the men to get back.  

4. Long, boring stretches of flying in a hot air balloon

Okay, are you sitting down? There is no hot air balloon in the entire novel. I started reading thinking that the whole journey was going to be by balloon and I was totally surprised that it wasn't there. There was actually a hot air balloon on the cover of my novel, so I don't think I was being crazy to expect one to be in the story. After a bit of research online, I learned that this is a common misconception people have about the novel, because the film version from 1956 (which won the Academy Award for best picture that year), used a balloon. Go figure.

It's one of the best feelings in the world to be surprised by a book, especially a classic novel that you suspect might be boring. Around the World in Eighty Days was anything but. Charming, funny, and exciting, this story has become a new favorite for me and definitely my favorite Jules Verne novel overall. If it's good luck to start the year off reading about a fantastic adventure, then how lucky is it to discover a five-star novel on top of that? I think it means that I'm destined to have a very good year of reading indeed.

*Spoilery quote below!*

"Phileas Fogg had won his wager, and had made his journey around the world in eighty days. To do this he had employed every means of conveyance--steamers, railways, carriages, yachts, trading-vessels, sledges, elephants. The eccentric gentleman had throughout displayed all of his marvelous qualities of coolness and exactitude. But what then? What had he really gained by all this trouble? What had he brought back from this long and weary journey? 

Nothing, say you? Perhaps so, nothing but a charming woman, who, strange as it may appear, made him the happiest of men!

Truly, would you not for less than that make the tour around the world?"

Challenge Tally:
Back to the Classics (a classic travel or journey narrative): 1/12
Classics Club (#92 on my list): 21/100

Total Books Read in 2018: 1

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reading Resolutions: 2018 Edition!

It's really cool to be able to say that I've kept up with my blogging for two whole years now. I'm to the point where reading something without blogging about it right afterwards just feels wrong. I basically have to continue on with my planning and blogging into the new year for mental health purposes.

In 2018, I plan to continue on with some of the challenges I participated in last year, along with a few of my own design. Here's the plan:

Goodreads Goal: Read 50 books

In 2017, I set my goal at 76 books. I ended up surpassing it, but it was stressful sometimes. I had to stick to mostly shorter books to meet this goal. This year, I want to give myself the chance to try some longer books. Accordingly, I set a lower goal. If I end up reading more, great! The point is to avoid self-imposed pressure.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: I have participated in this challenge for the past two years, and I always have a blast doing it. I've already planned out my reads for this one. Here is my signup post.

Classics Club Challenge: This is a challenge that asks participants to select and read several classic novels over a five year time period. This will be my second year whittling down my list. I need to read 20 novels from it to stay on track. I hope to do a bit better than that though. My complete list is here.

True Books 2018: This is a challenge that I created for myself. The goal of it is to read more nonfiction books in the new year. I love to read nonfiction, but I tend to automatically reach for fiction when left to my own devices. I created a list of all the nonfiction novels I have sitting on my shelves and I'm going to try and read them all in 2018. Here's my list.

Clear the Shelves 2018: This is another challenge that I created for myself. In the fall of 2018, I will be moving across the country to Connecticut. I have a lot of books on my shelves and I don't want to end up moving them all. For this challenge, I will to try and power through a whole bunch of my backlog so that I can donate the ones I don't want to keep before I leave. I will be keeping a list of what I donate here.

These challenges should be enough to keep me busy throughout the year. The new year will be a year of big changes for me. I'm hoping that this reading will help keep my mind focused and calm through the stresses that will inevitably pop up.