Read More! Join me?

As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Last year, it helped me reads more than 50 books; see Goodreads: A Year in Books (2018).

This year, I’m hoping to get to even more of the books on my To Read list.

Join me? Visit Goodreads to sign up today!

(If you’re a Goodreads members, click here and we can follow each other’s progress!)

Goodreads: A Year in Books (2018)

Several years ago, actress Lena Dunham tweeted “Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.” Would that it were possible, right?

Lacking an eighth day, we’re left to our own devices to make time for reading. For me, there are treasured Sunday mornings — pre-dawn, coffees at the ready, reading side-by-side with my boyfriend Matt. Then good habits, like carrying a book in my purse, weekly visits to the library, and reading before bed help keep the spirit alive through the work week right back around to those quite Sunday hours.

And all of that good reading mojo has paid off…for the first time in six years, I exceeded my personal Goodreads Reading Challenge goal, reading 54 books in 2018! This year’s tally of 15,121 pages included fiction bestsellers and some classics, one cookbook, poetry and nonfiction, along with a handful of self-published books by some amazing local authors.

Following closely in the footsteps of 2017, you’ll find several Young Adult novels on my list again, including Ransom Riggs’ new book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series: A Map of Days. (“Fair warning: you’ll realize about 2/3 of the way in that you’re going to finish the book soon and you’ll have to wait – again – for the next in the series to magically appear! Pace yourself.”)

Another fun find this year was the Penguin Drop Cap Series, 26 collectible hardcover editions of classic works of literature, each featuring on its cover a specially commissioned illustrated letter of the alphabet by type designer Jessica Hische. This year I read H, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. My local library seems to have a good selection of these special titles, and it’s fun to try to spot them on the shelves. Click here to see all 26.

According to star ratings, some of my least favorite books in 2018 were Brida by Paulo Coelho (“insipid romance”) and The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri (“Nope. Nope. Nope.”). I disliked 1984 by George Orwell so much — “a terribly wretched book” — it completely subverted my attempt to read the 100 books featured in The Great American Read.

Brida was not the only “insipid romance” that earned one or two stars. I was also not a fan of The Atomic Weight of Love (Elizabeth Church), An Obvious Enchantment (Tucker Malarkey), or An Itailan Wife (Ann Hood). Which is not to say I don’t like a good love story. I adored The Course of Love by Alain de Botton — “This should be required reading. For everyone. Period.”

New reads from some of my favorite authors included Keri Smith’s uber-clever book The Wander Society (“Solvitur ambulando!”), Anne Lamott’s  Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers (“A balm, antidote, inspiration…Wow! and Thanks!”), and Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone (“We need this kind of thoughtful examination and heartfelt solutions now more than ever!”).

I recently recommended One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd (Jim Fergus) to a friend, and realized it was one of the most memorable books I read this year. (“we want this to be a true story…and are ever-surprised that it is not”)

Other books that stand out include Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (“a clever piece of dystopian fiction”), Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffengger (“Wonderfully, weirdly delicious!”), and The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (“I savored it slowly… ”).

But if asked specifically, I would put at the top of my list The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley (“Magically, magically good!!”)

It was, apparently, a good year for reading. But I suspect I’ll run out of superlatives if I don’t stop here. You can read my complete list of 2018 books on Goodreads (click here)…but I want to know about you, too. What were your favorite books in 2018? List them in the commend section below!


Get Out Your Banned Books and Read!


Next week is National Banned Books Week or, as the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) calls it, a “celebration of the freedom to read.” So, in the spirit of all things books and words and writing and creativity and ideas, let’s all read banned books!

To that end, below is a list of banned books from the NCAC’s Banned Books Catalog (click here for the full text that includes each book’s “indiscretion”).

So, tell me, which book will YOU read?

Sherman Alexie
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits

Dorothy Allison
Bastard Out of Carolina

Julia Alvarez
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

Laurie Halse Anderson

M.T. Anderson

Maya Angelou
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale

James Baldwin
Go Tell It On The Mountain

Alison Bechdel
Fun Home

Judy Blume
Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Deeny, Then Again Maybe I Won’t, Forever, Places I Never Meant To Be

Anthony Burgess
Clockwork Orange

Augusten Burroughs
Running with Scissors

William S. Burroughs
Naked Lunch

Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

John Cleland
Fanny Hill

Daniel Clowes
Ice Haven (Eightball #22)

Suzzane Collins
The Hunger Games

Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War, I am the Cheese

Howard Cruse
Stuck Rubber Baby

Chris Crutcher
Whale Talk, Chinese Handcuffs

Roald Dahl
The Witches

Emily M. Danforth
The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Charles Darwin
The Origin of Species

Corey Doctorow
Little Brother

Barbara Ehrenreich
Nickel and Dimed

Laura Esquirel
Like Water for Chocolate

Marcus Ewert
10,000 Dresses

William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying

F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby

Anne Frank
The Diary Of A Young Girl

Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere, Absolute Sandman

Nancy Garden
Annie on My Mind

Jean Craighead George
Julie of the Wolves

Allen Ginsberg

William Golding
Lord of the Flies

John Green
Looking For Alaska, Paper Towns

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Fairy Tales

Robie Harris
It’s Perfectly Normal

Joseph Heller

Ernest Hemingway
The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms

Carolivia Herron
Nappy Hair

S. E. Hinton
The Outsiders

Khaled Hosseni
The Kite Runner

Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God

Aldous Huxley
Brave New World

Kim Dong Hwa
The Color of Earth

E.L. James
Fifty Shades of Grey

James Joyce

Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth

Ken Kesey
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Stephen King
Apt Pupil

D.H. Lawrence
Women in Love, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Harper Lee
To Kill A Mockingbird

David Levithan
Two Boys Kissing

Mathew Loux

Lois Lowry
The Giver

Carolyn Mackler
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood

Alan Moore
Neonomicon, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, Watchmen

Toni Morrison

Walter Dean Myers
Fallen Angels, Monster

Vladimir Nabokov

Lesléa Newman
Heather Has Two Mommies

George Orwell

Chuck Palahniuk

Todd Parr
The Family Book

Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass

Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
And Tango Makes Three

Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia

Dav Pilkey
Captain Underpants

Patricia Polacco
In Our Mothers’ House

Tomás Rivera
…And the Earth Did Not Devour Him

J.K Rowling
Harry Potter

J.D. Salinger
Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories

Marjane Satrapi
The Complete Persepolis

Dr. Seuss
The Lorax

William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night

Neal Shusterman

Shel Silverstein
A Light in the Attic

Curtis Sittenfeld

Art Spiegelman

John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men

R.L. Stine

Makoto Tateno
Hero Heels 2

Amy Timberlake
The Dirty Cowboy

Craig Thompson

J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Terry Trueman
Stuck in Neutral

Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn

Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse 5

Alice Walker
The Color Purple

Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass

Daniel Wilson

Richard Wright
Black Boy, Native Son

The Bedroom Bookshelf


Put Something In
by Shel Silverstein

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,

Sing a mumble-gumble song,

Whistle through your comb.

Do a loony-goony dance 

‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.

Shel Silverstein’s classic book A Light in the Attic was published in 1981, the year my parents gave it to me for Christmas. It sits on my bedroom bookshelf along with a dozen or more hardcover treasures.

It’s an eclectic little shelf on which Silverstein cozies up next to Frost, and Thoreau and Dickinson share space with Winnie-the-Pooh and the Kama Sutra.

Is it the soft, sun-faded colors or the gently-worn spines that draw me in? I swear I hear them whisper to me as I sleep: “come read, come read.”

But I must confess, it’s been some years since I opened the pages of the comically illustrated Thurber Carnival or Sara Midda’s colorful South of France.

I recently wrote an enewsletter article for a client about summer reading, and remembered fondly my trips to the local library during summer vacation. Did you have a summer reading program like we did? Some magical theme and creative tracking device that kept you motivated from June to September? How fun, right?

Meanwhile, I’m six months into my Goodreads Reading Challeng…and six books behind schedule, they tell me. Thinking I might need a little motivation — magical theme, creative tracking device — I decided that my summer reading project would be the bedroom bookshelf!

I’m two books in, and about to start on Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. Can’t wait!

How about you? What are you reading this summer?


• • •

©2013, Jen Payne
Poem and Illustration by Shel Silverstein.

Read More: What Is Reading for?


What Is Reading For?What Is Reading For? by Robert Bringhurst

FROM GOODREADS: “Reading could have a rich and interesting future, because it does have a rich and interesting past. But if no one remembers that past, it may not mean much to the future.” This succinct and thoughtful essay is the text of a talk commissioned for a symposium entitled The Future of Reading which was held at RIT in June 2010. Written and designed by Robert Bringhurst, this limited edition is carefully crafted and letterpress printed. 450 copies, printed on Mohawk Ticonderoga paper.

MY REVIEW: A beautifully-crafted book with a beautiful message: books, reading, will always be with us, no matter what form. “Real reading and writing take place on the margins of empires,” Bringhurst writes. “That’s just how it is. You read the books, if you want to read them, however you can. And we do.” Layered with meaning and intent, not only in words but in its presentation, this treasure of a book, appeals to the fiber of who I am—reader, writer, designer, artist. If you are like-minded, you must have a copy of this book.

View all my Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge Books

Resolve to Read. More.

I used to be a reader. You know, those really cool folks who are always reading books? On the train. In the coffee shop. In the waiting room. Reading!

I used to be that person. But being an English major took the joy out of recreational reading sometime back in the 80s, then cable television and running my own business vyed for my attention…and here we are, the start of another year for which my top resolution is READ MORE.

Ever year for years: READ MORE.

It’s not that I don’t read — I manage maybe five to ten books a year. But compared to those college days when I was reading five to ten books a week, my efforts pale.

By fun coincedence, I was thinking on this last week when my friend and fellow blogger C.B. Wentworth wrote about her reading achievements for 2012, lining up a delicious assortment of bookcover thumbnails with her post “Goodreads 2012 Challenge: Achieved!”

A challenge? Now there’s an interesting way to READ MORE, don’t you think?

Sure enough, Goodreads, the social network for readers, is hosting what looks to be its third annual Reading Challenge. So far, they have 173,203 participants, all pledging to READ MORE books!

All you have to do is join Goodreads, set your personal goal for 2013, then start reading! Click here to check it out. You pick your own books, you set your own limits and then you just READ. MORE.

An added bonus is you get one of these fun little status bars that celebrates your progress as the year moves along. Who doesn’t love a little positive reinforcement! Mine is in the right sidebar over there >

So far, I’ve got two books under my belt for 2013: Julia Cameron’s The Creative Life: True Tales of Inspiration, and Anaïs Nin’s Collages. If you click on the Goodreads icon, you can read about both books (and my reviews).

So…are you up for the challenge? Let us know if you’re participating in the 2013 Goodreads Challenge already or if you’d like to join me — maybe we can all start to READ MORE!

• • •

ABOVE: Ideal Bookshelf 484: Travel reprinted with permission from artist Jane Mount of Ideal Bookshelf. If you have not yet seen her wonderful, custom bookshelf portraits, then you simply must visit her website today. I want one of these so badly it hurts — I suspect you might, too! Click here now!

The Unread Book Project: It Took 20 Inches of Snow

20 inches of snow, oh my!

Things Fall Apart has lived in my bookshelves since the mid-eighties, when I was a student at the University of Massachusetts, and [Chinua] Achebe was a visiting lecturer.…Today, I have more than 300 books sitting on my bookshelves…”

So began The Unread Book Project.

“Beginning today, Monday, November 22, 2010,” I wrote, “I will start to read all of the unread books on my bookshelves.”

“My goal will be to tackle one unread book a week,” I proclaimed.

Like a heartfelt New Year’s resolution, I was determined to see it through. I thought I was ready.

Truth be told, The Unread Book Project had been sitting around for several months before I posted the grand intention on my blog. A great idea in concept, in practice it was a little harder.

It took a classic New England snowstorm and 20 inches of snow in my driveway to get me to sit down, sit still, and start reading.

My copy of Things Fall Apart is only 192 pages long, but it’s taken me four days to finish it. I had all sorts of excuses—there are so many African words in it, the type is too small, it’s not my kind of book. But, the real reason is that my reading brain is a little mushy these days.

I can feel it. As I sit there reading, it wants to do something else. It wants to look around, or flip through something, or change the subject. It’s like asking a child to sit still in a waiting room, and as painful as trying to meditate!

It’s my own fault—and my mother’s. She’s the one who used to sit me in my baby swing with a cookie to watch Mr. Rogers on television while she went off to do the laundry. I haven’t turned the TV off since. And its 13-minute commercial cycle is now my attention span. You can clock it.

I’m sure the internet has something to do with it, too. Author Nicholas Carr has written a whole book about “what the internet is doing to our brains,” called The Shallows.

In it, he “looks to neurological science to gauge the organic impact of computers, citing fascinating experiments that contrast the neural pathways built by reading books versus those forged by surfing the hypnotic Internet….This glimmering realm of interruption and distraction impedes the sort of comprehension and retention ‘deep reading’ engenders,” writes editor Donna Seaman.

So, can we get back to that “deep reading”?

At UMass, I majored in English. I will never forget the week my assignments included reading Shakespeare’s Richard III, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Prince by Machiavelli. Granted this was before I owned a business and had responsibilities besides showing up for class, but I still found my way through that much reading without ooching every 13 minutes.

Then again, it was also before I had cable or owned a channel changer, and back when faxes were all the rage!

It only took a snowstorm to get me on track. I hope!

Stayed tuned tomorrow for a review of Things Fall Apart, and the next book on the shelf.

• • •

Click here to purchase a copy of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

• • •

Related Posts:
The Unread Book Project

Happy Excerpt

Many (many, many) moons ago, I discovered a little book called 14,000 things to be happy about. It’s a great little open-to-a-random-page book that catalogs things, places, thoughts, foods, people…that make us happy.

Flipping through the pages now, it feels a little dated. But even the nostalgia of its older entries—Kodak photo supplies, David Brinkley, using a supercomputer—makes you smile.

In the spirit of being thankful, here are a few excerpts:

getting the guts to go jogging
hot chocolate cups and saucers
laughing at yourself
someone laughing
saucepot and fresh vegetables
blue-jeaned students
double-pack pinochle
fruit hats
vivid paisley cotton velveteen
a view of sailboat skimming the horizon
giving snakes the right of way
sea angling
lawn-cutting, garden-tending, house-tidying chores
a wheel barrow of joyful rides
a wish for adventure
having lots of candles burning
boxer shorts and jockey shorts
laying out patterns or the Sunday paper on the kitchen table
saying yes
60 Minutes (TV show)
a Danish waffle iron
construction paper
learning a headstand
leaves becoming a restless golden drift, a wine-red flurry in the wind
neatly pressed pants
places where you can lunch in a swimsuit

wearing safety glasses outside lab class
orange tea doughnuts
plain old bad habits
platters of good things to eat
reading outside on a blanket wearing a big sweater in the autumn sun
soaking up some extra memories
pinning your hat on
Thanksgiving dinners
traveling by bicycle
wearing white cotton
an aging flower pot
black tin bread pans
brandy Alexander pie
chamois-cloth shirts
planning trips to country inns
chasing evil spirits
Chanel quilted purses with chain straps
one-person kayaks for rent
teaching one another
the flat wooden “spoons” that come with ice cream cups
learning to like yourself better
heavy pots
a birdwatcher’s path
wide-wale corduroy shirts
naming your baby

a basket of large seashells
designer pizzas
fashion quizzes
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
satin jumpsuits
water fountains = bubblers
a thick mattress pad, soft feather pillows, fresh flowered sheets, a cotton comforter, and lace bed skirt
A trip to New Hampshire and Vermont to see fall foliage
the giving of gifts
buttered new potatoes with skins on
attic sleuthing
automobile running boards
butter crunch and white almond bark
catching peas with a roll
cottage cheese containers
eating utensils
getting snow caked on socks and in jean cuffs
hot-water heating systems
mountain vistas
prune ice cream
abandoning all civility and slurping the grapefruit juice straight from the bowl it’s served in
sour-cherry jam
squeezing limes
adust = browned, sunburned

• • •

My favorite entry has always been “the angle of your head as you bite into a taco.” You can read that one and more in Barbara Ann Kipfer’s updated version of 14,000 things to be happy about.