At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012

Castle reads. Oh yeah.

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday! Today’s topic involves fiction.

One of my fabulous Christmas gifts was a book journal from my mother, in which I can record what I have read and my thoughts on each book. When I saw blog posts from others listing their favorite books of 2011, I realized that I don’t remember what I read last year. Yes, I recall some titles, but I don’t know all of them. And my memory gets worse and worse every year with children.

With my new tool in hand (yeah, book journal!), I am ready for a new year of reading and keeping track. Or am I? Do I even know which novels I want to pick up in 2012?

I read about Jess Witkins’ To Be Read Pile Challenge on Jenny Hansen’s blog – a throw-down-the-glove challenge to read 12 books in 2012 which have been sitting on your TBR list for way too long. A great idea. Then I discovered A Novel Challenge – a whole blog dedicated to suggesting reading challenges, along with some cool prizes for some of them. I perused these choices as well.

But based on what I want to accomplish, I’m developing my own reading challenge, which may be best called My At-Least-3 Reading Challenge. I resolve to read at least three titles from each of the following categories in 2012.

Classics – from the following list:

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Hunger Games - read that one.

Young Adult Bestsellers

Books from 2009-2012 which topped the Amazon or NY Times bestsellers list.

Indie or Self-Published Books

I haven’t read enough of these, and there are some great authors out there. I’m leaving it open for what genre I’ll read among the indie and self-pubbed titles.

Mystery Masters

There are several mystery icons whose works I haven’t read. In developing my list, I relied somewhat on K.B. Owen’s blog to enlighten me on what I should be reading. Among the titles I’m considering are:

Of course Sherlock reads.

The Case of the Velvet Claws (Perry Mason) by Erle Stanley Gardner
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Fer de Lance (Nero Wolfe) by Rex Stout
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes) by Arthur Conan Doyle
I, the Jury (Mike Hammer) by Mickey Spillane
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James
The Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie

Fiction Powerhouses – titles from at least 3 of the following authors who top the bestselling authors ever list (and whom I’ve never read):

Mary Higgins Clark
Jackie Collins
Michael Crichton
Roald Dahl
Dean Koontz
Louis L’Amour
James Michener
James Patterson
Nora Roberts
Danielle Steel

Not My Usual Genre

Don’t we tend to read certain genres far more than others? Hand me a young adult novel, a cozy mystery, or paranormal fantasy, and I’m all over it. Romance? Not usually. Science fiction? Rarely. Horror? Never.

But there are some terrific reads in other genres, and I surprised myself by enjoying several in 2011. I would like to stretch myself and read more.

I do have the standing caveat that any novel I start gets 50 pages to engage me. If I don’t care one bit what happens to the characters after 50 pages, I hurl set aside the book and pick up another. At this point in my life, I’ve decided that there are far too many great books that I could be enjoying to waste time finishing one I don’t care about. Sometimes, the reason is that the book is poorly written, but far more often it simply isn’t my cup of tea. No criticism to the author; just not a match of writer and reader.

So what’s on your list of to be read novels in 2012? Have you taken on any reading challenges for the new year?

2012: Setting the Bar Low

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday, where I give my deep thoughts on juicy/crunchy topics. Today’s is – I feel so original – RESOLUTIONS. Like many others, I make New Year’s resolutions. Usually, it’s only one or two big things, but I definitely take inventory of where I am now and where I want to be in the future and set a few goals for the upcoming year.

While there are some large things I want to accomplish, I wonder if too many times we fail because we aim for the unattainable. There is a SMART model out there for goal-setting, which suggests that one’s goals should be:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Realistic
T – Timely

Focusing on the Attainable and Realistic, I’m thinking that this could be the year to SET THE BAR LOW. It’s like my primary care physician said when she realized my general aversion to fruits and vegetables (unless they can be fried): She didn’t tell me to up my count to six servings; she said that usually people don’t make that big a change, so I should just aim for adding one more serving . . . for now.

So here it goes for setting the bar low. For 2012, I will:

Not be the worst lawn on the block. Sure, I could wish that I would suddenly develop a green thumb; that I would plan a backyard retreat, a vegetable garden, and a rose-bush hedge; that I would plant a landscaping spread worthy of a magazine front cover. But realistically, I just need to make sure I’m not an embarrassment to the neighbors. I don’t want my weed count bringing down property values or making people assume that no one lives in that untended house.

Regularly pull that one hair that grows longer than all of the others. Some of you have this issue too. There’s that one hair on your arm that inexplicably grows to Crystal-Gayle length, or maybe it’s on your back, your leg, or wherever. Perhaps you need to groom hair that doesn’t grow too long so much as where it shouldn’t – ears, back, upper lip (ladies), between your brows to form an evil-unibrow stare?

Should I tell you where mine is? What the heck. Let’s simply say I could happily chant, “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.” (Thank heaven it’s blond.)

Purge my dresser/closet of high school and college clothes. I’ve been out of school for over twenty years, and I have deluded myself into thinking I’m going to fit back into that black suede skirt I bought at Lord & Taylor during a college break. It ain’t happening. Period.

I also have white satin shorts that I wore with my drum major outfit in high school. I’ve been telling myself that they are a keepsake. But my sons are not going to want me to pass down satin shorts the size of Barbie’s bum to remember their mom by. Secretly, I was hoping that one day, I might be able to slip into those babies and zip them all the way up. It’s time to face facts. Satin shorts are not in my future, unless they are stretchy elastic boxers that I borrow from my husband after eating too much raw cookie dough.

Shower before 3 p.m. every day. I discovered that mornings in my house work better if I get my kids off to school, then shower and get ready for the day. Then I discovered that it was comfy to go to my writing nook in my cozy pajamas and get some work done. After that, what was the point of getting dressed before cleaning the bathroom, doing laundry, or vacuuming the house? Come to think of it, day clothes were also unnecessary for reading a novel, paying bills, and making a grocery list. Before I knew it, there were days when I finally jumped in the shower around 4:00 p.m., only to make sure that I wasn’t wearing pajamas when my kids returned home from school.

I am better than that. I can take that shower at least by 3:00 p.m., leaving plenty of time for my hair to completely dry before the family returns home.

Not eat my kids’ candy without their permission knowledge. Be it Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, or Christmas candy, I am one of those parents who has been known to sneak a few pieces of chocolate when the kids aren’t looking. I choose whatever rationalization works best in my mind:

  • I helped my kids get the candy; I deserve a cut of the action.
  • I need to make sure the candy is okay for consumption. (Erin Brambilla’s got this covered.)
  • It’s just one piece, and there are all of these other pieces still left.
  • They don’t like this particular kind all that much anyway.

And somehow, candy that you eat on the sly, without anyone knowing, doesn’t count toward your calories for the day. You barely admit it to yourself, so it sure ain’t going in the food diary.

But this year, I need to acknowledge that I am eating that candy. I need to look my children in the face and at least say, “Hey, I’m eating this” before I pop it into my mouth and make googly eyes of satisfaction. If my kids can’t get to me in time to prevent the Hershey kiss from melting on my tongue, that’s their problem. They should have resolved to lock their candy away in 2012.

I’m sure I could think of more. But those will do for now. How about you?

What are your New Year’s resolutions? What resolutions would you make if you were setting the bar low this time?

For a genuine look at goal-setting, check out 2012 and Planning for Success in the New Year by Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone.