The 2018 Reading Challenge

This really isn’t a book blog, because there are many book blogs out there run by people who a) are better writers than I am, and b) read more books in general. But I do like books, all kinds (except for you tragic grimdark novels, buzz off), and so I do like doing an occasional “52 Book Challenge.”

A 52 book challenge is an informal agreement to read 52 books in a year, or around one a week. Sometimes it’s a free-for-all, but my utter horror at making my own decisions prompts me to find guidelines for the challenge, such as this:


The above was the challenge I attempted to do with my sister and my good friend Wendy, several years ago. Spoiler, we failed, but we attempted. Attempting was done.

The last time I did this challenge, I discovered some interesting new books- like Abhorsen– and some frankly terrible books, like Frankenstein.

Don’t try to tell me Frankenstein is good. It’s a million pages of story so dry you could sand a bench with it.

The point being, the challenge coaxes you into broadening your horizon, which is why I’m going to try again for 2018, with the list provided here. Will I give up? Oh, most definitely, probably around book 15. But it’s nice to feel like you’re trying something.


Part of one of my bookshelves. Perhaps a fifth of these books are unread or only partially read because I collect books faster than I can motivate myself to go through them.

I encourage everyone to go out and try a challenge like this for a little while. Even if it’s twelve books a year. Or six. Or a half of a short story you’ve had on your shelf for the past eight years. Just give it a go.

Now I’ll reward myself by playing eight hours of Overwatch and thinking about what a bookworm I am.

How to Write Thank You Cards (by Eleven Year Old Me)

I’ve never liked writing. Or, at least, I’ve never liked writing when it’s expected of me. I could turn out three pages of Lord of the Rings related nonsense before I would ever touch a essay assignment. The very idea that I could write something actually worthwhile is appalling- for instance, why would I want to make a living out of this? Then it’s not fun anymore!

A subset of this balking at writing expectations comes about in the form of being very, very bad at writing letters and thank you notes. I should take this time to apologize to my relatives who don’t read this blog for sometimes getting the Christmas thank you cards out in, say, early July. It’s not that I don’t deeply appreciate your thoughtful gift, it’s that writing is terrible and awful and I don’t know why anyone ever does it. Sorry.


These four cards took me hours.

But it’s that time of year again, and it’s harder to drag my feet when it’s just myself I’m fighting. Mom isn’t here to nag me anymore, so I have to adult up and nag myself, which is just thoroughly unpleasant of me.

Today, only nineteen days after Christmas, I forced myself to spit out four very genuine thank you notes. Because, again, it’s not that I don’t love the gifts I receive, it’s just that I’m very bad at things like emotions and feelings and putting things down on paper. I mean, when we get down to it, do we really need communication and the written word? What good are they, anyway?

Eleven year old me had it far easier, because eleven year old me had a system and was allowed some leeway for being a child. Eleven year old me had very specific rules for writing thank you notes, in order to stretch them out and make them seem longer and nicer than they actually were. These were:

  • No contractions. “Was not” takes up more space on the page than “wasn’t.” Marginally.
  • Double spaces after all words and sometimes between each letter.
  • Start as far down on the card as possible, and make your signature take up almost half of the remaining space.
  • Fill up most of the page with stretched out words to show your “enthusiasm”, such as: “Thank you sooooooooooooo much.”
  • When in doubt, pretend you “forgot” and say you’ll “get around to it” whenever your mother reminds you to write thank you notes, preferably holding off until next Christmas rolls around.

Nowadays, of course, I write things that actually are nice and I’ve learned to fill up the page better, but it sure is great that this generation is comprised entirely of heathens and that I can get away with a “thanks for the gift, bro” and a quick hug when I’m given something by the younger crowd.

And man, don’t even get me started about writing letters to people. I apologize in advance to my friend David, who is LDS, going on a mission, and will receive maybe two letters from me in as many years, the same way his brothers did.

It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that writing is so horribly… horrible. Just awful, y’know. But you WordPress people that I follow, keep at it, you’re doing great and you’re very interesting. Anything I haven’t written is just splendid.


How to Survive NaNoWriMo (for the Family and Friends of Writers)

November has begun, which means it’s time for me to strap on my mourning spats and experience a little Bereavement Lite, because everyone I know will be utterly absorbed by NaNoWriMo this month.

NaNoWriMo, or “National Novel Writing Month”, is a challenge a lot of writers participate in. Essentially, you sign up to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And then you do it. It’s terrible.

This was worse for me back in Idaho, living as I did with a mother and a sister who both wrote heavily. For thirty days it was as though they didn’t even exist, some kind of ghosts that would appear only to make another cup of tea and compare word count goals for the day. Did you want your mother to make you dinner? “You’re eighteen and you know how to cook, Jean.” Wanted your sister to do your chores for you?  “No.” Times were tough.

Fortunately, I’m an adult and I’m out on my own, so all I need to do is come to terms with the fact that I will only speak to my father on the phone for the next month. Hi dad. Sure, he could put them on speakerphone, but all that would be heard is incessant typing and an occasional “How do you spell ‘veritable cornucopia of laryngitis’?”

But it’s not confined to my family. All my writer friends- of which I have a disproportionate amount- will also disappear. 10% of my Facebook friends will be gone (and this is a tragedy, because writers post the best things). A good amount of my favorite WordPress bloggers will fade from existence. A considerable amount of my social circle will deplete, to be filled with nothing but the faint sound of typing.

This would be better if the people who did NaNoWriMo actually liked it.

They don’t, of course. “I have to write 50,000 words this month, Jean. 50,000 words! Do you know how much that is?!” they will say. Sometimes all you will hear is the distant sound of their forehead hitting the keyboard. Often all you can do is throw chocolate at them and retreat.

Once my sister decided to write 100,000 words in November instead of 50,000. There was, appropriately, double the amount of complaints.

Whatever you do, don’t suggest that it’s the writer’s fault for participating in this event in the first place. The withering looks you get will be traumatizing.

But, to all you folks out there doing NaNoWriMo: Good luck. I’ll see you on the other side of this month. Please remember to eat.

Also please don’t murder me for being too loud while you’re trying to reach your word goal for the day. I have to play this computer game with the headphones unplugged. It’s very important.