Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reading Goals for 2015

Last week, I blogged about what I read in 2014. This seems like a good point to write about what I want to read in 2015.

I definitely need to read more plays, just one would surpass the number I read last year.

I'd like to read at least seven books that are either collections of poetry or books about poetry.

I'd like to read more adult fiction this year, but I'm content with keeping that number vague. (Maybe I'll finally read Moby Dick. I feel like that would count as "more," even if the number of novels on my list didn't increase.)

I'd like to read at least one book by a Nobel-prize-winning writer whose work I'm not well-acquainted with. I tried this in 2013, and I took an alluring trip with Alice Munro's Runway. This was in spite of my general avoidance of short story collections and the accuracy of The Toast's "How to Tell if You are in an Alice Munro Story." ("Nothing has ever happened to you except one thing, decades ago.")

I'd like to read two Pulitzer-winning books, at least one of them fiction.

I'd like to start reading more internationally (excluding countries I already read from semi-regularly, e.g., Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Ireland, and Canada). This challenge is very much inspired by this woman's goal to read a novel for every country in the world. But I don't have the time or stamina to read 196 novels (give or take) in a year. Instead, I'd like to pick two countries (or possibly two cultures within a country/region) and read some work from them over the course of a year.

This year, I'd like to read literature from South Africa and Lesotho, focusing particularly (though not exclusively) on work relating to the Zulu people. If you have any suggestions, definitely let me know!

That all sounds a bit serious.

Here are my other, completely arbitrary, reading goals (click here for a larger view):

When it's from a site called "PopSugar," you know the list is going to be weighty with gravitas.
Some of these are so simple that I've zipped through at least a dozen goals already. But other challenges seem to have set me up for failure before I've begun. For example, the only book I've found so far by an author who shares my B.F.B. initials is a 19th century memoir of an American privateer (and no one is 100% sure who wrote it, so it's a stretch). And I didn't cry when I read The Fault in Our Stars, so obviously the answer to "a book that made you cry" is going to be "the book I accidentally smothered in raw onions."

I don't know that I'll be able to fulfill all these goals, but I'm definitely excited to try. What are your reading goals for the year?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

50 Books List for 2014

Every year I try to read at least fifty books. What gets included on this list is bit arbitraryfor example, short picture books don't count, short poetry volumes usually do; individual comic book issues don't count, but trade collections of multiple issues do. I missed posting my list for 2013, but here's the list for 2014.

Underline of any color= graphic novel/comic book  

  1. Robin: Year One—written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, illustrated by Javier Pulido and Robert Campanella
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince—J.K. Rowling
  3.  Portraits of a Marriage—Sándor Márai, trans. by George Szirtes
  4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home—Carol Rifka Brunt
  5. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 1: Orientation—Thomas Siddell
  6. The Plain Janes—written by Cecil Castellucci, art by Jim Rugg
  7. Sweeney Astray—translated by Seamus Heaney
  8. Saints—Gene Luen Yang
  9. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 2: Research—Thomas Siddell
  10. Batman & Robin, Vol. 1: Born to Kill—written by Peter J. Tomasi, illustrated by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray
  11. Nightwing: Year One—written by Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
  12. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth—Warsan Shire
  13. A Town Like Alice—Nevil Shute
  14. In the Woods—Tana French
  15. Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 3: Reason—Thomas Siddell
  16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—J.K. Rowling
  17. Nightwing: The Lost Year—written by Marv Wolfman and Marc Andreyko; art by Joe Bennett, Jack Jadson, Jamal Igle, Jon Bosco, Keith Champagne, Alex Silva, etc.
  18. Zot! Book 1—Scott McCloud
  19. Surprised by the Voice of God—Jack Deere
  20. The Fire in All Things: Poems—Stephen Yenser
  21. The Book Thief—Markus Zusak
  22. Batman and Robin, Vol. 2: Pearl—written by Peter J. Tomasi; art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, Tomas Giorello, etc.
  23. Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight—Travis Langley
  24. Catching Fire—Suzanne Collins
  25. Sex at Noon Taxes—Sally Van Doren
  26. Nightwing, Vol. 1: A Knight in Blüdhaven—written by Chuck Dixon; art by Scott McDaniel and Karl Story
  27. Batman: The Heart of Hush—written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
  28. Mockingjay—Suzanne Collins
  29. Streets of Gotham, Vol. 1: Hush Money—written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
  30. Streets of Gotham, Vol. 2: Leviathan—written by Paul Dini; Mike Benson; and Christopher Yost, art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
  31. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination—Elizabeth McCracken
  32. Of Gravity and Angels—Jane Hirshfield
  33. Comfort Me with Apples—Ruth Reichl
  34. Batman: Streets of Gotham, Vol. 3: House of Hush—written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs
  35. Nightwing, Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes—written by Kyle Higgins; illustrated by Eddie Barrows, Eduardo Pansica, Geraldo Borges, JP Mayer, Paulo Siqueira, Eber Ferreira, Ruy José, etc.
  36. A Tale for the Time Being—Ruth Ozeki
  37.  Everything is Illuminated—Jonathan Safran Foer
  38. Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1: Demon Star—written by Grant Morrison; art by Chris Burnham (p), Frazer Irving (p), Bit artists (p), Nathan Fairbairn (c), Frazar Irving (c), etc.
  39. JLA/W.I.L.D.Cats—written by Grant Morrison, (art by ?)
  40. Batman Incorporated—written by Grant Morrison, art by Yanick Paquette and Chris Burnham
  41. Doc—Mary Doria Russell
  42. Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey—Nick Bertozzi
  43. Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love—written by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., art by Randy Duburke
  44. The Search—written by Eric Heuvel with Ruud van der Rol and Lies Schippers, art by Eric Heuvel, trans. by Lorraine T. Miller
  45. Brown Girl Dreaming—Jacqueline Woodson
  46. The Light Between Oceans—M.L. Stedman
  47. Bone: Out from Boneville—Jeff Smith
  48. The Search for Delicious—Natalie Babbit
  49. Dogs of War—written by Sheila Keenan, art by Nathan Fox
  50. March: Book One—story by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin, art by Nate Powell
  51. Lewis & Clark—Nick Bertozzi 
Last year I read thirty-six works of fiction, six volumes of poetry, five works of nonfiction, and three memoirs. Of those, twenty-three of the fictional works were graphic novels or comic book collections, as were three of the nonfiction texts and one of the memoirs. This means that over half (twenty-seven books) of my fifty books were comic books.

I shouldn't be surprised, especially given my recent project

I could tell I wasn't reading many (text-based) novels (something I'd like change this year), but I was bewildered to see so few nonfiction books on the list. I'd felt like I'd read more nonfiction last year. Then I realized. . .I read a lot of nonfiction last year, but mainly things that I can't count on this list: articles and blog posts, books I haven't finished yet, books I read huge sections of (for research), but not in their entirety (or in order). For example, Shelley Taylor's The Tending Instinct was one of the most interesting books I read last year, but I only completed about 80% of it.


My favorite novel of 2014 was, no contest, Mary Doria Russell's Docsharp and tender, full of pithy descriptions and heartbreaking characters.

My favorite nonfiction book was Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere, in part because it was exactly the book I needed to read at the time. I had read parts (if not all) of it before, but what struck me this time through was the graceful humility with which it was written.

My favorite poetry read was a tie between Of Gravity and Angels (I always end up loving Jane Hirshfield's work) and The Fire in All Things, which made me promise myself I'd read it again in a few years and see if I understood different elements.

My favorite memoir was March: Book One, which surprised me because I hadn't expected so much artistry from a book so closely connected to a politician. But the story is well-told and captures John Lewis' personal journey and hallmarks of the Civil Rights movement in a way feels simultaneously broad and intimate. It left me eager for the next installment.

My favorite "capes" comic collection was Batman & Robin, Vol. 1: Born to Kill. This was the first Batman and Robin of the New52 reboot; a change I wasn't looking forward to. (I had been upset when the New52 broke up the duo of Dick Grayson's Batman and Damian Wayne's Robin for the "return" of Bruce Wayne.) But now I want all my superhero comics to be as thoughtful as this volume. The tension between father and son is so believable that it keeps the story grounded in psychological realism, even as the crime-fighting enters the typically bizarre world of Batman villains. Tomasi was wise enough to focus on the characters first and the heroics second. And Gleason's artwork is full of atmospheric shadows and heart-rending visual parallels.

My favorite non-capes comic collection was Gunnerkrigg Court, Vol. 2: Research because that was the volume where I realized I was absolutely addicted to the strange scientifically-magical/magically-robotic boarding school Thomas Siddell had created. Siddell had also grown into his art style by this volume. I have not caught up to the online comic yet, so I can't recommend it in its entirety (and if the inclusion of same-sex relationships ruins stories for you, this will not be your favorite read). I think of Gunnerkrigg Court as "Harry Potter with female protagonists and adorable robots." If that sounds awesome to you, check it out.

In an upcoming post, I'll write a bit about my reading goals for this year. But I want to know: What were your favorite books for 2014? And do you have any reading goals for 2015? 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Promising Re-start?

I promised myself that I would start blogging again in February and update at least once a week for the rest of the year. And here it is the last day of the first week in February. . . .

If I don't post something before midnight, my New Year's resolutions will all turn into pumpkins, so here's a quick review of my last year's writing credits, sort of the clip-show episode of blogposts (except I've been so lazy about blogging in the last year that all this information is actually new).

I obviously haven't been writing here, but looking back, I did write and submit a fair bit in 2014.

I've had some poetry published.

 Poetry Quarterly (the most prosaic name for a poetry publication the editor could think of), Summer 2014.

The most recent Poet's Market, a publication I actually use a fair bit, so I was excited to have an example poem published here.

I wrote an essay titled "Mother Alfred: The Influence of Dick Grayson's 'Other Parent'" for an upcoming publication on Dick Grayson (McFarland, July 2015), which I'm absolutely tickled about.

(Possibly the dorkiest thing I've ever done.)

(And that's including this. Me as Gandalf the White for the opening of The Return of the King. Not even embarrassed.)

There are a couple other small publishing credits coming up, which I will mention here when they come out (or when I'm running out of actual blogging material).