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jfetting's 100 books in 2017

100 Books in 2017 Challenge

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Jan 1, 2:06pm Top

Last year I failed miserably in this challenge (57 books) after several years of 100+, so this year I'm really for real going to read 100 books.

Specific goals:
1) 20% nonfiction
2) 20% books off the 1001 books to read before you die combined list
3) 20% books off my shelf

Wish me luck!

Jan 1, 3:06pm Top

The best of luck to ye, Dr. Jennifer.

Jan 1, 3:06pm Top

Good luck! All the best for 2017.

I think i shall steal your goal of reading 20% nonfiction. i am always conscious that I don't read enough non fiction.

Jan 1, 5:29pm Top

I keep adding nonfiction books to my TBR list, and then not reading them. I'm hoping to change that this year.

Jan 2, 6:34pm Top

Happy 2017 jfetting !

Jan 3, 7:54pm Top

#1 The Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes ****

Hayes argues that while meritocracy (that the ruling class is composed of the best/brightest/smartest/wisest etc, regardless of class or caste) is a great idea in theory, in practice it results in a hypercompetitive world in which the elites (usually wealthy) rig the system so that the best/brightest/smartest/etc in lower economic brackets do not, in fact, have access to the same education, opportunities, and power as the idiot children of the wealthy (I am paraphrasing). His solution is activism. He does not leave me optimistic. It is a disheartening time.

Published in 2012, Hayes seems to have almost predicted the current political climate in the US and the results of the 2016 election (not specifically Trump, but someone like Trump, and the anger against people like Clinton). To me, the most interesting quote is the following:

"This means that we are cursed with an overclass convinced that it is composed of scrappy underdogs, individuals who are obsessed with the relative disadvantages they may have faced rather than the privilege they enjoyed."

Fact, although I would argue that many, many people in many, many classes are also convinced that they are scrappy underdogs who are obsessed with the relative disadvantages they may have faced, while ignoring their privilege.

Edited: Jan 6, 7:18pm Top

Two short ones in succession:
#2 Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry ***** (and the second NF book!) (and a re-read)

I've read it before, but this time I work in an environment where this stuff actually matters (it matters in a lab, too, but not to the same extent as in an office building). Everyone can work to improve their emotional intelligence, and this book give lots of helpful tips. I would love to buy it for various people, but that would probably not be taken well.

#3 The Prophet by Khalil Gibran *****

Not sure how I've never managed to read this one. I've seen bits of it before (the section on the children is the one with the 'your children are not yours - they are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself' bit). The whole thing is lovely.

Jan 6, 4:05pm Top

Excited to follow your reading again! I've also somehow only read excerpts of The Prophet as well. Need to remedy that this year.

Jan 6, 7:47pm Top

I read The Prophet in college--may still have a copy tucked away somewhere, although it's not in my catalog. It was all the rage in the late 60s on college campuses.

I'm really trying to concentrate on my own books this year, after only reading 8 off my own shelves last year while adding 32 unread books ( I did read 52 of the 84 books acquired.). I've set a goal of 50. I read 15 nonfiction last year which is pretty par for the course.

Jan 7, 10:08am Top

I can see how The Prophet was big in the late 60s - it was originally recommended to me by soe lovely former-hippie friends.

I've been really bad in recent years about acquiring books and then reading things from the library. Nothing wrong with libraries, obviously, but I do need to do something about my own books. Even though I've been in Chicago now for a little over 9 months, I still don't have a library card, so I'm actually making a dent in the physical, on-my-shelf TBR pile. Of course, this means I'm not reading the new books that people are talking about.

Jan 7, 6:28pm Top

#4 Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome ***** (off the shelf #2)

This is an absolutely hilarious book. After a couple of chapters I had to go look up when this book was written because the humor is still so fresh and not at all dated. Turns out it is from the 1880s or 1860s or something, which blew my mind. One of the funniest books I have ever read. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

My copy is a lovely Folio Society edition with great cartoon-y illustrations and beautiful, soft, shiny paper. Also highly recommended, if you can get your hands on a copy.

Jan 7, 9:43pm Top

I strongly suggest you go find a copy of To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis and read it before Three Men in a Boat fades from memory!!!

Jan 8, 10:04am Top

Added to the wishlist. So it's a time travel book? Does someone time travel and meet up with Jerome et al?

Also, thank you for enabling me to go acquire a new book (even if it is through the library)!

Jan 8, 12:31pm Top

>13 jfetting: Do you really want me to answer that question? ;-)

Jan 8, 11:12pm Top

Seconding reading To Say Nothing of the Dog soon. I also loved Three Men in a Boat, and Willis is the best.

Jan 9, 8:35pm Top

>14 ronincats: Probably not!

Jan 16, 6:01pm Top

#5 In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin ***

Nonfiction book #3 was a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for more about the landscape and the geology and the fossils; instead, it was a series of vignettes about various sheep farmers and former Nazis, combined with some stories about Darwin and Butch Cassidy (separate, not together). While Chatwin was significantly less cranky than Paul Theroux, he was also less entertaining than Theroux. I'm not sure if I was in the wrong mood, or if this genre is just not for me.

I picked this up b/c I've seen many, many beautiful photos from people who have gone hiking in Patagonia, and I badly want to go there myself, but it didn't work for me.

Jan 16, 6:17pm Top

>11 jfetting: I really enjoyed Three Men on the Bummel, too, which sees the same group travelling around Europe. As with Three Men in a Boat, the humour still works just as well today.

Jan 19, 8:04am Top

I'll add that to the TBR pile too. Thanks!

#6 March, book one by John Lewis *****

I've never read a graphic novel-type book before. I've always dismissed them as comic books, and not worth my time (although I would say things like "Oh, I should read Maus" every once in awhile). But I was wrong - it's a much better style than I'd expected. It works really well for a memoir, especially of a life as eventful and full of action and historical events as John Lewis's. He is a national treasure, and the book is great.

Jan 20, 7:18pm Top

#7 March, book two by John Lewis and #8 March: book three by John Lewis both *****

This trilogy was wonderful. I have a newfound respect for the graphic novel. It's a great genre for this story, and makes the events Lewis described come alive. Which makes this a pretty emotional book, given the number of times he or other people are beaten until they black out. The whole trilogy is told alternating between Lewis's life and Obama's Inauguration Day, and I cried multiple times. Especially reading it today.

Jan 20, 8:13pm Top

>19 jfetting:, >20 jfetting: I have heard so many wonderful things about this trilogy. I'm also not into graphic novels, but I will make an exception for this.

Jan 22, 10:19am Top

#9 Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin ****

This was a dark one, but still a great read. Inspector Rebus gets sent to London to help find a serial killer; Rankin throws in a lot of hints that made me think I knew who the murderer was, but that turned out to be misleading. I enjoyed it very much.

Jan 22, 10:24am Top

#10 Evening by Susan Minot **1/2 (off the shelf #3)

Meh. A wealthy, dying woman continually flashes back on her deathbed to a weekend she spent at a wedding in Maine. Despite her 3 husbands and her giant piles of money, she has apparently been unable to get over an engaged dude she banged that weekend. Epic true love.

Jan 26, 10:21pm Top

Whew! I love the books you read. I might have to grab a couple for myself...

Feb 2, 10:23pm Top

Oh, I'm glad that John Lewis's March got your thumbs up. Will have to check it out, I heard all about it earlier this year. (Tumultuous and nerve wracking times!)

Also, I did love Three Men in a Boat and To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Good luck with your 2017 reading, but looks like you're off to a great start. :)

Edited: Feb 5, 5:43pm Top

#11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16
Griffin and Sabine, Sabine's Notebook, The Golden Mean, The Gryphon, Alexandria, The Morning Star all ****
Morning Star = book off the shelf #4

I have been quite sick lately, on day 14 of one of the worst colds I have ever had. I haven't had much attention for reading, so today (feeling a bit better) I made my way through some of these old favorites. All but The Morning Star are re-reads. I'm not entirely certain what on earth is going on with these, especially the last 3, but I enjoy the pretty pictures and the interactive nature of the series (just love reading other people's mail!). I wish people sent me beautiful postcards from all over the world, and letters on homemade paper.

Feb 5, 5:54pm Top

>23 jfetting: Great review! Thanks for the warning.

Feb 5, 6:40pm Top

>27 pamelad: you're welcome!

#17 Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl ***** (re-read)

If you haven't read it, you should.

Edited: Feb 5, 7:07pm Top

Good news! You can have beautiful postcards from all over the world.

Check out www.postcrossing.com

I've been sending and receiving postcards and little messages of friendship for over a year now.

Another LT member turned me on to it.

Feb 5, 7:15pm Top

>29 nrmay: REALLY?!?!?! This is the best news.

Feb 5, 7:37pm Top

>29 nrmay: I've just signed up. I'm so excited to know that this exists!!

Feb 6, 1:38pm Top

I'm so happy you decided to try postcrossing!
You can see my profile. I'm nrmay on that site too.

Since Christmas of 2015 I've received 246 cards from all over. I've exchanged notes and letters; received invitations to visit; and sent and received stamps, coins, momentos and books. I even met one of my postcrossing friends. She's an artist in Oakland CA.

I sent a card to Switzerland today!

Feb 6, 5:35pm Top

Postcrossing is lots of fun. I haven't done it for a while since I have enough regular overseas postcard pals that I really didn't have the money for Postcrossing, or not more than one or so a month which seemed pointless.

re Griffin & Sabine, I don't recommend the new volume which takes place after The Golden Mean and before The Gryphon. It covers Griffin and Sabine getting to Alexandria and just felt sort of unnecessary (plus you're in a new country for a week and manage to get overseas mail there? I know it's a fantasy series, but it is basically set in our reality...). So much tactile pleasure in those books though.

Feb 7, 10:54pm Top

Friends of mine named their cats Griffin and Sabine. :)

Postcrossing looks fun, I was quite an avid Bookcrosser (http://www.bookcrossing.com/) when I had the time.

Feb 14, 8:28pm Top

#18 Morning Star by Pierce Brown *.5

This trilogy started out relatively well and then turned into torture porn. I skimmed/hate read this book, and seriously considered googling the outcome so that I could stop reading about beatings.

Feb 14, 11:14pm Top

>35 jfetting: You are making me glad that I resisted getting started on this series, as torture porn is something I simply cannot abide!

Feb 15, 7:17pm Top

>36 ronincats: Torture porn may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they are extremely violent and have very little plot.

Feb 15, 10:21pm Top

I do love the description "hate read", although I feel your pain. (Why do we insist on finishing books that are horrible? Unless we have to for study, we really should be nicer to ourselves.)

Feb 16, 11:09pm Top

>37 jfetting: Somehow, you just aren't selling me on these books, Jenn.

Feb 26, 2:54am Top

>28 jfetting: Took your advice and read Man's Search for Meaning. Thank you.

Feb 27, 8:51pm Top

>40 pamelad: It's pretty amazing, right?

Mar 5, 9:33pm Top

#19 Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman *****

I love his short stories. These are great - the collection may actually be as good as Fragile Things, and that is saying something.

Mar 11, 1:30am Top

>41 jfetting: Yes it is. I've lent it to a friend, and foresee recommending it to all and sundry.

Edited: Mar 14, 7:24pm Top

#20 Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson **** (nonfiction #5)

I've been watching Victoria on PBS lately, and quite enjoying it, but you can never tell what is historically accurate and what is completely made up. So I read this enormous biography. She lived a long time and there are a corresponding number of pages. Previously I had read and enjoyed Wilson's After the Victorians, and this biography was also very good. Apparently V & A were actually very much in love (awwww) although they fought a lot, and she was a pretty terrible mother.

Mar 14, 7:28pm Top

#21 A Death in Sweden by Kevin Wignall ***

This was a free Kindle First book that actually did not suck. It wasn't great, but "secret assassin in Europe" is really one of my favorite genres, and even inferior ones keep me occupied.

#22 The Trespasser by Tana French ****

I originally thought I was going to give this one 3 stars, since the narrator really annoyed me at first, but she grew on me. The mystery wasn't really that mysterious, but I enjoyed how Antoinette and Steve solved the crime. I basically read it in one sitting, which should tell you something.

Mar 19, 3:05pm Top

#23 The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes **.5 (nonfiction #6)

On one hand,
1) he's probably right - sugar is going to kill us
2) he makes the really good point that currently, there is a lot of unnecessary and incorrect moral shaming around overweight/obesity. After all, if a calorie is just a calories, and generating a calorie deficit is all that is needed to lose weight, then obviously everyone who is overweight/obese is lazy and/or gluttonous. But the fact is that calories aren't all equal, and people who are overweight/obese AREN'T morally lacking and it isn't helpful to treat them as such. BC for many people, there is a lot more to weight loss than eat less and exercise more. Sad but true.
3) I did not know that cigarettes had sugar in them

On the other hand:
1) Taubes rants against the government and the sugar industry and scientists who mistake correlation for causation when it comes to dietary fat and obesity/diabetes/etc, and then goes and mistakes correlation for causation when it comes to sugar and obesity/diabetes/etc
2) He also throws around a lot of meaningless stats - 5 people had diabetes in 1800, say, and then the number skyrockets to eleventy billion in 1900, without providing any perspective (what % of the population, Gary. Not raw numbers)
3) This book is mind-bendingly, eyeball-meltingly boring, and WAY TOO LONG
4) After I finished, I went out and bought a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal

#24 Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger *** (nonfiction #7)

This one could have been much longer. I wanted more examples of how people band together in groups/tribes/military units, and how modern life has broken these types of bonds for many of us.

#25 To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis *****

Ronincats and mabith were absolutely right - this book is fantastic and I loved it. I was hoping it would be a "someone goes back in time and meets Montmorency and Jerome et al on the boat", and it wasn't really (although there is one memorable scene...), but it had the same delightful feel as Three Men in a Boat, plus it was hilarious, plus there was time travel. Thanks for the recommendation, you two. I loved it.

Mar 19, 5:54pm Top

#26 Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann **** (1001 book #1)

I read this one slowly because I enjoyed it and because it required a little more concentration than may average before-bedtime reading. It's a sort-of retelling of the Faust story, set in pre-WWI, WWI, and 1920s Germany (but written by the entertaining and unreliable narrator during WWII). The narrator is telling the story of his brilliant composer friend, who made a pact w/ the Devil, and comparing his story to that of Germany during the Hitler years.


Mar 20, 10:09am Top

>47 jfetting: I somehow lost your thread this year, but now I've found it! I felt the same about The Trespasser, still great Tana French, but it didn't grab me right away. Not my favorite of hers, but still awesome.

I want to read another Thomas Mann book sometime (although reading Proust is putting a dent in my desire to read anything challenging besides it). All I've read so far is Buddenbrooks (loved it) which I understand is his most straight-ahead novel. Where would you go next for Mann?

Also, I'm jealous that you're back in Chicago! We're tied here for the next 20 years. :-(

Mar 20, 5:40pm Top

1 - Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the best sugar cereal there is, so I fully support that choice (my hippie parents' restrictions on what we could eat at home are partly responsible for my sister and I being absolutely junk food/candy fiends).

Glad you enjoyed To Say Nothing of the Dog! I enjoyed it myself, though so many of the references to writers are Edwardian with their peak being in the inter-war period which kept jolting me out of the Victorian setting.

Glad to see your thoughts on Tribe. I've been eyeing it recently but would want more of what you mention.

Edited: Mar 20, 8:10pm Top

>48 japaul22: I am so happy to be back. I enjoyed my time in St. Louis and in Maine, but Chicago is home in a way that they never could be.

Even a less-great Tana French novel is pretty freaking good.

I've only read Buddenbrooks and Doctor Faustus, and want to read more Mann in the future because I think both are pretty great. I'm torn on recommending Faustus to you - on one hand, it's wonderful. On the other hand, you are a professional musician and there is a lot about music in the book that I would have no idea if it is correct or not, and which may drive you nuts. But the narrator is fanastic. I'm thinking of either The Magic Mountain or Death in Venice for my next Mann. One is MUCH shorter than the other.

Mar 20, 8:09pm Top

>49 mabith: My parents were very lenient on the sugar cereal front, and I'm still a junk food fiend. Some things are just delicious, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch is one of those things.

The more I think about Tribe, the more I wish he had expanded it. Still worth a read, but unsatisfying.

Have you read any other Willis? Is the rest of the series as good? I kind of want to read more of her work.

Mar 20, 8:13pm Top

#27 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark ***** (reread)

God, I love this little novel. Miss Brodie and her set are a delight. Because I am also a giant fan of the movie (Young Maggie Smith at her most wonderful), I hear it all in Maggie Smith's voice.

Mar 20, 8:20pm Top

So glad you enjoyed To Say Nothing of the Dog!! Yes, that one memorable scene...
Willis writes in a lot of different ways and even the other time travel books are very different in tone. Perhaps the closest in tone to this one is Bellwether, which does not involve time travel but has the same whimsical tone, as does her newest, Crosstalk.

Mar 22, 1:32pm Top

I commend you for reading and summarizing a book that is "mind-bendingly, eyeball-meltingly boring, and WAY TOO LONG." My two cents: I gave up refined sugar last November (along with some other things) and I'm not tempted to go back because I feel like I no longer have those ups-and-downs with energy (I also gave up caffeine) and I'm no longer my sweet tooth's bitch, which has really helped with my self-esteem. I envy those who are able to eat it in moderation with no ill effects, but, alas, I have accepted that I am not one of them and haven't been since I was 27. Bitter pill to swallow. *sigh*

I also did not know that cigarettes had sugar in them. And I also hate raw numbers in a vacuum, and I'm not even a scientist :-)

Mar 23, 8:54am Top

I keep toying with the idea of giving up refined/added sugars, because I am absolutely my sweet tooth's bitch and now that I am older my metabolism has stopped letting me eat whatever I want with few consequences. I was hoping the Traubes book would inspire me, but it had the opposite effect. I've heard several anecdotes like yours (but oh, no caffeine! how?!?), and maybe someday I'll be able to do it too.

The problem is that I have no willpower - I say one morning "ok, no sweets today!" and then someone at work brings in donuts and my resolve goes out the window.

Edited: Mar 23, 5:27pm Top

My house for all of early childhood had NO junk food (candy, chips, soda, etc... except on rare occasions), and really almost no processed food at all, so it went a bit further than sugar cereal, but who knows. We couldn't even put butter or salt on popcorn for the early years (just nutritional yeast). When I hugely cut sugar in my life my desire for salty went into hyperdrive, so I think there can still be a lot of difference in how individuals react to dietary shifts. I don't buy many sweet things beyond sorbet in the summer, and my willpower is great at moderation when there are witnesses, so that works for me mostly. Willpower is variable though, and for most keeping to moderation actually depends on NOT abstaining totally (studies on this come up a lot in popular science books relating to psychology/general brain stuff).

I've read all of Connie Willis' time travel books and Bellwether and have enjoyed all of them. There's still humor in the other time travel titles (just not the driving force), and actually To Say Nothing of the Dog is my least favorite of those. Loved Bellwether, I laughed so much in that.

Edited: Mar 24, 10:37am Top

I do not preach on this subject. It took me a long time to accept that I didn't want certain things in my diet. I went off to a health retreat where they fed you delicious vegan whole foods and presented lectures about how various substances/foods/whatever affect your body and made you go for long walks in the woods. Without that immersive experience I doubt I'd have had the willpower to make a bunch of changes at once. But now it doesn't take a LOT of willpower; it's actually understanding and feeling the effects that keep me on the path.

I had to do it. I had no energy. My mind is a lot clearer now and that's my biggest motivator. I hate feeling ineffective.

Alas, it sucks not to be 27 anymore, right? Ah, hamburgers, pizza, whole pints of ice cream, cakes, cheesy pasta, fried fish....booze. Good times.

ETA: And I'll never stop missing Coca-Cola. Coke is a beautiful thing. And I agree >56 mabith: I don't totally abstain from everything. I let myself nibble a little cheese or meat every now and then. But I am actually scared of the white sugar and caffeine.

Yesterday, 8:11pm Top

>57 citygirl: Coke IS a beautiful thing. I get to have 1 per week, and I savor it. Close the office door, drink the coke...ahhhh....

A health retreat with someone else cooking delicious vegan food and making me go for long walks in the woods sounds fantastic.

>56 mabith: I'll have to read Bellwether and the rest, then.

I just got back from a trip to Savannah and I'm really very glad I didn't decide to try to cut back on sugar and other bad things before I went... I'm from Northern Illinois, but Southern food is my weakness.

Yesterday, 8:14pm Top

#28 The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark ****.5

This was almost as good as Miss Brodie. It's set in London between VE day and VJ day, and centers on a sort of boarding house for young, unmarried working girls. The action slowly builds (I think I was about halfway through before I realized that a tragic event was coming up), and then hits you all at once. I loved it.

Yesterday, 8:24pm Top

I must read more Muriel Spark. I listened to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and I liked it, but audiobooks are really just not for me. I suspect if I reread it in paper form I will LOVE it.

Yesterday, 8:29pm Top

It is worth a re-read, and I can especially see how difficult an audiobook would be, especially if the reader was a non-Scot reading in a Scottish accent.


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