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Serial Reading App

I just heard about this on the Currently Reading Podcast. It’s called Serial Reading (check the App Store) and contains 550 books, all classics in the public domain. The idea is that you can have a “bite-sized” amount of text (e.g., 8 or 9 pages) delivered to you once a day at a specified time. It’s a manageable way to read some of those classics you always meant to without taking time away from your regular reading schedule.

For my first try, I’ve set the delivery for 5:00 AM and, for my first book, chose The Castle of Otranto. I’ve seen the real Castle of Otranto (built in 1480) in Otranto, Puglia in southern Italy and was reminded that I’ve probably never read the Horace Walpole story. However, having read the first installment, it sounds a little bit familiar. I might have read about it, or might have actually read it in some long-ago English class. Incidentally, Walpole’s story makes use of the name but apparently never set foot in Italy.

2019 Reading Resolutions

I’m determined to do a bit better in 2019 than 2018 (in which I read only 72 books). However, I’ve added a couple of other goals in addition to a total number of books.

— Shoot for 100 books, but pay more attention to quality than quantity. To meet a goal of 100 books, it’s very tempting (more than just tempting) to forego long books in favor of shorter ones. A bad habit.

— Read at least 2 classics that I’ve never read. I’ve singled out Middlemarch as one of them. i’m not yet sure of the second; it could be a Henry James, an Edith Wharton, or Little Women.

— At least one Deep Dive: For me, that means reading several works by one author, as well as biography(ies) and critical assessments. I’d intended to do a deep dive on Virginia Woolf last year and didn’t get very far, so that’s my goal for 2019. A secondary one might be Dorothy Parker, but she might have to wait until 2020.

— Read Your Shelves! I heard this advice several times on the Currently Reading podcast (a new favorite podcast) and realized that I need to add it to my resolutions. I’ve acquired so many physical books that I still haven’t read. The Kindle always seems to be my go-to medium. Also, since I love to read the latest buzzy books, I make use of digital loans and, once they arrive, they take priority over everything else. So my piles of physical books grow without being read. I’ll make a separate bookshelf category in Goodreads for From My Shelves, so I’ll know how well I’ve done at the end fo the year.

Best Reads of 2018

For several years now, my only reading resolution has been to read 100 books. I keep track of them at Goodreads and everything counts — fiction, nonfiction, poetry, audiobooks, essay and short-story collections, but not individual short stories. Novellas? I don’t know. I don’t come across many.

I made my goal of 100 books in 2011, then skipped three years, but met the goal in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Missed it again in 2018, by quite a lot, which I attribute to three different vacations in Europe. I never read much when on vacation. The days are full, dinners are late, after which I fall into bed.

I read just 72 books in 2018, and they included more nonfiction than fiction — which may be a first.

Five-star nonfictions: Pep Talks for Writers, by Grant Faulkner (founder of NaPoWriMo), Why Poetry by Matthew Zapruder (deserves a reread soon), Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire by Kurt Andersen, , Subliminal How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow, The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone, How to Write Non-Fiction by Joanna Penn, Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levi, The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz (a book that really did change my life), Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon (about intermittent fasting), Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim Parks, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis, Clean Meat by Paul Shapiro, The Library Book by Susan Orlean.

Five-star fictions: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith, The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller, American by Day by Derek B. Miller, Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith, Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart (4th in the Miss Kopp series).

Five-star poetry collections: Add Water, Add Fire by Karie Friedman, The Billy Collins Experience by A. M. Juster (a reread). In general, I don’t give star ratings for poetry (mostly because I have so many poet friends). But Friedman is deceased. And Juster’s book is a standout to read again and again.2