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2018 Reading Challenge | July

We have officially made it to the second half of 2018. I hope you’re doing well, and really hope you had a better reading month than I did. Is there a term for when you think you’ve read a large number of books, but when you look back at your actual stats the number is far fewer?

Delusion! That’s it. Anyway, although I did not finish as many books as I wanted to in July, it was quite a leisurely month. And that has been good for my soul. August is always the time of year when things feel busier for me, so all that R&R has hopefully prepared me to kick it into high gear. Anyway, before I get any further sidetracked and rambly, here is my July Wrap-Up.

Books I Finished in July:

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch – I read this book to prepare for the book club hosted by An Historian About Town, for which the discussion will be going on throughout August and September. I listened to the audiobook and the reader, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, is fantastic! Peter Grant is the main character and narrator, and to be honest I’m not a big fan of his. But the story and details kept me hungrily listening up to the very end (get more details about the book club [here], and this book [here]).

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – This was a reread for me, and I had such a deep reaction to it this time around. The first time I read Mrs. Dalloway was in college, and I enjoyed it, but not to the extent I did this time. I’ve put some better thoughts down in a journal and in a blog post draft, so you may see an elaboration in the future.

The Unexpected Inlander by Kellyn Thompson – I enjoyed this book very much, and I won’t say any more – because I have a book review for it [here] – apart from if you have the time to read it this summer please do so.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – This was my July Book of the Month pick. I’ve read a few story re-tellings/adaptations in the past couple of months, and was excited to dive into another. This Rumpelstiltskin-esque, fairy tale-inspired novel is full of detail, wit, extraordinary characters, kingdoms, and details that at first seem like charming tidbits, but then make major contributions to the story. As I was reading I kept thinking that this would be the perfect book to read aloud – one chapter at a time (each chapter contains at least two characters’ perspectives) – because of the drama, the richness, and the fantastical appeal.

Books I Did Not Finish in July:

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – I have seen this book everywhere, and prior to reading it myself, had only heard good things about it. At the beginning, I was intrigued. But for most of the time I was just bored. Blake Crouch did a great job setting up the science and theory that made up the plot of this story, but his sparsely detailed scenes and short lines of prose just weren’t for me. I need embellishment! An emphasis on character development and richness! And that’s not how this book was written. I DNF’d it on page 284 (342 pages in all), skipped to the back to read the very end, then without attachment, returned it to the library.

Books I Added to My Bookshelf in July:

I treated myself to a couple of bookstore shopping sprees, the main one being the Barnes & Noble (read about it here) and The Briar Patch (read about it here) spree (which I documented in my Instagram stories), as well as a Sherman’s Bookstore visit that had a purpose: to purchase the beautiful, shiny hardcover edition of Circe in time for a Madeline Miller discussion, and book signing, at my library. The bargain books were too enticing so I also picked up two more books there.

July 2018 Book Haul | There's Something About KM

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. Tolkien
Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray – read the post that this new edition (alongside an old edition) inspired me to write. 
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Cove by Ron Rash
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Circe  by Madeline Miller 

Books I Am Unhauling:

None. Because I’m a Reading Challenge failure.

Don’t read that as an invite to a pity party, because it’s not one – it’s true. The Reading Challenge I set for myself this year – back in December when I was much more optimistic – will not be completed. At my current reading rate, it’s just impossible. SO. Because I’m notoriously awful at the Reading Challenges I set for myself, I’m just going to ride this one out for the foreseeable future. Hey look, I’ve already planned something for 2019!

Now that my Debbie Downer speech is over, I can honestly say that I’m excited for the next couple of months – the end of summer, the beginning of fall, my birthday month, and a lot more reading. I hope you’ll share at least one book you’ve read this month down in the comments, or at least something you’re looking forward to in August. In the meantime, happy reading, blogging, writing, and living.


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  • booksofb

    Thanks for a great post – just one comment and it’s not meant to be critical in any way – just a question that’s been rattling around in my head as I’ve followed more and more book bloggers. I find it hard to relate to the comments I keep seeing around reading challenges, stats and metrics. None of these are factors that I’ve ever applied to my reading over the course of the years. They’re ever present and unavoidable in my work life – but never my reading – which has always been a hobby, a refuge, a safe haven. They all just make reading sound like more of a job than a pleasure. Does it ever increase stress and decrease satisfaction? Cheers, Brian

    • Kelsey

      I think this is a great discussion topic, so I’m glad you were curious enough to leave such a thoughtful comment and ask that question. As you’ve noted, the notorious Reading Challenge has a significant place in the book blogosphere. When I started my blog, a Reading Challenge was my way of ensuring I would have content each month (even if that only meant one or two posts) while I figured out what else I wanted my blog to be, and every year that followed I’ve played with different Challenge formats to try to find the one I was most happy with. Personally, I need a little bit of structure for everything I do – work, hobbies, leisure – to ensure that my stress levels stay low/manageable. Now that my blog has grown, and I have more “grounding” content, I see the Reading Challenge as a way to heighten my reading experience. I admit to being a little hard on myself for not strictly sticking with my Reading Challenges, but overall most of the fun is in seeing how they evolve, or the different avenues some of the books in those Challenges take me; there’s always room for modification. For example, since this year’s particular Reading Challenge has started to stress me out a little bit, I’m extending it into next year/infinity because I’m having excellent luck with finding and reading amazing books right now, and I don’t want my Reading Challenge to infringe on that.

      As far as more specific stats and metrics go, I know I dropped the STAT word above, but the only stat I currently keep track of is how many books I’ve read so far – and Goodreads does that for me so there’s really no extra work on my part. I know of some bloggers and booktubers who keep track of and break down more specific stats – genre, page number, year published, author gender, etc. – and that seems stressful to me, but is obviously pleasurable to them.

      So a simple answer to your question would be sure! Until someone who is experimenting with stats and Reading Challenges can identify when they cross the line into excessive stress and depleted satisfaction, that answer will be sure; yes. But when it comes down to it, the practice of identifying number of pages read or number of books read in X amount of time can heighten and improve the reading experience for some people, which as you know, is an experience of a very personal nature.

  • FictionFan

    I almost never achieve the reading challenges I set myself but I still have a lot of fun failing! 😉 Excited to see Vanity Fair on your list – one of my favourites. Have you read it before? And since you ask, the highlight of July for me was Suzanne Rindell’s Eagle & Crane – highly recommended historical lit-fic about aerial stuntmen and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW2…

    • Kelsey

      Yes, exactly! And if you can’t have fun failing, change the requirements! 😛
      I’ve never read Vanity Fair – I should have linked my recent post about it above (doing that now) – but it’s become very alluring to me so I may make it a near-future read. And wow, that sounds amazing! I love historical fiction and enjoy reading about that time period. I haven’t read much about that side of the war, though, so thank you for mentioning it.

  • You Can Always Start Now

    Read Midnight Riot also for book club (with you) and enjoyed. I had three books come in from the library all in one week so read read read. I hadn’t been reading as much in a while so enjoyed it. Came home and just read before supper. Nice way to unwind.

  • 3sistersabroad

    Very interesting regarding reading books. I finished one book, and purchased one and got one from the seniors library where I play bowls – carpet. I hope to finish both of these this month – August. I say hope, because I am finding that I don’t have much time lately. Even my recorded TV shows are filling up on the box. I have a couple of visits to the city this month for hospital appointments so will take a book with me on the train. Sometimes when I finish a book, I am unable to start another one as I have been so engrossed into the story that I feel I am being unfaithful to that story line, writer etc.

    • Kelsey

      Oh you are so lucky you can read on the train! I get severe motion sickness before reading even a full page (I’m very grateful for audiobooks because of this). And I am that way, too, when I finish an excellent book – I need time to think, breathe, think some more, and just sit in the aftermath of the story. Happy August reading! 🙂

  • AnHistorian

    I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed Midnight Riot!! It took me awhile to warm up to Peter, I found it took about a third of the book for me to see him as a real person.

    I don’t know that I’m going to complete my reading challenge- there are so many prompts i’m just not interested in, and I’m tired of spending time reading books I’m not enjoying. I need to find a creative reading challenge like the one I am doing this year that has a wide variety of prompts but is only 10-15 books long so that I can fit in other books.

    • Kelsey

      I’m still not warmed up to him – I was shaking my fist (literally and figuratively) at him up until the end. 😛 But I’m very excited for the discussion!

      That sounds like a great strategy – one that makes the end a little more clear and is easily adaptable for when books let you down.

  • An Historian

    I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed Midnight Riot!! It took me awhile to warm up to Peter, I found it took about a third of the book for me to see him as a real person.

    I don’t know that I’m going to complete my reading challenge- there are so many prompts i’m just not interested in, and I’m tired of spending time reading books I’m not enjoying. I need to find a creative reading challenge like the one I am doing this year that has a wide variety of prompts but is only 10-15 books long so that I can fit in other books.

  • Michelle

    I’m always looking for new books to add to my list. This is my first year doing a reading challenge as I finally discovered goodreads, lol. I never kept track before so I am trying to reading 50 books this year and only take them from the library or re-read books I already own (while waiting for books to come available). I’ve read 27 books so far this year. So I guess I’m on track as I know I read more in the fall/winter when I’m stuck inside 😉

  • actualconversationswithmyhusband

    I begin by looking over your “failure” list so that I might feel smug—I get so few opportunities, you know!

    And then.

    Ooh, what’s that one? And that?

    Now I have these books on my to-read list as well. You’re spreading your disease! (I love it, never change)

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