My book acquisition ban: How did it go?

We’ve nearly made it to the fourth month of the year, so I’m also nearly done with my self-imposed three-month book acquisition ban. My goal was to not acquire any books from any outside source — bookstore, library, online, publishers — and only read books I already have in the house.

So how did it go? Well, I cheated a little. I did feel that I needed to read and review The Maze at Windermere, which came by way of a favorite college professor. And I bought one new book for myself, A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry by Gregory Orr, because it just looked so excellent (and it is). But otherwise I was pretty good! I’ve been reading books that have been sitting around for years, and feeling glad that I finally gave them the attention they deserve.

Though I’m not going to maintain such a strict ban for the rest of the year, I’d like to keep doing this as much as possible. It goes along with a theme in my life, which I could call “Be happy with what you have.” I want to stop chasing new experiences and potentialities and be more grounded in where I am right here and now. Reading the books that are patiently waiting on my shelves could be a help with that.

What books stood out for me during these three months? I’m really glad I finally read The Art of Waging Peace, a year after I bought it. I’m still thinking about its principles and how I can make them more active in my life.

And I loved Peter Dickinson’s creative approach to storytelling based on Old Testament tales in City of Gold, with outstanding pictures by Michael Foreman. This has been sitting around much longer, at least a decade or more. It’s these kinds of treasures that don’t deserve to be ignored just because I own them and theoretically could read them anytime. The moment is now!

I got a lot of pleasure out of rereading during these three months. I suppose it should be a pretty sure bet that I’ll enjoy books I liked enough to keep around after the first read, but that’s not always the case. I was especially impressed once more by Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and reminded that I need to read more of her fiction.

So, though I’m not counting or reaching for a numerical goal, I feel good about what I achieved and inspired to keep going. I know it will be great for me to penetrate my book collection further and enlarge my awareness of what I own.

How have your challenges been going this year? Are you revising any goals?

Challenge Update

How did I do with the reading challenges I undertook this year? Here’s a round-up of my progress, or lack thereof, along with my intentions for next year.

I always do well with the Book Blogger Discussion Challenge, perhaps because I set a reasonable goal for myself (one discussion per month), and so far I haven’t run out of ideas! Here are the topics I discussed this year:


With the Back to the Classics challenge, I fell short of reading from all twelve of Karen’s categories, but I certainly enjoyed what I did read. I made it to nine (earning two entries in the challenge giveaway) and am currently reading one more book which would count for pre-1800 (Don Quixote). I hope to finish DQ by the end of the year, but don’t think I’ll be able to post a review by then. Here are the categories and what I read:


I challenged myself to read the New York Times list of Six Books To Understand Trump’s Win, and am super impressed that I did it! You can find my reviews of these titles, plus Dark Money (which in my opinion belonged on that list), in my Trying to Understand posts.


Now, Mount TBR! I started out strong and on target with my goal of 60 books, but floundered in the middle and gave up. Next year I’m going to deal with this goal differently, given that I seem to have the most energy for it in the first months of the year. I did read 34 books from my list and am working my darnedest to finish #35, the aforementioned Don Quixote, which is actually a pretty impressive result.

  1. The Blackthorn Key – Kevin Sands
  2. Bronze and Sunflower – Cao Wenxuan
  3. Carry On, Mister Bowditch – Jean Latham
  4. The Chemical Wedding by Christian Rosencreutz – John Crowley
  5. The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
  6. Esperanza Rising – Pam Munoz Ryan
  7. Everyone Belongs to God – Christoph Blumhardt
  8. Excellent Women – Barbara Pym
  9. A Fugue in Time – Rumer Godden
  10. The Gilded Chalet – Padraig Rooney
  11. The Goose Girl – Shannon Hale
  12. Hell and High Water – Tanya Landman
  13. I Was a Stranger – John Haskett
  14. It Ends with Revelations – Dodie Smith
  15. The King Must Die – Mary Renault
  16. Life at Blandings – P.G. Wodehouse
  17. The Little Grey Men – B.B.
  18. Mansfield Park Revisited – Joan Aiken
  19. Midnight Is a Place -Joan Aiken
  20. A Month in the Country – J. L. Carr
  21. The Morning Gift – Eva Ibbotson
  22. My Cousin Rachel – Daphne Du Maurier
  23. One Half from the East – Nadia Hashimi
  24. The Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy
  25. Season of Migration to the North – Tayeb Salih
  26. Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death – James Runcie
  27. Smoky-House – Elizabeth Goudge
  28. Sophie Someone – Hayley Long
  29. The Spirit Within Us – Evelyn Capel
  30. Towers in the Mist – Elizabeth Goudge
  31. Troy Chimneys – Margaret Kennedy
  32. The Transcendental Murder – Jane Langton
  33. Why on Earth? – Signe Schaefer
  34. Wild Strawberries – Angela Thirkell


With Lark’s Backlist Reader Challenge, I read only one book out of my goal of ten (An Unnecessary Woman). Oh, plus I read The Little Grey Men aloud to my son. I like the idea of this challenge but I just had too many balls in the air at once.

I’ve already summarized my results from the Around the World project. I’m pleased with my progress on this one, perhaps because I had no particular goal for the year to meet or fall short of. A lesson for the future?

With that in mind, a challenge of mine for 2018 is going to be taking on fewer challenges. (Famous last words, right?)

I’m going to carry on with the Classics Club, but not do Back to the Classics. I’m going to continue Reading All Around the World, but not have a particular target for Mount TBR. My Backlist Reading will have to take a back seat for now too.

The Book Blogger Discussion Challenge isn’t really a reading challenge, and I love having discussions on my blog so it’s something I would do anyway. The linkups provided by the challenge hosts are a great help for connecting with other bloggers, and to me that’s the main point of the exercise.

One new challenge I do want to take on is the Chapter-a-day Les Miserables readalong. I just can’t resist the idea of reading a chapter a day of a single book for an entire year. Will it be too slow for me? Will I lose momentum? Or will it make the book feel more like part of my life than reading usually does? I can’t wait to find out!

What challenges have you undertaken this year, and how do you feel about them? What are you excited about for next year?

Reading New England: Preview and Sign-up Post

Reading New England


For the link-up page for state posts, click here.

For the link-up page for genre posts, click here.

For a New England Book List, click here.

Welcome to the official sign-up post for Reading New England, a 2016 challenge hosted here at The Emerald City Book Review. I’ve chosen twelve focus areas — the six New England states and six thematic/genre groups — to help us diversify our reading, but please feel free to pick and choose in your explorations of this wonderful region. Use the links above for linking your posts. Linking up will earn you extra points in the event giveaway(s) along the way, along with being a great way to share your discoveries with others.

What books qualify for this challenge? My idea is to include authors and books that represent the region in some way, bringing out its special qualities and characteristics. (For this purpose, books should be actually set in New England; books written by a New England author but set elsewhere would not qualify.) Classic authors to explore include Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and many more; contemporary possibilities could include Stephen King, Jane Langton, John Irving, Alice Hoffman…reader suggestions are very welcome. Here’s a list of books to help us get started.

Here are the twelve categories, with the months when I’m planning to focus on them here on ECBR (though you may read from any category at any time):

January: New Hampshire
February: Fiction
March: Maine
April: Poetry and Drama
May: Vermont
June: Nonfiction
July: Massachusetts
August: Children’s Books
September: Rhode Island
October: Speculative Fiction and Mystery
November: Connecticut
December: Readalong or free choice

Challenge levels:

To qualify, books must be read between January 1 and December 31, 2016, and must be posted about publicly in some way (blog post, Goodreads, Amazon, etc.). A substantial part of the book must take place in at least one of the six New England states. In the case of poetry, the poet should be strongly associated with or draw inspiration from the region.

Link up your posts here. Posts that qualify for multiple categories should only be linked in one.

A Single Leaf: 1+
Read at least one book from any of the challenge categories

Roots and Branches: 3-6+
Read at least 3-6 books from any of the challenge categories

Six State Challenge: 6+
Read at least one book representing each New England state

Genre Challenge: 6+
Read at least one book from each of the six genre categories (fiction, nonfiction, poetry/drama, children’s books, speculative fiction/mystery, freebie/readalong)

A New England Forest: 12+
Read at least one book from each of the twelve challenge categories

Will you participate? Link up below to let us know your plans!



Back to the Classics Challenge

I heard about the Back to the Classics challenge too late to join last year, so I was glad when Karen of Books and Chocolate decided to host it again. Visit the sign-up post for the full rules, but basically the idea is to read and post about 6-12 classics (pre-1965) in different categories during the year. Participants who complete the challenge will be entered in a drawing for a $30 gift card, but everyone can share in the rewards of reading and discussing great books.

Here are my current ideas about what I would like to read, but that may change during the course of the year. For economy’s sake, I’ve overlapped with my Classics Club list and other events wherever possible — hey, it’s not against the rules!

A 19th Century Classic: Armadale by Wilkie Collins

A 20th Century Classic: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

A Classic by a Woman Author: The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy

A Classic in Translation: The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse

A Very Long Classic Novel: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

A Classic Novella: The Aspern Papers by Henry James

A Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title: Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope

A Humorous or Satirical Classic: The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay

A Forgotten Classic: Saplings by Noel Streatfeild

A Nonfiction Classic: Three Houses by Angela Thirkell

A Classic Children’s Book: An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

A Classic Play: The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder

Are you participating in this or other challenges? What are your reading plans in 2015?