2020: The Year of the Reading Challenges!

So I’ve never been much for reading challenges, but they are a big part of the Litsy community (are you guys on Litsy yet?  You NEED to be on Litsy!), and I’m finding myself drawn to all of them.  While I doubt that I’ll be able to complete them all, I am looking forward to seeing if I can find books from my TBR to fit some of the categories.  I’m not looking for new books to read as much as I am looking for creative ways to choose what books I knock off my already-huge TBR next!

I’ll probably be posting updates for these challenges on each month’s Rearview Mirror for my own records.

#ReadingUSA2020

Can I read a book set in every state in the US?  Bigger question:  Is there a book set in every state in the US in my personal collection here in this very house??  I’m still working on pulling together the list, but I think that I am going to be at least at 75% just from books I own.  We’ll see.

#ReadingEurope2020

So technically the original ReadingUSA challenge was last year, so the people on Litsy who completed that one are starting a new challenge of reading a book set in every European country this year.  While I’m going to focus on USA (so much easier), I’m also seeing if I can check off books for Europe as well.  This all ties into my overall goal of entering/tagging all of my books in LibraryThing (an ongoing project that may last years).  So far I’m through the “H” authors on my shelves and have found books for Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.  It should be pretty easy to check off the major countries, but I don’t anticipate just stumbling across a book set in, say, Slovenia. I’ll keep my eye out, but since I’m mostly focusing on books that are already on my TBR, I’m not sure how far I’ll actually get with this challenge.

#Booked2020

This is a random challenge with six categories for each season.  The categories for winter are:

  • Millennial Author
  • Hat/Head Covering on the Cover
  • #LiveandLearn – Subject Mostly New to You
  • Set in Hollywood
  • #CoverCrush
  • Finish in a Day

Again, I think I can find books either on my shelves or on my TBR list to fit all of these categories.

#AuthoraMonth

The host for this challenge gave everyone the opportunity to vote on what authors they would like for this challenge, and the top twelve were chosen.  January’s author is Fredrick Backman, so I may finally get around to picking up Beartown.  The idea is to read at least one book by the month’s author as a way of discovering some new authors.

#ReadWithMrBook

MrBook is a major member of Litsy and an active promoter of the community there.  He chooses one category a month and encourages everyone to read a book from it and let him know what has been read.  January’s category is “One-Word Title” – should be a pretty easy one to find on my shelves!

#YearoftheChunksters

The hosts for this challenge are encouraging everyone to check off some of those 500+ page books from their TBRs.  I don’t get myself embroiled in ridiculously long books very often, but I am going to see what’s on my shelves.  One chunkster a month may be a good goal.

Book Log

At the beginning of this year I started using an Excel spreadsheet to track my reading, and it’s been fantastic.  It lets me geek out on my personal stats, which I love, and has helped me keep track of what books have been reviewed.  However, I really have been wanting a physical book to use as well.  When I’m traveling and such, it’s nice to have something with me where I can jot down a few notes while I am still having all the book feels.  Plus, what happens if my computer crashes and I lose all my spreadsheets??  However, I’ve had trouble finding a book journal that reflects what I want.  Most of them have a lot of stuff for future planning, or try to be a combo book log and daily planner.  I finally found one on Amazon that is less than $6, has space for 100 books, and asks the exact questions I want to track.  I’ve been using this one for the month of December and it’s fantastic.  The first few pages are an index, and then each number links to a full page for that book.  It’s simple and does just what I need it to and no more:

I’m mostly passing this on in case any of you are looking for a book log also.  The price is so reasonable that it seemed worthwhile to mention it.  Here’s the link on Amazon (I get literally nothing out of you purchasing this; this is just me personally liking something, not me getting rewarded to plug an item) – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1695289064

The cover choices are kind of meh, but you can’t have everything!

So, do any of you participate in any kind of reading challenges?  Have any of you joined Litsy yet?  Let me know if you do!

Katy Carr series // by Susan Coolidge

  • What Katy Did (1872)
  • What Katy Did at School (1873)
  • What Katy Did Next (1886)
  • Clover (1888)
  • In the High Valley (1890)

Do you ever have books sitting on your shelf that you  know you are going to enjoy, yet somehow never get around to reading?  I’m not sure how long my anthology of the Katy Carr books, which includes the first four books in the series, has been gathering dust and getting moved from place to place, but I’m going to say at least a couple of decades.  And, surprise surprise, when I finally read these stories – I loved them!

As you can see from the copyright dates, these are old stories, written and published during a time when “family stories” were very popular (think:  Little Women).  These are simple stories that honestly are what I classify as “coming-of-age” books, without nearly as much angst and extramarital sex as those types of stories seem to include today.

These are terribly thrilling books, but they are gentle, delightful little stories.  The first focuses on Katy, the oldest of her family of several children (I can’t remember how many, five or six), who live with their widowed father (a doctor) and an almost-elderly aunt who does the housekeeping and minds the children.  The setting is a small town in Ohio near Lake Erie, so that alone kept me intrigued.  What the book lacks in intrigue, it makes up for in the pure interest of a glimpse into life at the time.

As is frequent in books from this era, Katy starts out as a rambunctious and careless child.  She gets very ill and almost dies, and has to spend a long time recovering, during which time she learns lessons in patience and thoughtfulness.  While Katy doesn’t lose her independence or intelligence, she does gain maturity and compassion.

In the second book, Dr. Carr fears that Katy has grown old before her time, since she has taken on the responsibility of the housekeeping after the death of their aunt.  He decides to send her and the next sister, Clover, to boarding school.  Again, it’s not necessarily the story as much as the setting that completely engaged me.  It’s a multiple-day journey to the boarding school in the Connecticut countryside, which means that Katy and Clover won’t be able to see their family for a full year.  This volume also follows a pattern from the time, when boarding school stories were very popular.  There are adventures and intrigues and delightful characters.  I was particularly entertained by their homeward journey, which included traveling on the Erie Canal, simply because it just was – which to me is one of the big differences between reading historical fiction and reading books that were written during an earlier time period.  Coolidge doesn’t explain the Canal or even describe it much – it’s just a natural part of the story, like an interstate would be in a book written today.

What Katy Did Next follows a third stereotype for books of the time period: the Grand Tour of Europe!  While Dr. Carr couldn’t afford to send Katy on such a journey under normal circumstances, he agrees to let her travel with a widow and her daughter, as a sort of companion/friend/babysitter.  In this story we discover one of Coolidge’s weaknesses – writing any type of romance.  There is a lot of potential here, but Coolidge keeps things so G-rated that it’s a little difficult to believe that Katy really has any type of romantic feelings for her young man at all.  This was probably my least favorite of the batch (which honestly isn’t saying much because I found all these stories delightful) just because there was definitely a lot of lecturing about history and historic sites, and it all got a little travelogue-y, but it was still a great deal of fun.

While I would have greatly enjoyed a story about newly-married life with Katy, Coolidge decides to shift her focus on the fourth book to Katy’s next sister, Clover.  One of the younger brothers (can’t remember his name), who is in his late teens, has been sickly, and despite the expense, it’s decided that the best thing for him is to travel to the clean mountain air of Colorado.  This book was absolutely fascinating because of the glimpse into “regular” life at the time.  It was so much fun to see Colorado in the 1870’s, that time period between it being a frontier and being truly “civilized” – when there were trains but not cars, when towns and communities were growing exponentially, when the concept of ranching was in its infancy.  Again, Coolidge’s weakness at romance is apparent in this story, but it was still a great deal of fun.

When I finished these books, I found out that there is a fifth (and final) story to the sequel, In the High Country.  It took me a little while to get a copy, and then an even longer while to get around to reading it, so I fear I didn’t appreciate it quite as much, as some of the details of the various characters had become rather fuzzy in the intervening weeks.  In Clover, that young lady ends up marrying a rancher who has immigrated there from England.  In In the High Country, the British rancher’s cousins (or maybe it’s his cousins neighbors? I can’t remember) also move to Colorado so that the brother can become a partner of the ranch and the sister can take up housekeeping for her brother.  This story starts in England and focuses a great deal on the inherent prejudices against the wilderness of Colorado (and Americans in general) held by the sister.  She is gradually won over by the warmth and welcome of Clover and the rest of the family, and of course finds love and happiness along the way.  It was mostly fun to see several loose-ends tied up for the Carr family, and to be able to think of them all contently living out the rest of their days.

All in all, while these aren’t books that will keep you glued to the pages, they were relaxing and happy reads, with a great deal of fun to be had just from the descriptions of everyday life at the time.