My 2017 Reading Challenge

I have found the perfect way to tackle my reading goal for 2017: a book challenge! I’m participating with 5 other people to add a bit of fun competition, but would love to have more of my friends do this with me.

The challenge: read a book every two weeks that adheres to the following criteria:

1. A book you read in school.

The Giver by Lois LowryImage result for the giver

I read The Giver in the 9th grade in Mrs. Galyon’s freshman English class, and was in awe of Lois Lowry’s ability to engross the reader so deeply into the world she created. I cannot wait to revisit this book.

 

2. A book from your childhood

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. WhiteImage result for the trumpet of the swan

I cannot tell you how many times I read this book as a youngling. It was one of the first chapter books I ever mastered.

Talking animals + music = the perfect book for me. And I remember there was a child in the book named Applegate, whom they all called “Wormy Applegate,” which I thought was hilarious.

 

3. A book published over 100 years ago

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan SwiftImage result for gulliver's travels

Published in 1726. I’m not sure if I read this one when I was younger or not, but I did suffer through the catastrophic failure of a movie starring Jack Black. I am more than confident that the long-enduring classic novel will be better.

 

4. A book published in the last year

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy ChevalierImage result for the edge of the orchard

Tracy Chevalier, the author of my favorite book, Girl With a Pearl Earring, released this in January of 2015. What I love about all of her books is a) the amount of research the does to paint an accurate portrait of the periods in history she writes about and b) how she manages to humanize and close the gap between us and these figures, who lived hundreds of years ago. The majority of her stories are about characters who meet or are involved with famous figures in history, and this one features Johnny Appleseed as a supporting character. How cool is that??

5. A non-fiction book

Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming Image result for marilyn monroe by barbara leaming

Norma Jean Baker, or as she was later known, Marilyn Monroe, has always held a special place in my heart. Her magnetism and sultry visage belied a naive women just wanting to be loved and accepted. This particular biography uses primary sources such as letters from Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, John Huston, Laurence Olivier, Tennessee Williams, Darryl Zanuck, Marilyn’s psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson, among others, whereas others rely on secondary sources to tell her story. I can’t wait to dive in.

 

6. A book written by a male author

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DefoeImage result for robinson crusoe book

Heralded as one of the best action and adventure novels of all time, Robinson Crusoe has been on my list for ages.

 

7. A book written by a female author

Mozart’s Sister by Rita CharbonnierImage result for mozart's sister book

I’ve always been fascinated by imagining what the friends and family members of people of world renown throughout history must have been like and what they went through. We more often than not get countless books and movies about the big boys like Mozart, but he had a family, too! This book marries my love of researching these people with historical fiction.

 

 

8. A book by someone who isn’t a writer

Where Am I Now? by Mara WilsonImage result for where am i now mara wilson

I was on the fence about including this book in this category. Whereas former child star Mara Wilson (that’s Matilda, y’all!) has spent the last few years KILLING it on her blog and Twitter, she has not published a book until now. I’ve wanted to read this since it was published last year, so I’m excited to have the opportunity now. I will more than likely be writing another blog post about it once I’ve finished it; I relate very strongly to her.

 

9. A book that became a film

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerImage result for the time traveler's wife book

Now is as good a time as any to see what the fuss is all about! I have heard really great things about this book. I look forward to reading it, then checking out the movie starring Eric Bana and my girl, Rachel McAdams.

 

10. A book published in the 20th century

1984 by George OrwellImage result for 1984 george orwell

Who knew that back in 1949, Orwell would be so right about what would happen in the future? We live in strange times. Can’t wait to cross this classic off my list and cringe about how eerily similar this Orwellian dystopia is to the media-obsessed 21st century.

 

11. A book set in your hometown/region

Haunted Dalton, Georgia by Connie Hall-ScottImage result for haunted dalton ga

This book was written by a local author whom I have met on a number of occasions through Dalton Little Theatre and marketing her Ghost Tours and Haunted Pub Crawls in Downtown Dalton. I’ve heard bits and pieces about haunted locales in my hometown, so this will be a really fun read. I’ll probably save it for around Halloween time!

 

12. A book with someone’s name in the title

After Alice by Gregory MaguireImage result for after alice gregory maguire

Anyone who knows me is aware of my obsession with Alice in Wonderland! This is really neat, because I didn’t know that one of my favorite authors, Gregory Maguire, wrote this until today. Maguire (who wrote Wicked, the novel on which the Broadway musical is based) specializes in taking these familiar stories and twisting them in a very bizarre yet intriguing way. He has a very distinct and unique writing style that takes a bit to get used to, but I am never left anything but entertained after finishing his books. I would highly recommend his Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (an alternative take on the Cinderella fairy tale) and Mirror Mirror (in which Snow White meets the Borgias).

13. A book with a number in the title

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules VerneImage result for 20000 leagues under the sea book

Another classic I’ve always wanted to read!

 

 

14. A book with a character with your first name

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnImage result for gone girl novel

This category was extremely, extremely difficult. Tanner is just NOT a common name (for men or women). After scouring the internet for awhile, my only options were:

  1. The Tanner Zane series, which is about “an upstanding Mormon with a secret cyber-hacking criminal past” (that’s straight from the dust jacket);
  2. The Tanner Novels (which I thought I liked the sound of, until I read the first line of the description of the series on Amazon, which reads: “Hired killer Tanner escapes from a Mexican prison and goes in search of revenge against the man who was to be his latest target”;
  3. “Judgement Day,” the story of an old man who suffers two strokes and dies with his head stuck between two spokes of a banister (thanks for those horrific flashbacks of almost crying in my sophomore college English class, Flannery O’Connor); or
  4. Gone Girl, which has a lawyer named Tanner in it. Though I’m not typically one to pick up psychological thrillers, I’ve read good reviews. We shall see!

15. A book someone else recommended to you

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan VreelandImage result for girl in hyacinth blue novel

This novel was recommended to me by my friend Jennifer when she and I discovered that we both love Tracy Chevalier! I do love historical fiction about subjects of Renaissance paintings, what can I say?

 

 

16. A book with over 500 pages

The Lost Symbol by Dan BrownImage result for the lost symbol dan brown

I really loved The Da Vinci Code, so I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. In my recollection, Dan Brown’s books read very easily and I finished The Da Vinci Code quickly because I could not put it down. So this should be a treat!

 

 

17. A book you can finish in a day

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Image result for alice's adventures in wonderland

Because it’s less than 100 pages, and I haven’t read it in a long, long time! I’m excited to go back to it as an adult and see how I interpret it.

 

 

18. A previously banned book

Gone With the Wind by Margaret MitchellImage result for gone with the wind book

The Civil War epic which is often cited as one of the most beloved novels of all time was banned by a California school district for the book’s portrayal of slaves in the antebellum South (because pretending it never happened is a great idea *sarcasm*) and for the immoral behavior of its heroine, Scarlett O’Hara. I’ve always loved about reading about the author, Margaret Mitchell, and how sassy and ahead of her time she was.

I debated putting this under the “more than 500 pages” category, because WHEW, it is a whopper. I enjoy the movie immensely, so I’m looking forward to reading this.

 

19. A book with a one-word title

Atonement by Ian McEwanImage result for atonement book

This book comes very highly recommended by my brother-in-law. It’s been sitting on my shelf for probably two years now. Sorry, Matthew! I’ll have it to you by…er…the end of the year!

 

 

20. A book translated from another language

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasImage result for the count of monte cristo book

Translated from the original French. I know a good many people who consider this to be their absolute favorite book (or one of their favorites, like my husband). Very excited!

 

21. A book that will improve a specific area of your life

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie KondoImage result for the life changing magic of tidying up

This book was recommended by my very tidy and very dear friend, Jess. I cannot wait to get rid of all the things! (Within reason.)

 

 

 

22. A memoir or journal

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin FranklinImage result for the autobiography of benjamin franklin

Ben Franklin has been a historical figure that has fascinated me throughout my life (what’s not to love about the guy that invented the power nap?!). I’m looking forward to reading his own words about his life and accomplishments.

 

 

23. A book written by someone younger than you

Halo by Alexandra AdornettoImage result for halo alexandra adornetto

This category was also extremely difficult, because, believe it or not, there have not been a lot of successful authors that have published works recently that are younger than me. You can interpret the category two ways: younger than you are currently, or younger than you at the time they published their book. I chose to take it literally and enjoyed the challenge of researching!

 

 

24. A book set somewhere you’ll be visiting this year:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldImage result for the great gatsby book

My second favorite book! Arguably one of the best American novels ever written, I am thrilled to be reading it again. It will be good research for when I direct the stage version this summer! Gatsby takes place in New York, where I hope to visit again ASAP to see my best friend.

 

 

25. An award-winning book

The Color Purple by Alice WalkerImage result for the color purple book

Because I apparently want to cry. And cry. And cry.

And because Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction for this masterpiece.

 

 

26. A self-published book

Miriamne the Magdala by JB RichardsImage result for miriamne the magdala

This one was fun, because I got to research self-published or “indie” authors. Some of them sound really great…others…not so much. There are times when an editor and publishing house really come in handy! This book caught my attention because it’s historical fiction and imagines the early relationship of Mary and Joseph. I’ve never heard of anything like it before, so it should be an interesting read!

 

 

This reading challenge is a big task, but one I’m SO excited to start! I’m currently finishing up Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which has been slow-going for me the last couple of weeks. I’m hoping to start this list next week. Will you join me in this challenge? Here are the categories again, so you can easily copy and paste them:

  • A book you read in school.
  • A book from your childhood.
  • A book published over 100 years ago.
  • A book published in the last year.
  • A non-fiction book.
  • A book written by a male author.
  • A book written by a female author.
  • A book by someone who isn’t a writer.
  • A book that became a film.
  • A book published in the 20th century.
  • A book set in your hometown/region.
  • A book with someone’s name in the title.
  • A book with a number in the title.
  • A book with a character with your first name.
  • A book someone else recommended to you.
  • A book with over 500 pages.
  • A book you can finish in a day.
  • A previously banned book.
  • A book with a one-word title.
  • A book translated from another language.
  • A book that will improve a specific area of your life.
  • A memoir or journal.
  • A book written by someone younger than you.
  • A book set somewhere you’ll be visiting this year.
  • An award-winning book.
  • A self-published book.

 

Comment below if you’ll be joining me, or with some books you’re wanting to read this year!

Advertisements

New Year, Better Me.

Until recently, I used the phrase “New year, new me.” New Year’s is a time for reinvention, for starting fresh and beginning again. But looking at 2017 in the last moments of 2016, I don’t agree with the phrase.

I don’t want a NEW me. I like me. Or, I’m beginning to, anyway. I don’t want to create a totally different me. I want to grow. I want to improve. Maybe instead of saying “New year, new me,” we should switch to “New year, better me.” I think I’ll start right now.

I have compiled a list of goals (I won’t say “resolutions,” because I feel like it’s been overdone and I almost never stick to resolutions.) So here, for your reading pleasure, are my 17 Goals for 2017.

1. Read 20 books.


Ever since I learned to read, it was very rare for me to be seen without a book in hand. Whereas I still possess a thirst and passion for reading, I read far less than I used to. I have tried to come up with half-baked excuses as to why I don’t read as much anymore, but the truth is that I just haven’t carved the time out to do it. I have gotten into a routine of spending about an hour before I go to sleep browsing the internet on my phone. This is a habit I will be breaking in the new year.

2. Go on more dates.

Of course I mean with my husband…but I also mean with my friends. It all boils down to not taking enough time to nurture my relationships properly. With a packed schedule, it becomes easy to neglect something as simple as calling up a friend and asking them to dinner, or scheduling a night or two each month to stay in and play board games with the hubs. And you know what? This goes for myself, too. I need to take myself out on dates more.

3. Keep on bloggin’.

Now that I have revived My Crunchy Crusade, I have opened the doorway to blogging again. I have set a goal of blogging at least once a week. I even have a shortlist of topics to write about for the next few months. Hooray for writing therapy! I hope you guys will stay tuned!

4. Meditate.

Image result for meditation

I know that meditation means many things to many people. A lot of people picture meditating as something a guru does, seated with their legs “criss-cross applesauce” (I’m bringing back that phrase, so help me), eyes closed and touching their index fingers to their thumbs, forming a circle. Whereas this is one way of doing it, it’s not the only way to look inward and achieve moments of peace. This year, I plan to seek these moments of peace throughout my day, living in the moment, taking in what I’m experiencing, and being truly present. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone home and been asked, “How was your day?” only to blink confusedly for a few seconds, trying to recall. I know I went to work and did my job, but how was my day? I hope to remedy this in 2017.

5. Make more art.

Image may contain: outdoor

This goes across the board. The arts mean a great deal to me, whether it be visual, performing, literary, you name it. There are a number of projects I already have lined up for the year: working on my blog/writing poetry, directing The Great Gatsby and hopefully being involved in a few other productions throughout the year, and working on chronicling the last few years with scrapbooking, to name a few. I plan on relishing any other involvement with the arts that comes my way. I have a creative soul, and I need to work on nourishing it more.

6. Drink more water.

Image result for drink more water

This one’s really straightforward. I am entirely convinced that I have spent the majority of my life mildly dehydrated, so I need to be more mindful of sipping water throughout the day. I could expound on the health benefits of water, or perhaps even the symbolism of water as one of the bases of life, but I’ll leave it at this: I need to carry a water bottle with me everywhere. Or chain it to my ankle; whatever it takes.

7. Whine less, celebrate more.

THIS. This is a biggie. I am susceptible to negativity. My anxiety seems to feed and thrive off of it. For my entire life, my factory setting has been more negative than positive. But as the entirety of my high school and a portion of my college life taught me, no one likes a complainer. No one. As a result, I have spent these past few years trying to negate the negativity. Though there are plenty of times where complaining is just a part of life and a healthy way to vent frustration, every day is a battle to remain positive and stop the whining. I plan on continuing this fight and trying to encourage others to do the same, because I would be a total hypocrite if I told people to stop whining without following my own advice. Thus, I created My Crunchy Crusade and also the Glass Half Full Initiative (#glasshalffullinitiative) to spread positivity and forward-thinking in life and on social media. What do you have to be happy about? Celebrate it! I know I will be in 2017!

8. Say “no.”

Image result for no cat

For those of you who know me, you know that I care a LOT about what people think of me. Like, a LOT. Though I’m beginning to be better about it, I make myself sick over disappointing people. What I’m learning, however, is that it is completely okay to say no to people. NO, I would not like to join your LulaRoe Facebook group. NO, I cannot join your committee/board. NO, I will not be able to run that errand for you. NO. It’s another daily struggle, but one I continually work on.

9. Stop apologizing.

In the same vein as saying NO, I have this very annoying tendency to apologize for almost everything I do. I don’t know if it’s a societal thing, where I’m afraid of ruffling feathers as a woman, or if it’s my own neurosis, but I apologize way too much. Sure, there are instances that warrant an apology. Running over someone’s foot with a shopping cart because you weren’t paying attention? Thoughtlessly insulting someone during an argument? Missing an appointment because you didn’t write it down? Yes, by all means, apologize with meaning and with your heart. Having a differing opinion and respectfully making a counterpoint? Not doing something for someone because it makes you uncomfortable? Standing up for yourself? No. No more.

10. Get outside.

Image result for get outside

Again, this is another instance where I’ve made half-baked excuses. I do not take enough time to be outside enjoying nature. There is more to life than sitting at a computer all day and then coming home to sit in front of a tv and go to bed. Here’s to embracing Mother Nature!

11. Stop comparing apples to oranges.

Image result for comparing apples to oranges

I believe we all have a tendency to look at other peoples’ lives and say, “What am I doing wrong?” I know I do, almost constantly. The thing is…no one knows what anyone else has gone through to get where they are. We all have so many factors contributing to how our lives turn out. Some people truly do live a charmed life, with very few things that ever go wrong for them. Some people appear to live that charmed life, but suffer on the inside, or hide the bad things very well. The fact of the matter is…none of us are the same, so we do ourselves and others a disservice by comparing one person to another. I catch myself looking at other women and making things a competition. She does this, she does that, she looks a certain way, she acts a certain way…why can’t I be/look/act more like her? That’s the wrong approach. Instead of comparing myself to these other women…why not try to be happy with who I am?

12. LET IT GO.

Image result for elsa

2017 is the Year of Elsa. Or…the year of Let It Go. Here’s one of my favorite memes about my struggle:

Image result for let go zelda meme

One of the main contributors (and there are many) of my day-to-day stress is that I hold onto the wrong things. Instead of hanging on to the simple delights of my day and the good things that happen along the way (I unintentionally rhymed, but I’m going to keep it), I tend to harp on the bad things. There are things that happen in life that suck. It is impossible to scrape by without being touched by some unfortunate occurrences. The biggies should be dealt with and may take time to heal from, but the smaller bumps in the road need to be LET GO. Sometimes nothing can be done. Agonizing will not help nor will it change the fact that something crappy just happened. The best we can do is take a small amount of time to be upset, then move on. Keep truckin’.

13. Get out of town!

In the new year, I plan to use this phrase to express my disbelief at what someone just told me.

“Did you know that most Muppets are left-handed?”
“Get out of town!”

No…I’m kidding. I plan to travel more. I was born and raised in Dalton, GA, and have traveled very little in my 23 years. It may not be in the cards to take a bunch of trips across the country, but I’m setting the goal of taking multiple day trips in the coming months. There’s so much more to see!

14. Be more like my dogs.

Image may contain: dog

You may be scratching your head at this one, but hear me out. My dogs are the most enthusiastic, loving creatures on the planet. Posy, my Basset/Boxer mix, has never met a stranger. She does not discriminate. If you have hands to pet her, she is your best friend. And don’t even get me started on their zest for life. They get excited about absolutely everything: meal times, lazy couch time, potty time outside, you name it. I can even start talking in a very excited voice to them, and they start wagging their tails and doing that cute little hopping dance that dogs do. It is precious.

So here are my goals-within-the goal, or “Lifestyle Tips from Pepper and Posy”:

  • Be unabashedly enthusiastic about the things that make me happy
  • Play hard, nap hard
  • Welcome new friends with open arms
  • Love unconditionally

15. Laugh, laugh, laugh. (And cry a little.)

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and indoor

One thing that I’ve found is very therapeutic in times of stress is to find the humor in life. This is where the old saying “laugh to keep from crying” comes into play. But sometimes, it’s okay to cry. They say laughter is the best medicine, but sometimes a good cry can help. Like, an ugly, snotty, toddler cry. As long as it’s not in public, because I think that might freak some people out at Kroger. But one thing I hope to do in 2017 is laugh more than I cry. Because life is short, and laughing makes you feel good. In my book, there’s not much better than when something makes you laugh so hard, it turns into a silent wheeze; you’re doubled over, tears streaming down your face, trying to get a grip. That’s what the world needs more of.

16. Be. Patient. (I mean it.)

When describing myself, I always use the phrase, “I’m a lot.” Meaning, I’m a lot to handle. I have an abundance of many things: personality, love, passion, drive. What I don’t have an abundance of is patience. I’m getting better about letting things settle and breathing, but I have a long ways to go. Perhaps one of the most important goals I’ve set for myself for the new year is that of being patient.

The Information Age has spoiled us all. Now, at our fingertips, we can achieve instant gratification on many fronts: sending a message to someone, posting an angry status in the heat of the moment, one-click shopping, looking up who sang that one song that’s been stuck in your head all day, etc. Some things take time. Some things you have to be patient for. And those things are usually the ones that are worth your while.

17. Lose 20 pounds.

I am so sorry to shift the tone so drastically with the last item of my list. Truth be told, I was extremely nervous to put this on the list and onto the internet for anyone passing by to read. But this is a big deal.

I am unhealthy. My bevy of poor choices in diet and lack of exercise have culminated in weight gain that goes beyond “happy weight,” a term which I hate. My sleep schedule and quality are shoddy. My head is foggy a lot of the time. My stress is through the roof. The time has come for me to take charge of my life, make better choices, and get it in gear. I am doing this for no one other than myself, and have laid it all out here on a public forum to hold myself accountable. This will not be an easy process, as I am used to eating whatever I want, not exercising, and staying up late, but I feel it is crucial to being the best version of myself I can be. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

With all of these goals laid out, I have a big year ahead! The time is now. The need is mighty. Negate the negativity. Live life. Be the ball (wait, I don’t think that one fits here.)

Anyway…I’m both excited and terrified of what 2017 has in store. Each hour brings us closer to toasting the new year, replete with potential and chances to evolve, to move onward and upward. I think most of my fear comes from being scared of not having the willpower to break bad habits, and of reverting back to past behavior. Which reminds me of the last two lines of The Great Gatsby:

…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

It’s not easy to move forward without looking back. Our past happened, and there’s nothing we can do about it except learn from what we’ve been through. Even though we are constantly pulled back into our past, we move forward as much as we can.

Here’s to inching forward together. See you in 2017!