Anyone cold out there? Anyone?
Welcome to February, friends!
2023 is 1/12 of the way over already, and it’s already been a pretty great year for reading. (Other things, ehhhhhh, but reading? Excellent.) I’m pretty thrilled with my decision to participate in the 2023 PopSugar Reading Challenge. When I have the time and mental space for them, reading challenges always spark new reading creativity in me. I discover new authors, rediscover old favorites, and get totally jazzed about reading all over again. I love being able to mark off categories on the sheet, and I’m always excited to move on to my next great read. I’m already a little sad for when I finish this!
But really, it’s great to be this excited about reading again. Not that I’m never unexcited, it’s just…things feel fresh this year in terms of books, and I love that. And I hope you’re feeling this enthusiastic about whatever reading plans you have as well.
Let’s get this roundup started, shall we?
Books I Read in January 2023
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (no review; read as part of my personal Read Harder challenge)
2. House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon
3. Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (no review; read out loud to my daughter)
4. The Other Dr. Gilmer: Two Men, a Murder, and an Unlikely Fight for Justice by Benjamin Gilmer
5. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
6. We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry
7. The Return by Sonia Levitin
9. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
10. On My Swedish Island: Discovering the Secrets of Scandinavian Well-Being by Julie Catterson Lindahl (review to come)
11. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (review to come)
12. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (review to come)
13. A Shot in the Arm! by Don Brown (no review; read out loud to my daughter)
14. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (review to come)
15. Book Lovers by Emily Henry (review to come)
16. Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu (review to come)
So much fiction! I’m usually so much more of a nonfiction reader, so this has been a fun switch-up. That’s why I enjoy the shake-up of a reading challenge; it gets me out of my familiar ruts and into new territory, challenging my brain a little and taking me to new places. I don’t think I could have loved We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry any more than I did; I finally got around to reading With the Fire on High and Before I Fall and Dumplin’, even though they weren’t on my TBR (just my mind-TBR);I’m chugging along on my own personal Read Harder project; and I got super lucky and snagged a copy of I’m Glad My Mom Died from the library, despite there being a line approximately 348237498328932 people long. It’s been an excellent month for reading!
Not quite so behind in reviews now. I’m catching up!
Twelve fiction; four nonfiction; one graphic novel. Five of these books came from my TBR; one came from my own shelf.
Reading Challenge Updates
I’m eyeball-deep in the 2023 PopSugar Reading Challenge and I’m loving it! New books, new authors, new genres, my brain needed all of this so badly, and I’m having SO much fun with this. Here’s where I’m at so far:
Fourteen categories out of fifty knocked off already. That’s a pretty great start!
State of the Goodreads TBR
Okay, this is going to be a little more wonky than last year. Only about 25 of the books from the PopSugar challenge are on my TBR, and I have some NetGalley books to get through, so this may get a little bigger before it starts getting smaller again, and I’m okay with that.
Last month, we ended up at 125 books. I read five books from my TBR this month, and that takes me to a new total of…125 books on my TBR. Book math!
Books I Acquired in January 2023
Hmm. I don’t think I actually acquired any books this month!
Bookish Things I Did in January 2023
I was able to attend a virtual presentation by Andrew Solomon, hosted by my local parent education group, and he was fascinating as always. I saw him speak in person pre-pandemic, and if you ever get the chance to hear him, GO. He writes and speaks about mental health, and my God, I could listen to him for DAYS. He had a lot to say this time not just about mental health, but about the effects of the pandemic and our current political landscape have on our collective mental health, and I was so glad I made the time to attend.
Current Podcast Love
Still listening to a mixture of things! While I exercise or cross-stitch, I usually listen to either Leaving Eden or Digging Up the Duggars; however, I did take a short break to listen to I Pray You Put This Journal Away in its entirety, which was touching and very nicely complemented those other two podcasts. At night, when I’m falling asleep, I’m listening to The First Degree, a true crime podcast with really good narration.
Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge
So, I’m almost finished with Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe; less than 100 pages to go. This had been sitting on my shelves for years, and I’m tired of owning so many books I haven’t read (hence, this project!), so I’ve spent this month putting this book into my brain in half-hour chunks a day (there have been a few days I’ve missed, simply due to time constraints). I have a lot of thoughts about this book, many of them about how much of this book is straight-up Christian propaganda (which is exhausting to read as a Jew) and not just how Christianity isn’t compatible with slavery, but I’ll be glad to move on to my next book in a day or two. I think my next choice will be Black Boy by Richard Wright, which has been sitting on the shelf across from me for a few years and which deserves to be read soon. After reading a white author writing about Black folks, I’m more than ready to read a Black author talk about the Black experience.
Real Life Stuff
Phew! I’ve completed Yoga with Adriene’s 30-Day Challenge again, which always feels good. My back isn’t much better, but I think it’s stronger, if that makes sense – like, the pain is still there, but I feel like I can *do* a little bit more and it’s not quite as weak as it was before. I feel pretty good about myself for making the time to complete this challenge as well, and I’m going to keep doing a little bit of yoga every day, maybe adding in those pilates my physiatrist wants me to do on the days when my back feels strong enough.
A library two towns over subscribes to a magazine I enjoy, so I’ve gone over there to relax and read (still masked! Haven’t been sick since 2019 and have no desire to be), and it’s been wonderful. Their library is enormous and calm and peaceful and it’s an excellent time just paging through Mother Earth News in the relaxing atmosphere of this particular library. I’ve been fighting so hard to keep my stress levels down, because my frequent migraines are triggered by stress, so this is just one of the things I’m doing to bring more relaxation into my life.
I started a new craft project! I used to cross-stitch all the time in my pre-children days many moons ago, but got away from it due to lack of time. I’ve been working my way through my maternal grandmother’s stamped cross-stitch stash and have finished a table runner and two pillowcases so far, but I highly prefer counted cross-stitch to stamped. My paternal grandmother died in December; that’s the Norwegian side of my family, and my dad (who doesn’t read this blog!) mentioned placing an order with a Scandinavian store for stuff for the family so “we can remember our heritage,” as he said. And so my brain got to work, and I discovered this gorgeous pattern by Lifted Spirit Patterns. My husband got me a scroll frame as a gift, and a few weeks ago, I began work on this massive pattern. I don’t have much to show yet; a lot of what I’m doing right now is in white, which doesn’t show up well, but once I get going, I’ll provide some picture updates.
The pattern has something like 18,644 stitches, and I’m doing it on 14-pt Aida cloth, which has brought me to the realization that I am ‘needs magnifying cheater glasses from the Dollar Tree’ years old now, but I’m very much enjoying this. When it’s finished in approximately 2348923479832 years, I’ll frame it and give it to my dad, to remember our heritage. I think he’ll love it. : )
That’s about all I’ve got for now! No major plans for February, just more homeschool, exercise, cross-stitching, and, of course, reading. Stay warm if you’re in the northern hemisphere, and stay safe and healthy, friends. I wish you all another month of great reads. : )