Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Book a Week with Jen Three: The Wrap Up

Last night, as I finished up reading Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, I started thinking about what I'd say in the review. Then I remembered - oh right - I'm already done the series.

That's how this installment of Book a Week with Jen has gone. It wasn't exactly an afterthought, but it wasn't an undercurrent of the year. When I first took on this challenge in 2007, I threw myself into the project. I was at a very dark spot in my life, and forcing myself to read a book a week, I wrote about those books and my life, and it helped me heal.

This year wasn't awful, but it started off rotten. I ended a long term relationship, briefly moved back in with my mother, then lived in a scarcely furnished house (the house I had bought in 2007 then turned into a rental because that relationship was supposed to be "it") while I put my life back together. I had an off year work wise at the exact time my expenses rose because I was living alone again. I nearly broke my foot running. I got screwed on a book deal. So, no, I wouldn't put 2013 on my best list.

But there were bright points. I ran my fastest marathon ever. I published a long form piece of journalism that I had been trying to write for two years. I traveled to Anchorage, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Diego for the first time in my life. And because I was in a bad mood on Valentine's Day and decided to make fun of the only guy at the running event in jeans, I have a boyfriend and a New Year's Eve date at the Four Seasons tonight. I never would have renovated my house if I had not left then moved back in. And I am oh so happy to be home.

Very little of this came out in reviewing these books, which is okay. It was a nice side project to have, and I think that I've inspired you to pick up some books you might not have heard of otherwise. And I re-read The Prince of Tides specifically because of this project, which has sent me down a long path of re-thinking my approach to writing.

Now, some observations.

Most of the books I read were written by women. This was not by choice, and I didn't notice this until I was 3/4 of the way through. I stay out of the debates about men and women in writing, and whether or not women are seen as lesser writers. There are too many people screeching about it already. I pick what I want to read because I want to read it, not because of gender, the same way that I don't think it's a big deal that the Philadelphia Inquirer gave me, a woman, a sports column.

The pull of eBooks is getting stronger. Because I like to line up the books as I read them, eBooks were not eligible for this series, but they're hard to ignore - hell, I even wrote one. I don't like reading on a screen, but I did download a few novellas to read on my iPhone through a Kindle app so I'd have something to read on PATCO when I either forgot to bring my book or a book was too big to fit into my purse. I will most likely be doing this for flights from now on, or at least having one book on my iPad and one in my carry on.

I love reading. This might sound obvious, but one of the things I didn't do that much when I lived with someone else was read. As soon as I moved out, I started reading before bed again. It's a routine that gets me ready to sleep. I also no longer have cable, so my transition from work day to free time is to sit on my couch and read instead of watching TV. I like it this way.

And now, my top picks of the series.

Best Fiction: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer.
This book knocked me on my rear. I thought about it for days after I read the last page. Deciding to leave a relationship that was supposed to end in marriage is a hard choice, and it left me asking a lot of "what ifs" - not just about this relationship but those that had come before. The "what ifs" happento Greta in this book, with a time travel bend thrown in. I loved it so much that I gave it as Christmas presents. Please go read it if you haven't already.

Best Non-Fiction: Ingenious by Jason Fagone.
Can we build a better car? I didn't think I'd really care, but this book sucked me into a world of dreamers and schemers who think that the answer is yes. It's an eye opening read, but a fun one too. I never thought I'd be saying that about a car book, but Fagone is such a good story teller, that he made me car. That's the sign of a great book.

So that's it for now. As always, I'm not sure what I'll use this space for in the future. And thanks for reading along. Now go read a book!

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