The ABC Reading Project

Last month one of my library book clubs read The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald and it went over really well. We had a very fulfilling discussion and all the members expressed interest in reading more of Fitzgerald’s work. When I mentioned to the group that the library only owned one other of her novels (Offshore) but that I owned them all and they were welcome to borrow them, they asked which was my favorite. I said, “Well, I’ve only read The Bookshop so far.” They got puzzled looks on their faces and there was silence. Then one of the members asked, “Why do you own books that you haven’t read?” Good question!

They would probably be appalled to learn just how many books I have that are unread, that have been sitting on the shelves for years, trapping desert dust and cat hair between the pages.

That evening when I got home I walked in the door with new eyes – noticing the untidy, neglected book shelves and the piles and piles of books scattered around the house. Books I hardly ever think about or consider cracking open. I thought of the money spent on items that are really not serving me well while they remain unread. Of course, like all bookish people I do enjoy collecting books for the sake of collecting – I love pretty spines lined up on my shelves and vintage covers displayed face out. But it is getting to the point where I need to purge and I need to let titles go if I’m not going to read them, not only for space considerations but for my peace of mind as well.

So, over the weekend I devised a plan. I think it would be fun to read my books in alphabetical order by title. I will go through the alphabet reading one book from each letter until I get to Z – and then I will start all over again. I have already put all my shelves, fiction and nonfiction, in alphabetical order and am ready to begin. How is this going to help me? If I start a book and don’t like it I will need to make a decision – keep for another time (sometimes we’re just not in the mood for a particular book) or donate. I don’t want to keep things on my shelves that I will never, ever read. That is silly. And when I finish a book I will also need to decide – keep or donate? I have also decided not to purchase any books until December. My shelves – and my wallet- need a bit of a break!

I’m really feeling excitement over this new project! I’ll still read contemporary fiction from the library, but I am going to make a true effort to read more from my own shelves. I hope you will follow along and see what I read, what I keep and what I donate.

Do you also have a habit of collecting books you don’t read?

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Last Spring when everything closed down and we were all staying home I jumped on the Middlemarch bandwagon and started reading along with thousands of other people. I made good progress through April and May, but when my library reopened in mid-May I didn’t have as much time to read and stopped for a bit. Then we closed again in July and I was able to read big chunks of this Victorian classic while sitting at the curbside pickup desk waiting for patrons to pick up their holds. But as summer progressed I lost my momentum, though I only had 200 pages to go. I so much wanted to finish before the year ended but it didn’t happen. So, last weekend when I was feeling a bit under the weather I decided to complete the last 200 pages and finally check Middlemarch off my 15 year long “want to read” list.

And did I like it? Yes, very much! Like many readers, I felt an instant kinship with Dorothea Brooke and was most interested in her storyline. Yet, I did find the story of Lydgate and Rosamond to be such a fascinating insight into an incompatible and unsuccessful marriage. And, of course, I wanted to find out if Fred Vincy and Mary Garth would end up together. I love how all of their paths cross as they are engaged in their own pursuits – as they would in a real town.

I don’t have much to say beyond how much I enjoyed it because I think it is a book that is so full of wisdom and layers of meaning that I would need a re-read to absorb it all. But I will not be re-reading it soon! I am just so very happy to have crossed it off my list, though that is an unsatisfactory way of describing how I felt when I turned the last page. It is a simply wonderful book and one that will stay with me throughout my life.

Have you read Middlemarch? Is there another book you were so happy to have finally read?

Reading Goals for 2021

Hi everyone! How has 2021 shaped up for you so far? It seems much like a repeat of 2020, but there are definitely positive signs that our future is looking more hopeful, don’t you think?

I ended December not completely satisfied with my reading year. There were a lot months where not much reading was done. Or where I read books that didn’t really align with my mood and whim. But I think many of us felt out of sorts last year (understandably!) so I have decided to shake it off and try for something more fulfilling in 2021.

At the beginning of January, I pondered exactly what I would like out of my reading life in the new year. Ideally, I would love to read whatever I feel like reading and read entirely by whim, but I don’t think that will happen until I retire from librarianship. However, I have never been able to create a comfortable balance between reading for my job and reading for my life. For some librarians, they are one and the same. But it’s never been the case for me because I do prefer reading classics more than I do contemporary books and I also enjoy reading British authors who don’t have much of an audience in a suburban Arizona library.

So, what to do, what to do? I have ultimately decided that life is short and I want to read my favorite things now – not wait until I don’t have work obligations any longer. Over the past 4 years I have had a series of health troubles that seem to be continuing this year and who knows what the future will bring. At the end of the day I would rather have been loyal to my own passions and pleasures than to my job. And, really, I can be a good librarian without personally reading all of the hot, buzzy titles that seem to come and go with every new season. Also, just to be clear, I am the only one putting this pressure on myself – my boss and colleagues don’t think I am shirking my duties by not reading every single trendy book out there. It is purely self-generated guilt and obligation.

Those of you who have been reading here for a while now (if anyone is still out there!) know this conflict has been a theme for me for many years. But I am finally ready to let it go and lose all the guilt about reading what I want to read. So here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Read what I want
  2. Read from my own shelves
  3. Don’t read as many galleys (mainly because I love books in print format so much better than digital books)
  4. No guilt, no guilt, no guilt
  5. Read some (not all) of the popular fiction in my library
  6. Be happy with my reading life and my choices

I know I might struggle for a while ( I already have) with the thought that I need to read every book that receives a starred review in the professional journals, but my aim is to let that all go this year. I need to read for me.

Did you set any reading goals for the year?

Also – I do want to blog more often this year (something you’ve also heard before, haha) and share some of my gardening successes with you all. If I have any. I am learning just how difficult it is to grow things in pots in the desert!

Happy 2021!

Operation Read Persephone


While pondering my 2017 reading goals the other evening I happened to look up at my bookcase to see the lovely row of dove grey Persephones and the colorful spines of the Persephone Classics that I have shelved together. I’ve been collecting Persephone titles for about 7 or 8 years now and, as happens to the best of us, the collecting has far exceeded the reading of these wonderful books. I recall Nicola Beauman saying in an interview I read (I can’t find the quote) that she hoped that people weren’t just collecting the books but reading them too. In this Guardian interview she says, “That’s all I care about, really, you see: the text, the text, the text.”, when asked about the design she chose for the novels she republishes. And I realized that maybe I have been collecting them just to have them – just out of a sense of pride in owning them, because I haven’t read nearly enough of them to justify their expense!
So – I came to the obvious conclusion that reading the Persephones I currently own should be my goal for 2017. I went to the Persephone website and found the master list of all the titles they’ve published, made a list of all the ones I own and haven’t read and stuck it up at the top of the page (under Operation Read Persephone) to serve as a constant reminder of this goal. Shockingly, I own 26 of the grey darlings that I have not read! The shame! But I will try to remedy that this year.
I decided that I will start with A Very Great Profession by Ms. Beauman herself as it describes her interest in and love for the books she’s chosen to republish. I’m looking forward to not just looking at and enjoying the beauty of these books but to actually honoring their authors by reading what is between the iconic covers.
Do you have a favorite Persephone? What are your reading goals for 2017?

Recent Book Purchases

IMG_4258Hello! How’s your July been? I’ve read a lot this month, but it’s been all galleys so nothing that I can write about here (yet). I finished two books last weekend and will finish two by this weekend’s end as well. I’m well on my way to having read 10 galleys that I can talk about at my “Fabulous Fall Reads” presentation in September. If all goes to plan I won’t be scrambling to read anything in the week leading up to the event and can focus all my efforts on preparing my booktalks and the Powerpoint. Whew!

I’m going to Colorado again mid-August and want to take books with me that I have no obligation to read. Books that I can read just because I want to. So, I’ve been buying books online and at Half-Price books, hoarding them for the trip. I ordered 3 Poirot novels after loving The Murder of Roger Ackroyd a few months ago. Then I found a copy of Night and Day by Virginia Woolf at Half-Price Books (HPB) — not the most attractive copy but I couldn’t pass it up. On the same visit to HPB I decided to buy Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. I read it many years ago when I think I was probably too young to “get” it so I’m curious to see what I’ll think of it now.

A few weeks later I found To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey. I know nothing about it, but I do like Tey’s mysteries so I tossed it in my basket. Also in my basket went My American by Stella Gibbons. My local HPB has carried lots of Gibbons’s novels through the years and I always buy them yet haven’t read any of them yet. I want to remedy that this year.  On top of the Tey and the Gibson went The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace which I remembered Jane liking years ago when she was at her previous blog.

Lastly, the mailman recently delivered Queen Victoria in her Letters and Journals where it sat in my baking metal mailbox until I rescued it into the air conditioned comfort of my home.

I probably won’t take all of these to Colorado but a few of them will make the trip. I also want to take a few Viragos and Persephones to read since August is All August/All Viirago (with Persephones included). I’ve already started The Fortnight in September for this event and LOVE it. I also want to read a Holtby, Comyns and Laski during the month. I’m giddy just thinking about it!

But I forgot — I do have one book I’m obligated to read in August and that is Silas Marner for book club. I should probably start on that one soon.

What are your August reading plans? Have you bought any books lately that you are super excited about?

Paris in July 2016

Paris in July-16 official

It’s almost time for Paris in July! Beginning Friday it’s all things French all the time (because despite the name you can read books set outside of Paris) for those of us who’ve signed up at Thyme for Tea. This event is now in its seventh year which is an amazing run for a blogging event. I haven’t participated in a few years, but I have enjoyed the France-themed books I’ve read in the past so I decided to give it a go again this July. My hope is to read at least 4 books set in France – two non-fiction and two fiction.



One of the novels I’m going to read is The Chateau by William Maxwell. The other novel is still up in the air, but I think it will be The Blessing by Nancy Mitford. As for the two non-fiction titles, I’m awaiting the arrival of two galleys I’ve requested from publishers that are both France-related –  I can kill two birds with one stone by reading for this event and reading ahead for work. I know I should probably read a book by an actual French author so I may ditch The Blessing and choose a translated novel instead – or I can try to add a translated novel to the stack. We’ll see!

Are you participating in Paris in July? Can you recommend any French novels for me to try?

My Century of Books Project Progress


When Lisa from TBR313 recently wrote about the progress she’s made on her reading projects I was prompted to examine my progress on my own project. The only ongoing project that I’ve committed to is the Century of Books challenge and, frankly, my progress has been pretty slow. This is the second year I’ve recorded all of the books I’ve read from 1900 to 1999 and I was really sad to see that I’ve only read 21 books published in the twentieth century in almost 2 full years. I could have sworn I’ve read more twentieth century books than that! Granted, I’ve not consciously chosen books for this project – I’ve just read what I wanted and then counted them if they fit into the parameters. Most of the books I’ve read are concentrated in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, which is no surprise as these are my favorite years to read in. I haven’t read anything from 1900-1922 or from 1977-1998. Obviously I need to try to deliberately choose books from those years to read if I’m ever going to complete the challenge.

Next year, I want to pay more attention to this challenge and to get to the half-way mark. I’ve been a bit disappointed with my reading this year as I haven’t read as many classics as I’ve wanted to or as I’ve needed to to make me a happy reader. I’m still trying to find the balance between reading what I want to read and what I feel obligated to read as a librarian. This year I feel I went too far on the contemporary/popular side so next year I need to come up with a different ratio. Perhaps one for one – one classic for every contemporary book I read. It’s a constant puzzle that I’m still trying to solve.

How have you done on your challenges or projects this year?

Reading Resolutions



It might seem a bit late to be formulating reading resolutions for 2015, but it is only a month into the new year and it took me the whole of January to decide what I want my reading life to look like for the next 11 months. At first I hatched grand, ambitious plans to read every book from this list or that list, to read only galleys, to read only books from a certain bookcase in my house, to read only new books, and on and on. About a week ago I faced reality and realized that I can’t read according to a set plan. It crushes my soul. My best reading comes when I stop and listen to my heart and choose books that appeal to me at that very moment in time, that suit my mood and what is going on in my life or what I’m passionately interested in or curious about. So, I’m reading according to my heart’s desires this year. Every book you’ll see on Gudrun’s Tights in 2015, with the exception of book club titles, will be something I chose to read based on my own wishes.

There are two small goals I’d like to accomplish this year:

  • Read at least 10 books from my Persephone collection
  • Read 1 chunky book – something like Anna Karenina, Moby Dick or Middlemarch

And that’s all. I have no other goals or challenges that I want to work on for 2015. I will join in on select reading events when they feel right. At the end of the year I want to look back on my reading with fondness, pleasure and contentment and I want to spend less time agonizing over what I should be reading and more time focusing on the books I genuinely want to read.

Did you set any reading goals for 2015?

Sunday Bulletin – November 2


I made a goal this week to stop watching so much TV. It has become a jailer and I want to find time to read more, bake and organize my house. While avoiding TV on Thursday night I organized and culled my bookshelves. I found at least 50 books to donate to the library and feel so good about unloading books that I know I won’t ever read. I also discovered several duplicate titles that really shamed me. I admit that I spend far too much money on books, but when I realized that I own three copies of Mansfield Park, a book I have never even finished reading, I was greatly embarrassed. And that wasn’t the only instance. I found two copies of David Copperfield, Middlemarch and Some Tame Gazelle. How? I don’t even ever remember buying either copy of David Copperfield. This alarming revelation convinced me to cut down on my book purchases and actually read more of the books on my shelves. I have some lovely books and they are being neglected. Also, I want to take another trip to England next year and saving money is a priority for me – so, no more new books for the rest of the year except for a few Christmas presents to myself.

In reading news, it dismayed me to notice that I only finished one book in October, the Mollie Panter-Downes stories. This is really not acceptable. I start lots of novels, but am not finishing them for who knows what reason. Perhaps (and it is my hope) watching less TV will remedy this horrible situation. I am reading Old Filth and Elizabeth and her German Garden and am close to the end in both so next week I should have a report on either one or both of them.

I hope your Sunday is wonderful. I am working so mine won’t be leisurely, but I do enjoy the productive time in the stacks before the patrons arrive (we don’t open until 1).

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List

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This week’s prompt really forced me to stop and think about what books I’d like to read over the next few months. I always have a mental list on the go, but it shifts all the time and I tend to forget what I resolved to read in my mind after a few days. Writing it down is going to help me stay the course. This list doesn’t include the books I’ll be reading for Paris in July (I haven’t decided on them yet),  for my book group or for Mary Stewart Reading Week. I have to keep in mind that summer does go through September because, to me, summer ends in July. The school district where I work is on a modified year-round schedule and the kids start back to school on July 21 this year. For some reason, that puts an end to summer for me too, but it is really quite far from the end! Here are the books I hope to read by September 23, the first day of autumn:

1. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – This is my most anticipated book of the year and I have a galley that I am quietly hoarding. I will probably read it during a long weekend in July.

2. The Secret Place by Tana French – Can you believe I have never read Tana French? I’ve heard great things about her latest book so I will make it my first.

3. The Arsonist by Sue Miller – I’ve always liked Sue Miller. The Senator’s Wife is one of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read. The Arsonist sounds like it will be a good one, too.

4. The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier – At atmospheric thriller that was a bestseller in France – I can’t resist.

5. Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell – I’m saving this one as a treat.

6. The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield – I’ve owned this book for a few years now and am finally planning to read it sometime soon.

7. Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym – I haven’t read a Pym in over a year now – I look forward to entering her world again.

8. Heat Lightning by Helen Hull – I had a goal to read all of my Persephone’s this year and I haven’t read any! I think Heat Lightning is a good place to start and it also meets my goal of reading more American women authors.

9. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – I also had a goal to read two Trollope novels and I haven’t done that either (yet). It’s time to get a move on.

10. Blaming by Elizabeth Taylor – I just finished Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont and it was brilliant, to say the least. I must read more of Taylor’s books.


What are you looking forward to reading this summer?