2016 Quarterly Check-In #2

I’ve been slow this month to do anything and next month will be a crunch, but I’m just takin’ it easy. Expanding my reading horizons is still a really fun endeavour so I’m really happy about that! If you have any books to recommend me based on any of my goal, please let me know! 🙂

Goodreads challenge: 75 books

Looks like my reading has slowed down a little and, though I’m still on track (at 34 books), I don’t know how much longer I will be…! haha

My resolutions:

  1. Read at least 75 books on track
  2. Read at least 15 books from my TBR on track
  3. Read at least 50% women authors on track
  4. Read at least 35% authors of colour on track
  5. Read at least 25% translated works on track
  6. Read at least 15 non-fiction works 4/15
  7. Read at least 1 book by a South American author [done: The Alchemist]
    1. ADDENDUM: 15 books from around the world 10/15
  8. Read at least 3 books by or about someone with a difference (physical or mental) !!
  9. Read at least 3 books by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ 2/3
  10. Finish a series for the first time ever in my life!!! (What will it be? Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings? The Raven Cycle? A Series of Unfortunate Events??) [done: Harry Potter]
  11. Read at least 1 book over 500 pages???? (maybe?) !!

• • •

Stats

I’ve read 71% female authors with 29% male and 0% “other” (either both male and female creators or unknown, but authors who identify as neither would fit in this category too). I might try to aim for 75% with my female authors this year. It would be a big switch for me and I haven’t felt restricted in any way by the change so it’s actually been pretty exciting. I have read 38% authors of colour which is now above my goal of 35%. If I could get that to 40% by the end of the year, I’d feel good about that.

24% of my reading has been translated works. I generally don’t make any effort in this area, but I like to keep track of it anyway. If my reading starts getting kind of stale, it sometimes coincides with the number of translated works stagnating. It can be really refreshing and captivating to read some non-anglophone perspectives.

The amount of books I read from my TBR makes up 32% of my reading so far or 11 books. My goal for the year is to read 15 books from my TBR so I guess I’m doing well, but so few of them have been books from my physical shelf so I might make an attempt to start prioritising those.

53% of my reading has been free either from the library (primarily) or friends or eARCs.

• • •

I actually quite liked the “10-10-10-10” challenge I did last year, but have just pulled these two sections from it. I like taking note of where I’m reading from and noting my non-fiction reads just remind me to plumb some books for facts instead of just organisations’ websites and random articles.

FIFTEEN Works of Fiction from Around the World*:

  1. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly: A Novel by Sun-mi Hwang [South Korea]
  2. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor [Nigeria]
  3. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor [Nigeria]
  4. The Moomins and the Great Flood(The Moomins, #1) by Tove Jansson [Finland]
  5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho [Brazil]
  6. The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung [China]
  7. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto [Japan]
  8. At the Bottom of the River by Jamaica Kincaid [Antigua]
  9. The Art of War by Sun Tzu [China]
  10. The Vegetarian by Han Kang [South Korea]

*Excludes: UK & Republic of Ireland, North America (unless Native), Australia & New Zealand (unless Native), ancient Greece and Rome…you get the picture.

FIFTEEN Non-Fiction Books:

  1. Take It as a Compliment by Maria Stoian
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings(Maya Angelou’s Autobiography, #1) by Maya Angelou
  3. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  4. Suffragette: My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

I feel like I’d have usually read more non-fiction by at this point in the year. Hmm…

• • •

My favourite book this quarter has been…
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.

2247644

Have you made any reading goals (casual or official)?

What have been your bookish highlights so far?

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5 Responses to 2016 Quarterly Check-In #2

  1. Mahima says:

    Whoa this is incredible Nikki I agree with so much that you’ve said here. I can’t help but wonder though if translated works do have that same feel because publishers choose to bank in on that feeling and sell those types of books. Is it really because of the Japanese style of writing that those books tend to feel that way, or because publishers tend to invest in the same “type” of books instead.
    For example I get that feeling a lot with Western canon books that are written/about POC people. Half a Yellow Sun and Small Island go hand in hand and even though they are about different things they give off the same feel to me. Whereas Beloved by Toni Morrison is in an entirely new genre of its own.
    I’m curious as to whether books from different countries give their own “country” feel, or if there’s so much more available that we aren’t getting because publishers sell the “feeling” the stories invoke and so whatever else is available (and as you’ve said, just as good – which, by the way, is such a neat point!) is not in the spotlight.

    • Nicole says:

      ABSOLUTELY! This is a big question I think about too! Everything we read (translated or not) is highly moderated and filtered before it gets to us. And, not knowing Japanese, it’s not like I can check for differences between the Japanese market and the Japanese-translated-for-English-readers market. But I also feel it’s partly *my* tastes dictating what I pick up, too. That will be true for any group of works that I choose to read, not just works in translation. There are definitely books in translation that I’ve come across and thought “that does not sound interesting to me in the slightest” but it might have a completely different feeling from all the other books from that country that I’ve read previously. There’s no way to know (short of learning all the original languages that books I intend to read are written in and, even then, there will always be a culture barrier to some degree…). I’m not sure that has a solution…or if it’s something to necessarily be solved since it’s hard to tell if English publishers are even all interested in the same type of story representing a place or group. Obviously that happens to some degree, but I’m sure some of them will have different ideas of marketability and different ones will be reaching into different parts of what foreign literature has to offer. I think that’s part of why it’s important for readers to be more active in their book searches. It’s easy to focus on the big mainstream publishers’ but (even though they will still have slightly different priorities from each other) there will definitely be gaps in what they’re offering. Smaller presses or even just different book categories (like graphic novels or poetry) generally have a different type of thing on offer than, say, translated novels and I think going farther afield in trying to find new stuff is always worth looking into. I’m working on diversifying my ‘recommendation pools’ to help that too. I think we will always be somewhat “restricted” (for lack of a better word) by our tastes too…But if everyone, with all their different preferences were casting their nets more widely, more types of stories would be pursued by publishers to satisfy the demand. Then maybe we’d all have a better idea of what other places/groups “feel” like…and we’d have a lot wider range of ideas and problems and solutions and feelings and people and fantasies and stuff to read about!
      I’m at the point now with my French where I could probably tackle novellas (with a dictionary at my side for occasionally looking up a word or turn of phrase here and there) and I’m curious to see if I notice any differences in what French literature feels like to me or in what I feel is available to me on the French market vs the French-in-translation market. One of my goals next year will include reading a few french novellas (I’d like to do a re-read of The Little Prince but in French, though I’m not 100% sure whether that’ll happen this year or not).

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  3. Mahima says:

    Oh I love all of these goals. I think if I had to set some for myself I’d definitely focus on reading more translated works. Do you feel any different now that you’ve implemented a lot of these reading resolutions into your life? As in, what insights have you gained from say for example, reading fifteen books from around the world?

    • Nicole says:

      Yeah it’s been really fun/interesting/strange. I would say one of the most obvious insights (that I suspected, but can now totally confirm) is that it really is about the stories and not the author’s demographic. I can see how that would be used to further the “I only pay attention to stories and not authors and it just so happens I mostly/only read books from X group of people because those stories are just good (read: better than the other groups I haven’t given a chance yet)” agenda but, actually, it’s super super super true that lots of other people who aren’t getting much of a platform are REALLY good. And there is no good reason they aren’t being looked at. Also, I’m really impressed with the 71% women I’ve read because it’s basically the inverse of my default reading habits and I don’t feel like it was difficult at all. So many works have been so good, but most of those stories would have been missed if I hadn’t thought to pick up a female author’s story.

      I have a lot of thoughts so I’ll try not to be too rambly!! I don’t think I’ve read nearly enough to make the generalisations I’m about to make(!)….but let’s just call this next paragraph A WHOLE BUNCH OF GENERALISATIONS BASED ON MY PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS :’D hahahaha
      It’s also interesting how similar everyone is, but the different way some of them tell their story. For example, American and British writers can be writing about the same thing and there’s a slightly different feel. (So many American heroes are maybe not the smartest, but they’ve got the most heart and courage and they’re just downright “good guys”, where many British heroes are intellectual/clever and a little mysterious and reserved and have all their shit together. It’s a classic extrovert vs introvert thing I guess.) A lot of Japanese contemporary literature definitely has a specific overall ‘feeling’ too and I feel like having read several novels from different contemporary Japanese authors (including some who are described as unconventional in their field) has been a good insight on how culture changes (or doesn’t!) the view of certain issues. Loneliness/isolation/emotional disconnection, for example, is addressed in Of Mice and Men, Brave New World and The Vegetarian. A lot of American novels I’ve read seem to have an “us (usually two or a small group) against the world!” British novels I’ve read tend to have a feeling of almost “no one can see or they are actively ignoring reason and the lone enlightened/intelligent hero has to deal with it and is probably tragically punished for trying to do more.” Japanese novels I’ve read tend to feel like “probably no one can deeply know anyone else, but we that’s just how it is because this close arrangement with (essentially) strangers is not that bad really” (which, from what I can tell fits in perfectly to actual Japanese culture and this feeling is embodied in the phrase “shouganai (or, “it can’t be helped”)). But everyone is expressing loneliness. And sometimes they talk about the same things, but it’s like having many different ways to approach the same problem.
      There are other facts too even as I try to read more diversely like which translated works are even chosen (and by whom) to get translated? Or which stories by women are not being picked up because a man’s version is getting picked up instead? Or which POC stories aren’t getting picked up because they aren’t about struggle and racism?

      But I’m really enjoying delving into different spaces so far. I also think it’s important not to shut down to a new group if the first thing you pick up isn’t for you. I read a Korean novel that I thought I’d love, but then wasn’t really into it and, I have to admit, I did wonder for a second if Korean writing styles just weren’t going to click with me, but then I read The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly and The Vegetarian and my common sense came back hahah

      ALSO it’s bizarrely refreshing how much it does *not* feel prescriptive! I hadn’t realised how much a passive social/literary circle pressure can be on my reading. I mean I generally don’t care and I rarely ever act on and pressuring feeling to read something *just* because others have, but reading something totally different that I found myself and am taking a chance on is strangely liberating and fun and no pressure ^^

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