Wrapping Up 2016, Looking Forward 2017

Welcome to my seventh annual ‘Wrapping Up, Looking Forward’ post. In this post, I like to take a general look back at how I did with my goals in 2016, and set some new goals for 2017.

I posted 62 times. This number falls just two short of my goal of 64. Although I didn’t follow the schedule I had dreamed of (8 posts/month, one review/week), I am satisfied with the posts I did write. I’m going to keep this goal – min. 8 posts/week, including one review or brief thoughts.

I read 114 books, smashing my goal of 84. My success can be largely credited to my participation in the Cybils as a round one judge for middle grade fiction. I believe this is the first time I’ve read 100+ books in a year. When I started 2016, I set my reading goal with the expectation that I would read very little during my four months of travel in New Zealand. I actually read 29 books while travelling. Most of the books I read were whatever my hosts happened to have lying around. Between travelling and Cybils, I had just four months to freely read and borrow from the library whatever I felt like. I am looking forward to taking charge of my reading choices in 2017. Hopefully I will make a better dent in my TBR list!

 

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Jenna has
read 63 books toward
their goal of
84 books.
hide

I didn’t make my reading challenges a priority during the middle part of the year, when I had ample reading time and no other obligations. Thus my poor performance . I am less bitter about this than last year, though, as travelling Middle-Earth and participating in the Cybils were wonderful experiences that I was happy to prioritize over reading. I started to recap my challenges, but the numbers are so low, best to pretend I just didn’t have any. Instead let’s move right on to my personal challenges for 2017! 😀 I have three goals with specific numbers, but also a number of undefined goals (i.e. read more than in 2016).

  • 6 books by Indigenous Canadians
  • 4 books about Japanese spirituality
  • 5 books about/by J.R.R. Tolkien (not including re-reads)
  • Read more picture books and graphic novels (esp. ones people assume I’ve already read…)
  • Read more classic middle grade and speculative fiction middle grade
  • Read more non-fiction
  • Reread more!

This year, I also want to participate in some ‘official’ challenges. I don’t have any specific goals, but I hope these challenges will help me expand my reading horizons. Diversity Bingo originated on Twitter. Naz @ Read Diverse Books is hosting a reviewing diverse books challenge that complements the bingo. I found another bingo (apparently I like concept of bookish bingos) for Canadian literature, which feels especially appropriate given that it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary this year. This one is hosted in the Goodreads group Canadian Content.

Read Diverse 2017

2017 Canadian literature bingoDiversity Bingo 2017

That’s it for my 2017 goals! I may adopt additional challenges throughout the year. I haven’t yet planned to participate in any events, but I’m sure I will. Now that I have a couple years of book blogging under my belt, I don’t feel the need to plan out my year in much detail. I think I know enough to wing it 😛 How was your 2016 reading year? What goals or challenges are you undertaking in 2017?

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Wrapping Up 2015, Looking Forward 2016

Welcome to my sixth annual review of the year past and the year to come. I’ve now got one full year of book blogging under my belt, albeit a frequently disrupted year from moving and travelling. How did I fare in 2015?

I read 77 books, falling just shy of my GoodReads challenge (80 books). I participated in three year-long challenges, as well as three of my own personal challenges. (I sort of dropped out of the CBC Monthly Reads challenge back in June.) I also participated in three events – April and October Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon and Armchair BEA. My goal had been to also participate in a Literary Blog Hop, Non-fiction November, and A Month of Faves (December) but I hadn’t anticipated conflicts with my travels and coursework.

In my mid-year review, I adjusted my Japan books goal down to three and said I was on track for all the others. Shortly after uprooting myself from Japan, I fell off that track. Let’s review:

    • Re-read: 10/12. I didn’t manage more than 12, but it’s an improvement over 2014.
    • TBR Pile: 6/12. While I only completed six books, I did give four more serious efforts and found them not to my liking. Therefore, I cleared 10 books that long languished on my TBR, so I’ll consider that a success.
    • Foodies: 4/4. I made the short end of this goal, squeaking into the Pastry Chef category.
    • Indigenous authors: 3/5. I had two books sitting on my nightstand for weeks to make this goal (Three Day Road and The Revolution of Alice) but I didn’t make it happen.
    • Tolkien: 5/6. Close but no cigar! I didn’t read The Hobbit, On Fairy Stories, or The Road to Middle-Earth. And of course, I didn’t read The Silmarillion… Well, 83% is still okay. 😛
    • Japan: 3/3 – I read one book about Koya-san and two books at the Shikoku Henro. 
    • 8 posts/month: After moving back to Canada, I thought I would discount July and August, therefore aiming for 80 posts. Once again I lacked the ambition to see that through. As for bracket of posting twice a week (one review and one other), I didn’t get that balance, either. HOWEVER, I do think my writing style (in reviews, at least) has improved a smidge…maybe? 

    That’s the end of 2015. While writing this post, it sounds like I failed at a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish. I’m not feeling too down about it, though. I know I improved in various areas over 2014. I finally acknowledge to myself that I have a problem with completing things (from eating the last bite of supper to completing a goal to finishing a paper on time). This problem affects all areas of my life. I want to tackle it next year, and not just dismiss it as some weird form of nihilism, like I usually do (“What’s the point in making this goal? No one cares but me. It doesn’t really matter.”). I don’t want to find myself losing my good habits halfway through the year, unable to recover them again until the New Year provides a fresh start.

    I will be travelling in New Zealand and Australia from February to May. To be cautious, I will assume I don’t complete any reading during these months (my time will be largely preoccupied by WWOOFing and outdoor adventuring). After returning, I hope to find work teaching English while I apply for grad school. I’m not sure how work will affect my reading habits. I liked my goals from this year and I think they would have been easily manageable had I better spirits. Keeping all these factors in mind, here are my general blogging + reading plans for next year:

    • 64 posts (8/month when not travelling, twice a week, ideally one review and one other)
      • Improve writing style (be more precise, use less words)
      • Be more engaging (in posts and comments)
    • 55 books read, including…
      • 10 books reread
        • Not counting regulars (White is for Witching, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings)
      • 5 Japanese spirituality books
      • 6 Tolkien-related books
        • Not counting regulars (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings)
      • 5 Canadian Indigenous books

    I am not actively planning to take part in any challenges (Foodies Read and TBR Pile Challenge will no longer be hosted by their creators) or events (sadly travels will interfere with the next 24 Hour Read-a-thon, a Tolkien Reading Event, and Armchair BEA) but I will participate as they catch my eye. Here’s to all the books read in 2015, and the gems to be found in 2016! Happy New Year. See you on the other side.

    Wrapping Up 2014, Looking Forward 2015

    The last post of 2014 has arrived! My annual review of the past year and plans for the next year. This is the fifth time I’ve written this post. I’m pleased as a peach to reach this milestone. I think it’s the first consistently annual thing I’ve ever done. When I wrote last year’s post, I was uncertain about whether I would continue blogging at all. I said, “This whole post may sound a bit dreary, but I’m actually feeling more optimistic than ever because I’m not giving myself false hope and I’m trying to consider my situation realistically, in order to make real changes“. Well, look at that, I did make real changes! I’m very happy with how I’ve been maintaining the new incarnation of my blog this year. I’m ready to push it even further next year.

    I completed my GoodReads challenge of 75 books, squeaking up to 76 today. I didn’t participate in other reading challenges. I did participate in a number of blogging events, though, which I had never done before. You can find links to my event-related posts here.

    • Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon (April)
    • Armchair BEA (May)
    • The Literary Blog Hop (June)
    • Summer Library Reading Challenge (June and July) (ah, I guess this counts as a reading challenge – part of it was to read more library books)
    • The Haunting of Hill House Readalong (September)
    • Fall Bloggiesta (September)
    • Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon (October)

    I loved participating in these events. I used to think doing so would distract me from reading, but I found such events enhanced my reading experience. It’s great to connect with others who love reading as much as you do. Next year, I will continue participating in events. I also want to take on some reading challenges. I avoided them for awhile but now I think they could be as beneficial as reading events, in connecting with other readers and thinking more deeply about what I read. I’m careful to choose ones that are already in line with my reading goals. Here are the ones I plan on so far – I’m sure the list will grow as I encounter new ones throughout the year!

    • Events:
    • Reading Challenges:
      • TBR Pile Challenge – I participated in this challenge in 2011 and 2012. Now that I’m full swing into the blogging community, I’d like to give it another go. Hopefully I will be successful this time around!
      • The Re-read Challenge – I barely did any rereading in 2013. I want to remedy that this year.
      • Foodies Read Challenge – Another challenge I participated in in 2011. I still add food-related books to my TBR but don’t give them much priority. I look forward to tackling such books once again.
      • CBC Monthly Reads – Yes, a book club, I never do book clubs, I’m far too picky about my reading, but I want to try more Canadian literature so I’ll give it a go.

    Last but not least, my general reading goals. I’m keeping it fairly simple again this year. I’m upping my reading goal just a smidge. I’m confident I’ll be able to read more this year, now that I won’t have the distraction of writing papers and moving to a new country!

    • 8 posts/month (twice a week, ideally one review and one other)
      • Improve writing style (be more precise, use less words)
    • 80 books read, including…
      • 12 books reread
      • 12 Japan-related books
      • 8 Tolkien-related books
      • 5 Canadian Indigenous books

    Overall, I’m proud of what I accomplished this year and I think I can do even better next year. I hope you had a successful 2014. See you next year!

    Wrapping Up 2013, Looking Forward 2014

    Last year I said “I’m going to exercise my willpower more”. Hahahahaha. I’m going to scrap the format of the last few year end posts and just type away a bit. This year was mostly eaten away by a three month summer trip around Ireland, England and Portugal, book-ended by two busy semesters (the first overloaded with school work, the second overloaded with paid work). Once again I did not meet my reading goal – I consistently seem to fall around 10 books short, so instead of making my goal 75 again for this year perhaps I should make it 65! I read 67 books in 2013, quite a drop from last year’s 90 or 92 (my GoodReads 2012 shelf says 92). I had adjusted my goal for 2013 to 75 to account for the summer, during which I did actually read six or seven books. This year the slacking came in the fall, when I had to re-devote myself to work and school.

    I accomplished my one niche reading goal of 10 Tolkien books this year. I was going to say I fudged this a bit by including three movie books on the list (though they were beautiful and informative reads) but then I recalled I counted The Lord of the Rings as three separate books in 2012 so it’s even! Artist and Illustrator, A Reader’s Companion, and Tolkien and the Great War were the best of the bunch this year. On a related note, I’ve been participating quite a bit in the Desolation of Smaug thread in the Tolkien group on Goodreads (I ‘accidentally’ wrote a 2 000 word post on my thoughts about the movie). This year I will aim for 10 books again, with the intention of perhaps tackling the HoME as related to LotR, The Silmarillion and more scholarly books.

    Best reads of 2013: Nothing as spectacular as in 2012, I think (no new all-time faves), but some really really good ones include The Good Father by Noah Hawley, Building Imaginary Worlds by Mark J.P. Wolf, The Ocean at the End of Lane by Neil Gaiman (oops, this is definitely a new all-time favourite, haha). Good ones include Ireland by Frank Delaney (I read a handful of general/local Irish books over the summer), A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty.

    This is the bit where I usually write about my goals for the upcoming year. I don’t know how I feel about goals. They don’t really make any difference in my life (this I am realising after four years of blogging about yearly goals!!). I need to dig a bit deeper and figure out how I might be able to make the changes I want to make but can’t be motivated to do so. I think the biggest struggle is that I’m very okay with my life right now. I don’t have to change anything and I will still be healthy, happy and comfortable. I know, intellectually, that I will be even healthier, happier and more comfortable if I pursue some of the changes I want to make. But how do I enact those changes? I’ve decided to try out charlieissocoollike’s (Charlie McDonnell) trick of not breaking the chain (designed by Karen Kavett). I’ve printed off one calendar for writing and one for meditating/maintaining daily morning routine. This could be the sort of simple thing that keeps me motivated. After years of ambitions that fail after just a few months, I like to think I’m finally at the end of my rope and I can kick those failures back this year. I’ll be graduating university this year, ready to start my own life in the big world. I think that’ll be a major factor in how I go about making these changes. Another difficulty is how I don’t have a consistent lifestyle throughout the year (i.e. I’ll go travelling for three months in the middle). I need to figure out how to adapt the changes to my lifestyle changes…Well, enough about the challenges of change. Here’s what I’d like to this year (note the similarities to previous years):

    • Read 75 books (including more non-fiction, books I own but haven’t read, books released in 2013 and 2014, books that have been on the TBR for a long time)
    • Write for 20 minutes daily (ideally [a number of words], either fresh or rewritten)
    • Meditate daily (as part of morning/bedtime rituals – did this for a few months in 2011, never felt better, somehow could not convince myself to ever do it again, see above for possible reasoning)
    • Some smaller goals: Make family dinner once a week, vacuum once a week…maybe I’ll think of more later

    I also don’t know how I feel about blogging anymore. I started using Tumblr and Goodreads in the fall of 2011 and while my use of these platforms didn’t really harm my blogging habits any more than if I hadn’t been using those platforms in 2012, I did migrate quite a bit more towards them in 2013. However, when I do post my thoughts on either of those websites, I really consider what I’m writing and I think because of this careful consideration my personal writing has improved over the past year. If you browse the ‘my thoughts’ tag on my Tumblr or my short reviews on Goodreads, you’ll see I haven’t stopped documenting my thoughts; I’ve just been shaping them into a form appropriate for a much different medium. I used to think if I ever started doing that  that it would be a bad thing, those bits of writing wouldn’t be as valuable as if I had formed them into a fat, formatted blog post but I no longer think that way. So, my dilemma now is how to proceed. Do I let this blog fall to wayside or do I revive it? If I do revive it, I think it will need to be in a different form that what I’ve been doing the past few years. It’s not longer sustainable or unfortunately that interesting or valuable for me. I’m not sure I even want to document my writing anymore – I can use track changes in Word when it really matters and I don’t want to talk about writing anymore, I want to do it. I think I’ve finally reached the end of my rope with my writing habits and

    In conclusion: I don’t know what’s going to happen with this blog in 2014. I’m not making a TBR page or providing any semblance of a schedule. There are other things I want to give priority to in my life. Let’s see where this leaves Falling Letters. This whole post may sound a bit dreary, but I’m actually feeling more optimistic than ever because I’m not giving myself false hope and I’m trying to consider my situation realistically, in order to make real changes. Here’s to 2014!

    Wrapping Up 2012, Looking Forward 2013

    Here it is, the last post for today, I promise! 😉 I have greatly neglected blogging the past few months and let the posts pile up, leading to this deluge of five on the final day of the year. I’m pleased to have made it to 50 posts, though. I hate to see how my blogging habits always wane at the beginning of summer and never quite get back into shape. But before I talk about goals for next year, let me review 2012.

    Once again I attempted to tackle the 100 book challenge. I fared much better this year than last, reaching a total of 90.5 books – 14.5 more than in 2011! (I’m desperately trying to finish The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien tonight but that’s not going to happen.) I likely could have reached 100 but I tend to slack off early in the summer…bad Reno. Regardless, I achieved my goal of reading more books in 2012 than in 2011. I didn’t take on challenges in the way I did in 2011, but here is a recap of the two official and one personal challenges that I worked at:

    • 2012 TBR Pile Challenge – The first challenge I have participated in twice, I did marginally better this year than last, finishing 9 of 12 books. I started Collapse in February, got 100 pages in, and somehow never found the time to finish…I had difficulty finding  Walden at the library, though I did have The Once and Future King signed out for five months – just never got in the right mood for it, I suppose! I enjoyed most of the books I read for this challenge, but I don’t think I would consider any among my favourites.
    • The TBR Double Dare – This challenge was to read books only from your TBR list in the first three months of the year. That I succeeded at – lots of my books on my list! Many of the books read also turned out to be great reads or even favourites, such as In the Night Garden and Perdido Street Station. I read 16 books (of a goal of 20) and dropped three.
    • Tolkien Challenge – Lastly, a personal challenge to read a number of books by or about Tolkien! My goal was to read the first eight books on the list and I succeeded. Every book for that one was a enjoyable read. The History of the Hobbit is incredible! For the first time, I read The Lord of the Rings in its entirety, an amazing experience that I found quite impossible to describe. I plan to make reading LotR an annual event – I am looking forward to beginning again tomorrow. 🙂

    In the upcoming year, I will once again be reducing the number of challenges I will undertake, this time to zero (setting aside my Tolkien ‘challenge’). Something I’ve been struggling with is focusing too much on quantifying my reading…reading is an experience that cannot and should be quantified. For most people I suspect this is not so much an issue, but when I start quanitfying I get very carried away and cannot stop, getting into a minset of ‘Ahhh I must read this book for this so I have to read all these pages today!’ and focusing only getting through pages instead of enjoying a book. I always enjoy reading, but sometimes I feel I make it more about the page count than about the experience. So this year, I will still have a few goals, but ones that are more about creating content and enjoying experiences. These goals are:

      • 75 posts
      • 75 books
      • Write daily (see my earlier writing post from today)
      • Sidenote: meditation and no library fines (did well for the first half of the year…)

      I know I am terrible at falling apart after about three or four months with these sort of goals…we’ll see how they go! I’m going to exercise my willpower more this year, I think. Happy New Year, all! 🙂