The Unread Shelf Project 2021

img_4916A new year, and a renewed challenge to continue reading the books that are already waiting for me on my shelves! I am not going to go too deeply into the Unread Shelf Project since I wrote about it last year, but wanted to kick things off for 2021.

I felt like I did pretty well with reading this past year, making a point to read many of the books that had been on my shelf for quite some time. Unfortunately, I was not so good about controlling the number of books that I added to my shelf. All in all, I entered 2021 with a total of 271 books on my unread shelf. This is up 1 from my starting point for 2020, and marks a new high point. At one point in the year, I was down to 253.

While this is certainly not a “win” in my quest to conquer my unread books, it is more progress than I have made in the recent past. Over the past 10 years, my to read list has been increasing fairly steadily. My efforts to vanquish the stack have helped to slow the growth over the past 2 years, and an increase of 1 is certainly the smallest increase I have seen. Maybe this means I have reached a turning point. I suppose only time will tell.

Luckily for me, there are a few new twists added in to the Unread Shelf Project for 2021 that should help me along my way. In addition to some new monthly challenges, there is also a set of bonus challenges—making a total of 24 challenges for the year. My new goal is to complete these all with books that were already on my unread self at the start of the year (with the exception of the “most recently acquired” challenge, which will depend on when I am able to work it in). So, as January comes to an end, I raise a toast to us all: let’s live our best reading lives in 2021. My first challenge post of the year will be up next week.

For more information on the Unread Shelf Project, visit The Unread Shelf blog or Instagram.

2021 Prompts

  • January: A book with high expectations
  • February: A book you got for free
  • March: A book you bought on a trip
  • April: A book bought from a used bookstore
  • May: A book you bought as a new release
  • June: A book bought in a spending spree
  • July: A book bought for the cover
  • August: A book from an independent bookstore
  • September: A book you want to learn from
  • October: A book you’re secretly afraid of
  • November: A book published before 2000
  • December: A book that reminds you of childhood

Bonus Challenges

  • A book with more than 500 pages
  • An impulse buy
  • A book on your unread shelf longer than one year
  • A book by an author you’ve never read before
  • A book you bought because of a recommendation
  • A book given to you that you didn’t ask for
  • A book you got for a special occasion
  • A book from your favorite genre
  • A book bought because of the hype
  • A book from a Little Free Library
  • The unread book most recently acquired
  • A backlist title by an author with a newer release available

Christmas Cheer and Disney Cinestory Comics

My family’s Christmas gathering is a pretty big deal for us: although each family has always spent Christmas day on their own, we kick off the holiday with a Christmas Eve gathering of around 35 to 40 people spanning four generations. We have dinner, share drinks, exchange gifts, and always have a visit from Santa, who pulls out a guitar and leads a few Christmas carols. There are usually a few games of euchre, and the night often ends with a Christmas movie on as people begin to go their separate ways. As the family has grown, we have had some evolving rules around gift giving. Adults have always drawn names to exchange, and with a growing number of young kids there is a newer tradition of kids drawing names and buying for each other. Some of the adults—those without young kids of their own—still opt to buy for all the young ones. Several years ago, I started the tradition of buying books.

One of my favorite things leading up to the holidays is picking out books for each kid. When they were younger, it was easy to find fun picture books. Now, with a few getting older and becoming readers in their own right, I have tried to get a little creative. Being in schools, I do read a fair amount of children’s and young adult literature, but it’s not always easy to find the perfect match for each kid. I usually end up with a mix of new books and ones that I have read. Although I know my Christmas is going to look different this year, I still picked out books for all the kids, and decided to use the blog to share some of my finds.

img_6658Book: Cinestory Comics by Disney

Pictured: Big Hero 6, Coco, Inside Out

My first discovery of the holiday season was these Disney graphic novels. Disney has always been popular in my family, so these caught my attention right away. I found these in a box set for a pretty reasonable price considering it comes with four books. There were a few options of sets available, including princesses and blockbusters—I liked the variety in this particular set and thought it was a good fit for some of the older kids (around age 9).

Since the kids all read a fair amount, I am always trying to find the balance between something popular that will interest them, but not something so popular they will likely have already read or seen it through school. Graphic novels have been gaining popularity for some time, and I thought these were a fun addition in that format. These are especially cool because they are not simply comics telling the story of the movie—the comics are created from still shots from the movies. I am especially excited about the Big Hero 6 book, which I think is going to be perfect for my cousin’s son who can be picky about his reading, and tends to be more into video games lately.

Minka’s Thoughts: “Does being in my bed make these bedtime stories?”

Bookish Things – Audio Books

img_5962I have never considered myself an audio book person. I like to hold my books in my hands; I like to see them sitting on my shelves. Being surrounded by books makes me feel warm and cozy. I find books comforting and magical. Of course, I realize that a huge and important part of those books is the stories that they contain. I have always appreciated the existence of audio books—they are certainly an amazing thing, to allow those with visual impairments or reading difficulties access to these stories that might otherwise be out of their reach. Of course though, I can see. I can read them myself. Why would I need an audio book?

For most of my life, the line of thought stopped there. Once, when I was younger, I got an audio book from the library when there was a long waiting list for a book that I wanted, but the audio version was available. This was back in the day of cassette tapes, which I must say gave me a bit of a distaste for the genre. I gave them little further thought until this previous New Year’s Eve—I very much wanted to finish my book by the end of the year, and had a long drive to make. I had only a few chapters left in the sixth book from A Series of Unfortunate Events, and was able to find the audio book for free online. I decided to give it a try. What a treat this turned out to be! The book was narrated by Tim Curry who was a perfect fit for the series; I was really impressed with his voice work in bringing life to the story.

Since I enjoyed the first part from A Series of Unfortunate Events, I listened to parts of other books in the series as well. Unfortunately, I ran into some trouble. I am a little distractible, and often found myself needing to replay parts. I discovered that it was nearly pointless to listen at certain times or when doing certain activities. Even though folding laundry or doing dishes seemed like perfectly thoughtless tasks, I found my mind drifting. And of course, I frustrated myself quite a bit with switching back and forth between books and audio every few chapters. After thinking through some of these kinks over the last several months, I decided that I would listen to at least 5 audio books as a sort of trial run, before putting the format on the back burner again.

img_5954As it turns out, I did not need all five books before making a decision: I have no desire to replace reading with audio, but there is a perfect place for audio books in my life. For me, audio books are an ideal way for me to revisit books. I have always been a re-reader, but often struggle justifying the want to re-read when there are so many new books waiting on my shelves. There are a few times that I have found I can work in audio books during my routines without interfering with my other reading, which has worked out really well for me. I frequently walk the parks in my neighborhood, and this is the perfect time to get in a couple chapters most days. It is also a great option for longer car trips, as long as I do not need to concentrate too much on navigating—this summer I have gotten in many hours of listening driving between home and my family’s cabin in Northern Michigan.

I very quickly made it through the five books that I committed myself to, and have kept going. It has been fun for me to get the chance to revisit quite a few previous reads, and I have been lucky that the books I have chosen have had well matched narrators. While I intend to keep this blog primarily focused on physical books and new reads, I do hope to sprinkle in a little bit of audio every once in a while.

Bookish Things – Poe and Goals

When I decided to revamp my blog at the beginning of the year, I planned to include a few “bonus posts” for the months that had a fifth Wednesday. I started with some information on the Unread Shelf Project in February, and July turned out to be the next month with an extra week! I have put much thought into the types of things that I would share in these posts, and came up with a list of ideas that still need a bit of fleshing out. To start though, I thought I would share something fun and bookish that relates to some personal goals that I have made.

61602902298__8409ccd0-edb3-4c86-8fe5-87a9d4d4f6b4It won’t shock anyone to hear that in addition to my extensive collection of books, I have accumulated many bookish things. I think it is a natural consequence of people knowing that you are a reader, along with my lack of self-control when it comes to all things books. I mean, how else would I have a to read list topping 250 books on my shelves? (Truthfully, I am a person who likes accumulating “stuff”—but I make exceptions for things that speak to my heart.) The latest addition to my bookish belongings is an Edgar Allan Poe t-shirt, pictured here.

I know I have mentioned a love for Poe here at least once, although I am not sure that it shows quite as heavily as it may in real life. He is one of the few authors I have read in entirety, and I find him and his work quite fascinating. When I saw I have a collection of bookish belongings, I actually have two collections: bookish things, and Poe-ish things. It helps, I suppose, that unrelated to Poe, I also very much enjoy ravens. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that when I saw this Out of Print Poe shirt I felt it needed to come home with me. Bonus points that it is reminiscent of the style of Andy Warhol (and on sale!).

Since I found this at a bookstore, I did not have the opportunity to try it on. I made a guess in size, and took it home. Unfortunately, it is a bit small. Now, here is where I am going to digress a bit. When I say that I guessed on the size, that’s partially because I chose the size that I am accustomed to, not the size that I probably need. I do not always maintain the healthiest of habits, and sometimes this catches up to me. I find my favorite clothes do not fit quite how I would like them to anymore, and I generally feel a bit off. I can admit that the quarantine of the last few months has not been great for this. I have been taking more walks, but I have not been eating as well. I usually strive for balance as much as possible, but lately I have been living more at the extremes, claiming to myself that it’s okay as long as I go extreme in both directions sometimes. Spoiler alert: it’s not. I end up with the negative consequences on both ends of the spectrum, without any of the positives.

So to wrap things up, I want to put this out there as something to help keep me more accountable to myself: this shirt is now my “goal” shirt. I am not on some crazy weight loss mission; to be honest, I do not really think it’s healthy for weight loss to be the sole goal of any dietary/exercising changes. My hope is to return myself to a place where I feel more balanced mentally and physically; and where I can go show off this awesome shirt!