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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

01 January 2008

Looking back, looking ahead

For the first time ever, in 2007 I kept a list of the books I read. To my surprise, given how much time I spent preparing to move, moving, and unpacking, I read 73 books. Sixteen were written by people I know in real life or whom I “know” through blogging. (Thanks, blogging friends, for good reads I might have otherwise missed!) Here’s how my year stacked up.

  • fantasy, including epic poems: 18
  • romance and chick lit: 10
  • science fiction: 7
  • historical mystery: 5
  • women’s fiction (excluding romance): 3
  • literary fiction: 2
  • modern-day mystery: 1


  • miscellaneous: 8
  • writing related: 7
  • history: 4
  • biography: 3
  • gardening and attracting birds: 3
  • quilting: 2

I plan to keep a list again for 2008.

Some people have told me they set reading goals for the year. That sounded like something worth trying, so for 2008 I set three goals:

  • To read Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth (which looks fascinating but has so far intimidated me with its length) and some of the other very thick books on my shelves.
  • To read more books on writing—I’ll shoot for one per month.
  • To catch up on some of the mystery series I’m behind on.

What about you? Do you keep a reading list? Do you set reading goals for the year? What are you looking forward to reading in 2008?


virtual nexus said...

A number of good ideas here, Shauna - I've been reading so much on line I haven't been reading published books generally for a couple of months; and as I'm having a general book sort at the moment I think I will make a note out of interest.

Don't usually keep a specific list, though comment on what I'm reading in my journals so keep track that way. I read a high percentage of non-fiction, broadly speaking arts and psychology, and one subject area (or book) tends to spring board into another, so I go with the flow.

Don't buy books in advance - so many available locally there's no real need. Find that popular books on writing tend to cover the same ground.

As for goals - tend to be interest driven, so reading revolves around whatever is the flavour of the month; worth working out what we're reading for?

Lisa said...

Shauna, I do keep an ongoing list as I go along, although last year I didn't have any particular goals. This year I'd like to consciously seek out more fiction that's written in a similar style to the one I'm cultivating. I would also like to squeeze a little more non-fiction into the mix this year. I typically do read a fair amount, but with the exception of writing books, I read virtually no non-fiction in 2007. Sounds like you have a good goal. Happy reading and a very Happy New Year!

Charles Gramlich said...

Yep, I keep a list and set reading goals. For this reading year my goal is to tackle some of the big books on my to be read list that I've allowed to intimidate me because of their size. So far, so good.

Erik Donald France said...

Happy 008, Shauna! Impressive list/goals. I work in a library five days/week, so my mental lists shift depending on what arrives. There are always the daunting ones to get to in a lifetime. Fun!

Shauna Roberts said...

JULIE, I tend to springboard from one book to a related book too.

I'm amazed at your self-restraint in not buying books until you are ready to read them. So many books I feel I have to have because the cover is so beautiful, or the plot so unusual or intriguing, or I want to know more about the subject, or because a friend wrote it, or because I read earlier books in the series and want to continue, or . . . you get the idea. I've found in the past that if I wait to buy a book until I'm ready to read it, it's often out of print. (On the other hand, it's often on the bargain table at a lot less than I paid for it.)

Contrary to you, I do get something out of reading writing books, even when they cover the same ground. Sometimes the first time I read about a concept, I wasn't far enough along in my writing skills to grasp it or appreciate it. Seeing it a second (or third or fourth) time not only reinforces the concept for me, but the presentation or timing may make it particularly relevant for me.

I read for four reasons: for enjoyment, for curiosity and general knowledge, to learn more about topics I deal with in my books, and to improve as a writer.

LISA, reading to capture the style you'd like to have sounds like a great goal. Happy New Year to you, too!

CHARLES, I think I may have gotten the idea of setting goals from you. How interesting that we've chosen a same goal for this year. I love long books with lots of characters and complex interwoven plots, but I tend to put off reading them because they are such a big project.

ERIK, how wonderful to get to see all the new books as they come into the library and smell them when they're pristine. As a staff member, do you get to keep books longer than other people? Or do you have to buy the books that take a long time to read? Happy 2008 to you, too!

virtual nexus said...

Shauna, - I telegraphed the idea about books on writing; feel the more easily available introductory material I've dabbled with often covers the same ground,(as it would in any subject area) but didn't intend that to apply to the generally more selective or specialized books on the craft by experienced writers.

(I've included a link to a similar post by stuck-in-a-book, I thought you might find interesting to glance at his list if you've not already seen it.)

As with journaling, I've not thought to take the whole idea of what I read 'out of the box' to analyse the why's and wherefores; and re-assess my approach.

I suspect I have a strong drive to assimilate information at speed, which can override enjoying reading for the sake of reading as I once did. Perhaps there would be some novelty in a reading list swap among bloggers who want to broaden their tastes...!!

Thought provoking post as always...

Bernita said...

No, I don't keep a reading list. Reading is not something I organize to order.
My excuse is that the time I spend organizing and updating I could better spend writing (or staring at the computer screen, at least).

Lana Gramlich said...

I don't make or maintain reading lists or goals. As Charles can attest, I'm almost completely absent of any discipline whatsoever. As a result I tend to just do what makes me happy at any given moment with the added benefit of no pressure. Life is pretty good this way, but Charles insists on being all "disciplined." *snort* Poor guy...

Shauna Roberts said...

JULIE, that was an interesting post you linked to. Several people have posted their book lists for 2007, and I've been fascinated how different and individual they all are.

BERNITA, I use a spreadsheet, and once I set that up, it took very time to enter the books. I typed in only the title, author, fiction or nonfiction, a comment (such as "fantasy"), and the month.

LANA, for those of us with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, making lists and setting goals are what make us happy. I truly enjoy the hour (and sometimes two) I spend each weekend scheduling the coming week and making lists for each day for what I will do. That thought probably makes your skin crawl.

Farrah Rochon said...

I have no idea what I read last month, let alone all of last year. I do know that my reading has decreased dramatically since my own book was published and my goal for '08 is to catch up on the books in my massive to be read pile.

I'm impressed with your 73 books!

Steve Malley said...

I read a couple of Ken Follets, on e historical and one 'modern' (50's or 60's). He writes thick but reads quick.

Don't be intimidated...

Shauna Roberts said...

FARRAH, I usually don't remember what I read either. That's part of what made it fun to keep a list.

STEVE, Thanks for the encouragement.

Rae Ann Parker said...


I started keeping a list of books read in 2006. I got the idea from other writers who posted their lists on websites. It is amazing to see how many books and what type of books I have read. But it's okay, I just count it as research, right?

Shauna Roberts said...

RAE ANN, I think we should consider everything in life to be background research for a potential book. Particularly reading and eating chocolate.

Miladysa said...

"Sixteen were written by people I know in real life or whom I “know” through blogging."

Whow! Impressive and made me think. My father wrote his autobiograph and I once met the poet Adrian Henri when I was in my teens. I need to get around more :)

Shauna Roberts said...

MILADYSA, you made a good start by visiting Charles' and my blogs. (Have I seen you elsewhere? I'm not sure.) We both have links to many authors' blogs that you can visit and get to "know" writers. Charles himself has had a fantasy trilogy and a horror novel published, all available on

Thanks for stopping by. Your blog site is gorgeous. Did you do a lot of customization? I don't recall seeing that template when I created my blog, and I think I would have chosen it if it were available.

Carleen Brice said...

Wow, I'm impressed with that number!! My reading goal should be to read more widely...notice I said SHOULD be. We'll see if I can make myself actually do it.

Shauna Roberts said...

CARLEEN, I should read more widely too. When I broke the books down into categories for this post, I realized how few categories I had read in. When one has limited time for reading, it's certainly tempting to read only in one's favorite genres.

Steve Malley said...

Y'know, this post got me thinking about putting up a 'what I'm reading now' bit on the blog.

I don't think I will, though, since it might be too easy to figure out which books I'm bagging on, thoug I may try to leave them 'nameless'...

Cool post, though!

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks, STEVE. I too recently thought about putting up a "what I'm reading now" section, but I thought it would be an annoyance to be constantly having to change it. But maybe I'll do a "good books I've read recently" section.