2017 Reading Challenge


 READING CHALLENGE #25  "An Award-Winning Book"

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann





Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.  Grann’s true-crime history takes readers to early-1920s Oklahoma, where oil was discovered beneath the Osage territory and where members of the Osage Indian Nation were murdered, a riveting story that includes the accruing of power by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.

I first heard about this event when I watched the movie "The FBI Story" starring Jimmy Stewart.  Although the movie only touched on it very briefly, I was curious about it.  This book put so much into it.  Not only did the book talk about the event itself, it also went into what led up to it and what happened afterwards.  It explained how the FBI was brought into it and how much was covered up by big influences.  I enjoyed this book very much.




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READING CHALLENGE #24  "A Book Set Somewhere You'll Be Visiting This Year"

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver

Courtroom drama pitting a small-town lawyer against a big-city prosecutor in the defense of a jealous army lieutenant for the murder of his wife's rapist.

This story is based on a true crime drama that took place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  All the places in the book are still around and this book and its other are celebrated every year in Marquette County.  The book was also the inspiration for the movie of the same name which was filmed in the Upper Peninsula. 

I live in Marquette County and find it fascinating to see in person everywhere the story took place.  There are even some people who remember when the original murder took place as well as all the hoopla of the movie making on location.  My father-in-law was the coroner on the original murder case and before he passed, he told us quite alot about it.  My husband remembers all the movie events when they came to film in Marquette.  All this makes the book an exciting read for a local.

Now I know that the category for this part of the challenge was "A Book Set Somewhere You'll Be Visiting This Year", but I do visit the locations at least once a summer.


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 READING CHALLENGE #23  "A Book Written by Someone Younger Than You"

Somewhere Inside by Laura and Lisa Ling

Somewhere Inside is the electrifying, never-before-told story of Laura Ling’s capture by the North Koreans in March 2009, and the efforts of her sister, journalist Lisa Ling, to secure Laura’s release by former President Bill Clinton. This riveting true account of the first ever trial of an American citizen in North Korea’s highest court carries readers deep inside the world’s most secretive nation while it poignantly explores the powerful, inspiring bonds of sisterly love.
(synopsis from GoodReads)

I personally didn't like all the personal insights about growing up.  I was more interested in the event and everything leading up to the release.  It seems to me that sometimes authors who write about a personal experience get caught up in too many details that are very off track.

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READING CHALLENGE #22  "A Memoir or Journal"

Homestead by Jane Kirkpatrick

 “We were old enough to know better, yet still young enough to dream.”  I wrote those words in 1984 as we prepared to leave suburbia and move to 160 acres of rattlesnake and rock along Oregon’s wild and scenic John Day River.  While my husband, Jerry, had long hoped to make this transition to the land, I struggled with the leap of faith.  My skills as a mental health professional would have little place on property seven miles from the mailbox and eleven miles from a paved road.  For nearly five years, I resisted the move.  But one day when I asked, “What will I do there?” a still, small voice said, “Trust. Go to the land and write.”

Broken into four parts, the book reads quickly and leaves the reader feeling rejuvenated and wondering, “How on earth did these two manage to do this?” Homestead is a book that challenges while it encourages. It challenges the reader to grasp every day and turn it into something memorable; it encourages to keep eyes focused on the dream, whatever it may be, even when getting to it is tough. This is a good and memorable book for all ages.

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READING CHALLENGE #21  "A Book That Will Improve a Specific Area of Your Life"

The New Atkins for a New You  by Eric C Westman, M.D.





 I started reading this book as I was looking for a weight loss program that would work for me.  I didn't want one where I would have to buy their food on a monthly basis and then worry what would happen when I went off their food and went on regular food.  Also, all those programs are expensive.  I didn't want to do weight watchers because I prefer to keep these things private within my own family circle.  Atkins seemed like a good choice.

Some of the things I learned in this book is that I don't need to starve myself, give up foods I like or prepare meals that only work for me not the family.  I ate delicious and healthy food with a variety of protein, leafy greens, and other vegetables, nuts, fruits, and whole grains.  It was perfect for a busy life: you can stick with Atkins at work, at home, on vacation, when you're eating out wherever you are.  I learned a lot about carbs and nutrition from this book and using the Atkins site online and the mobile app made it so easy to keep track of what I was doing. I lost 20 lbs. in the first month. I have no cravings and have even given up soda.  I am able to see progress daily which is a great incentive to keep going.  Plus, my attitude has changed for the better and I am starting to get more active.  For a woman of 66 years, this has been awesome.



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READING CHALLENGE #20  "A Book Translated From Another Language"

 A Doll's House
by Henrik Ibsen, Michael Meyer

I read "A Doll's House" in college (this was in the late 80s) and although it was a difficult read, I found that so much of it was relevant in an age of female equality in all things.

In the story, the main character of Nora, tries to make her husband understand that she is not this pretty little doll who is supposed to act the way he wants so that his life can be pleasant to him as well as maintain his reputation as a dominant man.  In the original story, Nora leaves her husband and children to live a life alone and independently.  However, a year after "A Doll's House" was published (1879), an alternative ending was asked for.  This ending had Nora blackmailed into staying with her family for the sake of the children.  This kind of choice is something we see all too often made by women no matter the circumstances of their home life.

Quotes from "A Doll's House"

 “You have never loved me. You have only thought it pleasant to be in love with me.”

“HELMER: But this is disgraceful. Is this the way you neglect your most sacred duties?

NORA: What do you consider is my most sacred duty?

HELMER: Do I have to tell you that? Isn't it your duty to your husband and children?

NORA: I have another duty, just as sacred.

HELMER: You can't have. What duty do you mean?

NORA: My duty to myself.”


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READING CHALLENGE #19  "A Book With A One-Word Title"

Night by Elie Wiesel
 "Night" is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War. In Night everything is upside down, every value destroyed. "Here there are no fathers, no brothers, no friends," a kapo tells him. "Everyone lives and dies for himself alone."

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READING CHALLENGE #18  "A Previously Banned Book"

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee’s great American story stands as proof positive that the censorious impulse is alive and well in our country, even today. For some educators, the Pulitzer-prize winning book is one of the greatest texts teens can study in an American literature class. Others have called it a degrading, profane and racist work that “promotes white supremacy.”

This story is about courage.  From the courage of Atticus to defend a black man in the south to the courage of his daughter Scout to defend her father's choice by fighting students at her school who insult him.  Atticus explains to his son Jem That courage is "when you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what".
It is a story that contains tragedy and injustice, heartache and loss, but it also contains a strong sense of compassion, and an awareness of history to be better human beings.

To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classic novel and even though it has been deemed classic literature, “To Kill a Mockingbird” still finds itself on the banned books list. The racial content, profanity, and references to rape have caused many to challenge the book and have the novel removed from school libraries and classrooms.


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READING CHALLENGE #17  "A Book You Can Finish In A Day"

Blessings From The Battlefield by Thomas R. O'Brien

 I do not normally read books about war.  It is just not my thing but this one caught my eye and got me curious.  A small book containing 37 stories of 2 to 4 pages each.  It is a short read about chaplains in Wars from Korea to Vietnam to Desert Storm and the Gulf War.  These chaplains were on the front lines, under fire, doing what they do best...bringing spiritual comfort to our troops in battle.  Sometimes a book in a genre you don't normally read just jumps out at you and you need to take the leap.

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READING CHALLENGE #16  "A Book With Over 500 Pages"

Postmark: Murder: Four in One Volume (A Caribbean Mystery / Nemesis / Murder in Mesopotamia / Appointment With Death)
by Agatha Christie

I love Agatha Christie and this book is one I love to read again and again.  It contains 2 adventures each with her greatest detectives: Miss Jane Marple and Mr. Hercule Poirot.

Even though I have read the stories many times, I still enjoy the twists and turns in the plots.  Understanding each clue and how these two wonderful detectives figure out the crime from each one.  It is entertaining no matter how many times read.

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READING CHALLENGE #15  "A Book Someone Else Recommended to You"

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo





 When I retired in 2014, I decided that one of the things I wanted to do was redo my house.  In order to begin that project, I needed to clean it and decide what I was keeping and what I didn't want or need anymore.  The task seemed daunting as I had accumulated a large number of items in the 40 years I had lived in the house.  I did not know where to begin, so I didn't.  But the frustration of wanting to redo the house while still keeping the accumulated loot was overwhelming.  Then one day, I came across an article written by a woman who used the season of Lent as a way to downsize her stuff.  She went thru her clothes closets and drawers and for each day of Lent she chose something to put in a bag to donate to a local shelter.  At the end of Lent she would have a large donation as well as closets and chests cleaned out.  I decided to do the same.  I found that at the end of Lent I too had downsized my clothing considerably and it didn't stress me at all to do it.  I wrote about this project in my blog and I received a number of comments as well as book recommendations.  One of these recommendations was this book.

At first when I began reading it, it sounded like a how-to book for cleaning but as I got into it, I realized that it also was a way to put my life in order as well.  Just as I would sort thru clothes, furniture, books, etc. and decide what is needed or not needed so too I could sort thru those things in my life which were needed and not needed.  Clothes and furniture that were my style 10 years ago are no longer my style now just as things that controlled my life 10 years ago no longer seemed so important that I should stress over them now.  The point being to remove anything that is unnecessary. Be it objects, emotions, wants, prejudices or fears; it is about stripping life of all things false.


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READING CHALLENGE #14  "A Book With A Character With Your First Name"

Number the Stars by  Lois Lowry


The story's title is taken from a reference to Psalms 147:4, in which the writer relates that God has numbered all the stars and has named each one of them. It ties into the Star of David, worn by Ellen on her necklace, which is symbolic to Judaism.

Annemarie Johansen and her friend, Ellen Rosen, are ten-year-old girls living in Copenhagen, Denmark, during World War II. For unknown reasons the Germans are "relocating" Denmark's Jews. At the synagogue, the Nazis have taken the names and addresses of all the Jewish people in Copenhagen. Ellen and her family are Jewish. Ellen's parents have fled with Peter, the former fiancé of Annemarie's older sister, Lise, who died years ago. Ellen must stay with the Johansens, pretending to be Lise, even though she is half the age of the real Lise.  Ellen and her family are eventually spirited out of Denmark.

Two years later, the war in Europe ends, and all of Denmark celebrates.  It is unknown if Ellen or her parents r eturn to Copenhagen. Annemarie will always remember Ellen as a true friend.

Number the Stars is a story about living through the Holocaust. It may not lay out the nitty-gritty, gruesome images that many Holocaust books send our way, but it's no less scary. Seeing Ellen—a young, innocent girl—so actively fearing death just because of her religion is a slap in the face.


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READING CHALLENGE #13  "A Book With A Number In The Title"

The 5 People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom


When I began to read this book, I found myself fascinated by the concept that all life experiences, good and bad, are connected in some way.  By the time I finished the book, I was anxious to find in my own life those 5 people I might meet in heaven.  I decided to take some time and list experiences and people that have been part of my life at some time.  I tried to balance between good and bad.  It would be very interesting to see who would be the five.  Would it be people I encountered in a positive or negative way?

This book has a running theme thru it.  "Everything happens for a reason. There are no random events in life. All lives and experiences are interconnected in some way, and even the little things you do can affect other people's lives and experiences dramatically."  It definitely made me think about my life.


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READING CHALLENGE #12  "A Book With Someone's Name In The Title"

Marva Collins' Way by Marva Collins & Civia Tamarkin

This is the story of a teacher who, disgusted with the deplorable state of public education in Chicago, started her own school using her own common-sense approaches to teaching: basic phonics; high expectations for all children, regardless of how the system has labeled them before; no-nonsense moral instruction based on pride and self-reliance; a pledge not to give up on any student; and consistent praise.

On the first day of school, Marva Collins greets her students with these words,

"The first thing we are going to believe here, children, is an awful lot of believing in ourselves."

This is something we all want for our children whether we are parents and/or educators.  For when children believe in themselves, they can accomplish so much.

Marva Collins was one of my role models to be the teacher I always wanted to be!

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READING CHALLENGE #11 "A book set in your hometown/region"

Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin


                                      (The real Dandelion Cottage in Marquette, Michigan)


The cottage, built in about 1880 and on the state historical register,  served as the inspiration for the children’s book "Dandelion Cottage" written in 1904 by Marquette author Carroll Watson Rankin.

It is the story of four little girls who pulled a bumper crop of dandelions from the lawn to earn the right to use the run-down cottage as a playhouse one summer and of their numerous adventures as they set up housekeeping.

When I was teaching, this book was very popular in my classroom.  Many a time, I was told by students and parents that finding the Dandelion Cottage was a wonderful outing after the book had been read.

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READING CHALLENGE #10  "A book published in the 20th century"

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan


This is a small book, an hour or two's read at most but within its covers, Patricia MacLachlan creates a story of ordinary circumstances and turns them into a living, breathing event readers can feel. It depicts the simple life people lived while farming the frontier of America.  It is a poignant reminder of the hardships endured by families in that era. It touches on lives affected by death, by loss, by separation. It shows a young boy worried about new separation and how a grown woman deals with separation in her own way. MacLachlan is able to reveal the characters emotions without telling us HOW they are feeling but WHAT they are feeling. Told with the simplicity of a children's story, MacLachlan includes the grace and wisdom of the best adult novels.



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 READING CHALLENGE #9  "A book that became a film"

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman





This is a wonderful story of Antonina Żabińska and her husband Jan who were zookeepers at the Warsaw Zoo during WWII.  There are two stories within the story.  One is the war going on around Poland and how it affects the people of Warsaw and all of Poland.  The second is the story of Jan and Antonina and how their efforts saved over 300 Jews in Warsaw from the Nazis.  This story is more on Antonina and her strength and courage.  I highly recommend this book.

I went to see the movie after reading the book and was very dissapointed.  The movie focused more on the personal relationships of her and her husband as well as her relationship with a colleague who becomes an enthusiastic ally of the nazis.


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READING CHALLENGE #8 "A book by someone who isn't a writer"

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch





I read this book on the recommendation of a friend.  I was not too enthusiastic about it as I was not interested in reading about the end of life ramblings of a college professor.  However, my friend has always steered me in the right direction on reading material so I gave it a go.  I was floored!  This was one of those books I could not put down until I was finished reading it.  It was unlike anything I had read in the past.  Yes, Randy Pausch was dying from pancreatic cancer when he gave the lecture and yes, it was filled with memories and stories from his past.  But it never came off as someone who was spending his last days just rerunning his life.  It took the form of a legacy to his children.   It included stories of his childhood, lessons he wanted his children to learn, and things he wanted his children to know about him. He repeatedly stressed that one should have fun in everything one does, and that one should live life to its fullest because one never knows when it might be taken.  There are so many lessons that we, the readers, can take from it.  However, the most meaningful point for me comes at the very end of his lecture, when he states: "It's not about how to achieve your dreams, it's about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.”


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READING CHALLENGE #7  "A book written by a female author"

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This novel is about a woman who suffers early-onset Alzheimer's disease at the age of 50.  It is told from her point of view.  In the book, she not only struggles with the major changes in her life but also in how the lives of her husband and children must adapt to her diagnosis.

This book affected me so emotionally that I found myself crying through parts of it.  Not only because of the circumstances that the main character found herself in but also because of personal experience with my aunt and alzheimer's disease.  I remember my mother returning from visiting my aunt (her sister) in a nursing home and her tearful  telling of how her sister only remembered her as a young girl.  My aunt remembered nothing about my dad or about my sister and I.  She didn't even recognize her own daughter. My mother was so affected by this that she lived in fear up until the day she died that she would get the disease and forget us.

I read this book long before I saw the movie.  Both the book and movie wrung me out emotionally and although I have read the book again, I do not believe I would be able to watch the movie again.  There are those movies that affect you so much that seeing them once is all you can handle.

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READING CHALLENGE #6  "A book written by a male author"

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

 I picked this book up at an airport bookstore so I would have something to read during a 2 hour layover.  I didn't expect much, just something to pass the time.  Boy, was I wrong!  I became totally engrossed in the story.  I read it during the layover, the plane ride and whenever I had time during my vacation as well as the plane trip home.  I was totally captivated by the characters as well as the story of a disappearance and murder 40 years in the past.

I read this book before seeing the movie.  As usual, I liked the book much more than the movie.


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READING CHALLENGE #5  "A non-fiction book"

Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage

On May 14, 1978, Barb and Larry Savage left San Francisco on a bicycle journey that would take them across the United States and then around the world.  This journey of 23,000 miles took them through 25 countries and lasted 2 years.  Barb Savage's book documents their journey in a journal style.  It describes their encounters with people, animals and environments.  These encounters were sometimes dangerous, sometimes humorous but always rewarding in their own way.  Cycling enthusiasts will love this book as the Savages bicycled their way around the world and include a lot of facts and tips about this type of transportation.  For us armchair travelers, it is an absorbing and entertaining trip around the world.

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READING CHALLENGE #4  "A book published in the last year"

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
Published February 15, 2016

The Columbine tragedy has affected all of us in so many ways.  As human beings, we found it hard to believe that such a monstrous act could have been committed in, what we thought, was a peaceful learning environment.  As parents, we found that our faith in the school where we dropped our children off every day secure in the knowledge that they were safe for at least 6 hours was shaken to the core.  As educators, we were faced with the realization that our profession not only encompassed teaching knowledge but also in protecting our students at all costs.

As a teacher, this was brought home to me when I attended, along with other teachers in my school, an inservice on what to do if there is an "active" shooter in the school.  We started out by listening to an audio tape of a student calling 911 from where she was hiding in the Columbine school library.  If that was not heartbreaking enough, we also knew she did not get out of that library alive.  We performed a number of scenarios with the police on how to barricade the classroom, where to hide the students and what to do if the "active shooter" got into the classroom.  Basically, we were taught how to protect our students at all costs even to the point of  taking a life and/or giving our lives for them.  This was traumatic for me.

However, in the wake of all this, I never thought of the other side of this tragedy..the parents and families of the shooters.  Did they realize there was a problem?  Did they try to find their child help or did they just dismiss it as a phase they would grow out of?

Reading Sue Klebold's book gave me insight into what this mother went thru before, during and after Columbine.  Although there are parts of the story that are difficult to read, I found myself respecting Sue for her courage, truthfulness and finally, her strive to make something good come out of this tragedy.

excerpt from A MOTHER'S RECKONING:

"A day does not pass that I do not feel a sense of overwhelming guilt--both for the myriad of ways I failed Dylan and for the destruction that he left in his wake. . . I think often of watching [fourth-grade] Dylan do origami. . . I loved to make a cup of tea and sit quietly beside him, watching his hands moving as quickly as hummingbirds, delighted to see Dylan turn a square of paper into a frog or a bear or a lobster. I'd always marvel at how something as straightforward as a piece of paper can be completely transformed with only a few creases, to become suddenly replete with new significance. Then I'd marvel at the finished form, the complex folds hidden and unknowable to me. In many ways, that experience mirrors the one I would have after Columbine. I would have to turn what I thought I knew about myself, my son, and my family inside out and around, watching as a boy became a monster, and then a boy again."

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READING CHALLENGE #3  "A book published over 100 years ago"

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen published 1811
I read this book back in the 90s after seeing the movie.  As usually happens when I read a book either before or after seeing the movie based on it, I find the book so much better.  The original story goes into more detail about each of thee characters and why they do the things they do.  Before reading the book, I was not sure as to why Jane Austen entitled it "Sense and Sensibility".  Yes, the Dashwood sisters were the opposite of one another in how they lived their lives but that would be the "sense" part of the title.  I was confused as to the "sensibility" side of the title.  Reading it for this challenge and being older now, I think I have figured out what Jane Austen was trying to tell the reader.  We need to find that perfect balance between sense and sensibility in our lives.  Sense being good judgement and seeing all sides of a circumstance before making a decision.  Sensibility is the emotional side, leading with our heart.  Attaining the balance of both these sides is what humans should strive for to attain ultimate happiness.

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READING CHALLENGE #2  "A book from your childhood"

Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

I first started reading Nancy Drew books when I was 10 years old.  My mom, sister and I were visiting relatives in Pennsylvania and I went exploring in my great aunt's attic.  There, I found 3 Nancy Drew books.  My great aunt gave them to me and I immediately started reading them.  That treasure hunt began a wonderful friendship with Nancy Drew that has lasted to this day.  Books were given to me as gifts, I earned money to buy my own and my neighbor girlfriend, Judy, traded books with me all the time.  We would sit and talk for hours about what we read...our favorite parts, our favorite characters and what kind of mysteries she could solve next.  Looking back, Nancy was a pretty good role model.   She was independent, smart, loyal, respectful of her father, self-reliant, courageous, adventurous and she liked to help people.  To this day, I still have the original 3 books that I found in my great aunt's attic as well as many more.  On those days when I am feeling nostalgic for my youth, I pull one or two out and cuddle on the sofa under a warm quilt and read about my friend Nancy who with her best friends Bess and George and her boyfriend, Ned solve mysteries that the police and her father the lawyer never could.

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READING CHALLENGE #1     "A book read in school"

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl


I read this book when I was a junior in high school.  Anne's words just pulled me into her world.  Parts of it made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry and the entire diary filled me with a sense of hope that there can be strength and courage in the most terrifying of circumstances.  This was a book difficult to put down.  This was one of the books that started me on my lifelong habit of carrying a book with me at all times.  It is an awesome story to start my reading challenge with.
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I love books and I love to read!  This is probably my most favorite past time and would give up all others in order to do it all the time.  I am not into digital books.  I much prefer to look through stacks and stacks of books, read their spines and get excited when a title jumps out at me.  I love to hold a book in my hand, opening the cover and enjoying the feeling of the pages in my hand as I turn them slowly.  Books are a great love to me.  My dream home would look like Barnes and Nobles.  They have it all...soft comfy couches, clean bathrooms, good food and coffee, music and of course, books!  Heaven!

So to satisfy my love of reading and include a goal for the coming year, I am getting in on a reading challenge.  26 books//one book every two weeks for the year of 2017.  I found this reading challenge online and I got excited.

Some of the books I chose are ones I have read in the past and enjoy reading again and again.  Others are brand new selections.

If you are a lover of books and reading, please join me and share your selections.








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