#20BooksofSummer DONE! Congrats on a solid season of reading and reviewing, everyone!

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#20BooksofSummer DONE! Congrats on a solid season of reading and reviewing, everyone!

To my fellow Americans, Happy Labor Day!

To my fellow book bloggers who know Cathy at 746, Happy End of #20BooksofSummer!

It’s been a wild summer, that’s for sure. For me, 2016 was the first year participating in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know I’ve read a lot in summer’s past, as my job in the sweaty months provides a lot of down time — in fact, it’s almost all down time.

But in these last several weeks, I’ve been preparing, designing, and teaching four college courses! One is brand new; the course was so popular that we had to open a new section in the middle of the first week, which was unprecedented and absolutely hectic.

But what are a professor’s office hours for if not reading? And that’s how I managed to finish Fluke by Christopher Moore and Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. Whew! Seat of my pants and all.

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Here are some things I learned about Cathy’s summer challenge that perhaps you can use to get you through next summer!

The Page Count Matters

When I chose my original pile of books way back in late May, I looked through my shelves for two things: the reviewer copies sent by authors/publishers that I wanted done and out of the way, and time-consuming books. This is not a good way to go (and should have been obvious).

By time-consuming stories, I really meant The Brothers Karamzov. I wanted this chunker in my hands, and isn’t summer a long, leisurely time to do that? Well, no, not if you’re doing the 20 Books of Summer Challenge! There’s no time for leisure, nor is there time for a 720 page Russian classic. Big books are out, unless you take the 10 Books of Summer Challenge and maybe do all fat books. I might do that next summer!

Math Matters for Pacing Yourself

Had I not gotten the idea from Cathy to count up all the pages I wanted to read over summer and divide them by the number of days in the challenge, I would have horribly failed. ( This summer, I read over 5,500 pages). I found that on average (I had to adjust a few times over the summer) I needed to read 50 pages per day. Not so bad, right?

But that meant that on days I wrote a review or went away for a weekend, those 50 pages were piled on to the next day. At times, I had a goal of 150 pages per day just to catch up, which can be intimidating! It might be better to not divide the total page count by all the days in the challenge; subtract some days for vacation and blog writing.

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Your Readers Still Need to Care About What You’re Reading

I felt like this challenge was for me and figured my audience would be on board no matter what. Before I started the 20 Books of Summer, I was under the impression that everyone had read and loved both the Green Gables series and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. My Rebecca review was full of spoilers, which is not normal for me, causing some readers to comment that they would not read my review. I definitely lost some readers who hadn’t read Anne and either didn’t care about her story or didn’t want 8 books worth of spoilers. I don’t typically read series on Grab the Lapels, and in the future I don’t think I will again. Choosing the Green Gables series was a selfish choice. I’m glad I read them, but it was weeks of Anne, Anne, Anne!

Blog Posts Still Need to Be Up to Standard

If you’re reading so many books that you can’t keep up with your reviewing, the point is a bit lost on the audience, who man not care about or appreciate your challenge. Or, perhaps you could alter the challenge: read 20 books, but do 10 thorough reviews. I’m proud that I spent a lot of time writing substantial reviews and didn’t change the quality of my posts. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity, or your reviews will be more like the 20 count chicken McNugget meal.

Reading Challenges Can Cure the “I don’t wannas”

Even though my summer reading job has a lot of down time, that didn’t mean that in past summers I was sitting there soaking up the books. I would often get depressed that my job didn’t require me to use my brain. (Going to a job is better than sitting at home. For one, it requires a shower and dressing). Actually, I wouldn’t read nearly as much as you would think — instead, I wasted my time on social media, which can get very, very depressing. The challenge really helped my self-esteem all summer. I felt like I had a purpose, though I am purpose-driven while others are not. To fail the 20 Books of Summer challenge felt awful in my heart, even though no one probably cares. I cared.

Well, that’s it! I hope you had a great summer!

Here’s the roster:

  1. Harley and Me by Bernadette Murphy
  2. On Air by Robin Stratton
  3. Single Stroke Seven by Lavinia Ludlow
  4. Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz
  5. Retelling by Tsipi Keller
  6. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  9. Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
  10. Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  13. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  14. Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  15. Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  17. Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  18. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  19. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan
  20. Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore

 

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About Grab the Lapels

I'm a graduate of the MFA fiction writing program at the University of Notre Dame. I also have a MA and BS from Central Michigan University. I teach composition, creative writing, and literature, which has inspired me to follow along with trends in teaching, publishing, and reviewing.

35 responses »

    • Ha, thanks for the support 🙂 The writing is so funny in Rebecca that I know I’ll read it again. Thanks for sticking with me–Bill, isn’t it? There will be more reviews coming, but perhaps at not such a crazy rate.

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  1. Good work! I also finished the challenge (with just a day to spare) but still have to write my last review. I mixed my books up a little – I had a couple that were longer, evened out by a couple that were shorter. I think I was averaging about 70 pages a day. Good idea to consider going for 10 books next year and clear the shelves of some of the chunksters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Nick! I do remember FORCING you to read some of those books, too… “You going to read now? How about now? Book club is in THREE days! DO IT NOOOOOWWW!” I’m the caring sort 😉

      What did you read? I can’t remember.

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  2. I loved your reviews of the Anne books, and it seemed as though others did as well. I’m glad you read them!
    Um, my approach to the 20 Books of Summer was very different from yours, I think. I’ve read them all, but haven’t reviewed them all yet. But I went into it knowing that would probably happen. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good on you for sticking to the challenge! 😀 I conked out at 7 out of 10. It definitely helps to divide the page count number, I didn’t do this and found myself trying to figure out how many pages I should be reading a day about halfway through the challenge. By which point I had an absurd ain’t of reading to do each day and was like NOPE.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wonder if people actually unsubscribed or just coasted over Anne etc., or left Rebecca till they’d read it? I know I have several reviews of Anne Tyler’s “A Spool of Blue Thread” I’ve been saving for aaaaages and will read when I’ve read the book.

    If I’d done a page count thing I’d have terrified myself! I had a mix of chunksters and thin and/or easy reads, so that worked OK for me. You didn’t do any substitutions, did you? I did quite a few, and I was amused to count up how many books I actually read between the dates … details on my blog post later (I hope).

    All good learning points, anyway. Will you do it next year, do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did end up getting rid of The Brothers Karamazov. I switched a couple of reviewer copies of because I forgot to include book club books. I’m not sure people unsubscribed so much as perhaps quit reading? Yes, I will do it again next summer!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, well done you! I didn’t finish (hit #15 and read more than five OTHER books instead!), but this is great and inspirational. I love what you took away from it! Also, isn’t Nickel and Dimed ASTONISHING? It’s been nearly ten years since I read it and it’s still so devastating: the cool-headed, evidence-based way she set out to prove that living in poverty in America is inhumane and more or less impossible. I hope it’s on college syllabi now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Elle, and welcome! Yes, Ehrenreich and Kozol both went on my syllabus this semester in one class, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X is on the other. I’m pretty sure if you did some switching on your list everyone would have been fine with it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • It wasn’t until later that my two least favorite books, Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside, were published 15+ years after she actually finished the series. They basically fill in gaps that apparently readers felt like they needed. AofWP was rather boring — and you could skip it and not miss anything other than Rebecca Dew is a housekeeper. Seriously, that’s all you need to know. AofI actually introduces us to her children, who play an important role, so I wouldn’t skip it, but I found it to be a very shallow book. Both of them rely on telling short stories as opposed to one plot that carries through the whole book, which I didn’t like. Overall, I enjoyed myself and felt proud that I read the books my great-grandma gifted me so many years ago. She was a one-room school teacher, like Anne, so I felt like it was important for me to do. I enjoyed myself, but because I’m not a series reader in general, it felt like a few characters took over my life! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats on finishing your #20BooksofSummer! I chose the #10Books path and finished 8/10. (One was a DNF and one I had to turn back into the library due to holds.) I’ll try to post my experience in the next day or two. I enjoyed reading the lessons you’ve learned this summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You did an outstanding job. Congrats on meeting your goal. I hear you when it comes to reviewing the books your read. Sometimes I need a day (or night) set aside to write a review which means I don’t always get a chance to read every day. I think it’s okay to be selfish when it comes to reading, even when you run a blog. Reading as a hobby should be for you, though I will say that being a part of the community really helps when it comes to branching out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having a blogging community if awesome! I consider you guys my friends. I think I’m conscious of what I read and that i have an audience because I started Grab the Lapels to review small press books, whose authors were friending and contacting me on Facebook. I started the blog specifically to give other with a voice. That’s changed a bit though, as I can’t keep up with the reviewer copies and, at times, mid the chance to read older books, which is where I will be headed soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Congrats on a big summer of reading! I loved following along and am thinking about doing the challenge when summer finally arrives here (although, right now it feels like it may never come). I think I’m going to use the challenge to enjoy a few older titles I haven’t had time for during the year. I also generally pick one doorstop to read over Christmas, and I’m thinking this year it’s going to be Barkskins. Although, reading your advice about taking note of the page numbers, I’m having second thoughts!!

    Liked by 1 person

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