What happened at Grab the Lapels in 2018? #AwesomeSauce

2018 started with what I thought was the best idea ever: how to solve the conundrum of wanting to read my old books, my new books, any random book that catches my eye, and keep up with my quest to find books in which fat women are treated with dignity. I took a weekend to physically touch every book I own and catalog it into a spreadsheet, including the date on which I purchased the book (Goodreads was a big help). Then, I went through my e-book accounts — Kindle, Nook, Google Books, and some random files — and logged those too.

With my big spreadsheet, I was able to sort books by purchase date and create a second spreadsheet with four columns: my oldest book purchased, my newest book purchased, a book on my fat quest list, and a blank column. I filled in the first two columns in order by date, and picked a variety of books off my fat quest list and plugged those in. Eventually, I filled in the “freebie” column with books that grabbed me. Here’s what it looked like:

I read everything in my personal challenge!

This reading plan worked so well. One book per week is doable, all four columns speak to my whims, and I never got into a slump because I knew what I needed to read next — no waffling over which book suits me in that moment. Best of all, almost every one of these books belong to me, so I really cleared out my personal TBR pile. It was satisfying to watch books go from a big pile in my home office at the beginning of the year to nothing. If I got ahead, I would read a few books by men and several theatre scripts for a committee I’m on at work. Total, I read 84 books in 2018. Here’s the breakdown:

By Genre:
Fiction: 24
Non-fiction: 18
Genre Fiction: 12
Theatre: 10
Young Adult: 6
Graphic Novel/Comic: 5
Poetry: 3
Favorite Reads in Each Genre:
Fiction: The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts
Non-Fiction: The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
Genre Fiction: Fat Assassins by Marita Fowler
Theatre: Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
Young Adult: Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Graphic Novel/Comic: Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal
Poetry: None
By Author Nationality:
White American: 42
Black American: 12
English: 9
Canadian: 4
Mexican: 2
Liberian: 1
Iranian: 1
Scottish: 1
Cambodian: 1
*Note: I find these numbers super cringe-worthy.
Do better, you fool!
By Author's Gender:
Male: 12
Female: 60
*Note:  authors counted once, despite how many books of theirs I read.
By Diversity of Characters: books may appear in multiple categories
Books with LGBTQ people: 20
Books with people who have disabilities: 10
Books with fat women: 16
Not shabby!
Where the Books Came From:
Owned: 43
Borrowed: 22
Bought: 19
Reading Fat Women Quest: Results::
Overall, Recommend: 8
Don't Recommend: 4
*Reasons for not recommending: racism, ableism, dieting, promotes rape culture
*Note: I also find these numbers cringe-worthy. There's a 66% success rate.
*Another note: I wouldn't recommend the books I recommend 100%! [[[cringe]]]

I’m taking the same reading approach in 2019, but one column will be changed: no longer will I have a “freebie” slot each month. Instead, I’ll be doing a buddy read with Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku — the majority of the Valdemar Universe (15 books), a series written by Mercedes Lackey. In my fat question column, I’ll be reading the Corinna Chapman detective series (6 books) by Kerry Greenwood. Then, I always read books by the fellas that I don’t review here. I plan to get through the whole “Mark Renton” series by Irvine Welsh (5 books). 2019 is going to stick me in different worlds and leave me there for multiple books — quite uncommon for me. I don’t even watch TV shows that have a big narrative arc (e.g. The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black).

See you in 2019!


  1. Impressive. Looking forward to seeing some Caribbean books in your breakdown next year (lol). I have to say this is the first post I’ve come across that’s given me some perspective on how those insane reading numbers I see the book blogging community posting are possible. I still don’t know that I could keep up that rate unless life said, it’s cool, go read, but at least now I get it.

    • Mainly, I’m reading one book per week. My numbers get higher after reading several plays, some comic books, and poetry collections. I don’t know how some people read 200 novels a year except to note that some bloggers don’t review books thoroughly, nor do they always choose difficult books. And that’s okay! Reading can be whatever a person needs it to be.

      I am disappointed that there isn’t as much diversity in my reading as I would like, and what it has taught me is that I don’t tend to BUY books from outside the U.S. I point this out because my reading challenge is mainly reading books I own. I’ll be more conscientious with what I buy. With a gift card I received for Christmas, I bought a book about Africa and one about North Korea.

  2. I was just writing up a new blog post and I’ll be mentioning your idea (and linking people to your blog). Ever since we talked about the approach you have been using its been at the top of my list for how to approach my reading in 2019. I need to get all the spreadsheets I have a consolidate them so I can have all the books accounted for that need to be read.

    Great job this year! But also thank you for being an inspiration on reading and blogging top. 😉

    • Thanks for your kind words, Shell! I’ve been telling many people about my approach to reading, and it seems to work for many readers! It really kind of has to start with a spreadsheet, though, so glad you’ll have one. Otherwise, the first step is to organize and log all the books 😬

  3. Oh, it’s so satisfying to get through those books we already own. I’m so impressed with your goal setting as well as how you followed through with it. Nicely done! 👌

    Thanks for all the inspiration you gave me this year, I really appreciate it. ❤️

    Happy New Year Melanie 🥳 🎉🎉🎉 May 2019 bring you many fulfilled dreams.

  4. Thanks for another great year Melanie. I WILL get to Fat Assassins eventually. Love that you’re going to read AUSTRALIAN Kerry Greenwood’s Corrinne Chapman books (even if I do think her Phryne Fisher detective books are better). Can’t wait for your opinions.

    • I didn’t know she’s Australian. Hooray! Though, if I think about it, I believe you are the one who recommended her to me because the detective is a smart, witty fat lady. And they are all at my library!

  5. I love the meticulousness with which you set up your plan. It appeals to me, but I know I couldn’t keep to it.

    Like Bill I’m thrilled you are going to read Kerry Greenwood.

    BTW I have some cringe-worthy stats too! But I didn’t detail them as you did! I also read almost as high a proportion of women to men as you did.

    • I think the problem is I’m pretty much reading books I own, which means in the past I’ve been trying about choosing diverse books. I hope by 2022 I’ll have read through all my TBR books that I own.

      • I couldn’t do it in three or four years even if I read nothing else. Last year I started tinkering around the edges of giving away TBR books I’m confident I’ll never read. It’s hard second-guessing the future though! I probably got rid of about 5! That’s not even the top of the iceberg. That’s a molecule!

        • Do you have a method of keeping track of what books you own, or do they get stored here and there? I spent a weekend logging every book I own. Two things keep me from going overboard: 1) every time I move to a new apartment, I don’t want to carry all those books, and 2) I’ve been buying more ebooks lately, so storing them isn’t a problem.

          • No, well, partly. I keep a record of review books I receive to make sure I read them in the order they come, but the rest are just stored on specific shelves. One bookcase for non-Aussies and another for the Aussies. But I have so many that I have other piles all around the house. It’s getting out of hand. I’ve been thinking of doing some reorganisation to bring more of them together, but whether I’ll actually list them is another thing! I’d really like to, but the time it would take would affect reading time!

  6. That gif at the beginning is so very accurate. I think with everyone there is always somewhere where we can improve how diverse our reads are (This sentence is a mess, but I haven’t had coffee yet). Personally, I want to pick up more books this year with f/f romances.There aren’t a lot, but that just means I need to work extra hard at finding them. I hope you didn’t have to bring that cold into the new year, but if you did, I hope you have a speedy recovery. Happy New Year!

  7. Seems like a really diverse and interesting universe of books and authors and subjects- and how satisfying to tackle the ones already in your library! Happy New Year and happy 2019 reading!

  8. Lovely to see it all worked out and I always enjoy your plan for the month posts. I’m still trying to think how I can read from the beginning and end of my TRB alternately (I usually read it in acquisition order) but it feels like I’d never get to the ones in the middle. Happy reading for 2019!

    • Yes! That’s definitely the problem! Those middle books. That’s why when I originally came up with the idea, I titled my post “The most ridiculous meet-me-in-the-middle reading goal of 2018 that I hope I don’t regret!” And I really am creeping toward the middle! It’s wild! The only problem is when I buy new books. Then those new-ish books get bumped off the list and into a new year. If I keep following this reading schedule, which I would like to do, then I should be done with the books I own (assuming I stop buying books, lol) in 2022.

  9. I LOVE the cartoon you have at the top of your post – I could watch it over and over. 🙂

    At first I was thinking 8 recommended fat books was pretty good (better than I thought it would be). But just because it’s better than I thought, doesn’t mean it’s good. Also, it bothers me that a lot of them are YA. I’m just not likely to read those ones.

    BUT congrats on the success of your new reading system!!

    • Yeah, I’m really not enjoying reading young adult fiction. I’m going to write a discussion post about it next week, using the information that I have gained by reading so many young adult novels in 2018. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, young adult is really where they’re featuring diverse characters, which includes race, gender, nationality, sexuality, different abilities, and fat bodies.

      • It’s all about market demand. The youth of the world are demanding diversity in race, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, and physicality. I honestly think adults in America have to work *so hard* to get by they aren’t looking for challenging topics as often in their literature. They want escapism. And, they don’t have the mental capacity to take on the mantle and drive change for their literature, even f they do want it. It makes me sad.

        That said, I don’t think adults would *avoid* those books. They just aren’t saying they will only read diverse, well-represented characters in their literature.

  10. Oh man! You had a WONDERFUL year, Melanie! I’m so glad that your book schedule worked for you. 🙂 Plus, you read WAY more than what I see on your schedule. Nailed it. Based on your selections for this year, are you improving your author diversity? You sound disappointed but you’ve set your reading for this year already. No pressure; I’m just curious.

    I am super excited that you have the year of the series! I plan on doing something similar, actually… I haven’t finalized all my goals yet, but I definitely want to wrap up quite a few series I’ve been working on. Plus #ReadingValdemar! Woot! SO EXCITED.

    • well, because most of the books that I read our books that I already own, I don’t really get to choose whether or not they are more diverse. however, I received a gift card to Barnes & Noble for Christmas, and I bought two diverse books. Basically, what I can do now is make sure I pay attention to what I’m buying. I’m also excited about our buddy read, and I’m going to get some deadlines organized this weekend and start publishing them. I’m happy to have you published the same post if you would like. We’ll talk.

      • Yes! I certainly will. I also have some ideas I’d like to bounce past you about other post options. I am excited to have something non-work related to work on this weekend. (Spoilers: I’m definitely reading your posts during meetings. #SorryNotSorry)

        • LOL! I get the feeling you engage with me an awful lot during meetings. What does that mean? It means that meeting should have been an e-mail. If you want, we can chat by phone or on Google Hangouts this weekend to brainstorm together.

          • I mean. Maybe. In this case, I’m engaging with your blog during colocation time. This is a time when my whole team gets together to discuss and work on things we need each other for. But, we don’t always need each other. So, I am sometimes sitting around. And I am *supposed* to be doing my own work. But I cannot concetrate on statistics when other people are talking numbers. So, I blog hop instead. Mostly to your blog. And Amanda’s. I find both of your voices unique enough I can pull them out while hearing other people in the background. Or, perhaps it’s because I’ve spoken to you both? So I hear your voices in my head? Who knows. I just know that… I blog hop when I should be working during colocation. Often.

  11. I’m glad you were so successful in your reading goals of 2018! It’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it? I haven’t set any goals in 2019, other than to read more I suppose. I’m going to draw up my summary of my 2018 reading in a few days so you have that post to look forward to. LOL although I don’t typically analyze it, it’s usually just a straight list…I should probably put in a little more effort there

    • I’ve discovered that when I put more effort into it, I sink hours into figuring out different information. I want to know if I’ve read a diverse collection throughout the year, so I’ll look at the author’s nationality. But then I learn some people like a lot of hyphens in their nationality, and I wonder if I’m creeping into ethnicity territory, and I don’t like to make assumptions. I’d also like to know that I’m reading authors from the LGBTQ community, but again, I don’t want to assume and lots of writers don’t include their sexuality in their bio–why would they?

  12. I am so impressed that you stuck with your spreadsheet! That’s a great accomplishment!
    And wow what a great idea for your spreadsheet! I love the thought process behind it. I don’t think it would work well for me, I am way too much of a mood reader to want to plan a whole year of books out, but on the other hand, it sounds like this really helped you get through books that you already had, which is something I always want to do, but somehow always get distracted by new books or library books or book club books, etc.
    I did try something new with my reading last year, which was whenever I couldn’t immediately come up with the next book to read (nothing called to me), I’d ask friends/family/use an online random number generator for a random number, and once I got that random number, I’d head to my excel spreadsheet of books I own (organized alphabetically by author), and then read what that number was. I think I just read 4 of those “random draws” last year, and I do plan on doing that again this year when I find myself not knowing what to read next.
    I find it so fascinating that we all approach reading and what we read differently.

    • I know a few years ago I got stuck on what to read and put a poll on my blog asking readers to vote on what they’d like to see a review of. Then, listed something like 6 books. This is nice because WordPress has a built-in poll thing that’s easy to use, and if you know readers want a review of something, it makes it easier to read. There are already excited readers on the other end of the blog.

  13. I’m so impressed! Holy smokes, you’ve inspired me with your spreadsheet, ha. Another blogger friend did this, and I love the idea of breaking down my “read” list by genre, authors, topics, etc. #goalsfornextyear 😄

    • What categories did your friend have? I know I’m lucky to have the dates I acquired my books. Somewe’re guessing based on what I thought was the year that I received the books, but most of them were the date that I logged them on Goodreads. I opened my Goodreads account in 2008, so I have about a decade of information to use.

  14. That’s wonderful how many books off your physical TBR you read this year!!! I’m impressed! I’ve also been working on getting more organized and making spreadsheets for 2019. In 2019, I’m really trying to focus on not buying new books (only at author events or for occasions like my birthday & Christmas), reading a few of the longer books on my TBR that I’ve been putting off, reading 15 of my backlist ARCs between now and June, and reading more of my physical & digital TBR of books I already own. I think the key here is really going to be not buying new books this year. If I want to read a new release, I’m going to wait for it at my local library. Thankfully since I am active in the bookish community, I know which new releases I’ll want to read and am able to get a good spot on the hold list at the library.

    • I think it’s important that we use the library so that we help the data in our libraries. If they have more users, they can argue for more money from taxes. My library has been growing in many ways. including a studio that is equipped with tools and technology to create and produce print, video, and audio projects, including a 3-D printer.

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