2012 review in books (stats and favorites)

I’m incredibly late on this post (you can find the first part here), but better late than never I figure. First, here’s a breakdown of the goals I set for the year as well as some information on how I did.

books: 52
pages: 20,000

books: 52 (100% to goal)
pages: 20,595 (103% to goal)
on average, I finished a book every 7.0 days
on average, each book had 396.1 pages
this means I read just over 56 pages per day, on average
24/52 books were by women, 15/32 authors were female
24/52 books were new books (yikes!)

TOP FIVE FAVORITE (NEW) BOOKS (in no particular order)
Ayiti, by Roxane Gay
This Is Not Your City, by Caitlin Horrocks
Mother and Child, by Carole Maso
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Cataclysm Baby, by Matt Bell

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

FIVE MOST DISAPPOINTING BOOKS (not necessarily ones I disliked, just ones I expected more from)
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery
Out of Sight, Out of Time, by Ally Carter
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

literary fiction: Mother and Child, by Carole Maso
poetry: The Folding Star and Other Poems, by Jacek Gutorow
story collection: This Is Not Your City, by Caitlin Horrocks
nonfiction: The Girl Who Was on Fire, edited by Leah Wilson
adult fantasy: The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson Continue reading “2012 review in books (stats and favorites)” »

2012 year in reveiw in books (the books)

January saw the beginning of my second semester as a professor at Michigan State, except this time, instead of only teaching first-year writing, I also got to teach an editing and publishing class in professional writing. However, the real news this month was that I had my first ever short story accepted for publication. When I found out, I called my dad at work and left a message with the front office asking him to call me back, and when he did, I was near tears on the phone. He said later his first thought was that something horrible had happened, so when I told him I was going to be published, his reaction was, “Oh, is that all?”

Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, by Ben Hamper
This was a book I meant to finish before the end of 2011 (I was up until midnight reading it), but I just ran out of time. I think, however, that I would have been able to move through it more quickly had I enjoyed it more. It’s a good book. I can recognize that. And it was really interesting to see the sort of invisible work that goes into our fancy (and not so fancy) cars. Still, this book wasn’t quite my style.

The Subversive Copy Editor, by Carol Fisher Saller
This was a book I assigned in my editing and publishing class. Usually class books don’t make my list because I don’t make the students read the whole thing, and so I end up only skimming sections I know they’re going to skip. This book I did end up giving to my students in full, however, and I would have read the entire thing even if I hadn’t. The book is written by the same woman who writes the FAQ page on the Chicago Manual of Style’s website, and it’s just as awesomely hilarious. My one complaint is that I prefer the spelling copyeditor to copy editor.

The Way of KingsThe Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
I think I started this book back over the summer, but the delay in my finishing it really had very little to do with the story itself. Yes, I did think some parts could have been put into summary, or could have moved at a faster pace, but I felt connected to the characters, and I really found myself cheering for them. I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, which is rumored to be coming out later this year.

Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins
This is the first book in Suzanne Collins’ middle grade series, and while I enjoyed it, I found it too predictable. It’s really quite good for its audience, but it’s probably not a series I’ll return to unless I’m one day reading it to a child. Continue reading “2012 year in reveiw in books (the books)” »

Day Zero: The final update (for now)

My 1001 Day Zero days ended a while back, and while I’m getting ready to start a on a new set of 101 goals (to end on the eve of my 31st birthday), I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about what I did and did not accomplish. I finished 67 of my 101 goals. Some of the goals I didn’t accomplish but still want to do (and so they will reappear on my new list), while others are no longer things I have much interest in doing. This post has a brief (or maybe not-so-brief) overview of my goals. If you want to see the complete list, that’s at http://blog.kathrynhoughton.com/day-zero/. Continue reading “Day Zero: The final update (for now)” »

2011 year in review in books (part III)

Reads parts I and II.


August was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I went through two weeks of training at MSU and spent my time at the State trying to finish up a massive copyright project, as well as learning how to use the new item bank system (which, in my opinion, will help quantity of test questions rather than quality, but I digress). Missy moved out this month, and I helped with that. My mom was just getting worse with her back, so at the end of the month it was pretty much just me and my dad handling anything involving lifting or pulling. As a final aside-type note, I think it was right at the beginning of this month when I saw Harry Potter in the theaters for the last time, when my sister and I went back for our final repeat showing.

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson
This was another reread for me, and while I remembered some very big general things about how the series ended, it was exciting to watch it all unfold again. I was shocked by how little time the two main characters (Vin and Elend, to me) spent together in this book, and this made me rather sad. Still, this books deviates from so many archetypes in the fantasy genre, and it was great to re-experience that.

The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
Considering that I’m someone who tends to enjoy retellings and reimaginings (and I love work that incorporates myth), I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this series, but I was excited to start this second book in the Percy Jackson series. I especially liked how the book worked more with Annabeth’s character.

A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
I really enjoyed this book, but I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say I loved it. I struggled with the large cast of characters at times, because I felt that the limited page space each got wasn’t enough to fully develop them in my mind. That said, this was still a very good book, and I would recommend it, especially if you’re interested in ways books break (or attempt to break) out of the traditional bonds holding them. Continue reading “2011 year in review in books (part III)” »

2011: Year in review in books (part II)

Read part I here.


April was not a good month, but I’ll start with the good things. I started my new position with the State, and I took a trip to Florida to visit my cousin, Erin. We spent a few days at Disney World, and we went to the beach and the zoo. But my last full day there, I got a phone call from my parents telling me that my dog, Jack, had died. My parents found him dead in his bed in the morning. Then, at the end of the month, my dad needed surgery for cancer that had been diagnosed earlier in the year. The bright light at the end of the tunnel, however, was that we brought home a new dog, Molly. My dad wasn’t ready for a new dog, but we asked him while he was…um…slightly out of it in the hospital. So that’s how we got Molly.

Suicide, by Edouard Levé
I read a review copy of this book, and you can find my review online here, so I’ll be succinct. Loved the book. Also, this was another book I read in translation this year (from the original French).

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, by Ally Carter
This is the second book in the Gallagher Girls series, and I brought it with me to Florida as my fun read. This book did suffer from a bit of the sophomore book syndrome (did I just coin a new phrase?), but it was still fun and exciting, and I liked getting to know Cammie and her friends even better.

My Happy Life, by Lydia Millet
I’d read one of Millet’s short story collections in 2010 and really enjoyed it, and so this was the second book I picked up by her. We’d run an interview with her in Willow Springs, and I was really intrigued by the premise behind this book: that of a character who is happy despite all the bad (horrible) things that have happened to her. It’s a quick read, but very captivating, even when you’re unsure whether you really should be enjoying it, because some really awful things happen to the narrator. I’m probably not making a good sell here, but this was yet another fantastic book I read this year. Continue reading “2011: Year in review in books (part II)” »

2011: A year in review in books (part I)

For 2011—a year without school for the first time in twenty-one years—I bumped my goal back up to 52 books and 20,000 pages. I hit the first goal (57 books), but I missed my page goal by quite a bit, for the first time in years (only hit 18,932). This will probably take a series of posts, but I’ll go month by month and then finish up with a general overview of the year. So. Here we go.


January found me still working at the State of Michigan, though I mostly kept to myself, especially after they forgot to invite me to the Christmas party (then I got scolded for not making an appearance) and then left me out of the secret santa exchange. This is also the month that I really started reaffirming my commitment to writing. I took some time off after grad school (my advisor wasn’t wrong about there being burnout after twenty-one years of school), but the new year felt like a good time to get back into it, and so I started 100 Days of Writing—a project where I tried to write 100 out of 110 days. The month was good for writing, but even better for reading. I got through nine books.

CathedralCathedral, by Raymond Carver
Carver is hit or miss with me, but this book was mostly miss. The only story I remember from it now, a year later, is the title story, and I’d read that one before. There’s something really beautiful about this idea of these two men sitting there and drawing, but the execution falls flat for me. And now, I suppose the hate mail begins for me.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
This was a reread and, to be honest, I only waited a few hours after the ball dropped to restart it. Reading the book in a new year meant I could count it again, and even though I’d only first read it three months before, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. And just like the first time I read it, I loved it. I’ll be reading the book again this year, too, though not until right before the movie comes out in March. Continue reading “2011: A year in review in books (part I)” »

Help me out

I’ve got less than eleven months left on my Day Zero project, and I’m only a bit over halfway done. So now I ask you, dear reader, to help me out. Here are some goals I still see as possible, with some help.

  • go to NYC (who can I visit?)
  • learn a new song on guitar (what’s an easy song?)
  • go ice skating (who wants to go with me?)
  • take a yoga class (who wants to take one with me?)
  • go horseback riding (who has a horse?)
  • play kickball (who wants to help me start a team for this summer’s league?)
  • go sledding (who has a sled?)
  • host a wine and cheese party (who wants to come?)
  • visit three museums (suggestions?)
  • go to a Detroit sporting event (who wants to come? I’m thinking Tigers.)
  • go swimming in a lake (who wants to come?)
  • play poker at a casino (who wants to come with me?)

So. Any takers?

Leaving the year

I sit here on New Year’s Eve, listening to music from ten years ago and debating whether or not I should wear my nice black shoes to my family’s Christmas today. We usually have the Hemond Christmas between Christmas and New Years, but this feels so late. I’ve already moved past the holidays, preparing myself for a new year. There are only a few things I have left to do before the clock strikes midnight tonight, and I’m ready to put this year to bed.

It’s been a year of extremes. We had cancer, back surgery, and Bell’s Palsy just in my immediate family this year. Our dog died. I spent half the year with insomnia so extreme it wasn’t uncommon for me to miss an entire night’s sleep. But I also got a new job at the university, published my second piece of writing, and rejoined the halls of literary journal editing. I started coaching a soccer team of eleven-year-old girls. My sister graduated.

But there are holes, too, in my experience, as there always are: friends who went unseen yet again, plans that fell apart or that never fully formed, possibilities left behind, choices made that so fully exclude others. Things left undone, and there aren’t enough hours left now.

I’m not big on making resolutions; I’ve never understood why the turn of the calendar should be the prompt, but here I am today, using the same coming occurrence to look back, to plan forward.

2012 will be many things. I will complete my first year with Michigan State University. I will turn twenty-eight. I will attend my ten-year high school reunion. And there are other things that I hope for: to become published (fiction this time), to finally move into my own apartment, to be kept on at MSU with a full teaching load, to travel back to France and learn to speak the language well enough to not need English while I’m there.

And now I’m listening to What Sarah Said, and it all feels so appropriate.

Perhaps it’s the weather, or the holidays, or genetics, or one of a thousand other things, but I always get a bit melancholy at this time of year. Reflection can do that I think, and for me, planning can, too. If I did set a resolution this year it might be to become a better planner. Not better at making plans, but better at letting them go, at making new ones, at thinking on my feet when things take a turn.

It’s hard being back in my hometown now, feeling as if I’ve changed so much and yet so much around me is the same. I’d have never guessed, five or ten years ago, that I would be someone uncomfortable with comfort. I remember sitting in the car with a boyfriend once, maybe nine years ago, talking about that awful John Mayer song and debating comfort. But even then I said I wanted something more. It’s funny how even in change, some things stay the same, simply maturing, blossoming.

Now I leave, to go spend a few more hours inside this year. I will try to finish some of those things I’ve left undone: I will deliver my final Christmas gift, I will try to finish reading another book (Rivethead), I will read more story submissions. I will think on all the things I haven’t done: phone calls I haven’t made, things I haven’t said, stories I haven’t finished writing. So much, so much unfinished. Some, I will do in 2012, some I will try to push into the back corner of my closet and forget about, to be packed in boxes and taken with me wherever I go, until I finally forget, or find the courage to do.

May 2012 be a year of many blessings for you. May the stumbling blocks be ones you can climb over, teaching you important lessons as you do so. May there be smiles and laughter. And may we all find the strength to do those difficult things, or to let them go. Happy New Year, everyone.

Very informal Day Zero update

I haven’t stopped working toward my Day Zero goals, but I have mostly stopped updating about them. Why? Because I’m lazy. Here are a few I’ve finished in the past few months:

  • add five new pieces to my online portfolio
  • join a professional organization (got a complimentary year-long AWP membership, but it counts)
  • find a job in my desired career field
  • try a new ice cream flavor
  • try five new foods (the final three: blueberries, strawberries, lobster)
  • learn my credit score
  • get rid of 101 items
  • buy a pair of jeans that aren’t Silvers
  • buy 25 books from independent book stores
  • donate to three causes/organizations I care about

I’ve also increased my progress toward the following

  • read 50 new novels
  • reevaluate 10 books from my childhood
  • finish HP2 in French
  • finish book of French verb review
  • publishing a story in a print journal
  • read five books of poetry
  • lose 5 pounds, get down to 115 (which now means lose 10 pounds; two months ago it was lose 13 pounds)

I plan on getting to the spa soon, and on getting through a lot of the holiday-related goals. As of right now, I have 46 done and another 14 started. Still a lot to go.

10 things I would do with more hours in the day

I’m departing from the usual in this blog, and especially the tone of my most recent post (though perhaps recent isn’t the best word) to bring you something silly and fun. Silly and fun? you ask. Why yes, I am capable. I know it might be a surprise. So without further ado, here are ten things I would do if there were one, maybe two more hours in the day.

1. Exercise more: I’m trying to be more active, to do at least one physical thing each day. Mostly because I miss the way certain parts of my body used to look, no small bit because it’s rather embarrassing when I’m winded after two flights of stairs (and I NEVER take the elevator), but also because I spend way too much time sitting each day. With more time in each day I would go on more bike rides, go on more walks with my dogs, finally start an ab program that I stayed faithful to.

2. Learn more: It’s no secret right now that I’m learning French (I try to spend at least 15 minutes a day on it), but less well-known is the fact that I have a stack of old textbooks that I have every intention of reading. Sitting on my shelf right now I have books on chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, linguistics, feminist theory, and literature. And yeah, when I do find the time to pull one of those out, I do the exercises.

3. Bake more: I love to bake, especially bread. And not with a bread machine either. No, you’ve got to get your hands in there. It’s the physical connection, the smell—the absolutely yummy food you get to eat. I can’t even think of the last thing I baked, though. Maybe those ginger molasses cookies at Christmas?

4. Play more video games: I really try to make an effort to not spend too much time in front of the television—TV doesn’t interest me all that much unless it’s the Food Network—but I do have a soft spot for certain video games. But right now I do limit my time rather severely. Plus—and this has nothing to do with how much time there is or isn’t in the day—my Xbox is broken right now.

5. Sleep more: I like to sleep, I do. But I also am not a fan of sleeping in until 11. I like to be up by 9:30 at the latest, but when I stay up reading until 4 a.m. some nights, I end up really tired the next day. I really do need my full eight hours.

6. Be more social: Sometimes I think my friends must think I don’t want to hang out with them, because I’m very good at being busy when they call. With more time I could better show them that, yes, I care.

7. Straighten my hair more: Okay, I know this one sounds silly, but I stopped straightening my hair regularly about the time I started graduate school. There were just other things that needed to be done—it felt silly to spend half an hour with a straightening iron in front of the bathroom mirror. But—call me vain—I really do love having straight hair.

8. Spend more time on forgotten or new hobbies: I’m really, really good at filling my time. And there are so many things in life I wish I could try, could be good at. Take my guitar playing. It was a hobby for a few years, but now I hardly ever touch it. And I’d really like to finish that one cross stitch piece I started four or so years ago. And I’d really like to learn more about history. And I wish I knew how to use Flash. I wish I could identify the birds that come to our bird feeder without looking in the book. There’s so much knowledge out there, and I really do want it pretty much all of it.

9. Read more: I have so many books that I want to read, and yet I don’t often seem to have the time to really dive in to books. Oh, I read pretty much daily, and I do spend some nights reading when I should be sleeping (see number 5), but I wish I had time enough that I am able to read faster than I buy books.

10. Write more: Too much lately this has been the first thing falling off my plate. I’ve got work, I want to write a book review, I try to stay networked, I’ve got errands to run, I’ve got to plan for that community ed class I want to teach in the fall… I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that. My family/friends want to spend time with me. The dog is lonely. I’ve got another darn migraine. And somehow, too much of my writing is being done in my head. Despite being number 10, this is the number one reason I’d like more time. Though I do worry that even with all the time in the world, I’d still find reasons (numbers 1-9 for starters) to put off writing.

But I’m working on it. I promise.