I Am Ashamed. I Have Cheated.

I have a confession to make. I know. It seems like I’m all the time spouting off one confession or another, but this time, it’s something big. I have cheated. For realsies. I am so ashamed.

At the very beginning of the year, I joined The 2012 End of the World Reading Challenge. The goal is simple. Read as many books as possible during the calendar year that I have never read before. And this, friends, is where I’ve strayed.

I normally manage to plow through at least a couple of books a week, so while I didn’t expect to win, I did at least hope to be competitive. Not so much, actually. I have tried to be true, to power through a book to keep up my page count. I have failed. Total number of new-to-me books read in 2012? Three. Abysmal, I know.

Maybe it’s because the books I have started this year have been bad. And that’s true. I pooped out half-way through Game of Thrones. I am quickly fizzling on A Discovery of Witches. Life really is too short to read bad books.  I’m trying to stay strong and make it through Witches because, as a  friend oft reminds me, if I don’t finish it, I’m not allowed to make fun of it. That book is a veritable craft-box of fun just waiting, so finish I will, even if it kills me. And it just might.

But as I tend to avoid things that irritate me (when was the last time I messed around on Farmville?), where does that leave me? Cheater Town. That’s right. I hear the siren song of my old familiar favorites and slide right back into their arms. Can I count them in the book challenge? Nope. Do I care? Only when I check my page count.


Meet the Mistresses (because I don’t know what you call a male cheat-partner. The opposite of “mistress” is usually “master,” but that term may lead readers to expect a tennis tournament, and I’m not much into sports) –


Lord of the Rings – these are a must-read. At least once a year. Do I need to explain why?

Harry Potter: See above. I don’t know how I manage to get anything done with these two phenomenal series in my house.

Gone With the Wind – A reminder of where we have come from, and how far we have to go. I can’t explain why I enjoy reading a character that I constantly wish I could smack. Hard.

The Mists of Avalon – I never read managed to make it through a single Darkover novel, but this Arthurian interpretation speaks to my heart. I don’t care how many times I read it, each time I open it, I still hope that things will turn out differently for Morgaine and Lancelet. It’s a fine example of how great ideas can transcend sloppy writing. I can’t stand any of the others in the series, even though I wanted to love them as much.

The Shell Seekers – I am a sucker for anything written by Rosamund Pilcher, but this one is the best. It’s my go-to comfort read when life gets a hairy. And I do mean comfort. It is broken-in house shoes, sweatpants, and take-out kung pao chicken rolled into a paper binding.. I saw the made-for-tv rendition. It made me want to drink.

The Phantom Tollbooth – Wordplay beats sword play any day. I missed the window for getting my teenager to appreciate this book. I feel like I have failed as a parent. But the same kid adores Roald Dahl, so maybe I’m not a complete wretch.

All Creatures Great and Small – A beautiful series that captures life in rural Yorkshire in the 1930’s. Speaks to the anglophile and the animal lover in me.

Huntress – A heroine I can so totally relate to, Grace inspires me. The biggest regret I have about sending my Kindle Fire back is that this series is only available in e-format. One day we will be together again. One day.

And as always, I’m open to recommendations. What books call your name in the quiet of an evening? What books are like old friends, the ones that take you as you are and don’t expect you to be on your best game?

87 thoughts on “I Am Ashamed. I Have Cheated.

  1. I concur with your recommendations. May I add the ‘Earth’s Children’ series by Jean Auel? and some great non fiction – Cutting for Stone, Into Thin Air, The Perfect Storm, The Hungry Ocean, and Twelve Days of Terror. My favorite in the Herriot series is All things Bright and Beautiful…. Tristan…. I’ll say no more…. (Im laughing too hard) Have a great day Donn a

    • I have read Earth’s Children. I love the first three. Into Thin Air is incredible, and I have had the biggest crush on Tristan. I laugh when I think of what he eventually specialized in.

      I’ll have to check out the others. I love getting a sneak peek into stuff I will never do.

      • Im so with you on that the first three in EC were amazing. I liked the Plains of Passage though. But the rest got stale. If you like Swords: Life on the Line you’ll love The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw. LOTR is my favorite re read I HAVE to – at least once a year.

  2. You pooped out on Game of Thrones? How far did you make it? I’m half way through the 4th book…I love it. I can’t put it down. Everyone keeps dying and it keeps spiraling me down into a depression lol but I love it. 🙂
    I heart reading.

  3. Maybe because of my age, but I enjoy the Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series and the Private/Privileged series by Kate Brian. You might enjoy them if your into adventure, spies, and the hidden life of sonorities.

  4. I love the James Herriot series and The Shell Seekers–I need to reread that one! Some of my faves are
    Angela’s Ashes
    Beach Music
    Jane Ayre
    Pride and Prejudice
    East of Eden

    I am sure there are others, but how long do you really want to be reading my list when you could be reading “Gone With the Wind?”

  5. I just finished reading Wicked (because I missed the show when it toured through New Orleans). It was one of the hardest reads ever. Everything about it irritated me, the typeface was too decorative, the font size was too small, and the first half of the story meandered for far too long.

    But I finally trudged through it. And the second half was fantastic! I’m SO glad I didn’t quit. 🙂

  6. Oh man, I need to take notes from you. I can’t seem to quit books even though they irritate me. Which irritates me. Which makes me want to finish it so I’ll stop being irritated, which intensifies my irritation. Vicious cycle is what it is.

    We just finished reading Jane Eyre over on our book blog, and it was great, although my book BFF’s are Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series and Sarah Prine from Nancy Turners’ “These Is My Words” trilogy.

  7. Currently re-reading the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini. Have read Eragon (again) and almost done with Eldest (again) and then will move to book 3. I got book 4 for Christmas so I felt it necessary to start from the beginning. In the middle of all of those, I’ve read Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich (HILARIOUS & this only took a day to get through), two of the Sue Grafton Alphabet books (U and V), and Ozzy Osbourne’s latest book, Dr. Ozzy. I lean towards the Inheritance series at night. Something about the dragons and the mystery of it all is comforting, and the “in-betweens” as I call them, I read during the day. Happy reading to all!

      • I honestly think Paolini is a genius. His writing just blows my mind. The story concept is simple enough but it’s how he puts it all into words that is so amazing. And the languages he’s come up with – just WOW! I love books that make me feel like I’m actually experiencing them, not just reading them. I’m bad about not reading new authors, but sticking with ones that I’ve enjoyed previously simply because I can get attached to certain characters. But I am using your list for inspiration and making notes myself so thank you!

        • My grandmother would never read a book or see a movie twice. I never understood that. She would always say “I already know what happens.” Yeah, you know what happens THIS time, but what if it turns out differently…

  8. I just watched Gone With the Wind (why read when you can watch?) for the first time and I was absolutely appalled for much of that movie. Ooooh, the south. Anywho, I would say Where the Red Fern Grows. Such a great book.

  9. Your favorites list is excellent! Although I have yet to read The Shell Seekers, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Huntress… Might need to get my hands on those.
    If you like C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, you might really enjoy anything by Stephen Lawhead – he’s a British historian/linguist and writes some pretty awesome fantasty works based on mythology and legends. Definitely one of my go-to reads…

  10. Jane Austen

    GWTW (20+ times since 12 yrs old) i have new psychological insights every time I read it, I see characters differently. Margaret Mitchell-genius

    Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager series

    Little Women, A Little Princess, Secret Garden, A Bunch of Cherries, A Distant Mirror, A Spell for Chameleon

    🙂 Boooooooks!

  11. I’m just as bad as you. If I begin a book and reading it becomes tedious and annoying, I won’t finish it. I tried reading “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and wanted to throw it across the room. I understand the point of writing without the rules of grammar for the purpose of dramaticizing things, but come on!!

    “Yellow leaves.” THAT IS NOT A SENTENCE!! ARGHHH…

    As for me, I’m a fan of Tim Downs. He’s a murder/mystery writer and does a great job crafting his characters into people I want to see succeed. Any of his “Bug man” novels are good. I’m currently trying to get into “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn. It’s starting slow and I’m getting discouraged because I really want to like this book. For me to like a book, it must have well-developed characters. That’s probably why I loved the Harry Potter books so much. The characters were so amazingly well-crafted. Even seemingly inconsequential characters were meaningful.

  12. I will be a sad and lost person when I finish all the “Game of Thrones” books that have been written so far. But I hear he’s still writing them . . . yay. Almost finished with 2nd book, and the 2nd season of HBO series starts on April 1st. Can’t wait!

  13. Ok – I did say that I couldn’t join your book club, because I am pathologically unable to read books other people recommend. But that doesn’t mean I can’t chime in right? I have to say – with the exception of the shell seekers – I feel 100% the same way you do about each of the books on your list (ok – haven’t read that witches book, but doubt I will at this point.) Have you read much Ursula Le Guin? Read her Earthsea Trilogy – starts with “A Wizard of Earthsea”

  14. Anything by Barbara Kingsolver…Animal Dreams, Prodigal Summer, The Poisonwood Bible. I keep coming back to these books year after year. Also, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a great novel for a rainy, sweatpants-and-hot-chocolate kind of day. Oh, and for a more exciting, up-all-night kind of historical thriller, you can’t beat Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

  15. Okay so I haven’t read anything on your list but I read all the time…odd. I do read a lot of nonfiction. I don’t really like to read fantasy or sci-fiction. I do agree with others who said Angela’s Ashes, anything by Barbara Kingsolver(Poisonwood Bible-unbelievable!)
    but also Rick Bragg and Pearl S Buck.

  16. I return time and again to Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap series and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. I am also starting to re-read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I’m on the 2nd one, Voyager, right now. I am hoping to get all 7 read again in time for the 8th book out late next year. I agree, the first 3 of Earth’s Children were good, after that, not so much.

  17. You, download the kindle app to just aout every single phone on the planet now and curl up in your chair and read the books. Better yet, you can even lay in the battub or bed without requiring a book light and read still.

    And to add one to your list, although i usually stay away from currently popular books, the Hunger Games is a fantastically epic series of books. I too am a Tolkien and C.S. Lewis fan ad these actually compete….

  18. I believe the fact a book is so bad you cannot finish gives you MORE right to ridicule it. I am always amazed at how many books I havent read, and also concur with the “life is too short for bad books” theory.

  19. Diverting your attention to a couple books of a different genre than yours posted, try D.A. Carson’s ‘The God Who is There’ and J.D. Greer’s ‘Gospel.’ These have enough adhesive to keep you focused and will leave you yearning for their next contribution. God bless, friend.

  20. Reading the James Herriot books as a child convinced me not to become a veterinarian when I grew up. I loved the books, but I was left with the impression that being a vet meant that you had to spend a lot of time with your hands inside a cow.

  21. …Game of Thrones…the thing which made me curse like 18th century water boy!
    The guy from the library made me read it “Oh you must, you must, it`s a classic!” just to find out that after I have red all those thousands of pages that, at the time, the last book haven`t been written yet at all!
    Bad librarian, bad;-)

  22. Sorry I’m a little late with this, but there is a book “Embrace Me” that I often think about. It is definitely not for everyone, but it is one of the few books that I have wanted to read more than once. The author is Lisa Samson.

  23. Well, there’s always my book. But read it only if you like to laugh at the irony of family life. Being a mom of three I’m sure you will relate to all of it! Just go on Amazon and search on my name. You’ll find it: “Confessions of a Band Geek Mom.” Shameless plug, I know, but after reading your blog for a while, I honestly think you’d enjoy it. P.S. When are you going to write your own book? I think you have things to say beyond a blog. 🙂

  24. Starting A Discovery of Witches tonight.
    I am like you when it comes to books. I hate to read books I don’t like, but feel bad when I abandon them because then I can’t use them in the various challenges I do.
    I usually have 2 books going at a time to combat this and I like to have a book upstairs and one downstairs. I find that if I am not connecting to one book then at least I can lose myself in another book. Sometimes when I am not love either book… I pick up a 3rd book.
    You have me a bit scared that it is going to be one of those books that I will struggle through.

  25. And now for something completely different . . . I am a big sci-fi/horror fan, so I love Stephen King (return to his Tower series again & again as well as The Stand) & also Brian Lumley (his Necroscope series is a great read if you like vampires). Of couse I have other favorites – Gone with the Wind (read this again cover to cover in 1 sitting during an insommnia session), Roots, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (which I will re-read from the beginning to prepare for the newest one), Wilbur Smith has a couple of interesting series, Pillars of the Earth & it’s follow up (Must Read). I’m sure I’m missing some of my favorites but this is all I can think of right now.

  26. I just reread The Shell Seekers (for abut the fifth time), and feel exactly the same way as you do about it – it’s such a comfort read, and still makes me weep a little each time. Coming Home by RP has the same effect – have you read that one?
    The Anne of Green Gables series has something of the same effect on me – that’s another go-to book when I need a hot-chocolate-and-a-hug sort of read.

  27. There is nothing harder than reading a book that hasn’t captivated you from the start. I can totally understand why you cheated and went back to your favourite books!
    I suggest you stop reading the books that aren’t getting you hooked and keep finding new ones that may help. One of my fave books is: Atlast Shrugged By Ayn Rand.
    Best of luck.

  28. I’m going to second the Outlander (Voyager) series by Diana Gabaldon. I try to re-read the series each year at least once and it’s like visiting old friends. As a bonus the books are so very long (each one is 900+ pages) that I glean something new each time I read them.

    I also really liked Cutting for Stone!

  29. I also admire The Phantom Tollbooth. It’s like a childhood friend. It fills me with nostalgia but still makes me smile, ponder, and laugh even though I am older now.

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