Wrap-Up 9.20

September was a doozy. I’ve been harping on about my reading and reviewing slump long enough (and it seems mostly gone now so this will be the end of it), but concentrating was a struggle for me through most of September even when I was enjoying what I was picking up. I also got very busy with work this month, which will continue for a few more weeks before I’m able to fully catch up here. But all is well, and I’m already looking forward to the time when I’ll be back in full swing. My reading is steadily improving! But I do like to have a little record on my blog for each month, so here’s a (belated) look at my September in books, even though it’s a bit sad.

Mid-month, I set this TBR in the hopes of boosting myself out of the slump:

I started two of these books and finished none before the end of the month; I might have done better if I hadn’t started with the long nonfiction (The Only Plane in the Sky), but the date was right for it and it’s been an incredible read so far. The YA selections were supposed to be nice quick reads to ease me back in and also help me get my Spotlight post for September (focusing on YA lit) up in time, which unfortunately didn’t happen either. That will still be coming, and I have finished one of the YA titles (The Poet X) already in October. I am also planning to start this month or next focusing more earnestly on reading through all of the 5-book TBR titles I haven’t completed yet from previous months, so I do still expect to get around to reading and reviewing the rest of these books in the near future.

It was a slow and awkward month, but I did manage to finish a few things, thanks mostly to buddy reads and library due date deadlines keeping me motivated. Here’s what I did complete:

  1. Gutshot by Amelia Gray – 3 stars. This is a short collection of flash fiction stories that I read and discussed with Melanie (be sure to check out her review here!). These are excellent off-the-wall stories for those who love following a tale down whatever bizarre path it takes, otherworldly elements and all; I wished for more thematic resonance but did otherwise have a fun time reading these.
  2. Death, Desire, and Other Destinations by Tara Isabelle Zambrano – 4 stars. Another short set of flash fiction stories with an even shorter average page count (most of Zambrano’s pieces are 2-4 pages in length); these worked slightly better for me overall because I found more meaning and emotion under the surface of the stories and appreciated the lgbtq+ characters. This one’s a brand new September release.
  3. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart – 4 stars. I had already started this Booker Prize longlist title when the time for the shortlist announcement rolled around last month; seeing it make the cut helped keep me going through this 400+ page sobfest of alcoholism in spite of my slump. I found it surprisingly immersive and compelling for how slow-paced and tragic it is.
  4. Sisters by Daisy Johnson – 5 stars. After loving Johnson’s Booker-nominated Everything Under a couple of years back I couldn’t miss this evocative sibling horror story. This might ordinarily have been a 4-star read, but it was perfect slump fare and checked a few boxes I just really love in reading. I have a penchant for literary thriller-type books a la My Sister, the Serial Killer; they’re just such a fun ride. So, maybe don’t look at my 5-star and expect an all-time favorite, but this is a perfect quick fall read and if toxic loyalty in sisterhood sounds at all appealing I recommend picking it up! Review coming soon(ish).

Yep, that’s my entire list. And I read an eARC of Death, Desire and Other Destinations and returned the two library books before I took the picture, so my stack is even more sparse visually. I threw The Only Plane in the Sky in there (backwards since I didn’t finish it) as an honorable mention, because I did read a good chunk of it before the end of the month (as you can maybe see by the tabs marking my progress).

This is my smallest monthly wrap-up in years, but I’m not upset about it. Four books isn’t bad- no amount of reading is bad. It’s important to take breaks. I always feel supportive of other bloggers or bookish social media accounts who admit to an off month or need some time away, so holding myself to an impossible standard of always increasing just doesn’t make sense. Take a breath when you need to. I will do the same.

Some stats:

Average rating – 4.0

Best of month – Sisters

Owned books read for the first time – 1 out of 4. I wasn’t sure whether to count the eARC; I actually don’t think I’ve read anything in that format since I started noting this statistic. But I suppose by ‘owned books’ I mean ‘purchased books.’

Year total – 73 books read. After months of hanging 2-3 books ahead of schedule in my Goodreads goal of 100 books for 2020, I finally fell behind. At the end of September I was one book behind schedule. I’m not really worried about it, tbh. I’m confident my reading will keep improving and at some point I’ll catch up. It’s not really about the numbers anyway, so if I end up missing this goal it wouldn’t be a crushing disappointment.

Non-review posts this month included:

  • Some thoughts on the Booker Prize shortlist, or primarily just an update on my 2020 Booker reading plans, since I fell behind on the longlist. As long as we’re on the subject, I want to mention for anyone who hasn’t seen yet that the Booker winner announcement has been pushed back to November 19 this year. I’ll continue reading and reviewing as I’m able; I have 2 pending shortlist reviews that’ll probably be my next posts (or nearly so), and I’m planning to read probably 3 additional titles from the longlist before wrapping up for the 2020 prize season.

Not a great month, but I made it through. And, interestingly, even though I’ve barely been reading and have hardly been posting or keeping up with my blog at all, September was an all-time record month for my blog stats; just a casual reminder that focusing on the numbers will only drive you mad. Hitting all-time highs when I’ve been so frustratingly absent seems completely backwards, but the likes and comments and follows really do keep me going some days when the going is tough, so here’s a huge thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to stop by and check out my reading life. You’re appreciated!

I hope your fall reading is off to a good start. Let me know in the comments something great you’ve read recently- seriously, I can’t keep up with blog hopping right now so I have no idea what you’ve all been reading and I want to know!

The Literary Elephant

22 thoughts on “Wrap-Up 9.20”

    1. Thanks Stephen! Luckily it turned out a little better than I expected, and Oct seems to be improving too. I hope you’re off to a good reading month also!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Glad to hear you feel like you’re getting out of your slump! 😊 I totally get what you mean about supporting other readers/bloggers taking it easy whenever they need to but still putting so much pressure on myself to read *as much as possible*, which is just so silly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Callum! It’s definitely worth remembering that we deserve the same breaks we’re so accepting of for others. It can be too easy to expect more of ourselves than is reasonable, and that is silly! I hope you’re having a good spooky season. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks like it was still a very good reading month despite the slump! Also glad to hear it’s mostly over. I keep hearing about Shuggie Bain but I’m not entirely convinced by it, maybe I’ll check your review and change my mind! Also I’m curious to see your review on Sisters, so glad you enjoyed it! Did you see the ending coming?

    Like

  3. “…focusing on the numbers will only drive you mad…” I completely agree. There were times when I thought about quitting Grab the Lapels because the numbers felt so dreary compared to other bloggers. And that’s part of the issue, for me, with the internet. Pretty much everything on it is designed to make us compare to something or someone else. This is the reason I took the “like” button off my blog. Sure, people can still click the like star if they are on the WordPress reader, but for everyone else, it’s not there.

    How is work going? Are you able to make way on your novel, too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I did notice that sometimes I can’t find a like button for your posts! I hadn’t paid enough attention to realize it was when I wasn’t on the reader, but I’m glad to know I wasn’t just missing it, haha. I can definitely understand stats getting you down if you pay too much attention to them- it’s hard to accept sometimes that no matter what we post it really just comes down to what’s going on in other people’s lives and whether they have the time/opportunity to interact, which is completely out of our control. Somehow I’ve posted even less again this month and hit another all-time record for views and likes and it just baffles me. I’m grateful people seem to be connecting, but it really just goes to show that the numbers really are out of our hands. It seems healthier all around to just focus on what’s within our reach!

      Work is going well, though it feels like all I’ve been doing for the last month is either working or sleeping- the hours are always tough. But I have little breaks for reading throughout the day, which helps. I can’t really work with my computer in that time frame so I’m not doing much writing, but I do have a notebook to jot down ideas and I feel like I’m still making some progress that way. It’s nice to have a little break from my computer, really, I can tell I’ll be excited and productive when I get the chance to come back to it. I hope all is well with you this season, too! 🙂

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      1. One thing I’ve learned about stats is that any book that’s likely to be assigned to students (high school or college) is likely to see an increase in views around the end of the semester (Hidden Figures, The Distance Between us). Some books that don’t have many reviews on Goodreads or other places are always popular (Return to Laughter). But the longer you blog, the more you get visitors for old posts, and it’s so fun to see that. Then there are the random spikes; someone shared my review of How to Be Fine, which I reviewed earlier this year, and hundreds of unique views were recorded that day, directed from both Twitter and Facebook.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooh, that’s interesting! These last few months I’ve had a ton of views for old posts; it’s never happened at this volume before so it’s been fun to see what’s getting looked at all of a sudden. I’ve had a few popular reviews like Norwegian Wood and The Iliad where the hits could be school related, but lots that just seem random. It is definitely intriguing to watch the flow of traffic.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hope the slump is abating for you. This really is turning out to be the oddest reading year for me, though I suppose that’s not so surprising given everything else 2020 has had in store. Luckily I’m still finding some enjoyable reads as I muddle through- I hope you are too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a weird year – judging from where I currently am, I’m going to read fewer books this year than I have since 2016, and I don’t know why because I read loads during lockdown! Maybe I can blame Hilary Mantel for taking up so much time 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Long books that you love can be worth the lower numbers! Your enthusiasm for the finale of the Mantel trilogy has been very encouraging for me in counterbalance to the hefty page count. I am determined to get to The Mirror and the Light before the end of the year, though I’m also expecting to have a lower overall tally for 2020 than I have in years. It will be nice to get the fresh start in January!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 4 is not so bad at all! And I’m glad you are trying to take it in stride and give yourself a break – you’re very right that we need to allow ourselves the leeway that we happily give others!

    My October reading so far has been a bit meh. Nothing really bad but nothing amazing either. I think I’m going to start Mona Awad’s Bunny next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It could definitely have been worse! Honestly even though my average month the last few years has been about double, for much of my life reading a book per week felt very normal, so it’s worth remembering it’s all relative. And I think allowing myself a break was the best course- I’m very excited about coming back full steam in a week or so!

      I hope your October reading has improved, or that November will look up, at least! I had a good time with Bunny earlier this year, I hope you’ll enjoy (or have enjoyed, by now)! It’s certainly a unique read, at the very least.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been stuck at a monthly total of 6 for recent months which isn’t bad but is kind of low for me. But when I tell friends outside of the book world they think that’s so impressive!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes! It’s easy to get caught up with comparing within the book community, but it does help to remember that the rest of the world probably isn’t reading nearly as much (sadly), even when we’re having an off month. And I think that engaging with books in any way is always more important in general than getting caught up in the numbers! Sometimes we just need a little reminder, it seems.

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      3. So my oldest has recently become fascinated with how much I read and likes to go from bookshelf to bookshelf in our house and ask me what books I’ve read. Since the answer is basically all the books in our house, she’s very impressed! 😂 It’s been a nice little ego boost!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ah, that’s adorable! It’s so fun to see some of the things that’ll impress kids, it seems like it can be very easy or very difficult sometimes and it’s hard to guess which way it’ll go, haha. Perhaps she’ll be inspired to follow your lead and you’ll have another reader in the family! 🙂

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