Dewey’s October Readathon Wrapup

And here we are. Another Dewey’s in the books!

I didn’t make it 24 hours, but I didn’t really expect to, either. Around 11:30 last night, I decided I was too tired for reading to be enjoyable, and I knew I needed either to sleep or eat. I chose to sleep with the thought that I’d get a couple hours in and get up to read the last couple of hours until 5am. Instead, I slept like a rock and woke up an hour and a half after the readathon ended. Looks like neither Gilgamesh nor I won immortality this time.*

Still, I did a solid job this readathon. Let’s look at the numbers:

IMG_20181020_214036Books completed: 3

Hours read: about 14 (18 if you count the time I lost to showering and paying attention to my family)

Pages read: 593

Cats petted: 1

Cups of coffee drunk: 1 caf, 2 decaf

Miles walked: 11.68

Closing Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hours 19-24. Or maybe those were the least daunting because I ended up sleeping through them.

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (audio; second half finished)

The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín (audio; finished)

The Epic of Gilgamesh by Anonymous (finished)

Gilgamesh Among Us by Theodore Ziolkowski (first 39 pages)

3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners?

The Call was a great one for a readathon. Plot-driven but with decent character development and just fun to read.

4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you happy?

I can’t really think of anything. I feel pretty happy about the readathon as it is.

5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?

I definitely plan to participate again, but I would not be interested in volunteering to help. I mean, I’d be interested, but I know I’d have trouble following through so I don’t want to commit even to thinking about volunteering.

Next Dewey’s is April 6, 2019. My daughter has a band concert that day, but I can probably bring a book.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the 24 in 48 Readathon in January!

*Uta-napishti told Gilgamesh that he could attain immortality by staying awake for six days and seven nights, and Gilgamesh promptly fell asleep for exactly that length of time, which they measured in loaves of bread, a means of calendaring I’m totally behind. Of course, I just read a 5,000-year-old book about Gilgamesh and am currently blogging on the Internet on which nothing dies, so perhaps in that sense, G and I are both immortal.

Dewey’s October Readathon – Midpoint Check-in

Well, I’ve made it to hour twelve! And unlike most other readathons, I have spent most of the past twelve hours reading (or “reading” in the case of audiobooks).

The first nearly six hours were devoted to listening to audiobooks while I walked to, up, and around a local mountain and back home. My tracking app was being temperamental but the total distance was 11.68 miles, more or less.

The hours since have been at home, reading and eating and lazing in the sunshine while my family were out running errands. They’re on their way home now, though, so we’ll see how much reading I get done in the next twelve hours.


Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

I just finished Tablet IV of The Epic of Gilgamesh. I’m reading it in translation rather than in the original cuneiform.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I finished two audiobooks, The First Next Time by James Baldwin, which I started earlier this week, and all of The Call by Peadar O’Guilin. In addition to those and the bit of Gilgamesh I’ve consumed, I also listened to about two chapters of The Penderwicks on Gardam Street during lunch with my children.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I don’t have much more on my list, but once I finish Gilgamesh, I’m looking forward to Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. Although I might just grab my daughter’s copy of The Fault in Our Stars if I get too sleepy.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Not too many interruptions so far, but that’s about to change. Hopefully I can manage my expectations and keep my cool.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

That I’ve read as much as I have. I really like the West Coast 5am start.


Dewey’s Readathon – October 2018

It’s time for another Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon!

I’ve had some trouble participating in readathons since we moved in January, but I’m hoping I’m back in action this time around.

I doubt I’ll read for the full 24 hours (I’m over 40 and have things to do tomorrow that will be easier to do if I’ve slept), but I’m going for at least twelve.

My Cavalcade of Classics will be making an appearance this time around, too, wrestling with Gilgamesh for at least part of the time.

I’ll mostly be checking in on Instagram, but I’ll try to post here for big events, like the kick-off.

My books:

The Epic of Gilgamesh (starting page: 12)

Gilgamesh Among Us by Thoedore Ziolkowski (starting page: 23)

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (audio; starting at 1:10:00)

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin (audio)


Opening Survey

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I’m reading from San Diego, California. My first West Coast readathon, I’m starting at 5am Saturday with an Epic Walk and an audiobook.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Probably The Epic of Gilgamesh. I’ve already read Tablet 1, and this thing is weird.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

To be honest, the snacks aren’t really on my mind today. If I can manage the reading, I’m sure the snacks will fall into place.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Goodness. Well, I read. I homeschool. I make homemade hand cream. I have a cat. I like to take long walks.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

My stack is much smaller this time, and I’ll be spending more time outside, starting with a three-hour walk and audiobook. Which I’d better get started!

More at the halfway mark! Catch my posts on Instagram to keep up with my adventures more frequently.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

13784569I listened to this on audio, and I have to admit, the first few hours were pretty brutal. I listened to the first three hours while taking a long walk and nearly cried from the boredom (it wasn’t all the audiobook’s fault, though; I’d picked a particularly blah section of suburban sidewalk along which to amble while listening). But as I stuck with the novel (at 1.5x) it grew on me. Dreiser brought things together in a satisfying way towards the end, allowing Carrie to grow and change throughout the novel and dealing with his characters with compassion even when it was clear that he didn’t approve of their actions.

I kept forgetting that this novel was written before the stock market crash of 1929, before both world wars, even before the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. I need to look back at this time in U.S. history for more context.

I’m definitely getting this one in print so I can read more deeply—and underline. There are some parallels between themes in this book and other books I’m reading/have read recently, and I need the book in front of me to catch them.

This is another title from the second round of my Cavalcade of Classics. Here’s a view from my otherwise boring walk during the first hours of the audiobook. Not so bad when I look back on it now.


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

22890386A letter from an old friend and the opportunity for a road trip leads Mr. Stevens, a career butler of the Downton Abbey era, to reflect about his life and his actions both past and present, and Ishiguro brings us along on both this literal and figurative journey with skill and precision. Mr. Stevens may be one of the most authentic, realistically written characters I’ve read in a very long time.

I’ve never been a butler for one of the distinguished old houses of pre-war Great Britain, but I can very much relate to Mr. Stevens’s habit of revising and reframing memories of his actions that don’t fit with his image of himself. It’s the kind of story crafting that we all do, I think, whether consciously or not, as we try to assemble a narrative for our life that is consistent with how we want to view ourselves.

One thing that seems to elude many authors is the art of showing character development over time, but this is something else that Ishiguro does with quiet finesse in this novel. Mr. Stevens’s evolution is subtle but significant. At the beginning of the novel, he holds firmly to his accustomed way of remembering his actions in the best possible light, brushing aside the reactions of others that might provide evidence that his way of looking at the situation isn’t consistent with how it actually happened. As the novel—and the road trip—progresses, we see Mr. Stevens begin to question himself and to confront the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of some of his actions.

This is the first book in a long time that had an ending that felt satisfying to me. By the end of the novel, Mr. Stevens hasn’t sloughed off all of his old habits, but he’s much better able to look at himself more realistically and more holistically, admitting his shortcomings with fewer rationalizations and excuses. His transformation isn’t dramatic—there’s no Extreme Makeover for this butler—but it’s rather the kind of slow opening of the eyes that one hopes life has in store for us before night falls.

This novel I hope to revisit as a masterclass in character development and in the crafting of language that is subtle, economical, and powerful.

This is the first title from the second round of my Cavalcade of Classics that I’ve completed. I listened to this novel on audiobook during one of my weekly Epic Walks around San Diego. As a result, below is one of the sights I now associate with this novel. That and mountain bikers playing “American Woman” as they nearly mowed me down.


Bookends: March to September 2018

One of the things lost in the whirlwind of my cross-country move early this year is my monthly Bookends post. This post, a recap of March through September (in reverse order), is a way to reset the Bookends clock before time for my Year in Books at the end of December.

During these past few months, I read a lot of books aloud to my children and then, starting in July with the advent of my Epic Walks, I began listening to lots of audiobooks. I’ve noted which are which in the list below. Links are to reviews on Goodreads, which I should cross-post here but don’t.


New Boy by Tracy Chevalier (audio)

Memory’s Last Breath by Gerda Saunders (audio)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (audio)

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney (audio)

The Small Hand by Susan Hill

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (audio)


The Circle by Dave Eggers (audio)

The Long-Lost Home (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #6) by Maryrose Wood (read-aloud)

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff


A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine (stopped reading)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (audio)

The Diabolic (The Diabolic, #1) by S. J. Kincaid

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins (stopped reading)

The High Crusade by Poul Anderson


Rodzina by Karen Cushman (stopped reading)

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (re-read, read-aloud)

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom by Katherine Paterson (read-aloud)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (re-read, read-aloud)

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler


A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle (stopped reading)

The Sand-Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw (read-aloud)


Voices (Annals of the Western Shore, #2) by Ursula K. Le Guin

Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois (read-aloud)

The Last Star (The 5th Wave, #3) by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey

Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun by Rhoda Blumberg (read-aloud)

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey

The Capture (Guardians of Ga’Hoole, #1) by Kathryn Lasky

Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth (stopped reading)

Stargirl (Stargirl, #1) by Jerry Spinelli

The Irony of American History by Reinhold Niebuhr (stopped reading)

Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics by Stanley F. Schmidt

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (read-aloud)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (re-read, read-aloud)

Catalyst (Insignia, #3) by S.J. Kincaid


Pretty Monsters: Stories by Kelly Link

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson (read-aloud)

Currently Reading:

Maggie’s Door by Patricia Reilly Giff (read-aloud)

Ghostland by Colin Dickey

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

To-Read in October:

October and thereafter, I will attempt to read at least one title per month from the second round of my Cavalcade of Classics. Goals for this October, in addition to completing the books I’m currently reading:

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh Among Us by Theodore Ziolkowski

The Odyssey by Homer (Emily Wilson translation)

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (on audio)

What books have your read recently that speak to you? What books are you excited to read in October?

TBR List Declutter, Bonus Issue 2

Tangent: Podcasts for Suburban Walks 

The past month or so I’ve been taking long walks over the weekend. I try to get in the neighborhood of ten miles. I always start from my house. Most times I do a circuit, but sometimes to expand my range I walk to a destination 10-ish miles away and have my spouse pick me up in the car.

The first time I hiked on the trails to a waterfall in one of the nearby canyons. Then I started having dreams about rattlesnakes, so I decided to set the nature hikes aside until rattlesnake season passes or, since apparently every season is rattlesnake season in San Diego, until I forget about them again.

Since then, I’ve kept it suburban.

I’ve walked to the library and on to a farmers market, then risked my life discovering firsthand the reason for the GoogleMaps disclaimer that the route may not always reflect real-world conditions. I’ve walked to Costco and met my spouse waiting in line for gas.  I’ve walked a big loop across another canyon, to Target to buy icing spatulas, and then to a different library. Most recently I walked to a farmers market ten miles away where I met my family and bought local passion fruit.

No matter my route or destination, I get about three hours by myself to think, take in the suburban sights, breathe in car exhaust, and listen to podcasts.

Here are some of the highlights from my auditory explorations:

  • Being Sincere in a Cynical World, from To the Best of Our Knowledge. This show explores the reasons for and costs of cynicism and the value of vulnerability. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and that I addressed in part in my tangent about duplicity. The third story, “Can You Change the Mind of a White Supremacist” was my favorite. If you listen to only one story from that episode, I recommend that one.
  • Loving Bees, also from To the Best of Our Knowledge. This one is all about the importance of bees—especially local bees—to our ecosystem and most notably to human food supplies. My can’t-miss from that episode was “Rebuilding Detroit, Hive by Hive” about a couple who turn a vacant lots into bee sanctuaries. We have family near Detroit, and I’m scheming to visit Detroit Hives next time we’re in the area.
  • Word Watch and Word Watch, the Sequel, from Code Switch. These episodes explore the racist origins of common words and expressions.
  • Talk American, also from Code Switch. This one deals with the information we assume about a person based on their accent and explores the origins of the non-accent that’s become the standard for network news in the United States. (Spoiler: it started in Cleveland.)
  • “Blockchain all the things. Or don’t.” and “Bitcoin IRL,” from Make Me Smart. I can’t actually decide if I love these or hate these. After listening to these episodes, I understand blockchains and Bitcoin about as well as I understand futures trading now, which means they’ve taken my understanding from abject confusion to only partial confusion, which is positive. I think.
  • On Homeschooling Culture & Rethinking School, from Brave Writer Podcast. There’s not much that’s brand new to me in the homeschool world, but this interview with Susan Wise Bauer got me thinking. Of particular interest to me is Bauer’s observation that the homeschoolers in the classes she teaches at William and Mary College are overall ill-equipped to defend their arguments. Since listening, I’ve been thinking my approach to logic and argument with my own children. Critical thinking is, in my opinion, possibly the most important skill I can foster in my children. We tend to be a skeptical family, and intellectual argument is our native tongue, but a little more formal preparation—and more intentional interaction with those with differing viewpoints—is probably in order.

That’s some of what’s been filling my ears these past several weekends. If you listen to any of these or if you have any favorites of your own, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Visual Interest:



Titles 771-782:

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TBR List Declutter, Bonus Issue 1

Tangent: Bully Pulpit

As my daughter approached middle-school age, memories of my own experiences at that age started bubbling to the surface. Because I don’t want to color her experience, I keep those memories to myself unless my daughter asks about them, but when she got ready to go to sleepaway camp, it was those memories that prompted me to find anti-bullying resources for her.

She’s encountered bullying behavior before, but not at this age and not when she was in a situation where she couldn’t come back home for us to talk it out. I wanted to know that she’d thought about it ahead of time. I didn’t want her blindsided.

Sleepaway camp was uneventful on the bullying front, but learning about bullying blindsided me.

One resource listed three types of bullying:

  1. Verbal bullying, which includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm.
  2. Social bullying, which includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, and embarrassing someone in public.
  3. Physical bullying, which includes, hitting/kicking/pinching, spitting, tripping/pushing (which actually qualify as assault, I would think), taking or breaking someone’s things, and making mean or rude hand gestures.

When I moved to Ohio in sixth grade, I quickly made friends with another new kid. We were not only new, we were each misfits in our own way. We were made fun of pretty much daily, but we were good friends and it was a comfort to know we always had each other.

Then we moved on to junior high, and the stakes grew exponentially higher. The only way to be safe from bullying—and from physical fights—was to follow every bit of fashion, hair, and makeup advice in Teen and Seventeen magazine and get yourself into the upper echelons of the social hierarchy, or so it seemed to me then. Unable to tease my bangs and terrified of being unpopular, I tried to jettison my friend in order to elevate myself into a cooler crowd. Another social-climbing girl and I would run away giggling whenever my friend showed up, and I would turn down invitations from my friend in favor of hanging out with this other girl. I felt bad about it even then, especially when I caught sight of my friend’s face, but I kept doing it because it seemed necessary to my self-preservation.

After an event in eighth grade made me realize that not only was the “cool kid” social scene not open to me, it wasn’t even something I wanted to be part of, my friend and I reconciled, but I still felt ashamed. After almost three decades, I still cringe at the memory of how mean I was, but that’s all I’d considered it: really mean behavior. Now, looking at this list with my daughter, I realized that what I had done wasn’t just “mean”; it was social bullying.

Like many many people, I’ve experienced all of the types of bullying in that list, both as a child and as an adult, but I’d only ever thought of myself as a victim of bullying, not as a perpetrator. I exchanged notes with my spouse, and he immediately recalled times he’d done similar things to his peers. We had both been fairly low in the social rankings, and in order to keep ourselves from being at the very bottom, we felt compelled to force other kids into that spot. (Edit: My spouse asserts that he was actually part of the “cool” crowd, but did admit that he was towards the bottom of that rank.)

Looking at it through this new lens, I became aware of how fluid these definitions are. It’s not that there are “bullies” and “victims” destined to play out their preordained roles, but rather there is bullying behavior in which any of us might engage in different circumstances.

Thinking of myself as the victim of bullying was a lot easier, if less honest, than this new way of thinking. Even thinking of my children as the potential victims of bullying is easier than thinking of them as potential bullies, but I have to accept that it’s quite likely they’ll play both roles at some point in their lives.

Which is, I suppose, why it’s all the more important to make them aware of bullying behaviors and to help them feel confident in themselves regardless of social pressures that might encourage them to act in ways that bring them shame. With any luck, I’m better at modeling this behavior now than I was  when I was twelve.

Visual Interest:



Titles 751-770:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 51

Tangent: But Wait, There’s More!

This TBR List Declutter post brings us to 750 titles, which means this is the last post of the series.

But wait!

If you’re despondent knowing that this long-running series is over, we here at Imperfect Happiness have some great news for you!

After the series began, the list kept growing! By January 1st, 2018, there were 782 titles on the TBR List!

And that means that for a limited time, you get two bonus issues of TBR List Declutter, at no additional cost to you!

That’s right! Two more tangents, two more visual interests, and thirty-two more titles!

So, hold onto those party streamers and sparklers for a little longer, and stay tuned for TBR List Declutter, Bonus Post 1!

Visual Interest:


San Diego skyline from Centennial Park, Coronado.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.


Titles 731-750:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 50

Tangent: Gettysburg Address

“‘But in a larger sense,'” I read, “‘we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.'”

In our history studies we’d gotten back around to the Gettysburg Address.

“‘The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.'”

My children had gotten used to me blubbering through the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, but the lull in between tricked them into thinking I’d learned to control my emotions better.

“‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'” I made it through that sentence, barely, but I had to stop to compose myself before I could continue.

“‘It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here—‘”

“Mom, stop.” My son was using the Mom Voice on me, sternly telling me to stop so that I wouldn’t cry.

“No,” I said. “I’m okay. I’m not sad. I’m just full of emotion.”

He went across the room and got me a tissue. Then he let me continue.

“‘…to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.””

I interrupted myself this time.

“What do you think he means here?” I asked, wiping at my eyes.

“That they need to continue the war because the work hasn’t been finished yet,” my son said.

“True. That’s probably one thing he meant. But I think there might be more to it than just continuing to fight the war. What was the war trying to do?”

He thought for a bit. “Stop slavery?”

“Yes, it was to stop slavery, and to keep the country together without slavery. He says, ‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.’ Did the world forget what he said at Gettysburg that day?”


“No, because if it did, you wouldn’t be learning about it now,” I smiled at him, and he smiled back.

“Maybe Abraham Lincoln wasn’t talking just to the people in front of him. Whether he knew he was or not, maybe he was talking to all of us, even those of us who wouldn’t be born for another century. Maybe he was reminding us that the work to uphold the ideals that the United States was founded upon continues on and on. We don’t have slavery today, not the way it was in 1860, but you can’t just end slavery and say, ‘Well. Glad that’s over,’ and expect things to be all better. There’s still inequality, there are still people suffering because of the ripples from slavery.”

“You mean the Civil Rights Movement,” he said with confidence.

“Yes, the Civil Rights Movement, and even more work that we’re still doing even today. It’s still not done. Even the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t live up to the words they wrote, but they gave us a framework that they hoped would create a better kind of government, one that would allow us to build a country where we could always get closer to that ideal. We never quite get it right, at least not completely. The best we can do is work towards what we hope we can be.”

“Okay,” he said. He’s eight years old and had had about all the lecturing he could sit through.

“Okay,” I said. “Just one more thing. Lincoln says what we need to work for to honor those who died at Gettysburg. Listen: ‘We here highly resolve…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'”

And then he ran off to play. As an eight-year-old should.

Visual Interest:


Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.


Titles 711-730:

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