Five Books I Want to Read in 2017

As everyone knows, with January comes a fresh batch of new year’s resolutions. Since I really enjoyed making a list of books to read last year, I decided to try my luck again with a new list for 2017! Well, semi-new; some of them will be repeats of books I didn’t get around to reading in 2016, but that I’ll hopefully have better luck with this year. Either way, here’s to a bright new year of reading!

So to kick off my 2017 goals, here’s the first half of my list of the top ten books I want to read this year. Enjoy!

1) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Oh yes, I’m still working on this one. I started reading A Game of Thrones a couple of years ago, but after school started taking up most of my time, I had to put it down for a while. My resolution from last year to read every day has helped me pick it up again, though, and now that I’m done with school, maybe I’ll finally be able to finish it this year! Of course, seeing how long it’s taking me just to get through the first book, I’ll probably have to pick up the rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga from the TV series!

2) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

That’s right, I still haven’t read the Hunger Games trilogy! Crazy, right? I know I had wanted to start reading more dystopian fiction last year, but I guess I got so caught up in historical fiction that there just wasn’t enough time for anything else. These books are at the top of my list, though, so hopefully I’ll find the time to finally read them this year. I look forward to enjoying a new fiction genre in 2017!

3) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Speaking of dystopian fiction, here’s another book that’s been on my to-read list for a long time. I remember watching the film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 for an Introduction to Technology class in middle school, but to this day I haven’t gotten around to reading the book. I enjoy stories that explore the dangers of mass media, state-based censorship, and an ignorant society, so this book is a definite must-read for me – if not this year, then at least for my bucket list!

4) Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This one was recommended to me by my boyfriend, who started reading the book last year and has really been enjoying it so far. Ready Player One certainly sounds like the sort of novel I’d like: a science fiction story set primarily in a virtual world and rife with 80s pop culture references. I am planning to read more sci-fi this year, so this will definitely be an interesting pick for my 2017 list!

5) 1984 by George Orwell

I know, this book is on everyone’s to-read list, but it’s so iconic that I just couldn’t leave it off mine any longer. George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel is so relevant to modern-day society, it’s terrifying to think the most glaring mistake in the author’s prediction of the future may well be that he was only off by a few decades. Exploring themes of authoritarianism, totalitarianism, censorship, and historical negationism, 1984 is the epitome of political dystopian fiction. It doesn’t sound like the most uplifting choice for my 2017 reads, but… well, let’s just say, I have a feeling this novel will be more relevant this year than ever!

That’s it for today’s to-read list! Tune in next week for the second half of my top ten list of books to read in 2017! Thanks for reading!

What about you? What books do you plan to read in 2017? Have you made any other resolutions for the new year?

My Reading Goals: Books I’ve Read in 2016

The end of 2016 is finally on the horizon, and as I look back on my achievements over the past twelve months, I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished quite a lot. One of my major goals going in was to win my Goodreads Reading Challenge, a set goal of how many books I wanted to read in 2016. I may not have set the bar particularly high for my first try, but I’m still happy to have reached it!

So after two January posts on the ten books I wanted to read this year and a midyear progress report in July, here is my final report on my reading challenge goals for 2016. Enjoy!

2016 Reading Goal: 10 books

Total books read in 2016: 10 books (100%)

Books I planned to read this year and did

  1. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K. Rowling

Books I planned to read this year but didn’t

  1. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
  2. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
  3. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  4. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  5. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, by William Shakespeare

Books I read this year but didn’t plan to

  1. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling
  2. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach
  3. The BFG, by Roald Dahl
  4. The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare
  5. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  6. Quidditch Through the Ages, by J.K. Rowling
  7. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Books I’m still reading

  1. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
  2. Tree Thinking: An Introduction to Phylogenetic Biology, by David A. Baum & Stacey D. Smith

And last but not least…

My Favorite Book of the Year: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

What about you? Did you set any reading goals this year? Were you able to meet them? What were your favorite books of the year?

The Halfway Point: Progress Report on My 2016 Reading Goals

Are we already halfway through 2016? How did that happen? Time is an evasive little thing, isn’t it? Anyway, we’re going into July now, so I figured now is the perfect time for a quick break to assess the progress on my 2016 reading goals. How am I doing so far? Let’s see!

My Reading Goals

Goodreads_Reading_Challenge_2016At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read ten books for the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. I even shared a couple of blog posts in January detailing which books I wanted to read this year. It seemed like a reasonable goal for me; I wanted to push myself to start reading more fiction again and finally take up those untouched books sitting on my shelf, but I also couldn’t set the bar too high for fear of falling behind due to school. Ten books a year is fewer than a book a month, and while that may not seem like much to truly avid readers, it’s proven to be an excellent starting point for me, as I’m already more than halfway to my goal!

I plan to write an in-depth post on my 2016 goals at the end of the year, but for now, here’s a quick recap of the books I’ve read so far, am currently reading, and still plan to read:

Books I’ve read so far

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K. Rowling
  2. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling
  3. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach
  4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  5. The BFG, by Roald Dahl
  6. The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare
  7. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

Books I’m currently reading

  1. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

Books I still plan to read

  1. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
  2. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
  3. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

What about you? Any goals you’re still working toward this year? Which ones have you completed, if any?

Off The Bookshelf: A Fish Caught in Time – The Search for the Coelacanth

How about a new book recommendation for this year’s reading list? This one’s a little different from my other Off The Bookshelf entries as it’s actually a nonfiction tale, and a marine biology-themed one at that! I read this book last year for school, and I was so enraptured by this incredible true “scientific epic” that I had to share it on my blog.

So if you’ve never heard of the coelacanth, or you have but want to learn the details of its history, you’re in for a treat! I hope you’ll enjoy my review of this must-read book: A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth by Samantha Weinberg.

A Fish Caught in Time

A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth, by Samantha Weinberg

Summary

A Fish Caught in Time tells the true story of the coelacanth (SEE-luh-kanth), one of the most mysterious and fascinating fishes (yes, “fishes) in scientific history, as written by English journalist Samantha Weinberg. Originally published in 1999 by HarperCollins, the book recounts the events surrounding this prehistoric fish, from the shocking discovery of a living specimen (Latimeria chalumnae) in 1938 to the discovery and study of a second species (Latimeria menadoensis) 60 years later. The narrative relates these events from the perspective of the researchers who dedicated much of their time and resources to studying this fish, all of whom played an important role in the amazing story of the elusive “King of the Sea”.

Review

I read this book last year in preparation for a Vertebrate Zoology class I had to help teach as part of my Master’s program. My lesson was about the Sarcopterygii class of fishes, so my professor lent me his copy of A Fish Caught in Time as supplementary material for telling the story of the coelacanth. By the time I was done, I was ready to teach an entire semester on this one fish. I never thought I would feel so strongly about any one fish, but then again, the coelacanth is no ordinary fish.

Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer with the first modern coelacanth discovered (Latimeria chalumnae), 1938

Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer with the modern coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) she discovered in 1938

To summarize, the coelacanth was long thought lost to history by the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that wiped out three quarters of the plant and animal species living on Earth (most famously the dinosaurs). It was known only by its fossil record for (almost exactly) 100 years, until, to the world’s surprise and excitement, a living specimen was fished off the South African coast in 1938. Over the next six decades, the coelacanth would be the focus of global headlines, political plays, and scientific rivalries, all the while remaining an enigma to the world that it continues to captivate to this day.

A rare example of a nonfiction story told in a highly narrative form, A Fish Caught in Time does an excellent job of capturing the majesty and mystery of the coelacanth while staying true to the history of its discovery and study. Ms. Weinberg paints such a vivid picture of this 60-year-long story that I couldn’t help but be completely drawn in, as if I were living the story along with the real-life characters: the excitement of discovering the coelacanth wasn’t extinct after all, the rush to find out where it had been hiding for the past 65 million years, the desperation to not only capture a living specimen but keep it alive at the surface, the awe that only a lucky few in history have ever known of watching this deep-sea fish swim in its natural habitat. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s impossible to read this book and not fall in love with the coelacanth!

Arnaz Erdmann swimming with the Indonesian coelacanth

Arnaz Erdmann swimming with the Indonesian coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis)

A fair note of warning: oftentimes the story focuses more on the researchers who dedicated their lives to studying the coelacanth than on the coelacanth itself. Readers who hope to gain an insight exclusively into the life of the fish may find this a bit off-putting, but then again, it hardly makes sense to attempt to recount the history around the animal without offering even a glimpse into the lives of the people who shaped that history. It’s much more than a story about a fish; it’s a lesson about what it means to be a researcher. It takes intelligence, curiosity, patience, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and an unrelenting passion for science, all of which shine through the pages of this brilliant narration of scientific truth.

Overall, A Fish Caught in Time is a captivating read that any science enthusiast will enjoy. I owe much of my appreciation for the coelacanth to this book, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a world of marine biology without being overwhelmed by the technicalities of it all. As quickly becomes evident from the first chapter, science doesn’t have to be fictional to blend well with creative writing!

Inspiration

I love science and I love a good story, but it’s rare that I get to enjoy both at the same time, or at least in the same book. A Fish Caught in Time offers an opportunity to glimpse the joy and passion that goes into conducting good science by presenting it in an enjoyable narrative format. Though much research has gone into understanding the coelacanth, A Fish Caught in Time never conveys that research in a manner too difficult for the layman to comprehend or appreciate, making it an unusual kind of literary gem: a scientific subject made accessible to the general public, that is, a community of non-scientific readers.

So if you appreciate science and a good story based on true events, A Fish Caught in Time may be just the inspiration you need for your creative writing! It certainly has been for me; in my opinion, there’s never too much writing inspiration to be found in science!

Five More Books I Want to Read in 2016

Remember that list I shared last week of five books I want to read this year? Well, I just thought of five more. I feel a 2016 reading challenge coming on! It’s hard to say if I’ll be able to read all these books in one year, but I’ll definitely keep them on my list for future reading!

Just for fun, here are five more books I want to read in 2016. Enjoy!

6) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

Fantastic_Beasts_and_Where_to_Find_ThemI recently received this book as a surprise gift, and I have to say I couldn’t be more thrilled to have it in my collection. The Harry Potter books were a huge part of my childhood, and no Harry Potter fan’s bookshelf is complete without the spinoffs! The best part is that the profits from sales of Fantastic Beasts go to Comic Relief, a charity Ms. Rowling has long supported that was founded to “bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of poor and disadvantaged people”. It’s been too long since I finished the main series, so I look forward to diving back into the magical world of Harry Potter! Of course, after I’m done with this book, I’ll have to tackle Quidditch Through The Ages next…

7) Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering-HeightsIt’s this tragic love story between Cathy and Heathcliff, and it takes place on these really creepy moors in England, which I think represent the wildness of Heathcliff’s character. I totally get symbolism!

– Phoebe Buffay, Friends (Season 5, Episode 9 – The One With Ross’s Sandwich)

Yes, more period drama! This one’s another book that’s been sitting unread on my shelf for a while. My mother read Wuthering Heights a long time ago and recommended it to me because she enjoyed it, though she did warn me that it’s a rather tragic story. Just as well; I’ve always been one for a good dramatic tragedy!

The-Hunger-Games8) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I know, I know, I’m really late to the party on this one. The last movie isn’t even in theaters anymore (at least, not where I live)! I did buy the first Hunger Games novel in ebook format a while back; I just haven’t yet gotten around to reading it. I have been looking forward to immersing myself in some dystopian fiction, though, and since this one’s been on my to-read list for years and I’ve already seen most of the movies, The Hunger Games trilogy is almost certainly the best place for me to start!

Divergent9) Divergent by Veronica Roth

While we’re on the subject of dystopian fiction, Divergent is another title that piqued my interest some time ago but that hasn’t yet made it to the top of my reading list. I actually read the synopsis for this story well before the announcement of the first movie (which I haven’t even seen yet), and it definitely struck me as the sort of story I’d enjoy. The idea of a society divided into factions based on valued qualities is hardly a new concept (Hogwarts, hello?), but I find it always makes for a thought-provoking read!

Hamlet10) Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare

It’s high time I got back into reading Shakespeare. Luckily, I have a complete single-volume collection of his works sitting on my shelf! There are several Shakespearean plays I’ve been meaning to read, and one of the plays at the top of that list is Hamlet. Yes, it’s another tragedy, as were the last couple of plays I read, but even though I would like to read some more of his comedies too, I just can’t resist drama! If I’m going to get back into Shakespeare, I figure why not start with the story that loosely inspired one of my favorite Disney movies?

Thus concludes my top ten to-read list! Now let’s see if I can take on the reading challenge this year! Thanks for reading!

What about you? What books do you plan to read in 2016?

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