Only my family--famous for its arguments, tournaments and competitions--could turn reading into a competitive sport.
2007 was my second year taking part in the "competitive reading club." This might be familiar to some of you; I wrote about it a while back. The competitive reading club was the brainchild of my computer whiz/actor/stand-up-comedian skydiving, kickboxing, globetrotting, newly married, stepfather of two nephew, Shawn.
Apparently Shawn doesn't have enough to do, so he decided to ratchet up the excitement quotient in his life by turning what is normally a quiet, private, sedentary activity--reading--into a contest.
The rules are simple. You read a book. You write down the title and the author. You give it a star-rating, and you write a review of no more than five words. such as, "exciting and compelling story!" or "couldn't put it down!" or (this is my review of frank delaney's latest book, "Tipperary") "Forrest Gump in Ireland."
Books between 150 and 500 pages give you one credit. 500 to 750 pages gives you two credits. 750 to 1000 is three credits. And Edmund Ruthurford's "London," which weighs in at a staggering 1,152 pages, gave me four credits.
Everyone chips in $10, and at the end of the year the person with the most book credits wins, and they win the pot, in the form of an Amazon gift card.
I won easily in 2006, with 78 books, and earned a $70 gift card. I entered 2007 flush with victory and with high confidence.
I had not counted on Mike.
Mike (shown here with another competitive reader, my nephew Chris) is Shawn's stepdad. He had not competed in 2006, and he was a dark horse.
I had no idea the man could read as much as could.
We were neck-and-neck through the first couple months of the year--I read six books in January; Mike read five. I read five in February; Mike read six. And then March rolled around, and Mike read nine books. And he never looked back. And I never led again.
We finished the year one-two. Mike in first place, with 76 books, and me two books behind.
If only "London" had been seven hundred and fifty more pages! We would have tied!
Still, I can't blame Mike entirely for my defeat. My 2007 total was down from 2006, and I know what is to blame: blogging.
Starting in March, when I began this blog, a lot of my book-reading time suddenly turned into blog-reading and blog-writing time. Blog entries do not count in the competitive reading club, though I can tell you that if they did, I would win, hands-down.
I am not about to change my blog habits for 2008. So I think I know the strategy I must employ if I want to regain my crown: We must get Mike to start a blog.
Here is my book list for the year. If you want to see others' lists, or check out my star ratings and five-word reviews, go here.
"Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife," by Morgan Llewelyn
"Yukon Alone: The World's Toughest Adventure Race," by John Balzar.
"Those are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972," by Peter Pringle and Philip Jacobson
"The Rug Merchant," by Meg Mullins
"Travels with Macy," by Bruce Fugle
"Nancy Culpepper Stories," by Bobbie Ann Mason
"The Last Time they Met," by Anita Shreve
"Stealing Love: Confessions of a Dognapper," by Mary A. Fischer
"Paula Spencer," by Roddy Doyle
"Light a Penny Candle," by Maeve Binchy
"Pieces of Me: A Life in Progress," by Roisin Ingle
"The Dew Breaker," by Edwidge Danticat
"The Dogs of Bedlam Farm," by Jon Katz
"The Kite Runner," by Kahled Hosseini
"Grace Eventually: Thoughts on Faith," by Anne Lamott
"The Dower House," by Annabel Davis-Goff
"The Fox's Walk," by Annabel Davis-Goff
"This Cold Country," by Annabel Davis-goff
"London," by Edward Rutherfurd
"A Piano in the Pyrennees," By Tony Hawk
"Clementine in the Kitchen," by Samuel Chamberlain
UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT (i critique these occasionally for a publisher)
"The Ocean in the Closet," by Yuko Taniguchi
"Whitethorn Woods," by Maeve Binchy
"The Judgment of Paris," by Ross King
"At Home in France," by Ann Barry
"On Rue Tatin," by Susan Loomis
"Walled Gardens," by Annabel Davis-Goff
"On Chesil Beach," by Ian McEwan
"Oracle Bones," by Peter Hessler
"Dog Days," by Jon Katz
"The Leavetaking," by John McGahern
"The Life All Around Me, by Ellen Foster," by Kaye Gibbons
"The Sun Also Rises," by Ernest Hemingway
"A Perfectly Good Family," by Lionel Shriver
'Lost in Mongolia," by Colin Angus
"When the Astors Owned New York," by Justin Kaplan
"Mademoiselle Victorine," by Debra Finerman
"The Law of Dreams," by Peter Behrens
"Finders Keepers," by Mark Bowden
"The Long Walk: A True Story of a Trek to Freedom," by Slavomir Rawicz
"A Murder in Bellmont," by Sebastian Junger
"Tallgrass," by Sandra Dallas
"Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee," by Charles J. Shields
"Notes from a Small Island," by Bill Bryson
"Amongst Women," by John McGahern
"Saving Graces," by Elizabeth Edwards
"Body Surfing," by Anita Shreve
"Metro Stop Dostoevski," by Ingrid Bengis
"To My Dearest Friends," by Patricia Volk
"Thunderstruck," by Erik Larson
"Lonesome Dove," by Larry McMurtry
"A Three-Dog Life," by Abigail Thomas
"The Life of Pi," by Yann Martel
"The Streets of Laredo," by Larry McMurtry
"It's OK to miss the bed on the first jump," by John O'Hurley
"Fall on Your Knees," by Ann-Marie MacDonald
"Ulysses," by James Joyce
"The Devil in the White City," by Erik Larson
"The Choice," by Nicholas Sparks
"Letter from Point Clear," by Dennis McFarland
"Tipperary," by Frank Delaney
"Later, at the Bar," by Rebecca Barry