30 Before 30 – Chapter 2

If you have read my post 30 Before 30, you will remember that I have set myself a little challenge to read 30 books before my 30th birthday. I turn 30 in exactly one year. At present, I have about 17 books to go. 20140107-100117.jpg

A few months ago, I was feeling slightly nervous about reaching my goal. I realized that as my goal is a certain number of total books, I should perhaps avoid the urge to embark on adventures with massive tomes. The books of A Song of Ice and Fire took up much of my time in the past few months. For the last few weeks I have decided to focus on shorter, or in comparison to the massive Storm of Swords, normal length books.

8. Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne

80-daysI love travel, and I love reading books set in times gone by. Having read some Sherlock Holmes and loved it, I thought it would be a short hop from Sir ACD to Jules. I loved the writing style and the character development Verne employs. The voyage is an adventure from the first, and doesn’t fail to disappoint. What I found interesting was the worldview of life at the height of British colonialism. “Natives” are painted in a very antiquated light. What I loved was the charm of old fashioned modes of transportation such as trains, steam liners, and at one point, a gigantic elephant. It seems likely that many of the people, places, and animals that Verne wrote about he never witnessed with his own eyes. There are various points that feel fantastical, as if inflated as a result of the communication grapevine. I am still extremely confused as to why so many depictions of this book include a hot air balloon.

9. The Mysterious Island – Jules Verne

mysterious island

Well, I finally got the hot air balloon action I was looking for! A group of castaways ride a hot air balloon in a hurricane to a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. Stranded without almost any belongings (they tossed them out of the balloon to stay aloft until they spotted land), they must create shelter, find food, and stay alive on this mysterious island. They explore the island, name all of the features for ease of communication, and build an ingenious home inside of a cave up on a mountain and under a waterfall. From their first few days on the island, some very “singular” things happen to them and their belongings, leaving them to wonder if they really are alone on this seemingly deserted island. I absolutely LOVED it. This was one of the most engaging, exciting, and fun books I’ve read in a long time. It is an easy read once you get past the old-fashioned phrases and the scientific language. This is true science fiction. Some of the science available to Verne in his day has since changed, or been proved wrong. Often he sites species names and classifies them in families that they are not associated with in the present day. If you need more to entice you to read this book, consider the following list of attributes from the tale and just TRY not to get excited: great characters, an orangutan servant, jungles, exotic animals, science, beaches, pirates, secret caves, a volcano, messages in a bottle, mystery!!!

10. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne


After loving The Mysterious Island, I wanted to keep going on my Verne kick, and 20,000 Leagues seemed like a good choice in keeping with the nautical theme. The descriptions of the settings are extraordinary. The futuristic-old-timey science & technology is incredible and engaging. In retrospect, I wish I had read 20,000 Leagues before The Mysterious Island. Primarily because I just don’t think any of the Verne voyages can top The Mysterious Island. Just trust me: if you’re intrigued and would like to read either, start with this.

11. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This one has been a long time in coming. I started Memoirs way back before reading ASOIAF (aka the Game of Thrones books) but I got to one particularly unnerving tale and had to take a break. If you’ve seen the BBC series Sherlock, you will be familiar with John’s practice of blogging about the cases he shares with Sherlock. The original books are presented as Watson’s written account of various cases. Since each chapter is the telling of a different case, sometimes a good deal of time passes between cases, and often there is not much detail concerning the private lives of Holmes and Watson. For all of the Sherlock fans out there, the original books are a must-read. Although episodes of the show are often combinations of various original cases updated for the modern world, the end of this book corresponds with the end of season 2 of Sherlock.

12. The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After making it through Memoirs, I moved on to the next series of cases in the Holmes tomes: The Return of Sherlock Holmes. For all of you Sherlock series fans out there, you might have guessed that this series starts off as season 3 does, with the return of Sherlock Holmes! After two years away, John Watson is confronted with the news that his friend Sherlock Holmes somehow survived a fall that he had thought would have meant certain death. I can tell you that in the book, John is not nearly as upset as he is in the tv series!

13. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

I won’t say much here, as the ending is a mystery to those who are not familiar with the story. I wouldn’t want to spoil the third (!!!) movie for you! I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings movies. I have the extended editions with the millions of hours of bonus features and everything! I just LOVE the world that Tolkien created. When I saw the first Hobbit movie in theaters, I was in heaven. Now, having read the book, I can see where many people get a little grumpy about the length of the theatrical Hobbit. There is some serious stretching and embellishing going on. I don’t care. I love both!


30 Before 30

This July, I decided to make sure to read 30 books before I turn 30 (at that time a year and a half away). I was inspired by one of the many posts on ‘books to read in your twenties’ pinned to Pinterest. My original inspiration has since been swallowed up by copycat posts and may be lost to the island of things that used to be on the internet. 20140107-100117.jpg

For many people, 30 books may easily be read in one year, or even a few months or weeks. My schedule doesn’t allow for as much binge reading as I used to do as a kid. I work full time, spend long hours improving my health and the health of others by running my health coaching practice, and I have many various hobbies including cooking and lots of crafting. And as I haven’t been able to get into audiobooks to listen to whilst cooking or crafting, reading time is at a premium. The majority of my reading happens in bed, either at the end of my day, or during the day if I’m under the weather. I am not pushing myself to read 30 new-to-me books, or setting a list that I must accomplish. Simply reading through 30 books will do it.

My resolve set, I went to my book case to see if I had anything I was in the mood for.

1. My Life in France – by Julia Child

Luckily, this book had been passed on to me a few years ago, and I had never got around to reading it. What a joy! I mean, who doesn’t love Julia Child?!?! Her descriptions of her experience in France as a new wife and an American living abroad are fantastic. Reading this book made me want to go to France, learn French, and add butter to everything I cook. It is a memoir in the voice of Julia Child, so there is personality plus! I felt so uplifted and motivated after reading this book. I was really refreshing. I also couldn’t help narrating my own life in my head for a few days afterward!

A must-read for anyone who is a fan of food, France, travel, unlikely protagonists, or Mrs. Child herself.

2. A Game of Thrones – Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

I am one of many who fell in love with the HBO series “Game of Thrones” immediately. My room mate had read all of the books, and after two seasons of the show, I became increasingly eager to find out what happens to the characters next. Since our room mate’s copy was on loan at the time, my boyfriend bought us each a copy of A Game of Thrones, so we could read it at the same time, but at our own pace. He didn’t make it all the way through the book. I think if I wasn’t already familiar with most of the characters, I wouldn’t have either. George R. R. Martin published this book in 1996, and his writing style was clunky and awkward for me. The majority of the writing deals with events between characters, and there is very little description of the setting and the appearance of the characters. In this case, I was grateful to have seen a visual representation of the book before reading the actual text.

3. A Clash of Kings – Book Two of A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

Because I was determined to gain insight into the future of GoT characters beyond the third season, I marched on to the second volume of ASoIaF. I was pleased to learn many details that were left out of the HBO series, and extra-pleased that the writing seemed to be a bit better.

4. A Storm of Swords – Book Three of A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

Things started to get juicy with this book! In fact, I have recommended to multiple people who couldn’t make it through the first book, but love the TV series, to start here and read books 3-5. This book is so long that in some countries it is split in two volumes! The first half covers the events in HBO’s season 3 of Game of Thrones. The second half…. YES! All of the awesome future events that I was waiting for! At last! It was fantastic. I read late into the night. I moved on to the next immediately!

5. A Feast for Crows – Book Four of A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

Better writing, more excitement, MUCH more to contain in order to not spoil the plot for my TV-series-only-viewing boyfriend. Luckily I have my room mate to spill my excitement & frustration with! More characters die, more are introduced, it’s the George R. R. Martin circle of life.

6. A Dance With Dragons – Book Five of A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

This one was tough to get through. Not because it wasn’t awesome. It. Was. Awesome. So awesome in fact, that I tried to savor every last page and stretch it out as long as possible. If you work your way through the Song of Ice and Fire series, I recommend taking your time with books 4 & 5 especially. So much happens to so many characters, you may need to double-back to remind yourself of past events. Savor A Dance With Dragons because it could be ten years before George gets around to finishing the next book! (But seriously, I hope not.)

7. There’s More to Life Than This – Theresa Caputo

My boyfriend and I are obsessed with Theresa Caputo’s show The Long Island Medium, on TLC. (Ok maybe I’m a little more obsessed than he is….) The title of the show basically gives you a clue as to what the series looks like: out-of-this-world Long Island woman with fake nails and gigantic hair, gives messages from the afterlife to the living. Every episode is a tear-jerker, and they just make me feel good. I have suffered two huge and unexpected losses in the past two years, and as part of my healing process, I have educated myself on what happens after death. I have a very scientific brain, but I am also very open to possibilities and believe that there are many forces at work around us that we can not prove scientifically or make complete sense of. I believe in reincarnation, and I believe that between lives our spirits hang out and participate in some of the activities here on Earth in Spirit form. Theresa’s book left me with two lingering ideas: 1. The soul chooses when to be born and when to die, and frequently, it chooses a death option that would be the least harmful to their family. This point resonated with me because both of the recent deaths in my family have been “freak” events. I was left wondering why they happened to someone in my family. But now I believe that their souls chose to leave in a way that was not anyone’s “fault” in order to leave the family just in grief and not in grief and feud. 2. I feel the need to examine my spirituality and belief system. Theresa was raised Catholic, and she brings in a lot of religious ideas and figures from her religion. She does try to express that what she sees and feels from the other side is filtered through her Catholic lens, but it is really more universal. Still, she is unwavering on her portrayal of God as a singular force of good and light of which our souls are a very small part of. This was not the first time I had read this theory. I was left with a lingering sense of wondering what I believe and what I am willing to open my mind to.