Oliver: Reader’s best-laid plans for yearly goal go awry

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

With the year winding down, many of us take time to reflect on whether we met some of the goals we set for ourselves.

Of course, sometimes we have to face up to not meeting them. Perhaps life handed us a few challenges, or maybe our goals weren’t as realistic as we imagined.

Perhaps there’s a bit of both going on in one goal I didn’t reach this year.

The past couple of years, I’ve been on a good personal reading schedule. The year I discovered OverDrive and e-books from my local library, I went on a bit of a tear. I managed to finish 40 books.

I’ll admit that’s not a lot compared with some of my more bookish friends, but it was good for me. After all, I read, write and proofread for a living.

Last year, as a result of my mother’s death in April, I hit a snag in my ability to sit down and read for pleasure. Still, I managed to hit my goal of 25 books.

With that in mind, I thought a good goal for 2019 would be 25 books again. If I hit that early in the year, I could always adjust the goal upward.

Little did I know what 2019 would hold. With a couple of weeks left, I’ll be happy if I hit 20.

One would think that sitting in all those doctors’ offices after my breast cancer diagnosis would have given me plenty of time to plow through books.

I would have thought that, too, but I decided to bring friends with me to each appointment, so I spent the time distracting myself with laughter and small talk instead.

However, among the books I did finish this year were some I can definitely recommend. I’ll start with the nonfiction, since I tend to gravitate toward those.

“Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country” by Pam Houston was a riveting account of the author’s love affair with her 120-acre homestead in the Colorado Rockies. She finds redemption and hope as she learns to take care of the land. It also includes a firsthand account of what those wildfires out West are like.

I also found a lot to ponder in “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive” by Stephanie Land. This unflinching look at trying to make it as a single mother was inspiring. Land does not shy away from relating some of the bad choices she made, which I appreciated.

Fellow word nerds might get a chuckle or two from “Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style” by Benjamin Dreyer. For a copy editor, this one didn’t cover a lot of new ground. However, it presented the information in a compelling way.

In fiction, “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles reminded me of all the Russian literature I read when I was in college. I’ll admit it took me awhile, but it was worth it.

“The Boy Who Knew Too Much” by Jeffrey Westhoff is excellent. Although it’s technically for young adults, this spy tale is fast-paced and fun. Longtime readers might remember Jeff as this newspaper’s former movie critic.

Other gems: “Evvie Drake Starts Over” by Linda Holmes combines romance and baseball, “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng tells the story of an arson in flashback, “Daisy Jones & the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid relates the story of a fictional band not unlike Fleetwood Mac and “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult raises interesting questions about racism.

Who knows what books will spark my interest in 2020? Only time will tell.

But first I need to set a more reachable goal.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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