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Hello Reader!

I was on the fence about reading An American Marriage. Oprah picking it for her book club didn't sway me; this profile of author Tayari Jones did. She comes across as sharp and smart, warm and funny, and her perspective, her background, is very different from my own. That combination nearly guarantees a book that'll make me think and stretch. This interview further won me over. So now I'm itching to get my hands on a copy and likely will end up buying one from my local bookstore, too impatient to wait in a library holds list flooded by Oprah devotees. 

Now that we're into February, I'm finally ready to pay attention to this year's crop of new books. Every January, my reading list is caught up in the throes of end-of-year lists and the previous year's award winners. It takes me awhile to admit I can't read everything and succumb to the fear of missing out on spectacular new books. But I'm finally ready. 

The Millions has maybe the most comprehensive list of books to watch, and that's where I started gathering picks for my holds list. Here's five I'm looking forward to, in addition to Jones' latest: 

Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot
Why: It's a memoir hailed by Sherman Alexie. 

House of Impossible Beauties, Joseph Cassara
Why: It's about community and based on an American story I didn't know before I read about the book. 

The Merry Spinster, Mallory Ortberg
Why: Dark fairytales and fables endorsed by Carmen Maria Machado, who wrote one of my favorite story collections of 2017. 

America Is Not The Heart, Elaine Castillo
Why: I'm a sucker for generational family sagas and debut novels.  

Florida, Lauren Groff
Why: Lauren Groff. Writing about Florida. If you need more, read this

What books are you looking forward to this year?

Happy reading!
— Hillary

P.S. Cincinnati folks: Mark your calendars for the first Make America Read book swap! It'll be 6 p.m. May 31 at the Mercantile Library. Bring a book, take a book, and talk books. 
Reading Links:
Valentine's Day edition

Recent favorite: Sourdough, Robin Sloan 
Pleasant. I realize that isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but if you need a lighter read to break up a stint of nonfiction or heavy literature, pick up this novel. It feels like spring, even if it's not quite as good — or as charming — as Sloan's first, Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Book Store.

Up Next: The Power, Naomi Alderman
It's time to see what all the fuss is about.  

Read Harder Challenge
Pretty sure The Power counts as female-written sci-fi with a female protagonist. I love when my TBR magically fulfills a reading challenge.  

The winner of the book giveaway is Erin,
who gave us advice for adding audiobooks to our reading lives.

She received Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. 

Thanks to everyone who entered.
Keep a lookout for future book giveaways.


Real-life reading:
Getting the most out of Goodreads

I came late to Goodreads and quickly let my account go dormant. I'm pretty attached to my paper reading logs, and tracking online seemed redundant. But this year, jealous of friends' end-of-year reading summaries and reading goals, I decided to reactivate my profile. I set a reading goal, I've been tracking books, and ... well, I don't really know how else I should or could be using Goodreads to improve my reading life. 

So, I turned to one of my book friends, Jess, who started using Goodreads in 2011. Jess she uses the platform to track her goals — she's working toward hitting a book a week. But she also has found unexpected joy in reading and writing one-star reviews.

How do you access Goodreads? App or website?
Both. The website on a computer is the best way, but I use the app a lot for managing what I'm currently reading or to add things to my TBR list. 

What do you do most on Goodreads, e.g. search reviews, track your own books, read blog posts, etc.? 

I love tracking the books I've read. I had never tracked books before. Even though growing up I was an avid reader, I never felt compelled to keep track. But also, I didn't know anyone who kept track. (It was pre-Internet, so even if someone I knew kept a notebook, I would have no idea.) Once I started to keep track, I could see the bigger picture of me as a reader. 

It is also nice to jot down a review of things I've read. So many times it will jog my memory of a book when I'm thinking back on it later, when I otherwise couldn't recall the details. When I truly hate a book, I can get all of those feelings and ideas out and find other people who agree with me. Writing and reading one-star reviews is a fun bright-side to having read a terrible book. 

Finally, I keep a giant, never-going-to-actually-read-this-many-books TBR list. That way, even if I can't remember where I heard of a little or anything about it, I feel like I've "jotted it down." It's my virtual pile of post-it notes with book titles.

How has Goodreads most improved your reading life?
It has given me the satisfaction of checking things off of a list. Setting a reading goal and working to hit it meets a need I didn't know I had. It also helps me categorize books. I like to read Newberry and National Book Award winners, so I tag each of those titles.

GR connects me with friends to see what they're reading, get recommendations and read reviews from people I trust. I LOVE reading friend's reviews of books. It lets us talk about books even when we don't read them at the same time. 

What advice would you have for someone just starting to use Goodreads?

You have to just start and realize that is is almost impossible to input all of your previous books into GR. I made a conscious decision that I was going to start with the book I read that moment and continue going forward.
Housekeeping note:
I am not paid for any reviews or opinions. I use Amazon affiliate links all through this newsletter,
which means I get a very small financial benefit if you use the links to buy books.
Any money I earn through affiliate links likely will be spent on more books. 
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