Top Blog Posts from 2017

I always find it interesting to see which are the most popular posts on the blog, because they’re not always the ones I would expect. Who knew the Emma cover post would be so popular? Well, I guess the popularity of anything Jane Austen isn’t surprising. So, besides the Emma post, here are the other most-visited posts I wrote last year:

  1. 10 Nonfiction Books I Can’t Stop Recommending

  2. 2018 Book Club Selections

  3. 4 Books Becoming Movies in 2018

  4. The Best Book Club Item EVER

  5. 2018 Reading Resolutions

  6. Cover Love: Emma

  7. The Most Gorgeous Bible

  8. 10+ Books Perfect to Read in Autumn

  9. The Ultimate List of Library Hacks

  10. Goodreads Hacks: Creating a “Not Going to Read” Shelf

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Looking Back at 2015 & Ahead at 2016

The week between Christmas and New Years is my favorite of the year! I love thinking about what worked in the previous year, where I hope to improve, and making lots of plans for the upcoming year.

Most Popular Posts This Year (from 2015)

72 Great Nonfiction Titles for Book Clubs
72 Great Novels for Book Clubs
Favorite Books of 2015 (So Far)
How I Decided to Homeschool and How I Decided on a Curriculum

Most Popular Posts This Year (from previous years)

31 Days of Great Nonfiction (from 2013)
Favorite Books of Hope & Redemption (from 2012)
Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express (from 2013)
Why to Track the Books You Read (from 2012)

My Favorite Posts from the Year

Bookworm Problems: Buying Books and Not Reading Them
Reading After Having Children
E-Readers and the Example They Set for My Children
On Writing Reviews
Bookworm Problems: Deciding When to Buy Books
Why I Homeschool
Top 10 Tips for Homeschool Conventions
Being Bossy about Books: A Bookworm Problem
What Makes for Great Book Club Books (and Tips for Selecting Them)
On {Finally} Reading Pride and Prejudice

New in 2016

New on the Stack buttonI started the “New on the Stack” linkup. It’s been detrimental to my TBR list, but I’ve enjoyed getting to know the reading tastes of some of the bloggers who regularly link up. I’m planning on continuing it for 2016, although there will be a handful of months when the date shifts to accommodate other posts. I’ll keep you updated on when to expect it though, but it’ll always be around the 3rd of the month.

BookedThumbnailThe month of October was devoted to an entire series about book clubs.

you can't buy happiness but you can buy booksI signed up as an Independent Consultant for Usborne Books, after realizing just how many of them we already had and loved through homeschooling and general interest reading. I’ve loved getting the chance to talk about some of the great books they have – even as much of an introvert as I am, chatting about books is not the same as the oh-so-difficult small talk usually is. πŸ˜‰

Planning for 2016

I have my editorial calendar for the year already started, and it’s filling up quickly thanks to recurring features and other plans.

The Deliberate Reader 2016 Book Club PicksThe big plan for the year is of course the book club I started – the discussion will mostly take place in the Facebook group, but I’ll be posting about the books at the beginning of each month (to introduce them), and a review-type post at the end of the month, which will include a linkup if you’d like to share a post you’ve written about the book. And of course the comments will be open if that’s easiest for you to add your thoughts on the books!

RTFEBCIn addition to that book club, I’m also co-hosting Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club with Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). That’s another Facebook group (a different one, so join both if you want to participate in both groups) but I’ll have a linkup for those books as well at the end of the month.

Kickstart to Clutter FreeSomeone last-minute, because I only just learned about it, but in January I’m going to be working through Kathi Lipp’s Kickstart to Clutter-Free e-course. It’s 14 Days and she promises that I’ll get at least 500 things out of my house. I haven’t seen the course yet (just got it yesterday) but I’m going to start working on it on Monday, and plan to work on it each weekday.

I’ll probably share updates on the blog’s Facebook page, and I’m somewhat thinking I may even do something on Periscope related to it. Just as a way to try out Periscope. No promises with that. πŸ™‚ (Also, I’m @SheilaRCraig over there.)

I’d love to have someone work through the course with me, so please let me know if you download it. We could even set up a private Facebook group and share our progress. (Yes, I do love private Facebook groups for this sort of thing) πŸ™‚

Talk To Me

Any requests for the year? Any books you think I need to add to the top of my TBR stack?

(See last year’s post on the same theme: looking ahead at 2015)

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: State of the Blog: 2014
Three years ago: Reading Challenge Progress: January

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

More News & Blog Updates

Literary and Lego Advent Day 1

I’m going to open up a bit here and admit: I’m struggling a bit. Not because of the blog, but just in general. I can look at the calendar and recognize what’s the cause: next week will be three years since my brother died, and I’m right in the midst of the anniversary of what were his final days.

So. Yeah. While I have lots of post ideas (and a beautifully filled-in editorial calendar: bookish content is not the issue!) I have been really struggling to write anything.

I have a post mostly ready to go for Thursday (New on the Stack! I have hardly anything to share!). One half drafted for Friday, and another one semi-ready for Monday (The reveal for next year’s book club selections!). Beyond that? Lots of plans and good intentions.

I’m hoping that once I get past next week and the two significant dates there (my brother’s anniversary, and my brother-in-law’s would-have-been-birthday are within 2 days of each other) I’ll bounce back enough to start writing again. There are so many books I have to write about and I’d love to be able to get them all posted before the end of the year, letting me start 2016 with a fresh slate if you will.

So, content may be light here, but I do (hope) to post our literary advent books over on Instagram. If I ever manage to decorate gingerbread houses with the kids I’ll likely document that as well. Join me there if you want to stay caught up on what our December looks like. Yesterday I shared what day 1 looked like for us: no wrapped books, not even gift bags. The kids didn’t complain. πŸ™‚

And I’ll get back to here as I can.

Responses to the Reader Survey, part 2

The Deliberate Reader 2015 Reader SurveyFind part one of the responses here.

I like that you don’t *love* every book you read.

Well I’d love it if that weren’t the case (grin), but unfortunately I do sometimes pick up books that are disappointing. What’s not going to change is that I’ll tell you all what I think about the book, good or bad.

Guest posts or interviews with authors / booksellers / bookbinders?

Another really fun idea. I’ve done two author interviews but they were way back when I first started my blog, and since then I haven’t put forth the time it takes to find willing individuals. Realistically, that probably won’t change for 2016, as my priorities are going towards the online book clubs I’m running and co-running.

(The likely only exception: if a friend publishes a book during the year.)

Although I’d love it if this weren’t the case – I do love this idea, and would like to figure out a way to make it happen!

The road to getting published. All the ins and outs and whether agents are needed, cover letters, and how finished the submission needs to be.

My knowledge of this is limited, but everything I’ve heard says to read the most recent copies of Writer’s Market and/or Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents. Most libraries should have at least one of these, if not both. They should be able to answer those questions for you more reliably than I can.

Posting for new authors – Giving indie authors a venue to display their work

While I like the idea of supporting new & indie authors, I’m not sure this is the right setting for that sort of thing. I don’t want to have it be completely open, because some books are decidedly NOT what I want to showcase, and I can’t begin to keep up with the pace of reading that would be required to make something like that a regular feature.

Finally, there’s already an update to the last response. There were some requests about organizing the archives, and making it easier to find books sorted by my recommendation or rating. Last month I said I was adding a star tag to new reviews, and slowly going through old posts and adding it. That would then let you go to a listing of posts with particular tags.

Since then I’ve discovered some coding shortcuts and realize the possibilities they’re going to provide. It’ll still be based on the star rating tag, but it’s going to all go on a page – no clicking through pages at a time. Once I get it fully working I’ll be sure and make a bigger announcement, so consider this just a hey-this-is-coming teaser. I *think* it’s going to be great. I’m working on it as quickly as I can, so hopefully I can make that announcement soon. πŸ™‚

Thanks again to everyone who responded – I read all your comments, and there may be future posts inspired by them. I’m also still hoping to do a post soon getting into some of the specifics of your favorite types of books, etc.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

Responses to the Reader Survey, part 1

The Deliberate Reader 2015 Reader SurveyI’ve been enjoying reading your survey responses, and have some responses of my own to what you’ve been asking or telling me. There will be at least one other post with additional responses, as this one was getting way too long already.

[A] new way to archive reviews


I’ve been wishing for a feature where I can find books sorted by your recommendation or rating! … Sometimes I don’t know at all what I’m after, but I just want a good read. πŸ™‚

That is a really good idea, and what I’m doing moving forward is tagging all of my review posts with the star rating, so you can find all “5 Star” books etc. in one area. It’s not fully functional yet – I’ve only added this tag to my new posts and the ones that are linked back in the “previously” area, but I’ll work on getting earlier posts tagged this way.

It’s not perfect, but it’s manageable for me, so I hope it’ll help you. Another option is if you’re my friend on Goodreads I *think* you should be able to see my bookshelves and sort my books by rating there – and that’ll have lots more possibilities for you than I’ve shared on the blog.

As you wait for me to get those tags more widely used so they’ll be more useful, if you like nonfiction, both of my 31 Days series feature books I recommend – here’s 2012’s series, and here’s 2013’s.

(Another less-than-perfect option is the “recommended” and “highly recommended” tags. Those are incomplete – I started using them and then forgot to continue. I’m also trying to update posts to include them, but it’s also a work in progress.)

If anyone has an other ideas as to how I can arrange the archives to make it easier to find books, I’d love to hear them! I love how Modern Mrs Darcy has individual book pages that then link back to where those books are mentioned (like this example), but don’t want to copy her idea.

I’m French, and I’m surprised as to how little foreign books you read. There’s a whole world of stories out there to discover ! Maybe you could do themed reading so readers can share your experience πŸ™‚

If you mean how few books I read in languages other than English, that’s because my language skills are poor and I really only know English. And as much as I’m trying to teach myself Spanish via Duolingo, I don’t think I’ll be reading much in anything other than English in the near future.

But I assume you are talking about translated books, and you’re right: I still read very few. Thinking about why, I realized that I don’t really think about searching for any, to make the effort to get them on my reading list. And thinking about why I don’t, I realized that I have this impression that the only foreign-language books that get translated into English are literary fiction, which is not my favorite.

Clearly this is a big gap in my reading area, but I’d be happy to take suggestions. Middle-brow books decidedly welcome. πŸ˜‰

I would also like more conversation about classics. The ones worth my time and the ones not.

Another big gap in my reading, because of that middle-brow taste I have, and feelings of frustration with many of the classics I have read. I like your idea though, of how to frame it, and I’m adding this idea to my “blog possibilities” list.

Books to movies might be interesting.

I love the idea, but considering that I watch maybe one movie a year I’m probably not the best blogger for this. Although you’ve got me wondering if I could make it a regular feature and pull in some guest bloggers for it. Hmmm. Also going onto my “blog possibilities” list.

How the heck you read so many books while simultaneously homeschooling…seriously, how do you do that?!

Well, like I said in the answer above I watch maybe one movie a year. I watch very little television either (of any form – regular tv, netflix, etc.). My free time goes to reading and blogging.

Plus homeschooling at this age doesn’t really impact my free time – it all happens when I’m taking care of the other two anyway, so it’s not like I’d be reading or doing anything else then anyway. So far homeschooling only really impacts my reading time when it comes to me obsessing over curriculum options in the name of “research”. πŸ™‚

I’ve also written three posts that discuss this – Finding More Time to Read (Part 1), Finding More Time to Read (Part 2), and Reading Multiple Books at a Time.

Do book clubs send you their lists for the year?

No, I only know my own book club’s reading list. But that would be fun if other clubs did! If anyone is in a book club and would like to share their’s I’d love to read it (maybe I could make it a link up?)

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Enough by Will Davis, Jr.

Reader Survey

The Deliberate Reader 2015 Reader SurveyAs I make blog plans for the rest of this year and next year (yes, already!), I want to hear from you – how can I make The Deliberate Reader more useful for you? I want to keep improving the blog and make it more helpful and interesting to you.

The survey should only take you about 5 – 10 minutes (depending on how much you have to say to me!) πŸ™‚ Some of the questions have specific choices for you to select from, and others are open-ended.

If you have any trouble with the embedded survey, you can also go here to fill it out.

No matter if you’ve been reading the site from the beginning or you only found me in the last week, I want to hear from you! While I can’t promise to put every suggestion into place, I’ll read and consider them all.

What am I asking? Well, I ask a little bit about you, especially your reading habits, and then I ask what you think about the blog’s design, content, community, and your thoughts on some potential future plans and possibilities.

The survey is anonymous, so if you’ve got a question or comment you’d like a response to, please send that to me in an email – you can reach me at sheila(at) – and I’ll do my best to get back to you in a timely manner.

Thank you so much for reading, and for helping me out with your responses! I look forward to reading them!

As a bit of a thank you for reading, I’ve got a giveaway below for a $15 Amazon Gift Card. It’s not a requirement that you fill out the survey to enter, although I would appreciate it if you did. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(For legal reasons, the giveaway is only open to U.S. Residents. Sorry everyone else – I don’t want to do anything against the law in other countries, and I don’t trust my reading of those laws to feel confident saying this or that location is ok to enter.)

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: Book Review: Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower

Anniversary Week: A Look Back, a Look Around, and a Look Ahead

This Saturday will be my third anniversary of blogging at this site. Thank you all so much for reading. I’m going to take this week to look back, share three of books I read before I blogged that are worth your notice, and on Friday I’ll ask for your help with a reader survey. There’s also going to be a small giveaway that day, as a thanks for reading. πŸ™‚

The Deliberate Reader 3rd Anniversary

A Look Back

I was originally going to highlight some of my favorite posts and series from the past years, but … with over 750 posts published there are a lot! So instead I’m going to follow Smitten Kitchen’s lead and at the bottom of each day’s post, I’ll look back on what was previously published on that day. I’m hoping to also take that as an opportunity to refresh some of those older posts with improved graphics and/or formatting. If things seem light along that front for a bit, it’s because last year at this time I was still in the midst of my intentionally-skimpy-posting-schedule-due-to-a-new-baby. Tomorrow’s post will be the first with this new feature.

Too impatient to wait for all those posts to cycle through? On my welcome page I highlight some favorites.

A Look Around

While my posting routine has changed a bit, I’ve settled into a fairly regular pattern:

Mondays for “bookish” content and discussions
Tuesdays for nonfiction reviews or posts
Wednesdays for fiction reviews or posts
Thursday for kid lit, including picture books and early readers
Friday for everything else. That’s when I post homeschooling updates, monthly recaps where I give you a peek at my life beyond the blog, and 7 quick takes posts, which continues that look at what else is on my mind.

If all you want is the bookish content, never fear that “other” posts are taking over the blog – the intent is to keep it to Fridays only, with the possibility of Saturday posts if I have too much to share to fit it in on Fridays alone. πŸ™‚

What’s the big exception to all of this? Linkups of course! I typically participate in two: “Bookworm Problems” at Quirky Bookworm on the 6th of each month, and “Quick Lit” at Modern Mrs. Darcy on the 15th of each month, and I run my own “New on The Stack” linkup on the 3rd of each month.

Will this schedule continue all next year? We’ll see … I like tweaking things to keep them interesting for you and me. I have no immediate plans to change things, although with the new content and series I’m planning for next year I may have to make some adjustments to my posting schedule.

Categories and tags on the blog are being cleaned up and reorganized, and the updated menu bar at the top of the screen can help you navigate if you’re looking for something in particular. I’m still trying to make navigation as easy as possible, and it’s another area where I ask you for your feedback in the survey, to know how well I’m doing at that.

Looking Ahead

Next month I will be doing another 31 Days series – and this time it’s not nonfiction. I’m currently writing it, and I’ll go ahead and spill the beans – it’s all about book clubs.

Branching off from that series is my under-consideration-idea to have an online book club next year. I’ll be asking about your interest in this in the survey, so if you have opinions please let me know.

Other plans that are in-the-works-but-not-100%-sure include a weekly Instagram challenge. As it stands now, the themes for the week would be announced each month, so you’d have plenty of time to plan ahead for it. I’m still brainstorming themes and the oh-so-important great hashtag for it.

I’m also hoping to start sharing more book lists, so if you’re looking for books about a theme or a topic, or readalikes for a particular title, I’ll have ideas for you. Requests for themes or topics? Let me know!

One recurring book list I’m making plans to share regularly is all about kids’ books. If you’ve heard about the recent “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” push but thought 1000 books sounded impossible to reach, never fear. I’ll have tons of suggestions of great titles to read aloud. The hold up on me starting this has been my desire to get a nice looking graphic to go along with it. If you’re talented in that area and would like to help me out, I’d love to hear from you. πŸ™‚

Finally, there is one other idea still being finalized that involves a cooperative effort with another blogger (or two). No details on it since it’s not exclusively mine to share, but it’s shaping up to be lots of fun.

Lots of big plans – well, I always have plans, just a matter of having time to implement them. πŸ™‚

On Writing Reviews

On Writing ReviewsRecently I was sent a message asking about writing reviews, and if an author had ever contacted me after a review. It prompted a very long reply, which I’m adapting a bit into this, in the guess that if one person asked, others might be wondering.

In a perfect world, every book I’d read would be wonderful, and I could gush away about it. I’d never have anything bad to say, other than perhaps a suggestion that a book would only be appreciated by fans of that genre or style.

It’s not a perfect world. There are books I dislike: books I think just aren’t a good fit for me, and books I think just aren’t good.

recognizing that an author may read my reviews

And yet, there is an author (or authors) behind even the worst book, and they presumably worked really hard on it, and sent it out into the world with high hopes. When I write a review, I do want to remember that the authors are people with feelings, and certainly I don’t want to trash them, but at the same time, I’m not going to rave over a book that I don’t like. I’m not even going to be neutral towards a book I dislike – if I don’t like a book, I’m going to say so.

I try very hard to keep it focused on the book, not the author (the plot was disjointed, the writing was uneven or cliched, vs. the author is a bad writer) Even though I may be in effect saying the author is a bad writer in THIS book, it’s different (in my mind anyway) to say what’s bad about the writing so it doesn’t seem like such a blanket statement, or something that will always be the case.

While I do try to remember that an author may read my comments, I still don’t worry too much about hurting an author’s feelings. I’m writing about my thoughts on their book (not them as a person), and at some point, I feel like authors have to have or develop a degree of thick skin. If they’re putting their writing out to be read (at whatever level), someone is going to dislike it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, just that it’s not a fit for that reader.

Why I Will Write Negative Reviews

As a reader, of course I like positive reviews – they can get me excited to read a book – but I also read and appreciate the not-so-positive reviews. Negative reviews are often the best ones for me to make a final decision as to read a book or not – why someone disliked a book can often tell me if I’ll like it. I have a friend who detests epistolary fiction, while I adore it. A negative review from her of a book because it’s that format would make me bump the title to the top of my list. That’s why I always try to say why I like or dislike something, not just an unspecific “didn’t like it.”

(The main time I may be vague as to some of my reasons for disliking a book is when those reasons veer into spoiler territory. For example, sometimes an unreliable narrator doesn’t work for me, but if I say that then I’m giving away that there’s an unreliable narrator. Maybe there are plot problems that should only be discussed with those who have finished the book. That’s why I will occasionally use spoiler warnings and hide some details in my reviews so if someone wants to read them, they can highlight and see what I’ve hidden.)

My own credibility is at stake as well – I want blog readers to know that I’m saying what I thought about a book, because maybe they’ve read enough of the same books I have to know if my tastes and theirs overlap. Or maybe our tastes conflict completely, but that can work too as a means to add or remove books from a TBR list. πŸ™‚ If every book is great, then there is no way to differentiate between books I lovelovelove and books that are just solid and enjoyable.

My reviews may skew towards seeming as if I like most of the books I read, but that’s not because I’m only saying good things. I try to only pick books I think I’ll enjoy, and give up on books I don’t like, and those likely aren’t going to get a review at all (they may get a brief mention as a “did not finish”). When I self-select favorite authors or genres, and quit reading books I’m not enjoying, of course I tend to end up with higher averages.

In short, while I recognize that an author may read what I’m saying about their books – I’m still going to say what I think.

Looking Back at 2014, Looking Ahead at 2015.

Blog PlannerI love this time of year. I spent as much time as I can planning and dreaming about 2015. Of course, that also involves reviewing the year that was as I think about making the most of the new year.

Most popular posts this year:

The review of the Graceling Realm series
Review of Murder on the Orient Express
Reading Multiple Books at a Time
Review of The Forgotten Garden
Why to Track the Books You Read

Features this year

I started several new series: two link-ups with Jessica (Bookworm Problems and Judging Books By Their Covers), and my own series on Cooking the Book, and Read This Not That. I’m debating turning those into link-ups next year, or perhaps changing my “New on My Bookcase” monthly post into a link-up. Anyone have any interest in any/all of these as link-ups?

Speaking of bookworm problems, I shared about problems while traveling, my neverending to be read list, the impossibility of picking a favorite book, the misery of impatiently waiting for the next book in a series, and the practical challenge of storing all those books.

Other bookish discussion posts I wrote were on reading while traveling, finding new releases by authors you love, how I choose what to read (and the related post, about being a mood reader). I closed out the year with some of my favorite bookish gifts.

Planning for 2015

I’m already thinking about a 31 Days series for October, and am considering a few different possibilities. One of them has me super excited, so I may just start listing some specifics and see if I’ve got 31 already.

Homeschooling posts will increase to two a month, instead of just one. They’ll still be on Fridays, but as we keep progressing with what we’re doing I’ve got too much to say to keep it to only one post!

I do hope to continue to improve the blog and make it more useful for you all. I’ve got some plans on revamping the categories and tags – I said that last year and then it fell by the wayside but it’s still on my agenda. I’d also like to get the Facebook page a little more active, but that always seems to be something that gets ignored for higher priorities.

talk to me

Anything you’d especially like to see or read about this year? I’m doing lots of post brainstorming and filling in an editorial calendar, so I really would like to know if there is anything in particular you want to read.

Christmas Week Blog Break

Happy Holidays

See you back here next Monday! Merry Christmas – hope you have a wonderful week!