Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 Reading Stats

Statistics are important.  They give you a good idea of what your biases are, and they are raw numbers, particularly helpful in identifying patterns, etc.

Over the past 12 months, it's been most likely that I've been reading a book by a woman, by an Australian, by a white author, and in the genre of Romance.  This is not unrelated to the fact that my most-read author of the year is the white, female, Australian romance author Stephanie Laurens.

I am by far more likely to have been reading a female author than a male author.

I am by far more likely to have been reading a white author.

I am mildly more likely to have been reading an Australian author, and by far more likely to be reading an author of Anglo/American/European background.

Personally: I don't see the need to rectify the issue of gender.  I do think that it's been a particularly romance-focussed, white-intensive year.  In the coming year my stated aims are (and these will be in a following post) to work in particular on writers of non-white, female Australian background - and as much as I can, of authors who are not straight.  But of that, anon.

Via Goodreads, I've been keeping count of the majority of my reading across the years.  The results of 2011 are as follows:

Friday, 30 December 2011

"Handwritten" at the National Library of Australia

The trip to Canberra was first considered when I heard about the "Handwritten" exhibition (I'm sorry, I was hoping for a better exhibition page, personally) - approximately 100 original, handwritten manuscripts from around the world, although with a definite slant towards Germany.  This isn't surprising given that they all come from the collections of the Staaatsbibliotek zu Berlin.

It was completely awesome.  Probably the major things for me were the Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Bonhoeffer manuscripts.  I mean, how can you possibly beat Bonhoeffer, and the original of 'Wer bin ich?', right there, right in front of your eyes.

There's also documents handwritten by Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  (We also saw a letter written by Jane Austen, but that was in the National Treasures exhibition next door.  I had no idea there even was an extant Austen manuscript in Australia!)

Handwriting is an amazing thing, which I suspect is part of the point of the exhibition.  We don't write much by hand anymore: my hand starts to hurt if I write for a long time, and I mostly write emails (and blog posts) rather than hand written letters.  Even my Christmas Letter, which I haven't yet written but will do (because we're still in the Christmas Season, right?) will be typed, although the cards are handwritten.  Which reminds me of the German father and son ahead of us in the line today, looking at a typewritten report - I *think* by Paul Erlich - next to a handwritten letter by him.  And the father was explaining what a typewriter was.  It made me feel so OLD!

Anyway.  For those who are able to get to Canberra before 18 March 2012, it's well worth the effort.  Tickets are free, but you do need to make a booking.  If you want to get your choice of time, I'd suggest booking at least two days in advance.  But do, go.  It's awesome, and the NLA is its only stop.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Reading Challenges

Australian Women Writers
As readers may have noticed, my initial reaction to the Australian Women Writers challenge's "top level" challenge being 10 books was flat incredulity.

There are reasons for this.  The main one being that my previous exposure to reading challenges has been through communities on LiveJournal such as "50books_poc" - a challenge to read books by authors of non-white origin - and the sister community "queerlit50" (books by authors who are not straight), where reading 50 books in a year is the aim, and is met by a lot of people.

Secondly, by the end of this year I will have read more than 75 books (actually, just added my 75th to Goodreads this evening), and that doesn't include those I didn't note on Goodreads (there's at least a couple).  Which means even if 50 books had been directed at a particular challenge focus, I've read enough books to do said challenge plus some to spare.

Thirdly, when I first heard of the challenge, I started a bookshelf on Goodreads for the challenge.  I didn't add any books - all I did was go through what was already in my shelves written by Australian women, that were not marked as read.  I had fifty within 15 minutes.

As an example, of the 75 books I've complete this year, I just did a count and 21 of those, just under a third, were by Australian women.  Now, I'll admit that 16 of those 21 (or over two thirds) are by one woman, Stephanie Laurens.  I know, I know.  But it's escapist reading, okay?

All of that said, I think my goal for the AWWChallenge for 2012 will be 40.  My total goal for the year is going to start at 75, and a side goal is going to be clearing out my On Hiatus shelf.  (This will be interesting, as there are currently 45 books "On Hiatus", only a few of which are by female Australian writers.)  Finally, as I still want to complete 50books_poc and Queerlit50 within a calendar year, clearly Queer Australian female authors of non-white backgrounds get top billing.  And now I'm trying to think of some...  suggestions, please?


A sidenote: I'm no longer a member of 50books_poc, however I continue to set myself the challenge to a) read 50 books by authors who are not white within a calendar year and, more broadly b) continue to be aware of the breadth of life experience among the authors I read.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Review: "Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Leviathan is as much about possible futures as alternate pasts.... That's the nature of steampunk, blending future and past." - Scott Westerfeld

I read the majority of this book on the train on the way back from our trip to the Melbourne Zoo. I was only able to read it because Michelle, being sensible, had packed a tree book along with her Kobo. So when my Kobo started to act up and wouldn't actually turn on (dammit), I started reading Leviathan instead.

I've been wanting to read this since it first came out, but it has languished on the 'to read' pile in part because Scott Westerfeld is a white, American male, and thus doesn't fill ANY 'special category' for reading challenges (by which I mean those 'challenges' I give to myself, rather than specific challenges.)

Anyway - I really enjoyed it. Love Nora Barlow, especially love Deryn (even though Deryn isn't a particularly feminine name to me... Scott, you're married to an Australian, surely Justine explained the evil that is Derryn Hinch?) - but then I generally love 'girl-dressed-as-boy' narratives.

Anyway. I really enjoyed the steampunk aspect, even if the beasties do worry me on occassion (I can't see "Leviathan" the ship as anything but an actual-although-modified whale, and the idea of harnessing it to a gondola... I don't know.

But I certainly enjoy the world-building, the games being played with history, and the general mood of the book. Behemoth is somewhere in the Chez Stutters collection, and I won't be surprised if I finish that one by Christmas. (I also have to dig out Richard Harland's Liberator and read it. Perhaps December will be my "books by white men" month?

Kick-ass women: 2 (Deryn and Nora Barlow)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Database Training

Off to Wagga today for training from the fabulous Jenny from

The purpose of today was to be introduced to two EBSCO-hosted databases: A/NZ Point of View Reference Centre, and NoveList.  Both of these are available through all NSW libraries, thanks to the State Library of NSW and  Because my library is linked to three NSW local governments, we get access to it too - and the training.

It was a good training session, although the internet connection was mega-slow, which impacted negatively on the training itself.

Databases are a strange thing.  We have a bunch of them but most of the time the staff don't know they're there or that we have free access to them.  What I need to work on is (first) making my staff aware of what is available and how to find it and (second) making our patrons aware of the same thing.

I'll be the Customer Service Co-ordinator in my Library for the foreseeable future, and that frees me to work on things like this: on promotion and training and making sure that my staff are aware of what we have.  Because we really need to be.

Monday, 5 December 2011

A few of my favourite reads...

By way of introduction...

Clearly, I'm new to these book-blogging parts, and so I thought that a good introduction might be to link to a few reviews of mine across a few genres and give you (the generic reader I assume is out there, somewhere) an idea of my reviews.

I've dropped back on my review writing this year, and in fact the three books to which I've so far given five-star ratings on Goodreads are all still in my "to review" shelf.  Most of that shelf is now going to have to get cleared out through me having forgotten what I wanted to write about.

So, instead you get links to a selection of books that I have reviewed, across the past four years that I've been recording my books on Goodreads:

Five star reviews

The Emperor's Babe by Bernadine Evaristo

The Colour of Water by James McBride

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

Black Chicks Talking by Leah Purcell

Secrets of the Red Lantern, by Pauline Nguyen, Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen

Four star review

The Rage of Sheep by Michelle Cooper

Three star review

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz (but my rating of the next two in the series is four stars)

Friday, 2 December 2011

Memory lane - a tree grows in the library

For two years I was a library assistant at Wangaratta High School.  The job had its ups and downs, but one of the best aspects of the job was that my fellow library assistant was absolutely brilliant at displays.  Cheryl grew a tree in the library.

The Book Week theme in 2009 was Book Safari.  Our library went on a jungle safari, thanks to Cheryl's magnificent tree, and a few highly beloved stuffed animals purchased on eBay, as well as Camilla the snake -  sewn by one of the Teacher Librarians.  Camilla was longer than her maker's house.

The tree stayed up until all of the staff who had been there in 2009 had left.  Unfortunately, that meant that it was taken down at the end of 2010.

It was a great team.

It was a really fabulous tree.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge

... which, unfairly, reminds me of the Top Gear Winter Olympics xxx Chall... (which inevitably couldn't fit on the electronic scoreboards they were using to announce the challenges.)


The Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge.  To quote the website:

Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge

Keen on romance, fantasy, crime, YA, literary, mainstream women's fiction? Contemporary or historical? Memoir, other nonfiction or poetry?  

Whatever your preference, whether you're a fan of one genre or a devoted eclectic, the 2012 Australian Women Writers Book Reading & Reviewing Challenge invites you to celebrate a year encountering the best of Australian women's writing.

Objective: This challenge hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that has continued throughout 2011 by actively promoting the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women's writing. (See the page on gender bias for recent discussions.)

Readers should approach this challenge with a spirit of willingness. There are no failures, just personal goals. Reviews can be long or short, favourable or "this book is not for me". Hopefully, along the way, we'll all discover some future classics and perhaps a few surprises among genres we're not familiar with. The main aim is to have fun.

Challenge period:  1 January 2012 -  31 December 2012

Goal: Read and review books written by Australian women writers.

Genre challenges: 
Purist: one genre only
Dabbler: more than one genre
Devoted eclectic: as many genres as you can find
Challenge levels:
Stella (read 3 and review at least 2 books)
Miles (read 6 and review at least 3* 
Franklin-fantastic (read 10 and review at least 4 books)*
* The higher levels should include at least one substantial length review 
I am aiming to be a Franklin-fantastic Dabbler.  Minimum.

As I said on Twitter today, I'm kind of gobsmacked by 'Franklin-fantastic' being only ten books.  In a quick scan through my Goodreads, I've already added over 30 books.  Meanwhile, my total book aim for 2011 is 75, and I think I'll make it.

My only issue is that I just started reading a Stephanie Laurens, and am conflicted between finishing the book and counting it for the 2011 challenge (six books to go!) and stopping because she's an Australian author and that means I should wait until January to keep going with it.  (I think this *is* what I'll do with Sara Knox' The Orphan Gunner which I really haven't begun yet).

In perusing my list so far I have:

  • chick lit
  • romance (okay, not in my list, but there's plenty of Laurens I want to read)
  • biography
  • philosophy/spirituality
  • literary
  • YA
  • middle grades
  • sociology
  • politics
  • feminist legal theory 
  • poetry/verse novels 

 I may have issues with the sub-challenge "We Love 2 Read 2" (which is less about the use of the numeral 2 and more about there being broader problems with the Our Story program than gender balance, about which I have a post in process) but I love the broader challenge, and am so frustrated by the fact that the start date is still a month away.  I want to start reading now!

Welcome to Heidi Reads: the blog


You may know me on Twitter as heidi_reads, on Goodreads as Heidi, or on Dreamwidth as Adelheid.

It was the 2012 Australian Women Writers challenge that persuaded me to finally begin this blog: but it will also be a blog about my day job as a librarian, my studies (only a year left to go!) for a Masters in Information Studies (Librarianship), and other book and author related topics including, more than likely, lots on the National Year of Reading 2012.

For the books already on my AusWomenWriters challenge list, see my shelf on Goodreads.