Hello readers and movie watchers. I’m reporting on the first quarter stats and picks for my 2012 “Fifty Fifty Me Challenge.”

What’s the Fifty Fifty Me Challenge, you ask? It’s the “movement” to read fifty books and watch fifty movies in 2012. We’re immersing ourselves in the world of a good story, and it’s never too late to join.

The “Me” in the Fifty Fifty caption reminds you that the books and films are YOUR choice. This ain’t school, kids, so there’s no syllabus to follow. That said, some people are majoring in certain subjects. My choices for books and films have no thematic significance whatsoever, unless you count a movie’s appearance on basic cable as a unifying theme.


Books read = 12

Movies watched = 18 (Note, I gave up a good chunk of my mediocre television shows to make way for the movies. So instead of watching Gossip Girl and 90210 while loading the dishwasher or working out, I now watch whatever movie I TiVo’d.


I prefer the goal of completing fifty books by the end of the year to the book-a-week schedule I began in 2011. I probably read at a quicker pace last year, but now I can juggle several books at the same time and not worry about taking longer to finish.

The next revelation, although one I saw coming, is that I love reading on the Kindle and now hate hardcovers books, which feel like massive clunkers. Expensive clunkers. I don’t mind a paperback, but the Kindle still wins.

Let me share a story about the hardcover book I finished last night, Anne Lamott’s newest memoir, Some Assembly Required. I went to Lamott’s appearance at the Barnes and Noble ten minutes from my house. I know she’s popular, and I too have loved her since discovering her practical advice for writers in Bird by Bird, but I was still stunned by the sheer volume of bodies packed into the lower level of the store. I couldn’t see Lamott at all, but I heard her read the first chapter, and she hooked me. Then she answered questions and was as affable, funny, patient, and lovely as she comes off on the page. The entire literary experience, provided by Barnes and Noble, moved me so much that I knew in my heart Barnes and Noble deserved my money in this case, not Amazon.

Feeling quite pleased with myself for not being the kind of schnorrery cheapskate that I railed against in a much-retweeted post last year, I stood in a long line to pay for my hardcover. A glance at my iPhone told me that the Kindle edition was $12.99 and Amazon’s price for the hardcover was $17.79. What did I pay at B & N? List price: $26.95. I paid it because as a voracious reader and an aspiring novelist, I worry about bookstores and the publishing industry. I see it as my duty to buy books and buy them often. But if I were just a casual book buyer I can’t say I’d happily fork over $26.95 when I PREFER reading on the Kindle anyway. The publishing industry certainly can’t rely on guilt and nostalgia as a business model. That said, I have no helpful answers to a problem that is way over my head.

The good news? Some Assembly Required was one of my top reads for quarter one. Another favorite was Jonathan Tropper’s How to Talk to a Widower. I keep a list of brief reviews on my 50/50 Challenge page and update it often. Take a peak to see all twelve books.


I have four little kids and don’t get out to movies often. Most of the movies I watched were ones I TiVo’d on basic cable. Let me tell you, I watched a lot of bad movies. Often the movies were background noise, meaning I didn’t realize how bad they were until there was no turning back. The stand out stinkers were: Catch and Release; P.S. I Love You; and Something New.

The best movie of the year so far for me was Hunger Games. Duh. But I also saw Groundhog Day for the first time and absolutely loved it. Great execution of a clever and original premise.

I was most disappointed with Funny Girl. I can’t figure out how I’ve lived for thirty-five years as an ordinary Jewish girl + Broadway fanatic without seeing this Barbra classic. Unfortunately, watching the movie introduced me to the true Mr. Arnstein, and I can’t love the song “Don’t Rain on My Parade” anymore. If Barbra/Fanny were my daughter/friend/sister chasing a gambler half-way around the world, I’d rainstorm and tornado on her parade until she came to her senses. I’d always assumed the line “Hey Mr. Arnstein, here I am!” referred to a Broadway producer. No idea where I got that notion, but it seemed plausible. Oops.

My full movie list with the brief reviews is here.

What’s the best book you’ve read so far in 2012? What about movies?

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and a contributing writer at Kveller.com and Greatnewbooks.org. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and have been syndicated in Jewish newspapers across the country. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines, and she loved participating in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother. Nina is a co-founder of The Twin Cities Writing Studio. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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