Quarterly Book & Movie Challenge Check In

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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50 Responses to Quarterly Book & Movie Challenge Check In
  1. Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer)
    April 11, 2012 | 4:17 pm

    Fun! I think my most pleasant surprise so far this year has been The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant (which is funny, since you’ve read Night Swim.) It’s literary through-and-through, so I would only recommend it to people who like that, but it’s got a gothic atmosphere and is beautifully understated. I was really pleased, considering that I picked it up on a whim based mostly on the gorgeous cover. I have to disagree with you about ebooks, though. For me, a physical copy trumps digital every time.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:02 pm

      I think most writers tend to prefer the print books. Or maybe I made that up? As for “swimming” there were a few books out last year with swim or swimming in the title. Not quite as pervasive as ____’s Daughter or _____’ Wife, but maybe it’s gaining ground.

  2. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
    April 11, 2012 | 4:23 pm

    I have read some fabulous books this year – and some duds. Right now, I’m reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Google it! I loved Still Alice, a story of one woman’s downward spiral into Alzheimer’s. Amazing. I loved Room and We Need To Talk About Kevin. Holy shizzle sticks! Dark and terrifying, but I couldn’t put them down. Worst book: Joan Didion’s Blue Nights. Glurg! Just awful. It made me furious! Like if that stuff is getting published, my book had better get picked up! 😉

    Embarrassingly, I don’t know what movie I’ve last seen. Unless movies on Lifetime count. 😉 Glad the Lamott book did not disappoint!

    • mommytanya23
      April 11, 2012 | 8:47 pm

      I’ve heard so many fabulous things about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! I need to put it on hold at the library.

      • Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
        April 12, 2012 | 8:59 am

        It is fascinating! I am 87% finished. Like Nina, I went kicking and screaming into ebooks. Great for vacation though!

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:03 pm

      I’m scared to read Still Alice. I fear it’s my future. Really.

    • julie gardner
      April 12, 2012 | 9:55 am

      Someone fabulous suggested I read Room and We Need to Talk About Kevin…:-)
      I loved those books for real.

      And Still Alice was great – and SO sad/scary/holy crap.

      But are you both saying I need to get a Kindle?
      Are you?

      • Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson
        April 12, 2012 | 11:11 pm

        Julie: You read ROOM and KEVIN and wrote about them for my blogoversary last year. *weep* Maybe we need to revisit that. And, I won a KindleFire from BlogHer and, I have to say, it is awesome.

        But don’t fret, my pet. I still buy books. Because I have to. But it IS really nice to have something light to carry around. And just toss in my purse. Really nice. And there are a lot of free books…

  3. annegreenwoodbrown
    April 11, 2012 | 4:29 pm

    What???? You didn’t like PS I Love You??? Have you lost your mind? I watched it 3 times in a row, crying harder each time. But then I’m a sucker for a Scott playing an Irishman. The sheer dramatic stretch was enough to keep me coming back for more.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:04 pm

      You’re a sucker for anything IN Ireland as well. Meanwhile, can’t wait to have your book on my list soon!

  4. Cynthia Robertson
    April 11, 2012 | 4:39 pm

    Best book I’ve read this year is a little self published novel, Vector, by JJ Brown. It’s literary, and lovely, and even though it’s a quiet little story, it manages to be a page turner.
    Best movies are Warhorse (I’m a sucker for animal epics, and this one by Spielberg is beautiful, with all his artsy camera shots.) And Bridesmaids, just becasue it cracked me up.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:08 pm

      Loved Bridesmaids! Pure comedy gold.

  5. Anne R. Allen (@annerallen)
    April 11, 2012 | 5:12 pm

    I’m so glad to hear Anne LaMotte can still pack the house.

    Re: Funny Girl. It’s kind of sad how many musicals seem to glorify toxic relationships. The co-dependent’s anthem is “As Long as He Needs Me” from Oliver. When you realize she sings it just before her abusive drunken boyfriend kills her, the song loses a little of its romance.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:10 pm

      Now I’m humming “You are 16 Going on 17.” You know, the song Liesel sings with the Nazi.

  6. girlparker
    April 11, 2012 | 5:19 pm

    “Funny” about Funny Girl. As a kid, I loved that movie, but I’m with you now. No Way would I let a loved one march down that losing road. No way! Good job on the book buying. I’ve found myself shopping at B&N or indies much more often now too. I sure admire your reading goal – I think I’ll aim for 25. Stay tuned… =)

  7. Lisa Ahn (@Lisa_Ahn)
    April 11, 2012 | 5:48 pm

    Hi Nina. I’m still making my way through my own book a week challenge, started last September after being inspired by your ideas. I think I’ll switch to 50 books in a year after I complete this round though — I miss reading several books at once, and I’ve put in some late night marathons to finish “on time.”
    As you know, I whacked my head in early January and had to switch to audio books for the last three months because I couldn’t read. Best of the audio bunch? Broken for You, by Stephanie Kallos; Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman (oh, how I love him); and, Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin. So good! Happy reading :)

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:13 pm

      Yes, Lisa, I think you’ll prefer the new method. I like having a non-fiction and fiction going at the same time and this way I can linger a little more on each one. Can you believe I’ve never read Neil Gaiman? I know–it’s wrong.

      • mommytanya23
        April 12, 2012 | 9:11 am

        Oh gee. You must read the Graveyard Book. It was AMAZING! Or even better, online Neil Gaiman has an audio recording of him reading it. Pure bliss.

  8. Shary Hover
    April 11, 2012 | 6:01 pm

    I tried to watch the Oscar nominated films but I haven’t gotten very far on my list. I did see Hugo and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also liked Midnight in Paris even though I’m not a Woody Allen fan. And I liked The Artist, too. I guess I’ve been on a Paris kick.

    I haven’t read a standout novel yet this year, but I’m enjoying a new-to-me mystery series. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear is the first in the series. The books have the cozy feel of an Agatha Christie novel, but the author tackles a lot of social issues so the series has depth, too.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:14 pm

      Shary–it was not a great Oscar year for me either. I only saw The Help and the Marilyn one. The others just didn’t speak to me. Oh, and I had a baby. 😉

  9. Julia Munroe Martin
    April 11, 2012 | 6:44 pm

    We’ve been watching a ton of movies lately…I think it’s easier for me at the end of the day than reading after lots of revisions…. anyway, and I liked Midnight in Paris (like Shary) and another really funny Woody Allen movie is Manhattan Murder Mystery. Hilarious. And I also really loved Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Dilemma (which really surprised me because I usually am not a Vince Vaughn fan). Those are all upbeat. If you’re looking for a really good (but not upbeat movie), have you seen Half Nelson? Intense but so good.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:15 pm

      Crazy Stupid Love is such a great movie. I think it gets the award for THE WORST title ever though. What is that title? Really!? Excellent movie though.

  10. mommytanya23
    April 11, 2012 | 8:55 pm

    First off – you’ve never seen Groundhog’s Day?! My dad thinks that’s the hands down best movie ever created. I’ve watched it way too many times and therefore no longer remotely enjoy it LOL.

    Best book – that’s a touch one for me. You’d think it’s be Insurgent (Divergent #2, insert preening about how I got to read the ARC here) but I’m not so sure. Nothing is screaming at me as my absolute favorite but Becoming Mara Dyer, Night Circus and Insurgent are probably my top 3.

    Best movie – Hunger Games… Which might be the only movie I’ve watched this year.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 11, 2012 | 10:26 pm

      I plan to read Night Circus this year for sure. So funny about Groundhog’s Day . . . not sure I how I missed it. It’s one of my husband’s favorites too. And I’ve always used the expression that certain experiences feel like “Groundhog’s Day.”

  11. gojulesgo
    April 12, 2012 | 8:48 am

    OMG. I will have to keep you abreast of the 90210 goings-on. I will consider it my guilty pleasure goddess duty (as are repeat viewings of PS I Love You and Catch and Release, ha! I love a good deceased spouse movie).

  12. julie gardner
    April 12, 2012 | 9:52 am

    First of all, I love that you consult Rotten Tomatoes, too. And I’d watch Groundhog Day every day (see what I did there?) and totally agree that I Love You, Man was pretty darn good. I adored Bridget Jones Diary and as for the Hunger Games experience: I attended the midnight showing with my kids who had also read the series- does it get any better than that? No. It doesn’t.

    Most of the other movies (minus Funny Girl) I hadn’t seen and now I know what to avoid so thanks!

    As for books. I’m currently slogging my way through Love in the Time of Cholera because a friend gave it to me and he’s a Nobel Prize winner and and and.

    It feels like school. I’ve been reading for days and haven’t finished Chapter One – partly because it’s over 50 pages long (why why why?) and partly because I have to keep stopping and re-reading the extremely long paragraphs of narrative. There is almost no dialogue. I’m sure it will be wonderful (it will be, right?) but I’d rather be reading a piece of light-hearted chick lit if I’m being honest.

    Thanks for the book recommendations because I haven’t read ANY of them. So hopefully I’ll be done with Cholera by Thanksgiving and can give your list a shot…

  13. Christi Craig (@Christi_Craig)
    April 12, 2012 | 10:43 am

    Boy, I’m so impressed! I wish I could read faster than I do, though I am reading a lot more than I used to. That feels good. Also, I admit, I do love my Kindle (app — using an iPad).

  14. Sarah Baughman
    April 12, 2012 | 11:51 am

    I am really inspired by your book-a-week challenge (and/or your 50 books-by-the-end-of-the-year challenge). I’m not quite up to that, but I definitely always have a book going. Right now it’s Lamb by Christopher Moore–a terrific read. I barely watch movies anymore, but the last one I saw was The Help…fine, but not as good as the book.

    I never thought I’d like e-readers, but a lot of my reading happens while I’m nursing the baby, so I am seriously thinking of buying a Kindle because of how light it is and how easy it is to read one-handed. I do feel bad for bookstores and don’t mind paying more to support a local one. Some local bookstores also offer eBook purchases, which lets you have it both ways.

  15. Shannon Pruitt from 'Mynewfavoriteday'
    April 12, 2012 | 12:34 pm

    I always love your reviews as I have similar sensibilities so I enjoy your recommendations. I have been trying to read more and have loved it. I read the “Hunger Games” which I loved and I also read “Unbroken” which I really enjoyed. We already covered my thoughts on “50 Shades” but all in all I have so enjoyed reading more and finding recommendations from other bloggers! Thanks Nina:)

  16. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes
    April 12, 2012 | 7:06 pm

    Kindle lover!! I feel the same way when I get a big, hardback now. You mean I have to hold this entire thing while I’m reading?? lol I will tell you though, I always read laying down and constantly drop the Kindle onto my face. Best book I’ve read this year is probably Little Gale Gumbo. Loved it A LOT. I also loved In Leah’s Wake which I read right at the beginning of the year. As you know I’m reading 50 Shades now. I’m just over halfway and I am obsessed with the characters. This book is a million times better than I expected. But I want them to fall in love, get married and have babies and I’m just not sure it’s going there… I’m also not sure how much plot there can be for two more books. Did you read the other ones? I hope it doesn’t go downhill for me soon. Oh I also have Game Of Thrones (non-Kindle) sitting around. But it’s so massive and daunting.

    As far as movies go, I rarely watch them. Of course I saw Hunger Games and that also was a million times better than I expected. That might actually be the only movie I’ve seen this year…goodness.

  17. Galit Breen
    April 12, 2012 | 9:10 pm

    I love this challenge and how you’re keeping up with it!

    (Isn’t it funny how *nothing* can be read or watched sans storyline critiques? My husband doesn’t mind that, like, at all. :))

  18. kelliefish13
    April 12, 2012 | 9:46 pm

    I gave up reading hard backs years ago they are just such a pain to hold and would only get paper backs. Now I have my Kindle which I bought while travelling and I thought I would go back to reading paper backs since I got home but with a newborn baby my kindle is so much easier, I don’t lose my page when I fall asleep reading and drop it, plus I can turn pages one handed.
    I am currently reading Blackout my Connie Willis which is really different and interesting, but I am almost through it and I am still not sure if I like it however I still have no idea what is going to happen. Plus I think it is a series and I love series as they mean I don’t have to say goodbye to characters so quickly.
    Hunger games was a great movie, now I want to read the books.

  19. TheJackB
    April 13, 2012 | 2:51 am

    I read all of the Hunger Games books and saw the movie too. I enjoyed them all, but the books weren’t quite as good as some of my friends led me to believe. Still they were fun.

    Read all of the Larsson books too- the first was the best. I also very much enjoyed the film version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

    There are a bunch of other books and movies on my list- you’re to “blame” for those. I didn’t fully commit to the 50/50 but after I read about here I decided to make an effort to try to make it happen.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 13, 2012 | 2:40 pm

      Love that I had an influence! I can’t remember . . . have you read any of Jonathan Tropper’s books? I think you’d like them.

  20. Carrie @Tempo Life Coaching
    April 13, 2012 | 10:25 am

    Does blog reading count for something? It seems that’s about all I read lately, although I continually download books to my Kindle. This year I’ve read the Hunger games series and couldn’t put them down. Also read Unbroken, which was fascinating and horrific at the same time. Oh, I also read “An Accidental Athlete” which is a great inspirational book. Of course I have my stack of life coaching books, which I don’t purchase on the Kindle. Movies?? My boyfriend is a movie junkie…old classic, musicals, stupid teen humor. Watched Dances With Wolves last night. Forgot how much I loved that movie. Bridesmaids was hysterical! We bought a zoo was a good one too, for any of you with kids. Just curious….how do you find the time to keep up with all you do??

  21. Katie
    April 13, 2012 | 1:22 pm

    Just read such a great book in 3 days- I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. “FatherMotherGod” by Lucia Greenhouse. Fascinating insight into the world of Christian Science. I cannot believe that this book is not a bestseller!

  22. Katie
    April 13, 2012 | 1:26 pm

    Oh also “Nothing to Envy” by Barbara Dernick. Could not put that one down either- amazing insight into what life is like today for North Koreans.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 13, 2012 | 2:45 pm

      Such serious books! I like to read non-fiction too though so glad to hear of some ideas. Thanks!

  23. jayang
    April 13, 2012 | 2:42 pm

    Love the update!

  24. Amy Mak
    April 14, 2012 | 8:08 pm

    Now I must read the new Lamott – I am big fan ever since I read Bird by Bird. Classic. Have not crossed over to the dark side yet (kindle) but ever so slowly, I am starting to see the appeal. Sigh. Love your book lists. I’m reading two books right now – The Postmistress (very good) and Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (also very good). I watched a terrible movie on tv the other night – Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious. The worst part? I could NOT stop watching it!

    • Nina Badzin
      April 16, 2012 | 3:30 pm

      Okay, Fast and Furious is probably worse than Catch and Release or P.S. I Love You.

  25. Jackie Cangro
    April 15, 2012 | 10:54 am

    I went with the Nook instead of the Kindle. It’s fantastic for subway commuters like me. What a drag trying to hang on to the subway pole while balancing a hardcover in the other hand, especially if it’s a War and Peace size book. I decided to go with the Nook because I can also check out e-books from the library.

    Last month I read Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, which I enjoyed. I”ll have to check out How to Talk to a Widower. I honestly haven’t read too many books in 2012 because every spare moment has been dedicated to editing my own novel. That’s almost done though, and then I think I’m going to read Alex George’s book A Good American.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 16, 2012 | 3:30 pm

      You can do ebooks on the Kindle too! (If publishers have released those titles to libraries)

  26. jolinapetersheim
    April 16, 2012 | 10:55 am

    Anne Lamott’s book sounds absolutely wonderful! I have to admit, though, that I haven’t even read Bird by Bird even though I have heard it is the Bible of the creative writing profession. Thanks for keeping your 50/50 list updated along with everything else you do. Starting to wonder if you are part Wonder Woman.

    • Nina Badzin
      April 16, 2012 | 3:35 pm

      Nope, just a poor sleeper. I read for about an hour before I fall asleep every night. My husband loves the little light with my kindle cover because it doesn’t keep him awake. And then after I nurse in the middle of the night I end up reading another twenty minutes to get back to sleep. In the words, I have bags under my eyes, but lots of books checked of my list.

  27. LindseyJoy
    April 26, 2012 | 1:12 pm

    I love Anne Lamott! I read Operating Instructions a few months after my first child was born…laughing & crying the whole way through. My favorite novel of 2012, so far, has been A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A classic, but I’d never read it. I read the library Kindle version, but I plan to purchase the hard copy from a REAL LIVE book store for my birthday! 😉

    • Nina Badzin
      April 26, 2012 | 2:53 pm

      I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. At this point I think I’ll wait until one of my kids wants to read it and we’ll do it together. I haven’t read Operating Instructions but it’s on the list.

      Stop by my blog: http://ninabadzin.com Follow me on Twitter: @NinaBadzin

  28. LindseyJoy
    May 3, 2012 | 1:59 pm

    Looking forward to finding a quiet (toddler napping) moment to read your Book Club article, but wanted to let you know I nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger Award on my site 😉 Happy blogging (and reading!) http://loveandstories.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/blogger-award/

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