The 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge (Yay!)

For the second time in five years, I successfully completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge, reading 50 books in 2017! In a year fraught with way too much reality, fiction was the name of the game: magical children, brave creatures, curious characters, time travelers, mystics. Yes, yes. yes!

This year’s tally of 11,193 pages otherwise included 8 books of poetry, 10 non-fiction, and 4 children’s books. Also on the list were a few Young Adult novels including the final book in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, as well as the Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. (The first of which, Life As We Knew It, remains the most haunting book I read this year.)

According to star-ratings, my least favorite books in 2017 were The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō and Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi.

There were a few other low-star rated books—mostly me wandering out-of-genre (Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Jaren Russell) or buying into hype (The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman).

I was generous with my five-stars this year, but I always am. If it captures my attention, makes me wonder, keeps me interested to the final page? Yes! Bestsellers like Dan Brown, Amy Bloom, and Mary Oliver, of course, but even more so for friends and local authors like Luanne Castle, Robert Finch, Gordy Whiteman and Nan Meneely. What delights!

(Was it shameless of me to include my own book, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, in the mix?)

A few classics showed up this year—The Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder, and A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas—and a few personal favorites returned (Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert and Alice Hoffman!)

The most memorable books of the year? Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick, and The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.

But my most favorite (also probably most recommended) was definitely the Roland Merullo Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner with Buddha series. I thoroughly enjoyed each book with equal measure and still pine for Rinpoche’s humor and wisdom—some seven months since turning the last page.

That this year’s collection of favorites included the counsel of a Buddhist monk, pages and pages poetry, and a dystopian end-of-the-world series is not ironic. It is, I think, reflective of this new and startling world in which we find ourselves.

Thankfully, so is the book I’m reading today. In Braving the Wilderness, social scientist Brené Brown outlines a clear path out of our “spiritual crisis of disconnection” by advising that “People are hard to hate close up, move in; Speak truth to BS, be civil; Hold hands, with strangers; Strong Back, strong front, wild heart.”

And so we bravely go…2018. Are you ready? And are you reading?

Book Launch! Evidence of Flossing!

Join us to celebrate the publication of the newest book by Jen Payne!

Saturday, October 14 • 3:00PM – 6:00PM
Book Signing, Refreshments & More

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Sunday, October 15 • Noon – 2:00PM
Artist Talk with Jen Payne & Martha Link Walsh
Conversation, Refreshments & More

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Hosted by
Martha Link Walsh Gallery
188 North Main Street • Branford, CT

For more, email

Win a Free Copy of My New Book!

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind
Poetry & Photography by Jennifer A. Payne
180 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, Color Photos
Available from Three Chairs Publishing, October 2017

* * * CLICK HERE NOW * * *
To Enter the Goodreads Giveaway

For More Information & Upcoming Events

Don’t Miss Evidence of Flossing!

Mark your calendar for these upcoming events to celebrate the launch of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, then follow this blog, or Like our Facebook page for event detail as they become available!

Launch Party for Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind
Saturday, October 14, 3:00PM – 6:00PM
Book Signing, Refreshments & More
Hosted by the Martha Link Walsh Gallery
188 North Main Street, Branford, CT

Sunday Salon
Sunday, October 15, Noon – 2:00PM
Artist Talk with Jen Payne & Martha Link Walsh
Conversation, Refreshments & More
Hosted by the Martha Link Walsh Gallery
188 North Main Street, Branford, CT

Book Signing: Rock Garden
Saturday, November 18, 11-2
Book Signing, Refreshments & More
at the Rock Garden
17 South Main Street, Branford, CT

A Year in Books: Five Oh!

completed-1Fifty. A number of particular significance these days, as 2016 marks my 50th year on the planet. I’m not sure why I am so excited about this milestone, but I am. And I am kicking it off with another milestone—my first successful completion of the Annual Goodreads Reading Challenge with 50 books read in 2015!

Fifty books, 12,133 pages, that included nine books of poetry, five novels by Alice Hoffman, six set in France, and seven that weren’t fiction at all. My favorites included:

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
Rising Strong, Brené Brown
The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver

See the full list here >


Here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • It’s great to read about people and places in your current circle of awareness; reading The Lacuna after seeing the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens this summer was great!
  • Reading unrelated books about the same time period is fascinating; I rounded out the year with several books about France during World War II. Different characters and different storylines, both fictional and not, created an interesting perspective.
  • Following the breadcrumbs of Recommended Reading links is a great tool for finding the next book to read. It’s how I found All the Light We Cannot See, my second favorite book of the year!
  • If you are not enjoying a book, just put it down. It’s OK. I wasted weeks reading my two least favorite books of the year—Breathing Lessons and The God of Small Things—and let’s be honest—there are so many books and such little time. Move on!

Speaking of moving on…I’ve already started a new To Read pile for 2016. Here is the Top of the Stack:

  1. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, Margaret J. Wheatley
  2. Stop the Pain, Dale Carlson
  3. Letter from Italy, 1944, Nancy Fitz-Hugh Meneely
  4. The Japanese Lover, Isabel Allende
  5. The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman
  6. Engaging Your Power, Mary Ann Robbat

Let’s get reading, shall we? What’s on your list?

©2015, Jen Payne. IMAGE: The new novel, Winslow Homer