One of my New Year’s goals was to read more in 2018.
I love to read. I have for as long as I can remember. I have a pretty broad tastes and I will read just anything from the the occasional classic to contemporary fiction, non-fiction and biography, essays, history, psychology and “self-help” and books about education. I love mystery stories and crime fiction, books with complex characters, historical fiction, and young adult reads. Science fiction is the one genre that really doesn’t light my fire, although I do have a strange affinity for dystopian novels.
But in recent years I found that my reading habit has taken a nosedive and I have finished far fewer titles than I’d like.
I should admit from the get go that I am not one of those people who reads every book to its conclusion. I used to be. I figured if I had started a book I had to finish it. Just part of my Type A, perfectionist personality I guess. Then I had children and my reading for pleasure time was drastically reduced. If I found myself in the middle, or more likely stuck at the beginning, of a book I didn’t particularly care for, I would simply choose to do something other than read. And the unworthy book would sit there on my night stand, mocking me for not being committed enough, wise enough, or open-minded enough to power through it.
But here’s the thing, while that book sat there unread and unfinished, I didn’t give myself permission to pick up something I would like better. This was especially so when the book I disliked was one of critical acclaim, one for my book club or one of the “years best.” Sadly, I found that I was avoiding one of my favorite hobbies because of my disinterest in a book that was a poor fit for me. So, eventually, I’d return to the uninteresting book and plow my way through it, hating every second of it.
Then, I had an epiphany. I realized life was too short to finish books I didn’t like. And that nothing bad would happen if I just walked away from a book in the middle. The time and money I had invested were sunk costs, but they didn’t mean I should continue to punish myself by slogging through stories that were not compelling to me. Just because someone else liked a book didn’t mean that I had to. And it was no reflection on me to stop reading likes I don’t like. So now, if after fifty pages or so, a book isn’t doing it for me I have no qualms about setting it aside and finding something that I like better.
Unfortunately, even after instituting this new, so incredibly freeing rule, that allowed me to abandon books I didn’t like and move on to new ones I found more interesting, in recent years I have not cruising through books with the same speed that I used to.
I could attribute this reading drought to a number of factors. Lack of time, a busier family-life, half-marathon training, lots of travel, additional caregiving responsibilities . . . . But the truth is I have allowed myself to get sucked into the black hole of social social media and lost countless hours skimming Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And when I have a slightly bigger chunk of time I find myself reading countless blog posts on Bloglovin’ and searching for new blogs to follow.
In the past, during downtime at my kids’ practices or while waiting for the dentist I would pull out a book and read. Now I simply devour whatever bite-sized pieces of “news” I can find on my phone in that time. And that makes me sad.
Don’t get me wrong – I think Facebook is great for catching up with friends and family who live far away. But I don’t need to spend hours scrolling my newsfeed or clicking on contributing to a myriad of groups that may or may not be relevant to my life. And I love to read blogs. I think there is a lot you can learn from them, especially this one (wink, wink). But the short, bite-sized 750 word posts just can’t compare to books. Lately, I have been craving a more in-depth examination of a topic, a story I can get lost in, a deep dive into new material.
For those things, I must read real books.
So this year I have committed to read more. And truth be told, this was a very easy promise to make because reading gives me such pleasure. Sometimes it makes me feel smarter and other times
At the beginning of the year I set a goal to read 40 books this year. I figured this was an average of 3-4 books per month, which was totally doable. I didn’t want to psyche myself out by committing to read too much, but I wanted to make it an aspirational goal. I am happy to report that, so far, I am ahead of the game – having read 14 books in the first 4 months of the year.
My favorites, so far, in no particular order
by Erik Larson
I admit I am a little late to the party with this read. I had heard of the book before, I think I had even owned it once before, but for some reason I never got around to reading it. Then my son was talking about learning about Jack-the-Ripper in history and he started asking me about the Chicago World’s Fair. I recalled this book and suggested he read it. He was immediately interest, o, I reordered the book. But before I gave it to him I sat down to read just the first chapter and I immediately became engrossed in this story, that reads like a novel. I learned so much about the men who made the fair the amazing event that it was. I often found myself reading passages aloud as I learned new things about the construction and destruction of the fair grounds and began viewing Chicago in a whole new light. and I am not going to lie, the chapters devoted to murder made my skin crawl and had me sleeping with the light on more than once. I can highly recommend this book, and I already have Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin on my nightstand.
by Jessica Knoll
I stumbled upon this book by accident. As I was looking for books to fulfill my 40 book reading challenge this year I found myself on a “most anticipated books of 2018” list and I was intrigued by Jesica Knoll’s new release (due out in ) called ____. However, since that book was not yet available I decided to give Luckiest Girl Alive a try and I am glad I did. And FaNelli endures a shocking public humiliation as a teen and struggles to reinvent herself as the “girl who has everything”. But of course, a deep secret still lurks inside. I was drawn to Ani’s strong voice and deep conflict and kept riveted by the plot turn I didn’t see coming. I also think it’s a book that so many women, even ones without dark skeletons in the closet, can relate to, given the immense pressure to “have it all.”
by Anne Bogel
In a world seemingly obsessed with understanding what makes people tick, Bogel provides an entertaining and research-backed look at what makes you uniquely you, what makes others uniquely them and, perhaps most importantly, why it matters. She examines the most popular personality tests, like Meyers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder and more, and shares what practical applications we take away from these tests to change our lives for the better. I found this read to be engaging, enjoyable and insightful, because who among us doesn’t want to be the best version of ourselves?
by Liv Constantine
This novel in two parts shares the interwoven stories of Daphne Parrish, a rich, socialite married to a handsome philanthropist and real estate guru and Amber Patterson, a young woman from a small town and a poor family, looking to make a fresh start on the East Coast, a woman who desperately wants to be Daphne. These two women for an unlikely but incredibly close friendship, and as the story develops we remember that things are rarely what they seem. While I definitely did anticipate some of the twists, others took me completely by surprise and in a world seemingly consumed with consumerism and jealousy, this book provides a good reminder that you never truly know what is going on is someone else’s life.
Those are my four favorites of the year. No high-brow literature to be sure. But that’s okay. The fact is I am reading more, reading what I want, and loving it.
Next up on my list are An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones and Sean Christen. The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld and Alyssa Bresnehan and A Simplified Life, by Emily Ley
What’s on your reading list this year?