In 2018, I set myself a goal of reading 75 books. In the end, that turned out to be an easy target. I hit 75 by the end of July and finished the year with a total count of 118 books read (108 new books).
I only started tracking my books read in 2015 (in a dedicated journal after I discovered in 2014 there wasn’t enough room in my five-year journal entries to include books), so it’s hard for me to contextualize that figure, but I’d say it’s likely I’ve been a 100+ books/year reader for most of my life. Reading has always been my escape, my self-care, my anxiety management. Even during my busiest periods I would make time to read for fun (my book totals only count books for fun- books I read for my research don’t count). My best friend from my Master’s degree said she knew we were going to get along as soon as she realized I also had a library card for the public library system.
What I read changes depending on the mental bandwidth I have available; I’ve had to return books to the library unread when I realized I just wasn’t in the right headspace to be able to tackle them. When I was in high school I mostly read science fiction and fantasy, but I’m not as grounded in those genres these days. I tend to read a mix of novels, memoirs and biographies, historical non-fiction, and texts devoted to parenting, feminism, behavioural psychology, and time management/organization. I get inspiration on what to read next from blogs (especially Modern Mrs. Darcy), the New Yorker, and other spots online, but I also like to wander the shelves of my local branch of our fantastic library system when I get the chance (admittedly, this is a very infrequent occurrence at the moment).
As I’ve written on here before, I effectively stopped buying books several years ago when I realized they were my latte factor. Our public library system is so good, I can’t rationalize spending the money, or having the new book take up coveted shelf space (especially as E’s collection of novels grows). I’m highly resistant to reading a book that someone else has bought for me (for reasons which I can’t clearly articulate- the best I can think of is that I always have a pile of books to read that I’ve chosen for myself, and I never prioritize the books that someone else selected).
I do buy books for the kids, but I’m selective about what comes into our house to stay and what comes in temporarily from the library. When it’s a book that E. is reading, I try to gauge whether it’s a book (or a series) that I think I would want P. to have easy access to as well in due course. Classics (like the Little House and Ramona books) are a given, but newer stuff too (Aaron Blabey’s Les Méchants and Tracey West’s Dragon Masters come to mind). E. reads so voraciously that we go to the library nearly every week. I keep his total number of books checked out to around 15 (anything more I’ve learned from experience becomes unmanageable) and he decides which books he’s ready to return in order to take out new ones.
There are weeks where all my holds come in at once (usually because I’ve enthusiastically placed a bunch of new ones and forgot to make some of them inactive) and I do end up waiting a long time for certain items, but it’s a system that works well for me. It’s certainly facilitated my reading.
In 2015, I read 131 books (93 of which were new). I didn’t have paid work that year and I was floundering after finishing the PhD. I took refuge in books.
In 2016, my reading total crashed to 44 (all of them new). If you knew me in real life, you could probably judge just how horrific a year 2016 was by that total alone. I didn’t finish a single book in November of 2016; I think because P. was sleeping so badly I was just too tired to read.
2017 was better at 63 (again all of them new), but still below what I would consider to be my ‘normal’ reading rate. I had thought my monthly totals would have increased in the second half of the year as P. got older and slept more consistently through the night, but looking back I see there was no such pattern.
I know I prioritized reading over other things (most obviously my photography) in 2018, but it still felt like last year marked a return to ‘normal’ reading habits, and I’ll be surprised if I don’t crack 100 again this year. After three years with very few books reread, I suspect I’ll be making time for some of my old favourites, as I have a small(ish) collection of books I tend to reread over and over again. They are my warm fuzzies, my ultimate comforts.
Since I really enjoyed reading Ana’s list of her favourite books from the past year, I wanted to make a quick note of the books I’ve loved the most since I started tracking my reading (these are the ones I’ve marked with a star in my journal). These are the books that captured my heart or spoke to my soul, the books that stayed with me long after I’d closed the cover, and (in some cases) the books that have changed how I think about and live my life. They weren’t necessarily published in the year when I read them.
A Buzz in the Meadow (Dave Goulson)
Some Luck (the Last Hundred Years Trilogy, Book One- and the others) (Jane Smiley)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)
The Empathy Exams (Leslie Jamison)
They Left Us Everything (Plum Johnson)
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (Laura Markham)
H is for Hawk (Helen MacDonald)
Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)
The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell)
Why Smart Kids Worry and What Parents Can Do to Help (Allison Edwards)
American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers (Nancy Jo Sales)
Midnight Riot (and the rest in the series) (Ben Aaronovitch)
The Age of Miracles (Karen Thompson Walker)
Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family (Anne-Marie Slaughter)
Option B (Sheryl Sandberg)
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Amy Cuddy)
The Best of Us (Joyce Maynard)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)
Future Home of the Living God (Louise Erdrich)
The Writer’s Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose (Helen Sword)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond)
Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Chris Cleave)
The Course of Love (Alain de Botton)
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Cal Newport)
Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child (Ross Greene)
Stylish Academic Writing (Helen Sword)
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think (Hans Rosling)
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World (Steven Johnson)
If I had to pull out my all-time favourites from that list, the books I think everyone should read, I’d go for They Left Us Everything; Station Eleven; Everyone Brave is Forgiven; and The Course of Love.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?