As I mentioned in my Reflections of the past year, 2017 was the year I remember how much I LOVE to read. I finished 34 books (books NOT read to kids) and I believe this might be the highest number I have ever achieved in a year. And while, having a long list of books feels like an accomplishment, I also feel like I learned more about what I like in a reading life. This skill I think is even more valuable than the numbers on the list.
In evaluating my year, I credit my success to three sources:
1. Finally really utilizing the library holds system to its full strength.
This was not my first time using the Library holds resource at the library but this was the first year I really started using it to my advantage. In the past I seemed to wait for a lull in my reading life before I started searching for books. I would turn to my favorite trusted readers, sometimes bloggers but often friends, and then I would go and seek out those books. Occasionally I would remember to put the book on the holds list if it really looked like something I wanted to read, but more often then not I would just look for the next book on the list that I could find right then and there. Or I would randomly browse. I am an immediate gratification person and not a great planner. The problem is, I would often hear about great books when I didn't need a book but when it came time for the next read, I would freeze up. Reader's block?
Anyway, this year, I decided to instead of jotting the recommended book down on a piece of paper I might lose or the back of my planner, I immediately went to my Library holds list to request. This meant that my flow of books coming in and out was much more steady. I often had the next book waiting for me before I had even finished the current read. And having an exciting book waiting in the wings was incentive to read faster.
It also meant that my next read was not always in my control. I really only buy a book if I am browsing at a used book store and something very different catches my eye, or if I know a book is something I am going to want to reference frequently. Otherwise, the library is my very dearest friend. And she always knows what might be the next good read for me. One of my greatest joys is receiving that email telling me what book is waiting for me on my own personal shelf at the library. It's Christmas revisited throughout the whole year! And even greater news to me, the libraries here in Minneapolis don't have a limit on holds like they did in Texas. So the gifts come even more often (posing its own problem I will get to later.) The river of flowing books from my library rarely ran dry making for a very fruitful reading experience. If you have not yet mastered your library holds resource, I recommend doing it very soon.
2. Stumbling into a new to me Podcast about Literary Match Making and falling HARD.
I don't even remember how I first finally listened to the What Should I Read Next Podcast, but I knew I was hooked at the very beginning. Anne Bogel from the Modern Mrs. Darcy, a blogger I had often heard of referenced when it came to book recommendations, began a podcast with the premise of helping people find their next read. She asks them 3 books they love, 1 book they hate, what they are reading lately, as well as what they would like to see different in their reading life. From this conversation she offers three suggestions for them to try for their next read. I am continually amazed at the abilities Bogel has to understand the person's preferences in a reading experience based on these simple questions. Their conversations are so rich. And listening to people talk about books they love or books they think others should read is intoxicating. My TBR (To-Be-Read) list ket growing and growing. And I feel like this is an abundance problem I am not afraid of. I recommend her to anyone wanting to find a good book. She recommends something for everyone. And if you are not a listening consumer, her blog is primarily book focused so you can find great options there as well.
3. I remembered how therapeutic it can be to read.
This past year was one of my greatest challenges mental health wise. I was challenged at the beginning of the year with waiting for possible change out of my control. Then I was challenged with uprooting my family and my life to a new space and routine. And finally the year ended with the heavy weight of hormonal depression struggles that accompany the beginning of a pregnancy. My brain and heart felt like they were in constant battle. But I found I was at my healthiest when I was reading. A good book for these times involves escaping. It allows me to settle on another person's life and world view instead of mentally spinning about my own. Also, when I struggled with self-awareness, falling deeply into a book was one of the few self-care tasks that made me feel like myself. I am a person who loves to read. So as long as I was reading, I was connected to me. That is an important skill that I want to remind myself of each time I go through the foggy seasons of life. Give me a cup of hot tea and a good book and I am me again.
So without further ado, how about a quick list of some of my favorites?
This, by the way, is a nearly impossible task for me. I rarely dislike a book. In fact, if I don't like it, I probably never finish it. I have too many books on my TBR to waste time with books I don't like. With that being said, I wanted to end the year with a representation of books I loved this year. I really could have made this list so so long but then it wouldn't really be a Favorites List. So, first off, sorry to the books that are not on here, I still loved and adored you. For the rest of the story, you can see my whole list on GoodReads.
1. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
All time favorite book of the year. I adore Erin's writing. I want to emulate her poetic nature with story telling. I was hesitant to read this book because I didn't want another book reminding me that I am doing it wrong unless I follow a more minimalist lifestyle. But Erin's storytelling of her journey through career, marriage and parenthood, what went wrong and how she is always trying to correct it, this was such a beautiful and comforting message. I devoured it in one sitting. I bought it and am planning on reading it again this year, even more to direct her writing talents.
I am lumping all three of these books together because I loved each for a similar reason. These novels, some more edge-of-your-seat worthy than others (Into the Water), all told a story by weaving different characters and points of view. I read other books like that this year, and when looking back at other favorite books from my history, this remains a constant theme in the literature that sucks me in. It is why I have always loved Leanne Moriarty books. I need a bit of a mystery to the story and a plot that unfolds slowly as each character tells their part of the story. Learning this preference is extremely helpful in my search for the next book for me.
5. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
This book came at such an important time when I was struggling with understanding my own self, womanhood, etc. I love a coming of age story and I LOVE stories told in the "Great Gatsby" era. This also introduced me to a new author and I am making it my goal to tackle his other book that everyone keeps talking about.
6. The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
I struggled to get through this many times but the recommendation of a favorite book lover encouraged me to keep trying. I have written on this book before so read more here. But what I loved learning from this book experience was that some books are worth pushing through to get to the good parts. And sometimes if the writing is holding me back, listening to the book can help with the story telling. This is another book I would love to go back and read again and then discuss with a book club. I need a book club!
7. The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood
Obviously a big Buzz Worthy book of last year. I was disappointed that this classic had slipped by me and I wanted to know what it was all about. I had heard the audio book read by Clare Danes was a good way to read this and this recommendation did not disappoint. Not only was the story gripping, shocking, and currently much to close to reality, but the writing was breath taking. Finshing this book reminded me that there are many classics out there that never fell into my lap and I would love to read more of them in the coming year.
Speaking of my next book, you will have to stay tuned to find out my 2018 Syllabus, as well as a good start to my reading life already this year.
Tell me your favorites and I'll add them to my TBR! Happy Reading Friends!