Last year, setting a reading goal for myself was such a highlight.
And it really was for myself. Because reading is a form of self-care for me; switching off, curling up with a cup of tea and a novel, or sliding into a hot bath with a book, I know it’s something I love to do.
But who knows that the things we love to do are often the things that are shoved aside in favour of the things we should do, or must do, or need to do.
Setting myself a goal to read 40 books in the year kept reading on my radar.
Sometimes I would go a week or two without picking up a book, but because I knew I had a goal to reach, I always had a book on my bedside ready to go. Also, it helps that I work in a library and books are always on my radar…
But the goal made me read, and reading makes me feel like I am caring for my little self, and that has been a win.
So, this year I’ve kept the same goal, and the same thing in mind. Read. Read more. Read widely.
And then share what I read here, to keep me accountable. And also conversations about books are my favourite, so come chat!
You can also find me on Goodreads here.
So. Here are my reads for Jan:
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Imagine. Here I am at the beginning of the year, ready to dive into a good novel. It’s evening. Husband is watching the cricket, I pull up my legs on our tan leather couch, freshly showered and wearing new pyjamas. I have a cup of tea next to me. The front door is open and letting in the summer breeze. Then I start to read. It’s slow going. Some of the writing is intelligent and insightful. I like the voice given to human stuff. But then over the next few days I keep reading, and I find it more and more difficult to pick up. It’s slow. The main character’s melancholy is depressing. The story doesn’t seem to go anywhere. The character is going places, physically, like travelling, but the plot? I don’t even know where it’s going it’s moving at a snails pace.
So all my ‘leaping into a good novel’ dreams are dashed, because this one for me was not a good novel.
Time I won’t ever get back and all that jazz. 1 star for the writing style. I don’t know how on earth this won a Pulitzer prize!
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Oh, you were hoping my January reads were going to get better? So was I!
What. did I just read.
I was drawn to this one because literary journalism is one of my favourite genres. This author followed each of these three women intimately for years, to capture their stories. I love that immersive style of reporting, Capote-style.
But this time, the result actually physically repulsed me.
It wasn’t the sex, truly. I mean, I can’t believe I’m even admitting this but I’ve watched Orange Is the New Black. I’m not a prude. I am not a G-rated only Christian girl who only watches Anne of Green Gables.
It actually wasn’t the explicitness of the book that I found so disturbing.
I kept reading, and waiting for redemption, and there was none to be found. What I wanted was for the three women to awaken to their identity, to take their power back, to have a happy ending for goodness sake!
But there was none.
And the idea presented that these kind of relationships are a normative expression of feminine desire and sexuality…
I have to go wash my eyeballs. Another bummer.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Ahhh now this one was more like it. This was the one I read into the wee hours. The one I looked forward to coming home to. The one that took me on a journey. I love that the story is told through the eyes of a boy, as he grows up. I love the sense of foreboding that the house in the story gives, as if it’s a character itself—and it kind of is. This quote, that I quickly scribbled down, is an example of some of the profound insights into humanity, into our individual stories:
”There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.”
The book is less plot driven than I’d have liked it to be, and can be a bit slow in parts. But, after two novels that left me shaking my head, this was a welcome reprieve!
Cold Storage by David Koepp
Okay, this would not be a book I would naturally pick up. But, when Harper Collins sends your friend a bunch of copies for your book club, and she drops one to your house, and then reminds you to read it with the words, “It’s not what you think, give it a go I think you’ll like it!” then you pick up the book. And then you fly through it, even though it’s about a mutating fungus and a retired Pentagon bioterrorism operative, and science fiction but oh my goodness it’s thoroughly entertaining and actually I laughed out loud at a couple of places. It was lighthearted, and even though sometimes people exploded into green goo-like substance after being infected with weird fungus-from-space, I really liked this book. Honestly, I surprised myself!
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
I kept coming across this title in the libraries where I work, and it had me intrigued enough that one day I borrowed it myself. It follows a family fleeing from war in Syria and it does an incredible job of giving faces to the faceless refugee crisis that plagued our media outlets a couple of years ago. It gave them human faces and insight into their plights, and the risks they had to take to escape the war zone that had once been their places of residence. It sheds light on insufferable loss, on the repercussions of trauma, on hopelessness. Nuri and his wife Afra help to give voice to those who lost so much. It’s heartbreaking.
When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple and Good by Emily Ley
After reading Chasing Slow and Minimalist Home last month, I needed something to keep the ball rolling in my downsizing, minimising, decluttering life, and I came across this one.
To be honest, it was similar to Chasing Slow, but didn’t have the punch I expected. It was more focused on minimising our time on social media, and devices, than much about decluttering our homes or the minimalist movement that I’m experimenting with. There are definite faith overtones, and it reads like an extended blog. But I did enjoy listening to it as I decluttered my house some more.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising by Marie Kondo
Remember when this book went viral? I’m sure you’re familiar with her phrase about getting rid of something if it doesn’t spark joy. Well, did you know that she also empties her handbag every night because she thinks it will ‘feel full’ and then she also thanks it for it’s work that day. Needless to say, there are some ideas in this book that I won’t be implementing. But there are others that are more practical, and I think it’s helpful if you find it hard to part with material things, particularly if they’re somewhat sentimental. She doesn’t really address the practical things that we need to have in our homes, or give any ideas about how to store or organise those things. In that area I feel like Minimalist Home is much more practical. But I had to read (listen) to this book because it’s such a widely-read book in the arena of minimising.
So. I’m off to a roaring start, having seven notches in my 2020 reading belt.
On my bedside are The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, Roar by Cecelia Ahern, The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, and I’m currently listening to The Grown-up’s Guide to Teenage Humans by Josh Shipp.
What are you reading? Do you have a reading goal for 2020? It might not be as ridiculous as 40 books fo rate year – maybe it’s just one a month?