I set a goal for myself for this year to read 25 books. I chose that number because it seemed both doable and ambitious enough for me that I would *have* to change my habits, which was the point of the goal. Many, many moons ago – before kids and even before marriage when I had a lot more uninterrupted solo time (and the focus and energy to fill said time with activities other than lying horizontal staring off in the distance or at a screen) — I easily read a book a week, but in more recent years, I’d be lucky to reach 10 or 12 books in a year. So I set a goal of 25 to nudge me back into the reading habit, to force myself to put books back on my radar (reading reviews, asking for recommendations, constantly adding to and updating my holds list at the library, where I get 90% of my books).
I’m a little sad to say that I’m going to fall short of my goal for the year. I’ve only finished 17 books so far and, if I’m being honest, the likelihood of me finishing more than three in the next four weeks is very, very slim. However! There are an additional 12 books that I started and didn’t finish and I think that should count for something. In some cases, I read a good 200 pages of a book before I gave up. In all cases, I read at least 25 pages before deciding I wasn’t feeling it and moving on.
All of this reading – even if I didn’t finish as many books as I set out to finish — accomplished what I hoped it would. I am reacquainted with a hobby I love — both the actual reading of the books and the information-gathering around books I might like. Literature is a bigger part of my life at the end of this year than it has been in a long time and this is a very good thing. I’m looking forward to lots more reading in the year ahead! In the mean time, I’d love to share with you what my top reads of this year have been.
These are the books that have stayed with me, that I continue to think about weeks and sometimes months after finishing them:
You Think It, I’ll Say It is a collection of short stories by Curtis Sittenfeld who is a masterful story-teller and particularly gifted at humanizing deeply flawed characters. I know a book is great when I finish it wishing I could write something similar. These are the kinds of stories I’d write if I were as talented and disciplined as Sittenfeld.
My therapist recommended Being Mortal to me and I read it sort of begrudgingly like it was a homework assignment I needed to get done. I was very surprised to actually love this nonfiction book and its unflinching examination of end-of-life care, and as the subtitle says: “what matters in the end.”
His Favorites is a petite book (160 pages), but each page packs a punch. This is a suspenseful novel that explores the vulnerabilities of young women in a #metoo world.
Little Fires Everywhere is a page-turner! It’s a “riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.” It leaves the reader questioning what makes a mother — and, really, what makes a family. Really engaging storytelling with rich, complicated characters you can’t help but root for, even when they do stupid stuff.
Small Fry written by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Steve Jobs’ eldest child, is a beautifully-written, almost devastating memoir about growing up between two very disparate worlds (her father, of course, was extremely successful, rich, and famous, while her struggling single mother relied on welfare for many years to support them). I’m a memoir fan, but this reads like a novel and I think could appeal even to those who prefer fiction.
Educated, by Tara Westover is everything I love about memoirs, my favorite genre of literature. It’s a coming-of-age tale that is at once hopeful and devastating, full of complex characters and complicated relationships, with a riveting narrative that is every bit as amazing as the most imaginatively-told novels.
I’m currently reading Ask Again, Yes and not quite halfway through so it’s too early to call it a favorite read but I *am* really enjoying it and suspect it would make this list if I’d started it earlier. Next up I’m reading Between the World and Me, which has gotten rave reviews. I’ll report back when I finish (if I finish – ha!).