I read a lot. I love reading and books, and stories. This has always been the case.
But in 2022, I decided that I wanted to branch out, try new things, and read different books than I would normally pick for myself. So, I decided to read at least two books per week – one fiction and one nonfiction. Y’all, I had fun. And I read 126 books total, which is more than usual, and I learned a lot about myself as a reader, and about some pretty cool stuff.
A lot of people I talk to have asked me questions about why I decided to read this way, and how I made it happen, so I thought I’d answer some of those questions here.
Why two books a week?
Because I figured that would force me to choose things I wouldn’t normally choose, and get outside of my comfort zone. And I knew I could do it. It might be hard to find time some weeks, but I read fast, so two books is pretty doable for me if I plan well and make time.
How did you make the time?
There’s no easy answer to this question, and there’s no easy formula for making time you don’t have. Wouldn’t that be great, though? The simple answer to this question is, I just did. If I had a free minute during the day, I spent it reading. If Graham and I didn’t have plans during the weekend, I set aside some time to read. If we took a long road trip, while Graham drove, I read. Time is a limited resource, I know, but to do anything you really want to do, you have to just choose to do it.
What do you normally read?
A little of everything. I love children’s and young adult fiction, I love mysteries, I love true crime, I love memoirs. I also really enjoy a good romance, or fantasy, or science fiction. But left to my own devices, I will read primarily fiction with some magic and romance sprinkled in. And I’m a big fan of quieter storytelling. I can’t think of a better way to describe it, but it’s this feeling I get like the story is speaking for itself without much work or embellishment from the writer. Think Kazuo Ishiguro in Never Let Me Go. The one thing I don’t always pick up readily is history, which is funny, because I love history and I’m fascinated by it.
Did you read anything this year that you didn’t like?
I respect any writer brave and bold enough to put their work out into the world. But, sure, I read a few things this year that I probably wouldn’t have finished, if not for this little project of mine. I’m not going to tell you what they are, because everyone should read what they enjoy and I don’t want to devalue any author’s hard work. But I can tell you that they were usually nonfiction books that I just didn’t find were very well-researched or compellingly written. I’m a stickler for research. Do the work, then write the book, you know?
Did you read anything you really loved?
Yes! I really enjoyed the Kamusari books by Shion Miura, which surprised me, because they’re translated, and sometimes things like colloquialisms and cultural nuance and humor don’t always translate well. But in this case, I really enjoyed them. I reread Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson, and it hit differently now in my thirties than it did when I read it as a teenager. I read both Star Mother and Star Father by Charlie N. Holmberg and loved them both. Very folklore-based, which was on theme for my own writing in 2022. Ask a Historian by Greg Jenner was super fun, and Starry Messenger by Neil DeGrasse Tyson made me feel both small and infinite. And I’m glad I spent some time with Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira, by reading her memoir, Yours Cruelly, Elvira. There are so many more I really enjoyed. It’s hard to pick favorites.
Did you learn anything really interesting?
Of course I did! Anytime you’re reading, I think you’re learning. But for the sake of specificity, if you haven’t already read them, I think you should check out The Hidden Life of Trees and The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben. Even though I’m mostly an indoor kind of girl (that’s where the tea and comfy reading chairs are), I do love nature, and these books helped me look at things in a new way.
Aren’t you kind of bragging? I mean, no one has time to read that many books.
Someone did, in fact, ask me this, and it’s not an unfair question. I don’t mean to brag. Some people read a lot less, and some people, I know, read more. I like to read, and I like to learn, and I like to talk about what I’ve read and learned. I don’t think people who spend a lot of time working on their health and make significant progress and then excitedly share that progress are bragging. How I choose to spend my time and talk about it is just that – a choice. And setting a goal is a good way to accomplish something.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely! But not this year. It actually was quite a challenge to make the time to really read and focus on so many books. I don’t regret it at all, and I’d love to do it again, but I’ve got some other projects I want to work on this year. I am going to try to read at least one book every week, so while I’m slowing down, I’m not going to just stop reading. I don’t even think I could. I get grumpy when I don’t read. Just ask Graham.
I don’t know when I might get another chance to read so intentionally and so much, and so I’m grateful I did it in 2022. I feel like it was well worth my time, and made my life better. We’ll see what 2023 has in store, but the stories I read last year will stay with me forever. And that’s pretty damn cool, isn’t it?