2018 Reading Re-Cap

My reading life underwent massive changes in 2018, so I wanted to write a quick post about it.

(The trouble with only blogging like once a year is that like every time I go to write a new post, I find my tag-line and header is totally obsolete. "Lagom Lifestyle in the Deep South?" Here I am writing from the other end of the country. But for the sake of actually writing a post, let's just ignore that right now.)

For a brief history, I've been guzzling down books pretty much from the cradle. I shared books for show and tell with my preschool class, some of my fondest childhood memories involve libraries, I read l00+ books for fun every year through most of my high school years, have been a devoted Goodreads user since 2008, and have cataloged my entire memorable reading life at over 1000 books. I was even an English major for a little while. The written word is vital to my well-being.

But, you know, life happens. You grow up, distractions and responsibilities accrue. 

In 2017 I read just 3 books. Total. All year. 



I missed reading -- more than I even realized at the time, actually. A few of my friends felt the same way, so we made 2018 a reading challenge. Set some goals. 

My goal was 12. I didn't really believe I could make it, but I gamely started front-loading my year of reading, packing them in before I could lose momentum.

Apparently group accountability is the key to getting things done in my life. Because I read SIXTY FIVE books

I had to be creative. Reclaim time. Broaden my definition of what counted as "reading." -- At first, I felt squeamish about counting audiobooks, but in deference to my Reading Goal, I set my qualms aside. 

Here are three of the things that REALLY helped me read more this year:


1) Library apps. I had some technical glitches with Libby, so I switched to Overdrive a few months ago. Loving it! Especially that Overdrive seems to let me check things out for up to 21 days, but Libby was only letting me do 7. I usually have an audiobook downloaded to my phone for commutes, and an e-book on my phone for all other snatchable moments. 

2) What Should I Read Next -- Anne Bogel's podcast. I feel like probably 75% of the books I've read this year have been mentioned on Anne's podcast, either as listener favorites or as recommendations. Some episodes completely explode my To-Read list, and I've discovered a lot of new favorites -- contemporary authors, that I was formerly too much of an English major snob to pick up. 

3) Audio books on my commutes. I commute to and from work for about two hours everyday. Reclaiming some of this time for reading was a game changer. Now if only I could figure out how to write on my commutes. Without being a roadway hazard. (Maybe those driverless cars will be the answer?)


Now. No year-end post would be complete without a "best of" list, so here are my "Best Books of 2018."

The two best stories I read this year were....



Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel -- So this was a surprise. This is the story of a flu pandemic that wipes out 99% of the population, and follows a traveling troop of Shakespearean actors (survivors) over the 20 years following the event. It's actually a lot more involved than that, with different characters and intertwining stories and timelines, but that's the gist. Gritty, intense, and dystopic? Yes. Not usually my thing, but the Shakespeare aspect is what hooked me in and gave the book an undercurrent of hope -- like here is the world and civilization utterly demolished, but also here are some people still traveling to different settlements performing Shakespeare and music. The structure of the storytelling was really compelling, too. Intricate. I would re-read this.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng -- I was skeptical about this because of all the hype. Ended up loving it. Deals with family dynamics, family secrets, motherhood, and the ethics around adoption, for just a few of the themes. The story was beautifully spun out. Every character had a backstory and was given the time to explain themselves. It really drew me in. I can't think of a read where I've been more emotionally invested in the characters and concerned about what happened. 

The two best author discoveries I made this year were...
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro -- Not sure how it has taken me this long to discover Dani Shapiro. This book is actually coming out later this month, and I got an advance digital download through the Penguins First Reads program. (Another fun readerly discovery for me this year!) Dani's voice is so engaging and compelling. In this memoir, she brings us through a DNA-related discovery that completely changed her concept of her identity. It was a really fascinating read -- both the mechanics of HOW she found out and began to piece things together, as well as the exploration of identity and what makes us who we are. I can't wait to dig into her backlist now.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout -- I meant to start with one of Elizabeth Strout's more famous books, but this is the one my library had available at the time. I fell totally in love with her characterization and will undoubtedly be reading everything she has ever written. This, in particular, is the story of three siblings from Maine, their understanding of a tragedy that occurred during their childhood and how that has shaped their adult lives, and how they come together to address a sticky situation involving one of their children. Immigration and cultural differences are a significant factor in the story, too, which makes this book as timely as ever, even though it's already been out for ten years. One random thing I really liked about this book was the autumnal atmosphere of the beginning -- really, the atmosphere in general. But if you're going to put this one on your reading list for the year, I think it would be an excellent September/October read.

And two classics I'm glad I FINALLY read were....

1984 by George Orwell -- I don't know how I missed out on reading any George Orwell when I was in school, but I did. This was really creepy, fascinating, and everything everybody says about it. Given the content, I'm kind of surprised it's read in grade school. All in all, I didn't find it a very impacting read -- maybe because it's so embedded in our culture. But I'm glad I've FINALLY read 1984.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- I've had my eye on this one for a long time and expected to love it. Exotic South American setting. Known for "magical realism." Unfortunately, it didn't end up landing for me. Good to have it crossed off the list, though. 


So. Anybody have any book recommendations for 2019??


Happy New Year!


(Book links to Amazon are affiliate links, so I'll get a little kick-back if you purchase through them. :) )

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