Every January, my Facebook feed is filled with my friends’ lists of all the books they read that year. I’m always so impressed with the numbers people report as well as their book choices. I know people who read 50+ books in a year! How the fuck do people do that?
I’m a full-time editor and writer (please don’t ever judge my real work by this shitty website), and after reading and revising thousands of words every day in front of a computer screen, my brain is fried and my eyes are tired by the time I get home.
I used to tell myself to commit to reading just 5 minutes every single day, hoping that I’d get hooked and read long enough to finish a chapter. Sometimes it worked. However, I often chose to read just before bed, after my nighttime routine, and I’d get so cozy and relaxed and fall asleep within minutes, propped up against my pillows and a book or my kindle in my hands. I definitely looked like I was reading.
So, I know I should make time to read in the mornings instead, when I’m more awake, but that’s also supposed to be the time when I write. And lately, it’s been hard getting those morning pages done too. Not much of my own personal reading and writing have been getting done.
As a middle child and naturally competitive person — and an INTJ female (I know, I can be super annoying, but I also get shit done) — it’s really hard not to compare myself to other people who also seem so busy, yet can get so much more done than me. I remind myself that life is not a competition. That doesn’t make all of those feelings go away, but it helps.
So I chose to redirect that energy to challenge myself to read just one book a month, even if other people are reading many more books and at a much faster pace. This was my goal.
12 books in one year sounds easy enough, right?
My 2019 Reading Challenge
I decided to keep track of my books on Goodreads. I also check out a lot of ebooks from my public library, so I had a list of transactions there, too.
What I was torn about was whether to include audiobooks in this number. I actually have been listening to audiobooks for years, but I discounted the effort because it felt so easy. I originally decided that for this challenge, I’d only count books I read with my eyes since that has been harder for me to do at a good pace.
(Side note: I do consider audiobooks reading. I want that to be clear. I absolutely love them and have been an Audible subscriber on and off for many years. I just needed to work on my other reading muscles. You know who else loves audiobooks? Stephen King. By the way, you can read my take on The Shining. I need to write my review of Doctor Sleep too.)
I did end up listening to more audiobooks than I would’ve preferred, but mostly because I am such a slow book reader that it made sense to get the audiobook when I was on a time crunch, like trying to finish Doctor Sleep before the movie release. Audiobooks are also very enjoyable and make folding laundry much more interesting.
Here’s what I ended up with:
Books I Read With My Eyes in 2019
- Arlo Finch and the Valley of Fire – John August
- Birthright – Nora Roberts
- Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
- The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety: Breaking Free from Worry, Panic, PTSD, and Other Anxiety Symptoms – by Alexander L. Chapman, Kim L. Gratz, Matthew T. Tull, Matthew Tull
- he Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance – Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, Jeffrey Brantley
Audiobooks I Read With My Ears in 2019
- The Stand – Stephen King
- Doctor Sleep – Stephen King
- The Terror – Dan Simmons
- Daring to Lead – Brené Brown
Audiobooks I Re-Read in 2019
The audiobooks as read by Jim Dale really are 👌. I forgive him for mispronouncing Voldemort for the first four books and giving Hermione a nagging tone of voice. I still highly recommend the series and will probably re-listen once a year.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
All by J.K. Rowling, of course.
Thoughts on my 2019 Reading Challenge
No, I didn’t reach my goal of reading 12 new books with my eyes, but that’s ok. 2019 was a stressful year for me so I’m surprised I even read this many. I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish.
I did try to explore new genres. For example, I wanted to read a romance novel for February, and OMG, was it pretty interesting trying to find a book… I attempted to read 50 Shades of Grey, and wow — I’m sorry if this offends anybody reading this right now — but what complete garbage. I’ve heard so much shit about how awful that book is, but I didn’t believe it until I tried to read it. First of all, it’s in the present tense. No one ever mentions that. It was a complete surprise to me. It doesn’t even seem purposeful other than it probably makes for steamier sex scenes when you’re reading them in the present tense. I wouldn’t know. I never got that far.
Nora Roberts’s book Birthright was interesting because it was part mystery, part archeology lesson, part romance. It was cheesy at times, but overall, I was entertained. I may read another one of her books again in the future.
I had never read a romance book, so I was pretty unaware of how broad that genre is. It can range from very innocent to very raunchy. I downloaded a lot of samples before picking a book to read. Rule of thumb, if your story begins with your protagonist participating in a wet T-shirt contest, it probably falls in the latter category of the romance genre.
I also read my first middle-grade book since the Harry Potter series, Arlo Finch and the Valley of Fire. John August is a very talented screenwriter and the host of the popular Scriptnotes podcast. I wanted to read his book because I love all of his other work, and also because I want to give my almost 9-year-old nephew a copy and talk to him about it. It was a quick read. I can’t wait to watch the movies. I don’t know when I’ll read the sequels, but I probably will before the movies are out.
I really loved all of the books that I read, but I think my favorite was The Terror. I am fascinated by both the arctic and antarctic, and I had already watched the AMC series by the same name. (It’s streaming on Hulu now, and you should absolutely watch it! There’s also a podcast, but it’s kind of boring.) Both the series and the book are intense — the book itself feels very dense, and sometimes I’d have to give myself a few days off to let the information sink in. It’s also pretty horrific. I love that shit. I will definitely listen to this one again next winter.
2020 Reading Challenge
I don’t have an official goal for myself this year, only to keep reading. Unofficially, 12 would be great, but I’m not pushing it. The world is different right now.
Up until recently, I had a long commute to work so I’d spend a lot of time in my car — perfect for audiobooks, podcasts, and lots of standup comedy. I’m constantly listening to something new and learning, but I’d like to make sure to keep fiction and non-fiction in that circulation.
Now that I’m working from home for the next several weeks or months, I’m not listening to stuff as much. However, I’m hoping this means I have more time and energy to sit down with a book on my couch and read.
So What am I reading these days?
Earlier this year I listened to The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed As You Are by Alicia Menendez which I found so validating. I’m much more aware of my own neediness when it comes to being liked, but I haven’t quite found a way to not have so much anxiety about it so much. I’ll keep working on it. It’s hard because I’m also a performer, and part of my duties is to make sure the audience is enjoying themselves.
I also plan to read books that I already own. I have so many, including audiobooks.
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I’m FINALLY reading this book by the hosts of @myfavoritemurder, my favorite true crime podcast. Zach bought it for me for Christmas, but I read and write all day for a living (#editorlife), so it can be hard to read at home too. I will literally fall asleep with a book or my kindle in my hands because I’m so mentally exhausted, usually within 5-10 minutes. But I picked it back up last week, and I’m really enjoying it. Lately I’ve been feeling sad about not having improv shows (I was supposed to be in one tonight with Minority Report and special guest @coach_clew), and while there are virtual opportunities to play, I miss the excitement of being in a theater with friends and strangers. So this morning when I opened up this book to read the next chapter, lounging on my couch under my weighted blanket and Willie’s head buried in my armpit, it was Karen’s take on self-care. I laughed and teared up reading what she had to say. And it was what I needed to hear. I’m not feeling so sad anymore. So dig up all those books you received as presents but haven’t read yet. They might be exactly what you need today. #SSDGM #imakaren #selfcare
I would like to read another romance novel (recommendations welcome!), more books written by comedians, more horror and thriller, too. I have Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn that I started and never finished. I need to get back into that one again. And Lonesome Dove.
I just want to open up my mind to new places, new characters, new authors, and feel inspired to write some of my own stories, too. I love falling in love with a good story. And it’s something that we can all do over and over again.
What are you reading these days? I’d love to know.