What I Learned Reading 50 Books

I think it’s reasonably safe to say, on this, the 31st day of December of the global Annus Horribilis, that very little this year has gone according to plan. I was certainly not immune to the disruptions, but as we close in on the end of the year, I am proud to say that I managed to meet one goal: I read 50 books this year. You can view the summary of my year here on Goodreads.

Reading has been an intermittent habit for me for over 20 years. When I was young, I was the kid who ran into posts and walls because I couldn’t be bothered to look up from my books. When I rode public transportation to work, I had lots of time to read. But when I had a baby… Well, I started reading a lot of board books and Dr. Suess.

So it was my goal this year to get back into some kind of reading habit. I’ve made this attempt off and on over the years, but life… This year, I gave myself two rules: 1) read for half an hour every day, and 2) read only fiction.

What I Read

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you may remember that several years ago, I created a massive list of Books I Should Read To Consider Myself Well-Read. I returned to that list as a guide, but I didn’t stick to it entirely. We have a lot of other books on our shelves that aren’t on that list, so I read some of those, too.

I read across genres and categories, decades and centuries. Some reads captivated me so thoroughly that I consumed them to the exclusion of all else. Other reads were painful and slow, even when they were short. At times my eyes teared up; at other times, I rolled them in exasperation. Occasionally I laughed, and occasionally I sighed at the prospect of reading yet another wall of descriptive text that did not advance the plot.

I could attempt to wax poetic about all the words I managed to consume this year, but my thoughts about the books I read follow very few coherent or consistent lines. So rather than ramble, I’m going to sum up my observations with what I learned from reading fifty books this year.

What I Learned

  1. I like to read first thing in the morning. It’s too dark to run early in the morning, and I need my coffee before I exercise. And there’s little risk that I’ll doze off like I often do when I read in the evening.
  2. I still love children’s books. Thank God for children’s books! They communicate deep truths and ideas in accessible and fun ways. Plus, they helped me catch up on my reading challenge after I spent two months on Les Miserables.
  3. I am just not wired to enjoy YA. No matter what I do or which ones I read, I cannot get into these books. I just don’t feel connected to the characters in YA novels. I don’t know if that’s because I’m old or because those stories are more plot-driven or because of the intense teen/YA feels in those stories–they just don’t capture my attention.
  4. Stuff has to happen. As much as I need characters and character-driven stories, stuff still has to happen. I don’t need hundreds of pages of nothing happening while people agonize over life decisions or describe the Parisian sewer system.
  5. Strong heroines are the best heroines. From Emma to Angle of Repose to A Town Like Alice, my favorite books this year were centered on strong heroines. My least favorite books revolved around weak or passive heroines.
  6. I am a contrarian. People told me I would enjoy The Picture of Dorian Gray. Those people were wrong. There is not a single likable character in that book, and Oscar Wilde was far too enamored with his own cleverness. I gave it three stars, but in hindsight, two would have been better.
  7. Reading begets reading. I started out committing to half an hour per day, and now, I usually read about an hour per day.

Where I Go From Here

Next year promises to be another slightly crazy year… There are far too many things to go into now, but suffice to say that changes are coming. (Do keep an eye on this space, because a lot of those changes will revolve around my fiction. If you haven’t signed up for my e-mail list, you can do so here.)

But I am determined to experience at least 50 books in 2021.

Why do I say “experience?”

Well….. As my commercial work increases, and as I refocus on fiction, I’m becoming a lot busier with actual, you know, writing. And writing does cut into my reading time. But I am still trying to maintain my exercise habit, and I’m also trying to reduce my exposure to podcasts and things that generally piss me off, so…

I’m listening to audio books during my workouts now.

I would really like to listen to 25 audio books in 2021 and read 50 print or e-books. I guess that means my goal for 2021 is 75 books. That may be out of reach, but 50 books felt out of reach last year, and yet I managed it. Go big or go home, right? Stretch goals and all that?

We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s to a better year for all of us. I wish you health, happiness, and prosperity in 2021!

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