In 2016, I read 97 books, a record for me since I started keeping track of the books I read. Those 97 books equaled 34,047 pages and brought me well beyond my target of finishing 50 books.
I read a variety of types of books—from memoirs and fiction, to mysteries and romance novels—and each one came to me unexpectedly. In fact, I found the more I said I was going to read a book—if I added it to the stack of books on my nightstand or shared it on Instagram, for example—the slower I was in actually getting to it (or likely didn’t get to it at all). Instead, I subscribed to the “what feels good” method of selecting what to read; I picked my next read based upon how I felt when I finished the prior book. I found books from reading book reviews (The New York Times and Goodreads were helpful here), from friends, from my book club, or from a used book store. There was something kind of lovely when you don’t have a plan what to read next; stumbling upon a book builds excitement—will I love it? hate it?—and helped me find new authors and new tales.
The drawback, of course, is that I have gaps in my reading. There are books I absolutely should have read that I haven’t gotten to yet, and lots of books in my home that I haven’t read. So, for 2017, I’ve given myself a new challenge:
- I have set a goal to read 65 books.
- I will not spend more than $2 on a book. (More on why below.)
- At least 15 of the books I read will be from my own library.
- I will share reviews of these books here on Red Shutters.
One of the significant reasons why I was able to read 97 books in 2016 was because I was on medical leave, with a lot of free time. Reading was the best way for me to get through hours of not feeling my best and those long waits at the doctor’s office. (No matter how great your physician is, you always have to wait, right?) My #1 goal for 2017 is be healthier, which means I won’t be sitting around as much. I’m planning to be up and active. Also, I read a lot of shorter books in 2016 (e.g, romance novels!), and I hope to dive into longer novels this year, which necessitates a lower goal number.
That $2 Limit
How did I decide to spend only $2 on a book? Since I am on sabbatical from full-time work right now, cutting back on buying books (my weakness) is a good test of my budgeting skills and willpower. There are so many ways to read good books without spending money—namely, the library. You may have to wait for the book you want, but it’s free! (I love the library.) Thrift stores are another way to get books on the cheap. I have picked up hard covers for $2 each (hence, the $2 limit) and paperbacks for a $1 and under. If you’re an e-reader user, you can join services like, BookBub, which alerts you to e-books that are on sale or free (be warned: this can become an addiction). With so many ways to save, setting a limit on how much I am going to spend should be doable.
Reading My Own Library
This is a bit of a confession: I have a lot of books. I haven’t counted them, but they are in every corner of our home. When we renovated our house last year, I kept asking for more and more shelves for books, to the point that one of the carpenters asked, somewhat baffled, “Just how many books do you have?” That’s when I realized that I may have a problem. And, the worst part is that I haven’t read all of them yet! I’m going to turn that around this year by reading at least 15 books from my own library.
Reviewing What I Read
I love reading, I love writing. Why not write reviews of what I read here on Red Shutters? Many of you have told me that you’re often looking for a good book to read (and a not so good book to avoid). I can help you with that! I’m looking forward to sharing my reading adventures with you.
My Favorites from 2016
Speaking of reading adventures, what were my favorite books from 2016? I was lucky to read a number of books that I still can’t shake, that I continue to carry with me, thanks to their beautiful writing and moving stories. (I read a few I wouldn’t recommend, too.) My top 12 from 2016 are:
- The Mothers by Brit Bennett
- Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
- Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
- A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang
- A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (the sequel to the stunning Life After Life)
- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
- Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
- Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson and The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick (these books have similar stories—novels about men who are finding their ways after their wives have died—with very different executions, and I couldn’t chose between them)
Selecting a top 12 was hard! Ranking them was even more difficult. My criteria for selection was the combination of writing, story, and character. Did I re-read phrases or sentences because the words came together in an extraordinary way? (See Barbarian Days.) Was the story so compelling (or entertaining) that I couldn’t wait to get reading? (See A Little Life.) Do I still, months later, wonder about the characters in the story? (See The Mothers.) If I recommended it to friends, then I know it’s a winner as well. (See all of the books on this list!) Of course, I enjoyed many more that couldn’t make the list. But, that’s not a bad problem to have at all. Happy reading, friends!
Next up: My review of the first book I’ve finished in 2017, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
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