28 in 28 Days

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Sometime between February 1st, 2021 and February 28th, 2021, I read 28 books. I didn’t start the month with the intention of falling into an accidental reading challenge. What really happened was I picked up a book and read, and then I picked up another and read some more. By the time I realized just how much I had read I was halfway through the month and had finished a book each day. By that point, I figured I might as well see if I could do it – finish a book a day for the entire month. And I did.

Throughout the month of February, I read about 7468 pages in 28 books ranging in length from 21 pages to 451. (Please note that some of the books I read are short stories or essays, but are deemed as individual books by Goodreads and that is good enough for me.) The oldest book read was from 1916 and a few books were read as Advanced Reader Copies through NetGalley and will be (or already were) published in 2021. According to Goodreads, the most frequently read book on my February reading list was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and the least frequently read by Goodreads users was a Magic Treehouse book called Late Lunch with Llamas. The highest rated book I read was Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the lowest rated book (though still relatively highly rated) was The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S., which was only published at the beginning of the month. My favorite book of the month was Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, (but there’s more about that coming soon). Of the 28 books read in February, 15 were audiobooks, 1 was read physically, 3 were Advanced Reader Copies read through NetGalley, 12 books were read as e-books, and 22 were read as loans from my library.

Going in to the month of March, I have no plans to read anywhere that near that many books, but I have to say I enjoyed finally getting through some of the books that always sounded interesting, but that I never really bothered to pick up and read. I consider myself a mood reader – I read based on what sounds good and when it sounds good, rather than based on deadlines and expectations. Sometimes all I want to do is read all day long and others times I’d rather not. So I follow those instincts and this month, it just so happened that I wanted to read a lot. I’m proud of myself for reading as much as I have this year and last. There have been years where, with the exception of a textbook, I haven’t read anything at all. But recently I’ve enjoyed picking up a old favorite pastime.

The one problem I’ve run into is that I had set my reading goal for 2021 at 24 books and have now completely surpassed that goal in the first two months of the year. I’ll have to come up with an even bigger challenge to get me to December!

What are you reading?

Books of 2020

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In 2019, I read 12 books. My 2020 goal was 24 books. I’m ending the year with 72 books read, according to my Goodreads. That’s accidentally three times my goal and six times what I read last year. Oops?

One of my favorite parts of using Goodreads to track my reading is the stats that come with it. This year according to my Goodreads, I’ve read 18,443 pages over 72 books. (I’d be willing to argue that the page count is probably higher because Goodreads isn’t the best at measuring pages in audiobooks or e-books which made up a decent portion of the books I read this year. But because some of what I read is debatably not really a “book”, I’m not gonna fight it. Plus I don’t wanna do the math myself.) The books span publishing dates from the 1930s to the 1960s to 2020. Of the books that I read, 12 were audiobooks, 11 were physical books, and 27 were e-books read through my library. (The rest were read through another source like Kindle or as Advanced Reader Copies [ARCs]). My average rating in 2020 was a 3.2 out of 5 stars. I gave 4 books a 5 star rating , 21 were rated 4 stars, 32 were rated 3 stars, and the rest were given 1 or 2 stars. I also allowed myself to stop reading a book if it wasn’t my cup of tea with no pressure; in fact, some of the books that I eventually ended up giving 4 or 5 stars to were books that I had put aside at some point and picked back up at a better time. Because there’s more than last year, I won’t list them out, but I wanted to reflect beyond just my statistics.

At the end of last year, I wanted to read from a more diverse set of authors. I think (mostly as a ramification of reading more and reading fewer series than last year) I managed to fulfill that goal. It’s always at the back of my mind that I want to read a variety of stories from a variety of storytellers. I read authors from the US, the UK, Brazil, Canada, France, Algeria, Nigeria, and Sweden; I read from Black authors (both academic and fiction writers), I read from Asian-American authors, from queer authors, and plenty of female authors. There’s always room for more diversity.

In 2020, I reread some old favorites including And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (both of whom are on my list of authors I want to read more from in the new year). I’ll also count The Martian by Andy Weir and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness as bests of the year (one made me laugh and one made me sob).

I enjoyed a good number of audiobooks this year. My favorites were The Test by Sylvain Neuvel, Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Bailey, and An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten. I read a few books on recommendations from family and/or friends this year which included Normal People by Sally Rooney, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Many more of the books were picked up because a YouTuber mentioned them or because Goodreads suggested them. I tried really hard (and mostly failed) to read a lot of the unread books that I’ve bought over the years. That goal will be continuing into the new year.

Speaking of goals for 2021: I’ve set my Goodreads challenge for 24 books again. I figure I have no idea what this year might bring and I’d rather have an achievable goal to beat than feel defeated in December. I’d like to continue reading diversely, both in terms of author and subjects and in terms of how I read. And lastly, I want to knock some of the books off my physical shelf – books accumulated over Christmases and shopping trips to bookstores and birthdays and stealing from my parents’ bookshelves. But who knows what 2021 will bring?

Recent Reads

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I’ve had a bit more time on my hands recently and have filled it with plenty of new stories. I wrote last year about what I read in 2019 and though I read a lot of stories written by female authors, I challenged myself to not only read more this year (my Goodreads challenge for 2020 was to read 24 books) but to read from more diverse sources. At the beginning of June 2020, I had read 32 books.

While I did branch out slightly, in terms of the types of books I’m reading (online serials, audiobooks, graphic novels, physical and e-books), I could definitely continue to do better at diversifying what I’m reading and who I’m reading. The same challenge remains from last year.

Since I’ve reached the half-way point of the year, I have been doing some reflection on what I’ve enjoyed reading so far.

I’ve done some rereads: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (a classic), The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (one of my favorite authors), Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (a humorous break from more serious reads), and The Stranger by Albert Camus (what I wouldn’t give to be fluent enough to read this in French). I am reminded of my belief that certain books should be read at certain times in your life for them to be powerful and others can be read at any time for them to be impactful beyond words.

I read some books that are highly praised by friends and reviewers: Normal People by Sally Rooney (a worthwhile, yet highly uncomfortably real read), The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (a bit outdated, but still interesting), and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (an author I am very excited to read more from). I’ve also added just as many recommendations to my list as I have read this year.

My most recent reads have been a bit all over the place: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (a murder mystery in a magical school), We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (a timely read and very accessible), and Spring Girls by Karen Katchur (a bit meh).

And then finally, the books I’m currently reading: Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom (a collection that reminds me of my sociology roots) and The Martian by Andy Weir (genuinely making me laugh out loud). As I “flip” back and forth between a story about a man with gallows humor stuck on Mars and a collection of essays about what it means to be a Black woman in America, I find myself enjoying the ability to seek out stories from different perspectives.

So as I continue to borrow books electronically from my local library and continue to support local bookshops, I have a feeling these next six months will be filled with even more stories – who knows? maybe I’ll read twice my goal for the year!

Who Are You Reading?

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At the beginning of 2019, I started a Goodreads challenge to read a book for every month of the year. Thanks to my local library’s rentable e-books, I just found myself completing that challenge – which is crazy because last year I read half as many books. (All 12 books will be listed at the very end if you’re interested.)

I, like many others I’m sure, used to read constantly, but with an increase in reading for school, a busier extracurricular schedule, and the introduction of YouTube and Netflix, my reading time was down to next to nothing for a while there. I also felt pressure to only read books that were popular or cool, or to only read Classics, or to listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

But this year I found time to read and started to make the tiniest of tiny dents in the list of books I’ve been meaning to read when I get the chance. Some books took months to finally find the time to finish; other books were completed in a day. Some books had been on my list for years; other books were read immediately after my Goodreads account recommended them.

Many of them were not physical copies – instead, read on my phone in between appointments or on the metro to work. As a serious binge reader, this new approach to reading changed what stories I could follow and what books I had to set aside for reading on that vacation I might never take. I also gave myself permission to not finish a book if it wasn’t fulfilling my curiousity or if I just didn’t like the style.

Though my to-read pile is still rather large and LSAT prep could probably have taken some of those minutes spent reading, I’m really pleased with how much time I spent this year with my nose in a book (/on a phone).

And as I start to work on another set of books that might be read or might be delayed, I realized that every book I read this year was written by a woman.

There’s something powerful in visiting stories that don’t simplify the female characters to love interests or swift side mentions. Many of the stories I read had female main characters, but not all did. They explored dynamics from sisterhood to friendship and delved into mysteries and murder and high school drama. In each story, I could connect to characters who had stories to tell and whose stories were being told.

I don’t feel like I missed out on any superbly amazing reads this year because of my chosen list and if anything it’s expanded the number of authors I want to spend more time exploring. There’s definitely room in my pile for more stories by writers who are people of color or who aren’t American-born English speakers.

But that’s a challenge for next year. (The year isn’t over yet… maybe I’ll get another book or two complete before December 31…)

Who did you read this year? Or better yet, who are you excited to read next year?

 

Lily’s List of Books: (** designates my favorites of the year)