Tidying Up Loose Threads

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With the knowledge that I’ll be moving out at the end of the summer, I started to evaluate what I have lying around half finished. I’m very good at starting a project and either finishing in a day, or waiting a year.

The first place to start was with books. I tend to read most of my books through my library’s e-book lending service. It works wonderfully and I usually have all of my holds on a rotation, reading on my Kindle or my phone. But as I’ve increased my e-book consumption, my consumption of the books I physically own fell. I’ve been very good about not buying more physical books until I can finish those I have, but there’s still twenty or so books that I haven’t read or have accumulated through holidays or sharing with my father. Because I’m planning to move, I only want to take books with me that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. But in order to preserve my back, I want that number of physical books I haven’t read to be on the smaller side. (Bonus – once I get the books I’ve already read down to a smaller number, I can finally justify buying more books!) I’ve recently read my physical copies of Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I’m part of the way into Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

The second place to go is to the TV – well, let’s be honest, it’s more like all my streaming platforms. Last year, I made a list of all the finished shows I’m halfway through. Again, I’m very good at finishing the first few seasons, but I get distracted and don’t always make it to the end. Because I need as few distractions as possible, I’m trying to make it through the shows available on streaming platforms I don’t use as frequently. I’ve managed to make it to the end of Teen Wolf, The Mentalist, and I’m on the last season of Criminal Minds. If I can knock off one or two before I head to law school, I’ll be happy to cancel my subscriptions for a few months and bring one or two back for the winter break.

The last loose thread includes genuine loose threads. I’ve taken up quilting over the last year and have started quite a few different projects. At the moment, I’m not planning to take any fabric or a sewing machine with me, so I need to wrap up as many of the half-started projects I’ve got as I can. I’ve got a finished top that I’m avoiding finishing because quilting it is daunting and I’ve got a top that I’m not sure how I want to proceed. Both of these quilts are unfinished out of anxiety about the next steps, but I’ve got about a month to get over that and get them done.

In addition to these half finished hobbies, I made myself a little bit of a summer to-do list. I know that I’ll be spending the next few years studying and working almost year round and I wanted to enjoy my last “free” summer while I could. The list includes a trip to the beach and the consumption of good watermelon, as well as meeting up with friends before I leave town. But like every year, the end of summer is fast approaching and my list is still long.

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?

Tackling a Reading List

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I find myself motivated by a challenge. I am a competitive person so challenges (even if I’m the only one participating) move me to actual tackle the things that I’ve been interested in doing. Whether the challenge is to not buy new clothing for a month or reading every month, I like chasing the feeling of completing that last step to finish a challenge. All that being said, last year I started using Goodreads seriously and challenged myself to read 12 books in 2019. And I did, which only encouraged me to read more in 2020. Seeing how comfortably I finished 12 books, I decided to push myself in the new year and try to read twice as many books.

But I understand reading isn’t for everyone. Or maybe you’re like me and every time you finish a book, you find yourself adding three more to the pile of books you want to read. Either way, I’ve written down the tips and tricks that have encouraged me to read more this year and hopefully long term.

First up: read what you wanna read. Now, this may sound obvious, but in case you haven’t heard, you should enjoy what you’re reading. If you’re like my dad and you find large tomes on the life of dead American generals interesting, read that. If you wanna read YA books, but you’re scared you’re too old – do it! If you finally want to admit that reading Great Expectations wasn’t fun in high school for a reason – ditch it! Unless you’re reading for school, what you pick up in your free time should be enjoyable.

And there’s no shame in what you’re reading. It’s okay to not read classics all the time. Sometimes you want to pick up a graphic novel or a childhood favorite. And you should! Those are fun too. (And yes, I’m saying this as much for myself as for anyone else.)

If you’re a busy person and sitting down to read isn’t always the best for your schedule, audiobooks have really improved in the last few years. No longer do you have to pull out the twelve disk set – now, you can listen on your phone. Apps like Libro.fm make listening to audiobooks easy, and if you don’t want to spend money, I know my library system has started to provide audiobooks through their Overdrive site. I’ve started listening to books while I play games on my phone or while I’m scrolling Pinterest and it allows me to fit in books that I might otherwise not get the chance to read. Listening to an murder mystery book while you’re taking a late night stroll isn’t recommended…

Maybe audiobooks aren’t for you, but you don’t really have space in your purse for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve found that renting E-Books from my library gives me access to books on my phone (or Kindle if I ever remember to charge it) and I can read on my lunch break. E-books are just generally more convenient – reading a chapter on the train or while waiting for your doctor’s appointment is a lot more productive than scrolling Instagram or trying to beat that level of Candy Crush or 1010!.

Speaking of doctor’s appointments, I’ve found myself enjoying books of essays recently because they allow me to read a short burst and not have to worry about forgetting the characters or getting confused by the plot. (My most recent reads were Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom and Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay.) Alternatives with the same benefits are books of poetry or short story collections. Lots of little stories are just as valid as one long story.

I’ve learned that I enjoy books best when I sit down and just devour them, dedicating an afternoon to reading and nothing else. I understand that not everyone has that ability, but the next time you sit down to binge watch The Office or Friends (again… [I will fight anyone who says these shows were worth watching to begin with]), maybe reading that book you bought back in the day might be just as entertaining. I get it, television binges are easier, but sometimes turning off Netflix for the day can come with some benefits. I’ll let you know the next time I follow my own advice on that one.

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!