Our Reading Lives

What Was Your First Read of the New Year?

Tasha Brandstatter

Staff Writer

Tasha is the least practical person you will ever meet. She grew up reading historical romance novels, painting watercolors like a 19th century debutant, and wanting to be Indiana Jones--or at the very least Indiana Jones's girlfriend. All this led her to pursue a career in the field of art history. After spending ten years in academia without a single adventure in Mesoamerica, however, Tasha decided to change her career and be a freelance writer (although she's still waiting on that adventure). In addition to writing for Book Riot, she's a regular contributor to History Colorado, the Pueblo PULP, and Opposing Views. She also runs two book blogs: Truth Beauty Freedom and Books (title inspired by Moulin Rouge, best movie ever) and The Project Gutenberg Project, dedicated to finding forgotten classics. Tasha also likes to have a drink or two and blogs about cocktails at Liquid Persuasion, as well as small town restaurants on Nowhere Bites. Blog: Truth Beauty Freedom and Books and The Project Gutenberg Project Twitter: @heidenkind

Over the past week, a few of my bookish friends have asked me what I’m planning to make my first read of 2014. To be honest, this is something I’ve never thought about—for one, I don’t take the changing of the calendars very seriously. By the time New Year’s hits, I’m thinking about Valentine’s Day (favorite holiday, hollaaaa) and whether or not I can feasibly escape to a beach town in Mexico for the next four months (answer: no). I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions or feeling as if an arbitrary changing of numbers offers a fresh start.

For two, I’m a very moody reader, so I don’t bother to plan out what I’m going to read next. Forcing myself to read something I’m not in the mood for won’t do any favors to either myself or the unfortunate book I’m pressuring myself to finish so I can read what I actually want to.

However, that’s just me. Some give the question of what book they’re going to start the year off with some serious, one might even say superstitious, level of thought. Like a kiss or a toast as the ball drops on Times Square, it’s necessary to start the New Year off not just with a book, but with the RIGHT book. The perfect book to set the tone for reading during the rest of the year.

Since I’ve never paid much attention to what my first read of the year will be, I’ve never put much weight on how said book might affect my reading. After thinking about it, though, I started looking through my Goodreads list and realized that reading good books at the start of the year does seem to correlate to not only how many good books I read for the rest of the year, but how much time I put into reading. For example, in 2013 the first full book I read was Asher’s Dilemma by Coleen Kwan, a steampunk novella that felt like it was 800 pages. This year I’ve read only 139 books (hopefully I’ll be able to bump that up to 140 by year’s end), and of those books there was only one I was completely over-the-moon about (The Bridge by Rebecca Rogers Maher). I really REALLY liked several other novels (Hell is Empty by Craig Johnson, The English Girl by Daniel Silva, The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway, Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim, etc.), but there was only one that resonated with me to the point that I’d consider it a favorite.

Compare that to 2012, when I read nearly 200 books (193 to be exact). The first book I started and finished that year was The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley, which I LOVED. That year was also filled with many other five-star reads: The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart, Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, and The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton by Miranda Neville.

So maybe there is something to this first-book-of-the-year thing. The only problem is, how do you make sure the first book you read this year is a good one? Not only is it impossible to know what a book’s going to be like until you crack the cover, metaphorically or otherwise (something I simultaneously love and stress about when it comes to reading), but on top of that there’s the burden of making sure the book doesn’t send you on a downward spiral for the next 12 months! I’m not sure any book can handle that amount of pressure, especially if you go into it expecting it to be great. I’m tempted to just pick a book at random.

How about you, fellow bibliophiles? Do you put a lot of thought into what your first book of the year will be? And if you do, how do you decide which book to read?


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