Every year I set a goal to read 52 books. There are 52 weeks in a year and if I can read a book a week then I’ll be a real book person. In all my 34 years I’ve never come close to reaching this goal. Like, nowhere near it. Often not even half. But then 2018 arrived and Goodreads told me that I met my goal in October. Say what? Quickly, I scroll through all the books I’ve posted there to make sure there wasn’t some kind of mistake, but I remember all of them. Hot damn.
There are some practical reasons why I reached this number this year. Mostly having to do with discovering audiobooks on Libby and reading more poetry. Also, the Fated Mates read along podcast turned me on to Kresley Coles’s Immortals After Dark series and I’m tearing through it at record speed.
Much more than any of those pragmatic reasons, 2018 has been a year of being okay with myself and my choices when things outside of my control are very much not okay. I’ve struggled in the past with my reading choices not being “literary” enough or “teachery” enough. The fear of people making assumptions about who I am based on the books read ruled me for too long. In 2018, I started reading what I wanted, unapologetically. I stopped worrying about if my love for Alisha Rai’s romances went along with my love for Christian lady writers like Jen Hatmaker and Rachel Held Evans. I stopped thinking that there’s no way a reading list should have both The Thirteenth Tale and So You Wanna Talk About Race immediately following each other. Why shouldn’t The Cruel Prince and 180 Days: Two Teachers Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents go side by side as well?
My 2018 reading list has more romance on it than ever before because I stopped telling myself that I should read something “more worth my time.” Instead, I let myself be hopeful. I rooted for the underdog and became infatuated with how strong heroines are. It took work to accept this happiness. Pushing around the latest news stories or dating app atrocities, I made space in my brain for love winning out in the end and for women being treated with kindness.
Making space in my brain for kindness gave my heart the capacity for poetry in a way it hasn’t been able to handle in recent years. I counted Rudy Francisco’s Helium, Sabrina Benaim’s Depression and Other Magic Tricks, and Danez Smith’s Black Movie as books. Because that’s what they are: books. I read them and reread them and read them to my students and friends.
As of the writing of this article, I’ve read 67 books in 2018. 15 more than my goal. With winter break coming up, I’m pretty sure I’ll pass 70. While I’m proud to reach, and surpass, my yearly reading goal for the first time ever in my life, I’m more proud of growing as a reader. Not realizing my potential was not because of any incapacity on my ability, but instead my incapacity to give myself permission to like what I like. No longer. Come on, 2019, let’s read something good.