This post on reading for joy and resolutions is sponsored by Penguin Random House Audio.
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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” —Frederick Douglass.
I have memories of my brother sitting me down so that he could read Harry Potter aloud to me. I didn’t get into it, however, and it was really hard to do so. When I finally got into Harry Potter, I would read each book in a day when they came out. There was a point where my interest outshone his.
Compared to most kids, I started to read late, and only took it seriously in fourth grade after switching schools. Computer tests on Accelerated Reading helped; I found that I could earn points by reading, and made it a point to take as many tests as possible. In fifth grade, I received a special award for reading the most books in my class.
In 2015, I said I would read 100 books in one year. It seemed like a feasible challenge at the time, and it was. Given that I was still in business school, with access to both my local and university library, hitting the limit was highly feasible. It helped that one of my internships had a long commute, and to handle it I would check out audiobooks and listen to them one at a time. These days with such a commute I would use podcasts or apps that link to library audiobooks, though I still listen to CDs from time to time.
The Books That Broke the Reading Camel’s Back
2016 in hindsight was a tough year, though I am grateful that it was the same year that I started at Book Riot’s Panels website. We had the election, as you all remember, a slew of celebrity deaths, my first attempt at having a day job going south, and a general sense of despondency about how things were. Then I did this challenge, to read 365 books in one year. That equated to one book a day. While I managed to finish the complete Full Metal Alchemist series (which I highly recommend), I also skimmed more books than I could care to recall. There was the pressure to finish. I had my pride, and also entire days where I did not read.
By the end, I managed to finish the challenge by the skin of my teeth, but it took a while to regain my love of reading. I felt burned out, and ironically enough this year I have gotten pickier about the books that I choose.
Why I Read
For joy, and sometimes to learn something new. I got into an argument with a former beta reader about how Game of Thrones, the first book, made me feel miserable and despondent, also angry. They said I had read too fast since I finished it in a weekend. We ended our friendship after a few months.
Reading ideally should be fun. As many kids and teens can tell you, being forced to read can take the fun out of diving into another world. That’s why kids’ books often steal the show, because they have the permission to jump into wild adventures or into nomadic forays. They are willing to show what’s possible, especially when adult books either fall on the dour or absolutely ridiculous side, depending on the genre. It’s why we love YA, that toes the line between adult literature’s need for validation and children literature’s need for an engaged audience. It’s why I enjoy reading ARCs from children’s and YA authors, and finding out who wants to entertain me. I need to read to dive into another world.
Pacing Ourselves with “What Happens Next?”
Listening to audiobooks and short story podcasts have helped me slow down. On his podcast, Levar Burton reads aloud short stories that he loves, and the Gallery of Curiosities employs various narrators for their creepy tales, in one case even homaging radio dramas with appropriate sound effects. I’m sure there are other podcasts out there that read aloud the stories in particular..
Various apps and recordings have also helped; I have a digital file of Neil Gaiman reading aloud his short stories, vignettes and poems, and library apps like Libby that have allowed me to hear Carrie Fisher’s voice one final time. The hitch with that is the return time, so that if you have a shorter drive at certain occasions, then the library will remind you of the return date.
Audiobooks can help with pacing out our reading, especially when we are facing challenges. The narrators, authors reading aloud, and actors tell us to sit and listen, and it can take more effort to skip ahead. While I use the skip button on my car’s CD port, it’s a lot harder say on a phone audiobook where you’re not sure if you should skip or not, or how to navigate.
My Reading Goals for 2019
Read during the week, rather than on the weekend. I keep putting off my library books until they’re due, and I feel bad that suddenly a chunk of my reading pile has to end up in the book drop.
Finish one new book on my Kindle a month. I have a bunch of unfinished books because I go to comfort reads. This will not be amounts; I just want to read on certain days.
Encourage people to find their joy. I’ve been doing that for fellow writers, regarding their writing, but in reading it’s also important. In 2019, we will shame no one for their reading choices. We may riff on Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, but we will support people who read books like that, or whose tastes are different from ours. Also, the past several years have sucked. We want to remind people that other worlds exist.
Let’s hit this year with compassion, and goals about finding our joys, and the goals we can manage.