1.02.2018

My Year in Books – Reflections and Goals


Happy New Year!  2018, I am not ready for you, but hello anyway.  In the time-honored tradition of end-of-the-year reflections and goal-setting and the rest, I am here a little late to talk about my last year in reading: what I thought of it, the books that stood out from all the rest, and what I plan to do in 2018 when it comes to books.

First, a few thoughts on this past year of reading.  I don't believe in the importance of numbers when it comes to this sort of thing, but it seems significant this year.  In 2017, I read 55 books, though I finished the year halfway through about five others.  In 2016, I read under 30 books, so the fact that this year that number nearly doubled feels exciting.  I also ended up with a list of firm favorites at the end of the year as I looked back and evaluated.  My reading goal last year was simply to read more and read better, after I ended up rather discouraged with my amount, and I have fulfilled that goal.  Overall, I am really pleased with my reading this year: the number, the range of authors and subjects, and the quality of what I read.  

Second, I want to share a list of my favorite books from the year.  I have eleven favorites, which seems so random, but this list naturally made itself and I decided not to push it.  I posted a whole thread about these books on Twitter last week, giving more detail about them/why I loved them, and you can find that here.  Also, if I wrote about the following books at any point on the blog last year, click the titles to be directed to the corresponding post.  In this list, the books are numbered in order of preference:
  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  2. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  4. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  5. Holy Is The Day by Carolyn Weber
  6. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
  7. Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich
  8. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  9. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  10. Coolidge by Amity Shlaes
  11. A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre
Given the fact that I was pleased with my reading in 2017, I don't have any specific reading goals or changes to make this year.  I want to continue to be open to books outside of my comfort zone, or rather, books I would not normally pick up.  Americanah was one such book I read last year and it became a favorite in the end.  While I wouldn't change anything in 2018, I have a few specific books I want to read and I thought I would briefly share those.

First, I have thoroughly enjoyed my unofficial project of reading a long-ish piece of Russian literature each year.  A couple years ago it was War and Peace, this year it was Crime and Punishment, and in 2018 I want to read Anna Karenina.  I loved loved loved War and Peace and Leo Tolstoy’s writing, and after a year of reading Dostoyevsky, I am eager to return to Tolstoy.  Second, and regarding another unofficial reading project, I want to read Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  In an effort to read the whole of Lewis’s body of work, I have a very loose goal of reading at least one new (to me) book by Lewis each year.  Last year I managed to squeeze in The Abolition of Man as well as re-read three old favorites.  This year I want to read Till We Have Faces, a re-telling of Cupid and Psyche which I've heard many people describe as their favorite Lewis.  The third book I want to read in 2018 is Ron Chernow’s new biography of Ulysses Grant.  I loved his biographies of both Hamilton and Washington, and I am thrilled he has chosen a lesser-known, less celebrated president.  With the page count at over one thousand pages, I will probably choose to listen to the audiobook if I hope to finish it within the year, but I am excited nonetheless.  The fourth book on my list, East of Eden by John Steinbeck is one I’ll try to get to in the summer.  I’ve read Steinbeck before and I have heard from lots of people on the internet that East of Eden is incredible.  Last but not least, I want to read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, a choice inspired by Andrea Lucado’s English Lessons, which I talked about in the last post.  In that book she mentioned reading Roy’s novel and being struck by a character who clearly paralleled Jesus, even though the author herself is not religious.  The way Andrea wrote about the book made me want to pick it up and I am always on the lookout for characters who point to the person of Jesus through fiction.  

And that's it.  Nothing wildly ambitious or creative, just more of the same reading plans and habits that made reading in 2017 so great.  Reading in college, outside of what's required, is definitely a challenge, but I love lugging a book with me to class and reading if I get there early.  This past year it became a habit that created space throughout otherwise full and stressful semesters.  And as a bonus it allowed me to have conversations with fellow students about reading.  Besides all this, though, prioritizing reading through school has helped me keep a bigger perspective about the world and my place in it, as well as simply maintaining my sanity as an introvert.  

As always, thanks for reading and may your reading in 2018 be the best ever.

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