Books

Reading Better | Mid-year Reflection.

I spent some quality time with my book journal this afternoon and wrote entries for the last seven books I finished. July has been an outstanding month for reading so far (three of those books were 5-stars for me!). It seemed fitting to pause here, having just finished Girl, Woman, Other – for sure a favorite in a year that’s turning out to be one of my best reading years ever.

Girl, Woman, Other was the 100th book I finished this year.

Goodreads link here

Reflecting on what’s making this year “one of the best reading years ever”, I noted a few things:

♥ my reading journal. I might blow through a book in a day or two, but putting words (and a cover) on a page about each one gives me a chance to pause and reflect.

setting intentions. They’ve helped me get better about deciding what to read (in that 100, there was not a single title I didn’t finish) and given me a helpful framework for assessing what I’ve read month by month.

♥ of those four intentions, Connection has been the most surprising in how much it’s enhanced my reading. The opportunity to talk about a book with someone or listen to an author talk nearly always adds at least a half-star to my experience. A few of those 3-star books were bookclub selections that I probably wouldn’t have finished on my own … but knowing that I’d have the opportunity to talk about what didn’t work for me was a win. (although not even that possibility would entice me to pick up a few authors *ahem* Kristin Hannah *ahem*)

♥ Novel Pairings and Fiction Matters Patreon communities. Each comes with a bookclub and multiple opportunities to share about what we’re reading. Novel Pairings also includes a monthly class. It’s like the parts of English class I loved (the learning, the discussion) without the parts I hated (the papers and the tests).

♥ the library. It is really easy (sometimes almost too easy) to pickup books at random. Some books that I’ve been wanting to read for ages are taking a backseat to the “ooh, this sounds good” titles that I can borrow … often without even going to the library. Still, I’m exploring backlist titles and finding plenty to love there. Only three of the 5-star books (on the top shelf above) are ones I bought new, in hardcover. Hamnet, Gifts of Imperfection, and Unsettled Ground.

♥ less (doom)scrolling and more reading. I’m sure this is partly a reflection of 2021 (I don’t feel the need to scroll as much) and partly a reflection of just wanting more time to read. I recently cut my morning Instagram time so I can get a full hour with a book. It’s a delightful way to enjoy that first cup of coffee (or two)!

So … a lot of what I’m doing is working great. I want to make two changes for the rest of the year:

First, I want to make a short list (for me, that’s 6-8 books) of books that I really want to read each month. I typically have 4-5 for bookclub(s), so that’s just a few extras. I’m not ever going to get to titles like The Nickel Boys and Girl, Woman, Other (which have both been on my TBR for over a year) unless I do that.

And, I want to share more about my books and reading on Instagram and Discord. I’m meeting readers there who share my tastes (Delight) and push me to try new things (Growth, Diversity) … and it’s built-in Connection.

What have you loved so far this year about reading … and are you going to be making any changes for the rest of the year?

 

 

13 Comments

  • Carolyn

    Just today, out of the blue, it seemed, I thought about the Read With Us selection: Leave the World Behind. That one frustrated me a bit. It definitely wasn’t a favorite. And I’d have likely not finished–were it not a group book. But it generated such lively, engaging conversation–and I thoroughly enjoyed THAT piece of it! So this decades-long-book-club-avoider can definitely see, now, how Connection changes the reading experience. (I’d love to hear your thoughts about Kristin Hannah–or maybe you’ve shared in a blog post you can point me to?) Here’s to your amazing reading year–and thanks for the recommendations all along!

  • Juliann

    I really love these posts when you reflect on the why of your reading life. I have been thinking about making a list of books I want to read too. I am so easily pulled by the Patreon/IG/book club titles and then don’ get to the books on my own list.

  • Carole

    I don’t have a lot of rules when it comes to what I’m reading and I get a lot of recommendations simply from working in a library. I also get a lot from seeing what my friends are reading on GoodReads. I do carefully curate my list of things I want to read so it’s rare for me to have a DNF but I do occasionally have a 2 star read. I’m so impressed with how many books you’ve read this year and particularly impressed with your method of documenting them.

  • Kat

    Wow, just wow Mary! This is an impressive post. One thing I am realizing for my reading life is that sometimes “reading better” means reading less. A couple of summers ago I “raced” through Beach Music (if you can call it racing to listen to a 30+ hour book) and while I loved it… my relisten over the past 10-ish days (and I am still not done with it!) has shown me how much I missed by not stopping to think, slowing down, savoring… not worrying about what the next book is. It has been a true “ah-ha” moment for me and I am going to be reading differently for the second half of the year! 🙂

  • Sarah

    I continue to be in awe of just how many books you manage to get through — but then I remind myself that you aren’t also working a full-time job like some of us! I agree that the connection element is a really powerful part of enjoying a book. I get so much more out of what I’ve read if I can discuss it with someone, and that’s a large part of what I enjoyed about English classes. I’d really love to join the Novel Pairings Classics Club, but I just can’t make the time commitment at this point in my life — someday!

  • April

    I stand wth the others here – in amazement of the number of books you’ve read this year. You’re very intentional, and disciplined, when it comes to setting goals and carving out the time to accomplish them. I admire this quality in you. It’s apparent in your reading and knitting. I wish to further develop these qualities in myself. I have a lot of “squirrel” moments of diversion that cause me to lose focus. Thank you for these posts. They are inspiring!

  • karen

    we do not have dish/directtv nor do we have cable and my husband has yet to put up the anntena for the local channels, I have been unplugged and it’s been a blessing in disguise.

  • Vera

    Like others, I’m in awe of the amount of books you have read…and documented…but then, like Sarah, I am reminded that you are not working. That makes a BIG difference for sure. My reading mojo is definitely back…I’ve read more books so far this year than I read in either of the past two years. Like Carolyn, I’d be interested in your take/thoughts on Kristen Hannah. I enjoyed “The Nightengale” by her and am now reading (and enjoying) “The Four Winds.” BUT…I have not liked some of her other books and actually didn’t finish some of them.

  • kym

    You are so very thoughtful about your reading, Mary. It’s always fun to see what you’re thinking about/learning from your reading. I limit my book group (formal and informal) reading . . . because I’m more interested in reading what I want to read than what a “community” wants to read (selfish reader, here). Like you, I usually do end up “liking” a book more after talking about it with friends (or hearing an author speak about it), but I do find I need to limit myself when it comes to selections that I don’t already want to read myself. Continued happy reading to you!

  • Debbie

    Like others, I am amazed at how many books you have read this year, but I am also amazed by how intentional you are with choosing what to read and sticking to your reading intentions. I am currently in the MMD bookclub, but I don’t know if I will renew for another year because I haven’t enjoyed several of the monthly picks. The patreon groups you mentioned sound intriguing and may be more of what I’m looking for in an online book group.
    You have inspired me to be more intentional about keeping a hand written book journal and I plan to continue with that for the rest of the year and beyond. I would say my reading tastes vary widely, from fiction to fungi (just finished The Entangled Life), and I usually choose books from my TBR list based on my mood.
    I hope the rest of the year brings you much joy in your reading!

  • Katie @ The Cozy Burrow

    Mary – what a reading year! And made all the more richer by the habits you’re cultivating in your reading life. Your reading journal is a treasure and I’m in awe of your ability to take the time to really think about each book after you’ve finished it. I hope you’re comfortable enough to give us a few more peeks into it — I’m interested in the structure, the questions you ask yourself, and about what you decide to write down in each entry. Love, love, LOVE these reflections!!

    I wish I was a better book club member and was brave enough to gather with others and discuss books. And that I had the ability to follow through on those types of commitments!! I’m still dithering about the MMD book club, which is ridiculous!! I should just get a yearly membership and binge on the past classes/author discussions when I get the chance. But I’ll continue to waffle, I’m sure. All of that was to say — maybe one day I’ll join some Patreon communities as well??

    (PS: I’m proud to say that I’m not too far behind you. Last night was my 94th finish of the year! It was Our Endless Numbered Days and it’s my favorite Claire Fuller yet — I’m amazed it was her debut. Now I only need to read Swimming Lessons and I’ll be a Fuller Completist.)

  • Margene

    The way you document your reading is impressive and beautiful. The changes I’m going to make have to do with reading with a group. I have been caught up in FOMO a few times this year even though I have a strong feeling about a book not being up to my usual standards. I’m going to stick with my own intuition and only read the books I have done my homework on and have a better chance of a 4-5 star rating. Books that I know from the get go have the potential of only 3 stars, or fewer, are often not worthy of my time. Your book snob and selfish reader friend, Margene 🙂

  • Patty

    This year has been so mentally exhausting work wise that my reading book-in-hand has dramatically decreased. I did buy the hardcover for Unsettled Ground though and am looking forward to reading it in CO and leaving it behind with a friend. I am so looking forward to being more intentional (come on October!) in my reading and am interested to know how you combine reading and IG!