By Megan Bell Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017
1. ♫ I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling fifty-twoooo ♫
For the majority of readers, a year goal often includes increasing the number of books they read. Fifty-two is a common goal and a good one—a book for each week in the year. Goodreads will track this for you and will even count re-reads! The upside is that this goal will often motivate you to accomplish the number you set out to read, but it might also discourage you from reading that massive doorstopper of a book that’s been on your bucket list for ages.
2. Voice to Text
The canon of English literature tends toward the white and male and Western. Having read so much of that voice, even if just through your school years, it can be incredibly refreshing to add some new voices in to your reading. Diversifying the voices in your library doesn’t mean foregoing that new Dave Eggers or James Patterson. One way to start prioritizing more diverse voices is moving books by people of color, women, LGBTQ authors, or international authors up in the queue when managing your TBR (to-be-read) pile.
3. Fact vs. Fiction
I’ve always been a major fiction reader, especially of fantasy and science fiction. My childhood was peopled by Harry Potter, Matilda Wormwood, and Alanna of Trebond. When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher assigned us a genre wheel and had us read whatever we wanted to—as long as we had a book in each genre by the end of the year. It was a major year in my reading life, and I read a lot of books I wouldn’t otherwise and that maybe should not have been in my school library (Stephen King’s Misery is to date the only horror book I’ve ever read, and I also randomly chose a book about the L.A. Riots for my nonfiction book). Last year, thinking about this school assignment from more than a decade ago, I reflected on how much I don’t know and the gaps in my education. So this past year, I’ve alternated between nonfiction and fiction books. It’s been just as rewarding as it was in seventh grade. This year, I’ve read riveting science fiction and fantasy (N. K. Jemisin, Katherine Arden, Nnedi Okorafor) and I’ve read about American history, the history of our species, the science behind our likely future, guides to management, to cooking, to international politics (and zombies), a biography of a doctor and medical oddities collector, about indigenous botany, and more.
4. Gold Medal Winners
There are two major realizations a bibliophile has in her life, 1. She will never read everything, and 2. She will never read everything she wants to read. When you realize these constraints on your reading life, it can feel increasingly more important to read books you’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy or find enriching. If that’s the case for you, and you want to read highly vetted books, you can choose a major prize—the National Book Award for American authors, the Nobel Prize in Literature for body of work by an author, or the Newbery Medal for American literature for children, to name a few—and read down the list. All of these prize-winners ran the gauntlet to be selected, and though that’s no guarantee every one with resonate with you, they’re sure to be worth your while one way or another!
5. Around the World in 365 Days
How many books have you read authored by a writer outside of the United States or the United Kingdom? For most of us, the answer is not many. Diversify and expand your bookshelf and your worldview and travel the world while staying in your favorite reading spot by choosing books by authors from around the world.
A few to get you started—Megan’s favorite, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series (Italy), the works of Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat (Haiti), Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria), 1Q84—one of Nicole’s favorites—by Haruki Murakami (Japan), or a classic like Maria’s favorite, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Russia).
6. Zone Out
Get out of your comfort zone! Is there something new to you that’s sparked your interest? Existentialism or Afrofuturism, for example, cross genre lines, allowing you to encounter the idea broadly, in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, or just within your own favorite format. For Afrofuturism, you might choose five books to read--Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, a primer on the subject by by Ytasha L. Womack, The Parable of the Sower, a young adult dystopian classic by Octavia Butler, Who Fears Death, an adult novel soon to be produced by George R. R. Martin for HBO, by Nnedi Okorafor, Electric Arches, a dazzling poetry collection by Eve L. Ewing, and More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction, an exploration of Afrofuturism in music by Kodwo Eshun.
7. Frontlist on Fire
Have you ever seen a short list announcement for a major book prize like the National Book Award or Man Booker Prize and realized you haven’t read a single one of the nominations? Read 2018 away with books published in 2018, and you’ll definitely have a horse in the race when it comes time to see that shiny sticker grace the book of choice.
8. Get Lit at the Club
The group selection of titles, lively discussion, and accountability that book clubs offer can help you reach your goal. At Underground Books, we host the Other Places, Other Lives International Literature Book Club, sponsored by the University of West Georgia College of Arts and Humanities. Each month during the Spring and Fall semesters, the book club meets to discuss a book in translation or by an author from a different country, and the first twelve to sign up each month get the book free! At our sister store, Hills & Hamlets Bookshop, we host the Monday Morning Book Club which features literary fiction, the American History Book Club, and the Women’s Voices Book Club. Neva Lomason Memorial Library here in Carrollton hosts the Thursday Evening Book Club, which will be reading Storm in a Teacup: the Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski this January. Check with your local bookstore, library, church, or civic group to find out what book clubs meet near you, or grab a few friends and start your own!