I’m on some kind of wild reading binge in 2023. Last year, I read 87 books the entire year. This year? 87 books as of yesterday.
Reading a lot of books is no big surprise for me.
But this is quite the start to a year of reading.
So what happened? Why am I so into books this year? And how am I possibly making it happen? I’ve written a whole book on this topic, but I can share a few thoughts about what’s different this year.
Beating the slump: First, I’ve been in a reading slump since the pandemic. I’ve had a hard time finding books I like, a hard time sticking with books, a hard time being engaged. I think I finally started to come out of that at the end of 2022. Which meant I was hitting 2023 in stride. Also helps that January is an excellent time of the year to read.
Goals: I’m not big on setting goals, but I set a few arbitrary goals for my reading this year. Stuff like reading something by various favorite authors that I don’t get around to, hitting specific diversity targets (e.g., read 10 books by Latino authors), trying X number of classics on my shelf, etc. Sometimes my personality can be obsessive, so those goals seemed to help (though maybe feeding that kind of obsession isn’t a good thing?).
Quit books: I’m a big fan of quitting books. If you’re not enjoying it, quit reading it. That’s easy to say and hard to do. That same obsessive nature makes me want to stick with a book, just so I can say I’ve finished it. I have to tell myself how stupid that is, that’s it’s not worth suffering through a book you dislike. Heck, it’s not worth suffering through a book you don’t love. If you don’t love it, quit it. On one hand, I’m not taking that advice very well—I’ve read five books that I gave two stars, which is pretty abysmal. Should have quit them. 35 books are at three stars, which means they were good, but I wasn’t loving them. On the other hand, I’ve probably quit more than 100 books. I’ve checked out dozens at a time from the library, only to read one or two. The reason this matters is because if a book isn’t pulling you in, then you won’t be excited to sit down and keep reading. And that’s how you plow through books.
Reading time: I’ve spent a lot of evenings just sitting in the living room reading. I’ll have an hour or two before I have to go ferry a kid or go to an event, and instead of watching TV, I’ll read. Same with weekends, though I can sit there for much longer. It helps when you’re not super busy, and I can already see April being busy and slowing down my reading (doesn’t help that we got new carpet in my office, so I spent two full weekends packing and unpacking my office). But just sitting down and reading instead of binging TV or scrolling social media makes a huge difference.
So far I’ve given 15 books that I gave five stars…
- A bunch are science fiction: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig, A Song for a New Day by Sara Pinsker, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, Wanderers by Chuck Wendig, Apocalypse Yesterday by Brock Adams, Secret Identity by Alex Segura, a re-read of Robopocalypse, etc.
- A lot have been memoirs: When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullor, Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler, Torn by Justin Lee, Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride, Team of Vipers by Cliff Sims, etc.
- One classic I unexpectedly enjoyed: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
- One brilliant writing book: Smart Brevity.
- And some unexpected great reads, like The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
For too long I’ve had a ridiculously long to-read list. Like over 400 books. One of my goals was to cut that list down, and it’s actually been freeing to go through the list and either finally read something (and love it) or give it a try and quit. A bunch of those favorite reads were on that to-read list forever. It’s been totally worth it to scour through 100-plus meh books to find these gems.