Hello my dear readers, and a Happy New Year to all of you!
It might be a bit late to reminisce about 2018, being a week already in the new year, but not doing so would feel like leaving a chapter unfinished and well, here I am. Instead of going through my favourite or least favourite reads of the last year, I rather wanted to look back on how my relationship with books changed in 2018, on my feelings about reading, and how these things shaped the bookish goals I set myself for the coming year. Sounds good? Then lets rewind our time turners twelve months back and have a look…
January 2018 – The Big Bookish Goal
One hundred books per year. For some people it might be an average, for me, it was a dream number. One that I have yet to reach, in fact. Since 2016 it has been my big goal, but my first two tries failed miserably and counted only half of that. Back then I blamed it on being caught up in writing my thesis, but no more excuses this year, I told myself, no matter how busy you are. I set myself a reading list of eight books a month and was sure that this way, I would get to that hundred. Yeah, that went well.
February 2018 – Not Reading is a Red Flag
Even though my first month of reading went according to plan, the second was not-so-great, and I’ve learned that my reading habits are a direct reflection of how I’m feeling. This month, I almost moved to another city to go back to university for all the wrong reasons, and during the time when I tried to convince myself this was what I should do, I had no nerve to pick up a book and read. This alone should’ve served as a red flag for me, and only once I got honest with myself and acknowledged that the whole thing was not remotely what I actually wanted, was I able to return to books, finally at peace with myself again. Of course I didn’t make this connection at the time, but in retrospect it is quite clear to me. Reading is a deeply personal act, and it was always my impression that you learn a lot about yourself while absorbing the words of another. And so, while I was essentially lying to myself, I couldn’t face my choices and actions, let alone confront and evaluate them through reading. It really proved a valuable lesson to me, especially because life is a series of choices, and now I know a marker that can help me identify when I’m on a wrong path.
March 2018 – The Review Dilemma
The problem I faced in March is a dilemma I’ve only encountered as a book blogger: The worry about writing a good review hindered my reading. I just wasn’t able to turn my blogger-brain off and return to the readers-perspective while reading, and once I had finally finished a book, I stopped myself from starting the next one until my review was done. Which took a long time, or in many cases never even happened. All this made reading feel more like a chore than enjoyment, and I realised that my attitude had to change somehow. It’s taken me a while to get to a point where I was able to accept that not every book can get a full review, that nobody even expects or needs this, and that it won’t help anyone if I just force myself to read. Getting to a realisation like that happens over time – during these periods, I felt very discouraged and can only now see the value in them. So yeah, sometimes, things aren’t as bad as they seem in that moment.
April 2018 – Read Inside AND Outside your Comfort Zone
Yeah, you heard that right. April introduced me to one of my all-time favourite series: Shades of Magic. These books where everything I could’ve asked for, some of the finest fantasy and exactly what I needed to make reading feel… exciting again. I finished them in a ridiculously short span of time, a five hundred page book in one day, and I was right back in my comfort zone. There’s no shame in choosing books that you think you’re prone to like – these often remind us why we love reading so much. At the same time, reading outside of your comfort zone has an important value in its own. I read my first James Baldwin book this month and it was vastly different from anything I had read before, but it is masterfully written and so introduced me to a completely different corner of the literary world. I truly enjoyed both experiences; they reminded me that a good balance of both comfortable and different books is the best choice for me.
May 2018 – You’re Allowed to Over- and Underrate Books
May was especially significant because I read one (in my opinion) highly overrated, and one highly underrated book each. Not daring to voice a negative opinion has never been a big problem for me, but I do think it’s a somewhat sensitive subject and therefore just wanted to say it again: It’s okay if you dislike a book that everybody seems to love. You are more than allowed to write a detailed post on every exact reason for it, or just say it wasn’t for you and move on. I love the positivity of the bookish community, but sometimes it seems like criticism is quickly shunned and attacked. We can’t all love every book we read, though, and it’s much more interesting to have a lively discussion anyway. I also love it when people promote their favourite underrated books – that’s how we discover unexpected treasures! I hope we will all find more courage to confidently exchange and respect our reading experiences.
June 2018 – The Audio Book Guilt
I still haven’t quite overcome it yet: The audio book guilt. It’s the much debated thought whether audio books “count” as much as a “real” book, because you don’t actually do the reading. Mostly, I think this very idea is ridiculous as the medium doesn’t so much matter as the time spent with a story, but on some level there is a difference. I always do count audio books to my reading challenge, but not without a tiny pang of guilt about it. What do you think on that matter? I really love to hear more opinions about it.
July 2018 – Books Change your Life
Sometimes it feels like ‘non-bookish’ people completely dismiss the value of books and see them as a past-time for weird, nerdy introverts who don’t go out much. It’s sad because they are still an extremely important medium of conveying information and helping you learn – like Marie Kondo’s “Magic Cleaning” did for me. Whatever you might think about her unconventional methods, this woman literally changed my life and taught me so much about my relationship to physical belongings and helped me transform my room as well as my personality. And in this month, I also remembered how books can anchor a memory in your mind – I had a particularly nasty plane journey and went through it all with a complete stranger. I probably won’t ever see this guy again, but for these couple hours we were allies, and the book I read throughout the ordeal we endured will always remind me of how two strangers made the best of things together, and turned challenges into an experience to look back on with a smile.
August 2018 – Bad Books can be Good
During the heatwave, I turned to the “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” series, with which I’ve developed a sort of love-hate-relationship. These books brought me infuriating, disappointing and annoying moments – but still I couldn’t put them down. Sometimes, we just need a bit of an easy read in our lives, and that’s okay too.
September 2018 – Hogwarts is Home
All witches and wizards know that September 1 is back-to-Hogwarts day, and naturally, I picked up the first “Harry Potter” book once again. It’s amazing to me how special this series is. My bookshelf knows I love a lot of books, most things in my life revolve around them, but nothing ever gets quite close to Harry Potter. By now, J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World is less a place to escape to rather than a part of myself. I genuinely can’t imagine my life without it, and as returning to Hogwarts is always a good idea, I started another reread of the series that I am still enjoying right now.
October 2018 – Bookish Friends are worth Gold
Committing to the bookish community was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Whether we’ve met in person or not, the friends I’ve made through book blogs and bookstagram have supported me through tough times and decisions like those I faced in October, and it’s almost impossible to express my immense gratitude to them. I owe so much to you guys, and wouldn’t want to live without any of you.
November 2018 – “If you wish to be a writer, write.”
This quote (attributed to Epictetus) is probably the best writing advice I found, and one that dominated my November. In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I tried to dedicate just a bit of time each day to creative writing – something I’ve wanted to do since forever – and even that little effort resulted in progress I never thought could happen for me. Throughout the years, many of my writing projects were stowed away unfinished because I never thought I was good enough. However, finding Victoria Schwab’s blog and videos on writing changed everything for me. She made me believe that with just enough dedication, I can create something good – and so, that’s one of my new biggest goals. I’m aiming at intensify my writing effort, currently working on two projects, and hope to share some of that writing with you soon!
December 2018 – How About That Reading Goal?
As the end of the year drew closer, I realised that I could already wave goodbye to my big goal of a hundred books once again. Failing for the third year in a row had me so discouraged that at first, I didn’t even realise what progress I actually made. Instead of my 49 books in 2017, I had now finished 75! Even though it’s not as big as originally planned, this leap is something to be proud of, and I am. Over the year, my reading experiences helped me grow as a person and realise what works for me, and what doesn’t. With that in mind, I was able to say goodbye to 2018 with pride in my achievements and excitement for the future.
2019 – The Small Goal
If you follow me on Goodreads, you can see that my reading challenge for 2019 is set on 52 books. Why take a step back? Well, my official goal is to read at least one book every week – hence the 52 – and through that, I hope to actually beat my own record. 80 books would be nice, just to do better than last year, but of course the ominous hundred will always be my secret goal until I get there. But I don’t want this figure looming over me all year, and rather give myself the means to reach it by reading a little every day.
What is your favourite lesson books have taught you? And did you set yourself a reading challenge for 2019?
Whether you want to read ten or a hundred books, I hope you will enjoy each and maybe even learn a thing or two from them.
Love, Sandy x