I read far less this year. 54 books instead of 100+. I winced a little in counting up the total, but then I had a talk with myself about what a sign of growth it is that I slowed down.

Like many, I found I couldn’t concentrate in the same way this year. I used up all my reserves getting my teenagers through Zoom school and into college, getting a new puppy, taking care of myself and my clients, and just feeling more anxious than normal. I had a lot of fun times, too, and found I read less on my vacations. I was content to sit on the boat or the dock or at the viewpoint without reading anything–just breathing and taking things in. Though I have always loved being outside, Covid has brought me into deeper connection with the natural world, and that’s meant less books.

And still. Reading is a salve, and it is with great joy that I continue to let books into my circle of attention. Even ones I don’t really like leave me in awe–that the author could live this life or dream up this story, that they had the courage and discipline to share it with us.

If you are thinking about trying to read more, here are a few tips you’ve likely heard me share:

  • Get to know the library. I truly have run out of room for more books and I hope my amazing husband will build some more bookshelves in 2022. Even if that happens, there is nothing like the thrill of stopping by the library and picking up holds that have come in. It’s like Christmas every time for me. I do this through the local library app and often reserve books as someone is giving me a recommendation. Keeping that pipeline full!
  • Figure out your reading style. I prefer to read paper books versus ebooks, and I prefer written over audio. But I do some of each, and there’s nothing like ebooks when you’re leaving home and need to pack light. I have an ancient Kindle connected to my library card, and it does the trick wonderfully since it’s way too clunky for anything but reading.
  • Have a reading friend. Emily and I talk books and mail them to each other and sometimes have a mini book club going on. It’s a huge part of our friendship, and I know I would read far less if we weren’t sharing our learning and delight with one other.
  • Don’t persist if you don’t like the first 50-100 pages. There are too many wonderful books out there waiting to be read!
  • Remove your phone from the room you are reading in. It will pester and ping at you and try to get you to buy things or work or train people in your life that you will immediately get back to them. Resist!!
  • Revel in your local independent bookstore. Here in Bellingham, it’s Village Books. When I need to be nice to myself, I slot out 90 minutes to wander around, reading staff picks, touching everything, makings lists, and buying a few things (like fiction for vacation, gifts, a cookbook, or a book for work that I will underline the heck out of). And usually something surprising makes it in there, too. This is the experience you can’t have when algorithms tell you what to buy.

Okay-here were some faves from this year, in four categories:

Inner Life and Self-Evolution. I read far too many books in this category–I think I’ve finally accepted it. I’m endlessly fascinated by the soul. Thankfully, so many wonderful authors are, too!

  • Crossing the River: Seven Stories that Saved my Life (Carol Smith). One of the best grief memoirs I’ve ever read.
  • More than a Body: Your Body is an Instrument, not an Ornament (Lindsay and Lexie Kite). This could have been shorter, but it stayed with me. It’s produced very little tolerance for how our bodies are objectified, and given me more love and appreciation for my own.
  • Motherhood: Facing and Finding Yourself (Lisa Marchiano). Came along at the perfect time–a lot about letting go, which I really needed this year.

Historical Fiction. Especially with female protagonists, especially if hardship is involved. Yes, please.

  • The Mercies (Kiran Millwood Hargrave). 1600’s Nordic village, witch-hunts, amazing.
  • The Four Winds (Kristin Hannah). Depression-era, strong female lead, love, learned so much about the labor movement.

Other Voices. A major part of my motivation in reading is to hear from people whose experience is different than mine. It’s never been easier.

  • See no Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (Valerie Kaur). Wow. Valerie is a hero of mine. Her message as Sikh activist is one we all really need to hear right now.
  • Sitting Pretty: The View from my Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body (Rebekah Taussig). One of my goals this year was to learn more about being disabled and non-disabled, and how my worldview and language around this is largely unexamined. This book really helped.
  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (Cathy Park Hong).

Creativity and Inspiration. I really tuned in this year to how much I like and need stories of people creating things. I’ve included one volume of poetry here because reading poetry always inspires me to write it.

  • How to¬† Write One Song (Jeff Tweedy). Please–read this immediately.
  • Like Brothers (Mark and Jay Duplass). I fell in love with the Duplass brothers after reading this, and spent the summer watching every movie they have every written, produced, or starred in. The crush continues.
  • Broken Horses (Brandi Carlile).
  • How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope (James Crews, editor).

Happy Reading, Friends!