A Season of Hope: Reading
Honestly, failing to reach a goal regarding a pastime (lifestyle!) so near-and-dear to my heart was upsetting. Why can't I watch less TV? Should I delete all of my social media? Am I reading the wrong books? Do I read slow? Then, the months slipped by, and on top of falling behind in my reading, I didn't write a single book review for six months. Again, I thought: what is my problem?
Society - myself included - has created a culture of versus. Reading versus watching television. Scrolling through social media versus working out or cleaning the house or seeing friends, etc., etc. We are taught to choose. We are taught that life is a dichotomy: you read or you do not; you exercise or you do not; you go to college or you do not; the list is of "versus" is relentless. It is the 'FOMO' concept engendered by a digital age. We fear we will miss out, simple as that.
I did not miss out. I was swept from medieval Britain to the lands of fairies to distant, unknowable planets. I grieved with characters, fought against enemies, laughed at quips, cringed during awkward moments, and sighed during precious instances of love and affection. I may have read only 51 books, but I read...and I watched TV and scrolled through social media and spent time with family and friends. I did not miss out. I fell in love. I fell in love with characters, places, and events that exist in print and in dreams. I read.
In essence, I tell all of our followers, and anyone else who will listen, read however much you want, whatever you want, whenever you want. It is your reading journey. Set goals, log your progress on Goodreads, text your friends about the latest love triangle, just read. Every page read erases 'FOMO.' Every page read sets you on the field of battle, in the middle of an apocalypse, fighting for independence, running toward the love of your life. Whether you read fifteen thousand pages or five hundred, celebrate reading. I find myself in a season of hope: reading is how I will face and shape my future.
And so, to wrap up 2019 and ring in the new decade, here are my biggest book takeaways of the year:
1. Holly Black is a Fairie Goddess.
No, really, this woman is a magician. I never thought I would be in love with books about fairies, but here we are. The Air of the Folk trilogy is an instant re-read. Readers of all ages will enjoy the trickery, political intrigue, and the relationship between Jude and Cardan. A ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ series.
2. Indie books are underrated.
I spent several weeks devouring Jeff Wheeler's series, Harbinger. I took advantage of 'Prime Reading' from Amazon by borrowing the first novel, Storm Glass. It is a set of five incredibly complex, deeply beautiful novels that follow opposites, Cettie Pratt and Sera Fitzempress, as they navigate their lives and the intricacies of their kingdom. The characters, the setting, the magical system, the conflicts - it's all wrought with a careful, detailed hand and is unimaginably compelling. Another ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ series.
3. Bernard Cornwell is a master of historical fiction.
I have a fondness for anything medieval, and Cornwell's historically-rich novels about Uhtred, a Saxon raised by Danes, is phenomenal. I only read one of Cornwell's books - the third in the series - this year, but it was my favorite thus far. If you are a fan of novel and TV/movie pairings, Cornwell's The Last Kingdom series is gorgeous and vicious in equal measure on the small screen (it's on Netflix for those of you who are curious).
4. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield isn't worth the hype.
This book received so much acclaim that I began it on January 1, 2019...and finished it on December 29, 2019. It took me a solid year to finish this text because, well, it became so boring. I will grant that Setterfield's work has some of the most beautiful prose I've ever read, but nothing happens. Nothing. Remember when your English teacher had you write a short story in school and told you to "show, don't tell" when writing? Well, Setterfield skipped those lessons. There's so much exposition that it will give you a headache. There is no conflict; the characters are not fighting for or against anything, really. Once Upon a River tries - and fails - to become a cornerstone of literary fiction. It's ⭐ star from me.
5. A year with no re-reads isn't on my to-do list ever again.
I am one of those readers who is charged with re-reading. I probably miss out on many wonderful books because I'm too busy perusing my favorites. I told myself that every book of 2019 would be new-to-me. While I appreciated the challenge, and ultimately succeeded, I often felt bereft without my favorite novels. I doubt that I will ever have a "no re-read year" again. It reminded me to accept my identity as a reader. If you read only romance novels, that's okay. If you only like young adult books and you're in your forties, that's also okay. Read whatever you want.
Thank you for being part of Project Booklist in 2019. We hope to see you often in 2020 as we release new reviews and other content. Don't forget to check us out on Twitter (@projectbooklist) and Instagram (projectbooklist)!