- Daring Greatly, Brené Brown
- Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More, Janet Mock
- We are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama, ed. E.J. Dionne Jr and Joy-Ann Reid
- Camp Rolling Hills, Stacy Davidowitz
- The Freedom Writers Diary, The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell
- A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron
- Funny Girl, Nick Hornby
- Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok
- Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
- Hatchet, Gary Paulsen (unfinished)
- Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books, Nick Hornby (unfinished)
In October I made a bookstagram account and was thrust into the realm of reading once again. I read a disgraceful twelve books in 2016, so I was feeling motivated (and a little envious honestly) of all these other people who could easily knock out a book in three days. Who has time to do that? Did these people not have friends or work or Facebook profiles or 2048?
Anyway, I picked up Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub while I was leaving Barnes and Noble. It stuck out on the shelf as I was walking by and the yellow spine was practically glowing like an omen. It’s a literal book brick in every definition; an aesthetically pleasing rectangle with hefty pages and a thick spine. It costs an even $20 (seriously, not even a decimal point was placed). I bought it on a whim, thinking “wow! Probably the first book blogger! He’s been writing about the books he’s read since 2003!” I had to have it. (Of course I have to have literally every book I’ve ever touched so that’s really not saying anything too different.)
I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying reading it. Most of the books he recommends are not exactly my taste (a lot of Dickens, a lot of crime thrillers, a lot of biographies) but he explains books and reading (and often writing) in an extremely human way. He talks about the lulls you take when life (or soccer as he puts it) gets in the way and you don’t read as much as you should. Or how you’re afraid to read a book a friend recommends because you’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy it as much as they do. Hornby writes his essays like he’s writing an email to a trusted friend; it’s conversational, witty, and extremely honest. Much more than a book review, it’s almost like a month diary entry, with life events being masked by the books he’s reading.
It started me off by thinking there had to be some sort of pattern to the books I buy or the books I read each month. Typically my literature habits ebb and flow with what’s going on in my life; if I just finished a hefty classic I’m probably going to pick a fluffy YA book to read next. I already noticed that by my two unfinished books of this month: Hornby’s 500 page collection of essays that I read little by little before bed matched with Paulsen’s children’s classic that I read on my breaks at work.
I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t finish a complete book in January. I started Bird by Bird back in December and was already about halfway done by the time the new year rolled around. I started reading Bird by Bird my senior year of college as part of a creative writing class but we only read it in chunks at a time corresponding to the lecture the following day. I set out to read Lamott’s brutal evaluation of the writing process in full in the hopes it would inspire me to write some more. (It did and didn’t, much like my life.) Bird by Bird is extraordinarily easy to read; much like Hornby, Lamott writes like she’s catching up with a friend over coffee on a Sunday afternoon. With each chapter she offers great advice and tricks to getting out of writer’s block or coming across inspiration. It’s no wonder Bird by Bird is a staple in the writing world.
I budgeted $25 on books for the month of January and for some strange reason I walked out of Barnes and Noble with three separate purchases! It was like a demon possessed me and tricked me to buying more books. I think the music they choose to play at Barnes and Noble is hypnotizing to make subconsciously buy more books than they’re supposed. It’s like a drug addicted habit.
At the beginning of the month I texted a group of friends and asked if they had read any good books recently. One of my resolutions for the year is to read more diverse books, not just in the sense that their authors and content is diverse but also to read things outside of my comfort zone. I generally gravitate towards the fiction section of any bookstore and tend to read about characters who are familiar to me. I’m terrified of poetry (probably because I’m no good at writing it), get lost in fantasy and sci-fi (probably because I haven’t found the well-crafted world my expectations are set for), and biographies just totally through me for a loop. I left the recommendations from my friends wide open, hoping they would get me the diversity I was craving without trying too hard to ask for it.
Boy did they deliver. Their answers ranged from YA (Sisterhood of Traveling Pants which I already read), psychology (Brené Brown which I bought especially since my yoga instructor recommended it too), a book on the NSA my friend insisted everyone had to read (I passed on that one for the sole reason Barnes and Noble didn’t have it on hand), Rupi Kaur’s popular book of poetry (that I already bought a few weeks before), and a LGBT autobiography. (Funny story: I checked the bio and current events section at Barnes and Noble and couldn’t find it on the shelf so I went and asked my manager to look it up for me–he’s new, he started around the same time I did–and he led me to the LGBT sexuality section and I thought to myself ‘oh god WHAT did my friend tell me to read’. The sexuality section at Barnes and Noble is really just Cosmo’s quirky books on creative sex positions. Thankfully the book I was looking for wasn’t on that shelf so I check out the LGBT cultural studies section and it was there instead.)
The month of February may be short but I certainly have my work cut out for me.