Year of the lost book
For the first time in my adult reading life, I didn’t keep track of a single book I read last year.
It felt liberating at the time. In the early days of my book blogging, young and fancy free, I got a little obsessed with numbers. I churned through novels in days, excited that my reading was dictated by my own interests rather than a school schedule. I catalogued each book and reviewed it, too, sharing my thoughts online.
Each year was competitive with the year prior. If I read 80 books in 2013, next had to be 90. Publishers began sending them, and I created a pile of advance reader copies that seemed to grow (and overwhelm) by the day.
Reading became less a pleasurable pursuit than strange struggle to “keep up.” I’d earned a reputation as a voracious reader, and I wanted to crank out content to appease . . . someone. Writers? Publishers? Readers? Myself?
Regardless, having children quickly stifled my energy for anything that wasn’t sleeping. Exhaustion made my once-nightly ritual of getting through a few chapters very challenging. My reading slowed down, then stopped completely. The paperback on my nightstand would go untouched for weeks, even months.
I discovered something in that time: words are an intrinsic part of my identity. I just don’t feel like myself without my books. I’ve always been one to dive into other places, try on other lives . . . and not having a novel (or three) going made my everyday life feel strange. Too real, maybe, without the distraction a great story can provide.
Part of my disinterest came from my self-imposed pressure to read early and often, then evaluate everything I’d consumed. The 800-word book reviews that once made me proud now felt like unwanted assignments. I’d turned something I loved into work. And for what?
For 2018, with the kids sleeping more and our household in less tumult, I vowed to return to reading — just without the requirement that I categorize, map out, dissect and evaluate stories. I was tired of the obsessive need to account for everything. Life was stressful enough. I just wanted to read.
So I stopped keeping track last year. I set no goals for how many books to get through, nor kept a running list of what I’d purchased or finished or borrowed from the library. Cold turkey. I have comprehensive accountings of every story I read for almost a decade, but 2018 is the year of the lost book.
It worked. I got back my reading mojo. I certainly don’t read as much as I used to, and I’ve dropped off everyone’s radar as a reviewer. But it doesn’t matter.
What does? Well, turns out I miss my lists. When I reflect on my favorite reads last year, there’s . . . nothing. A blank.
Did I not read anything compelling in 2018? Nothing memorable, influential, worthwhile? This can’t be true, especially knowing I give most books the 10-page test — if it doesn’t hold my attention after 10 pages, I quit.
Yet without my trusty spreadsheets, I struggle to think of a single title I loved last year.
Given how much I used to enjoy compiling those best-of lists each December, it was disappointing not to reflect on my year in books. Freeing to read for the joy of reading, sure, but now . . . a little strange.
So I’m back. On Sunday I flipped on the lights of my dormant Goodreads account, shaking the dust from every surface. I’ve finished three audio books since Jan. 1, with another wrapping up neatly soon. I’m thick in the middle of a great memoir on my Kindle.
And, of course, there’s my kids’ bedtime reading. This doesn’t count toward my personal reading goals, I guess, but it’s certainly part of my daily life.
For Hadley, it’s “Five Little Pumpkins.” For Oliver, “Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?”
I love that my kids are interested in books, and that daily reading is becoming a habit.
I love less the fact that I’ve read both stories so often that the spines are cracking, and I could (and probably will) recite them in my sleep.
Still: a book is a book. And the world is my (reading) oyster once again.