New Reading Plan?

Reading Down the House again?

Reading Down the House again?

Last year I created my own reading plan called Reading Down the House in which I read a stack of books I’d bought over the years, but never got around to reading. Added to my book club’s choices, it felt like I was always doing required reading. I looked forward to the new year so I could read whatever I wanted, and I have done just that. I’ve put a high priority on reading books I “feel like” reading, for whatever reason, and I am reading more than ever. It has been great to pick up whatever I like with no sense of obligation.

I have read 54 books so far this year. Categorized various ways, they were:

  • 8 e-books, 1 audio book, 7 graphic novels and 38 other print books
  • 30 fiction, 24 nonfiction

The fiction included:

  • 7 contemporary (of which 4 were light reading)
  • 5 literary
  • 1 book of short stories
  • 2 apocalyptic sci-fi
  • 1 fantasy
  • 2 mystery
  • 5 international fiction for book club
  • 4 stand-alone graphic novels
  • 3 manga

The nonfiction:

  • 9 memoir
  • 8 social science
  • 7 other

By just stumbling across books and choosing what I like, I am getting a good variety. Well, they are not always stumbled upon, because in the library where I work, I hear about new releases and put them on hold, so it isn’t completely random.

I am currently reading something that has been on my to-read list for many years: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel. I am finding it so beautiful and meaningful that I wish I had read it years ago.

And that’s why I think I need a new reading plan. I didn’t enjoy reading all those bottom-of-the-shelf books for Reading Down the House, and all the book club titles at the same time, because it left me too little time to pick things I wanted to read in the moment. But by reading whatever attracts my attention and comes my way, I am not pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I am missing out on those books which require some effort to stick with. Serious books. Classics. Should-Reads. Books recommended to me by others. Books I know I would like if I tracked them down. Books that would change how I look at the world. Maybe some people are disciplined enough to choose these kinds of books to read regularly, but I’m not. I need a push.

It matters a lot why a person reads, too. I have loads of friends who read only for entertainment, and they don’t pretend otherwise. I’m not even judging. Of all the types of entertainment they could choose, they are choosing to read, and I think that’s awesome. But I know so little about history and other cultures. My main reasons for reading are to open my mind and be receptive to new ideas, to see things from different perspectives, and to learn about people and things outside my own experience. I want to read what my friends and family enthuse about, so I can understand their passions more. I want to understand how the world works – even factual things, like geography and physics. I want to know what great thinkers of the past have discovered. I want to absorb the language that great writers have put down on paper. Of course, if they make it entertaining, that doesn’t hurt!

Over the next few months, I’ll be making a grand to-read list, and will intersperse these Reading Plan books with what-I-feel-like-reading-in-the-moment. I don’t know if I’ll put myself on a schedule or try to meet a target date. But whenever I read a book that blows me away, like Man’s Search for Meaning, it makes me aware of what I am missing when I read dismal choices: my two least favourite light reading titles this year were Read Bottom Up and One Day, both of which were supposed to be fun reads, but they made me feel yucky!

On the other hand, I don’t want to be as rigorous as Rom, who is reading a different philosopher every two weeks!

Can you recommend something for my list? Something that gave you a new perspective? Something well-written but entertaining? A classic I might have missed?

I’m open to influence!

Everything I’ve read for the past few years is on my Goodreads page.

In case anyone is curious: The books in the photo at the top are 7 discards from the library (4 of which I took home years ago and forgot about), 2 hand-me-downs, 3 cheap hardcovers from the remainder table at Chapters, 3 new books bought in 2015 (I bought 5 more which I have actually read), and 2 books I gave up on that I would like to try again.

The titles are:

  • Teenage: the Creation of Youth Culture – by Jon Savage
  • What Are You Looking At? The…Story of Modern Art – by Will Gompertz
  • Inside the Dream Palace: the Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel – by Sherill Tippins
  • Parzival: the Quest for the Grail Knight – by Katherine Paterson
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – by Dave Eggers
  • Forced Entries – by Jim Carroll
  • Game of Thrones – by George R.R. Martin
  • Eva Luna – by Isabel Allende
  • Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! – by Kenzaburo Oe
  • Lovesong – by Alex Miller
  • Tolstoy Lied – by Rachel Kadish
  • A Memoir of Misfortune – by Su Xiao Kang
  • Swallows and Amazons – by Arthur Ransome
  • The Bird Catcher – by Laura Jacobs
  • The Snow Child – by Eowyn Ivey
  • The Ask – by Sam Lipsyte
  • Four Sisters of Hofei – by Annping Chin

Would love to hear your opinions if you’ve read any of them!



  1. Haven’t read any of these books but will put the Miller book on my list.

    As to books that were entertaining or gave me a new perspective. Mmm. Poisonwood Bible. Book Thief. The Enchanted. Hare with Amber Eyes.

    This year I plan to re-read a book that moved me. Will be interesting if it does again. Merry-go-round in the Sea.

    I went through a Graham Green phase and plan to read some again. Entertaining and insightful.

    • Two more recent releases: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. That was riveting and learnt about Iceland. And The Anchoress.

      • Both of those sound good. Unbelievably, months after you wrote about it, our library has bought The Anchoress! And has Burial Rites. I have an interest in Iceland so would like to read it.

    • The Enchanted really stuck in my mind when you blogged about it so I plan to read it. When I am feeling strong! I have read The Book Thief and The Hare with Amber Eyes. I have never read Graham Greene and I should – thanks!

  2. joanie

    I always suggest Early Autumn by Robert B. Parker. A short, early Spenser mystery, it’s an easy read but it sticks in my mind.
    It is a little dated but if you substitute x box for the boy’s tv addiction, it still works.

  3. Margie in Toronto

    From Margie in Toronto – I feel that I should only be reading the books that I’ve bought but still haven’t got around to reading – but the problem is – I keep getting distracted by new books – fiction and non-fiction. I love to find new bookstores and new authors. I read constantly and read quickly but there’s always a new one being published!
    Recommendations – Non Fiction: Anything by Bill Bryson – The Professor & the Madman – The Orchid Thief – Paris 1919 – The Map that Changed the World

    Fiction: Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” My new favourite mystery writer, Yrsa Sigurdardottir (an Icelandic author) – Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series (The Sunday Philosophy Club is the first book).

    Classics: Anything by Jane Austen!

    Fantasy/SciFi: Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright (a book I’ve read many times & one I love even more than Tolkien) anything by Kelley Armstrong (Great female characters & a Cdn. author).

    Happy reading.

    • Hi Margie, I apologize for missing your comment! I came back to look for some reading suggestions and happily found it. I have read At Home by Bill Bryson and always wanted to read A Short History of Nearly Everything. I love Jane Austen but haven’t read all her books. Kelley Armstrong is, of course, very popular at our library. I haven’t read any Isabel Dalhousie, only the No. 1 Detective series. Most of all, I would like to read something by Donna Tartt and maybe not start with The Goldfinch! Thanks very much.

  4. Hmm I think I read than Frankel book recently – without a good track record, except the library’s borrowing records, I have no idea for sure.

    I just finished a novel ‘It’s not you, Geography, it’s me’ by an Aussie writer – quite disjointed, about travel and depression. Before that, was a book and raising kids and money, which I enjoyed. Your post prompted me to ‘order’ more from the library.

    Sadly, I think I watch TV shows when you may read. Something I’d love to slowly adjust.

  5. Have you read the Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker? Based on Seigfred Sasson’s life. Very moving. And one of the best historical novels, well according the Observer according to Wikipedia. And according to me, one of the best WWI novels.

  6. gk

    I loved A Heartbreaking Work… though it’s been over a decade since I’ve read it. Game of Thrones was entertaining (haven’t watched the series), good for traveling. Have been meaning to read V.Frankel forever, which, I suppose, is the point of this post. So much easier to reach for Eggers than Frankel. Which makes Rom’s dedication all the more impressive. I’m slogging through Shantaram and finding it horrible, but feel strangely compelled to finish. Reading is mostly an escape for me so I try not to pressure myself to read things I feel I should. Though it’s like exercise isn’t it…we have to sort of build it into our lives…

    • Nice to hear from you and I hope everything is on the upswing! I should bring Game of Thrones for in-flight reading somewhere. Too bad about Shantaram; it has a good premise. Yes I like to keep those literary muscles stoked!

  7. Fiona

    I only read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ this year. It was so evocative and beautiful that I could hardly speak at the end of it (partly because the simplicity of language is both so lyrical in one sense, yet so starkly representative of pure trauma.)

    54 books so far this year is such an achievement! I haven’t read any of those ones in the photo, unfortunately. As far as picks or recommendations…my favourite fiction read in recent years has been Margot Lanagan’s ‘Sea Hearts’ (Australian title.) I think it’s called ‘Brides of Rollrock Island’ in Canada and the US. People use words like ‘mystical’ and ‘ethereal’ about it. It’s beautiful, almost poetic writing and multi-layered, feminist themes.

    • I loved Sea Hearts too. Lyrical. Sad.

    • I am still reflecting on Man’s Search for Meaning and I think I could return to it often. I had these intense moments of recognition when I read it, as in “Yes, that’s the way life really is,” and it was so optimistic about humankind, too. It really was beautiful. I do regret not having read it earlier! But am glad I had the experience. Happily our library does have your book as “The Brides of Rollrock Island” so I will add it to my To-Read list! The Inuit of Northern Canada have selkie tales and I have read some in the past.

  8. A good portion of the books I read are for entertainment purposes only, haha 🙂 Best wishes with your new reading plan though, I think you will enjoy the challenge!

    Mr. G recently listened to the first Game of Thrones audiobook and loved it. He’s watched all the seasons of the TV show but enjoyed the extra details provided in the book. The only other one on the list that I recognize is The Snow Child. I thought it was okay – a little slow for my taste and probably a good one to read when you’re not snowed in and feeling melancholy about the weather situation.

  9. I am mostly a fiction reader and I think we have different tastes. So this may not be helpful…The book that most knocked me out (for very personal reasons): Emigrants by Sebald. This summer I also re-read Jane Austen (P and P, S and S, Persuasion, Emma): these really read differently when you are older. There’s a lot of bad stuff underneath the comedy. Re-read two V Woolf (Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse).

    Iceland (wrote abt this recently): Independent People.

    A wonderful book that not a lot of people know about: Embers.

    Have you read Alice Munro–one of the great Canadian authors!

    Am about to embark on stuff by Clarice Lispector.

    I could go on forever…

    • I would love to read Emigrants; thanks for bringing it to my attention. I have only read two Jane Austen so I could go there! And have only read A Room of One’s Own by Woolf. I have only dabbled in Alice Munro’s books, mostly short stories. Independent People seems really interesting so I will add that to my list too! I hadn’t heard of The Embers but I know families who have dealt with some of those issues so I am tempted to read it. Thanks for all the suggestions!

  10. I was really struggling with this. Luckily my library put out a reading challenge that really had me stretch a bit. It had things like “pick a book with a red cover” and “a graphic novel”. The more I did the more raffle tickets I could put in for the contest. It was fun, and now that it’s over I’m starting to tackle my long list of goodread books. I think I have almost 150 to read.

  11. mtandb

    I’m totally in a ‘reading for entertainment’ year. I’ve just finished the whole Outlander series – no mean feat as the books are long. Who knew that I would like historical fiction so much?! A lot happened in 18th Century Scotland and so my fun read also turned out to be quite educational.

    • I read the first one but haven’t seen the series – have you? I hope it is more, um, politically correct, than the first book (despite it being historical). I couldn’t stomach the torture scenes in the first book but I did hear it doesn’t continue in that vein.

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