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
- 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!