History of reading
I grew up as a reader. My mom will brag that I began reading at (insert age here that is very impressive for a small child to start reading) and I always had a book with me as a kid. In high school, I toggled between reading and writing as my main hobbies. But in university, I found I no longer had time for pleasure reading. Any reading I did was for class and outside of class, I rarely found time to pick up a book.
Which brought me to the end of 2018, when I realized I was still calling myself a “reader” despite working on the same book for the last three years. That’s not to say anything bad about slow readers; I actually consider myself a slow reader (whenever we’re at museums, Colin is always a few plaques ahead of me as I speed-read/skim as fast I can to catch up with him). But it was getting hard for me to keep saying, “I love to read!” when I hadn’t picked up a book in ages.
So one of my resolutions for 2019 was to start reading. I gave myself the goal of reading 12 books, one book per month, and attempted to commit to reading daily. I even went so far as to set an alarm for myself! Every day at 11AM, my phone would buzz and I would take my book out to the couch and read for 20 minutes. It was actually a pretty good system, and a nice mid-morning work break. I might have to bring the reading alarm back!
And I’m very proud to say, after years of being an inactive reader, I have finally become a reader again. Not only did I meet my goal of reading 12 books in 2019, I smashed it. I read 40 books!
A few things! I think it helped to have a goal for the year and a commitment to read daily (though I didn’t stick to that all year…). Another thing that really encouraged me to get reading again was listening to The Stacks podcast. The Stacks is a book podcast that makes reading accessible. I was worried that book podcasts, and other reading communities, would be really pretentious. I envisioned a lot of, “What do you mean you haven’t read War & Peace?” or “How many Pulitzer Prize winning authors have you read?”
But that’s not what The Stacks is about at all. Traci, the host, is completely non-judgmental. She doesn’t chastise her guests over whatever books they have or haven’t read. And she’s honest when she hasn’t read a book. Traci made reading seem so accessible. And she also made it seem really fun! I was thrilled to hear that her favourite book, Columbine, was mine too. Traci admits to not reading a ton of fiction, preferring true crime, and I felt the same way (at least, I did when the year started). So after listening to a few episodes, I could feel my passion for reading reignite and I had a list of TBR (to be read) books to prove it!
My love affair with my e-reader
Lastly, the biggest thing to change in my reading life was getting an e-reader in May. I bought a Kobo (the Canadian version of Amazon’s Kindle) before we left for Prague and it was hands-down the best thing I’ve purchased in a long time.
Here’s why an e-reader is amazing:
- It’s lightweight. Instead of lugging heavy books halfway across the world from Vancouver to Prague, or on every trip around Europe, I can bring hundreds of books with me on my tiny little e-reader! I can even slip it into my purse for commutes.
- It has a super long battery life. I was worried about having yet another gadget to charge but I charge my ebook so infrequently that it doesn’t bother me at all. I usually only remember to charge it when I’m adding another book.
- I can read on the train! I usually get a little car-sick when reading but for some reason, I don’t with my e-reader (at least, not on the train).
- The special backlight is blue-light friendly, so it doesn’t have the same effect as staring at a laptop or phone would. And, it makes reading at night super easy! I don’t have to disturb Colin with a lamp or leave the room to read.
- It’s cheap! Yes, the e-reader itself was an investment; I got it on sale for about $120. But since then, I haven’t paid a cent. I get almost all of my books from the library. Did you know you can borrow e-books from the library? Well, if you have a Kobo, you can! Sadly, you can’t with a Kindle (at least not from Canadian libraries), which is why I went for the Kobo. It’s been awesome to do so much reading without having to spend money on new books that are expensive and wasteful.
- It’s made reading accessible. In years past, I have had a library card or access to cheap books through friends or used bookstores. But I always had an excuse for why I wasn’t dragging myself out of the house to go get the books. Getting to the library/bookstore was an obstacle. Now, I don’t have that! The library is at my fingertips. I don’t have to go out in the rain to return a book, I just have to right click!
- It’s also made it easier for me to choose books and move on. Going to the library or bookstore, I would spend a while trying to decide if I liked a book. And I’d feel guilty if I started reading it only to find out I didn’t like it, especially if I had spent money on it! But with my e-reader, it’s as simple as swiping to the next book.
Have I convinced you to buy an e-reader yet? I hope so. They really are the perfect thing if you’re looking to read more, read on the cheap or read on the move. If I didn’t have my Kobo, I’m sure I wouldn’t have read more than one or two books this year, especially as it’s hard to find affordable and diverse English titles in Czech-speaking Prague.
If you’re Canadian or have access to Canadian libraries, I highly recommend the Kobo so you can take advantage of borrowing books. If not, there’s still ways to get some books for free online. And you can grab the more universal e-reader, Amazon’s Kindle, for your reading needs!
What I read in 2019
Okay, let’s get to it. Here are the books I read in 2019:
- The Georgraphy of Bliss by Eric Weiner
- Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
- Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry
- Parkland by Dave Cullen
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
- What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
- Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs
- No Baggage by Clara Bensen
- The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn
- Honest Guide
- Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Law & Disorder by John Edward Douglas, Mark Olshaker
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
- Shrill by Lindy West
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
- The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede
- Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
- Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
- Naturally Tan by Tan France
- The Killer Across the Table by John Edward Douglas, Mark Olshaker
- I’ll Be There For You by Kelsey Miller
- The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
- Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Morirarty
- Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
- The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
- The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
- The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
- Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
- Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- Savage Appetites by Rachel Monroe
- American Predator by Maureen Callahan
- The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
- The Latte Factor by David Bach and John David Mann
My 2019 reading stats
Here are a few fun facts about my reading in 2019:
- Total number of books read: 40
- Total number of pages read: 13,118 (This is an approximate based off of Goodreads’ page counts)
- Books read per month: On average, I read just over three books (3.33) per month. However, if you look at my year, I read two books in January, none from February to April, and then started up again in May when I bought my Kobo. So if you calculate my average per month from May to December, it’s up to almost five books (4.75) per month!
- Most books read in a month: 6. I read six books in both June and November, but one of June’s books was just a guide book, so I’ll give November the edge for my most read month.
- Fiction vs Non-fiction: I read 13 fiction books and 27 non-fictions books.
- Male vs female authors: I read 16 male authors and 24 female authors.
- Genres: I read 7 travel books, 11 true crime books, 10 contemporary/romance fiction books and 12 books of various genres (including thriller, memoir and finance).
- Lowest scored books: I gave all of my reads a review out of ten this year. My lowest ratings (coming in at 6 or 6.5) were for Life Will Be the Death of Me, Crazy Rich Asians (I did love the movie though!), Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, The Psychopath Test, Conversations with Friends, The Georgraphy of Bliss and Savage Appetites.
- Highest scored books: My highest scored books (with 9 or 9.5 out of 10) were Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Where the Crawdads Sing, A House in the Sky, The Dinner List, Tiny Beautiful Things, American Predator, Law & Disorder, Parkland and Shrill.
- Shortest and longest book: Excluding the guidebook, the shortest book I read was The Latte Factor at 160 pages and the longest book I read was Helter Skelter at 689 pages. On average, the books I read had 335 pages.
My DNF list
DNF or Did Not Finish is the book-world term placed on books that you start reading and then stop, for whatever reason. I used to have a lot of guilt around DNF-ing books. I would always try to push through, as if I was disappointing someone by giving up. But then I realized, what was the point? I am getting back into reading for pleasure. If a book wasn’t giving me pleasure, I had no reason to torture myself to get to the end. Even if people on the internet were raving about it.
I wasn’t writing a book report or indebted to the author. So if a book didn’t grab me by page 50, I was out!
Why 50 pages? Well, to be honest, sometimes I wouldn’t even make it to page 50. But if I had got all the way to page 50 and still wasn’t feeling it, I let myself close the book. I think a book should hook you from page one. I want to be captivated and into the book within a few minutes. I hate when people say, “But halfway through, it gets really good!” Why do I need to read half of a crappy book to get to the good stuff?
At this point, my reading life is just for me. I don’t want it to become a chore by forcing myself to read books I don’t enjoy. That’s also why my lowest rating for a book this year was 6/10; anything lower and I wouldn’t have finished the book.
Here’s my DNF list from 2019:
- Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert: I was super excited for this book and thought I’d like it, but I didn’t. I enjoyed reading about Gilbert’s relationship but the research into other communities and relationships seemed way too factual and started to bore me. Always sucks to DNF a book I think I will love.
- Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson: I actually really enjoyed this book about the Attica prison uprising. But it’s super dense and I never managed to get through it before it was due back to the library. Hoping to finally finish it in 2020!
- The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory: Sorry to say it, but I absolutely hated this book. I was in the mood for a lighter read, after some heavy true crime stuff, so opted for this popular title. But the writing was horrible! The dialogue felt so fake and there was so much forced exposition. I am literally bewildered as to how this got published. (Sorry if you love it!)
- The Psychopath Whisperer by Kent Kiehl: This is another one where I simply ran out of time before the book was due back to the library. For some reason, all of my book holds always seem to come through at the same time! Will probably try to pick this one up again in 2020.
- The Lost Girls by by Amanda Pressner, Holly C. Corbett, and Jennifer Baggett: This was a book I was reading in paperback at the beginning of 2019, before my Kobo days. I thought this book would be perfect for me: The story of three girls who left their lives behind to travel the world. But I didn’t love it. The dialogue felt cheesy and the travel stories weren’t engaging. I think this is when I realized that just because I love travel doesn’t mean I love reading about it.
- The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington: This is another book that was hugely hyped in 2019 and I was really looking forward to reading it. A true crime book that focuses on the injustice of the justice system is usually right up my alley but, for some reason, this book didn’t work for me. I was already so upset in the introduction knowing that the entire book would just be about corrupt people and systems. I know it’s such a privilege to be able to put a book like this down and shield myself from injustices I don’t want to read about. I want to try this book again when I’m in a better mood for it.
- My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: My own brilliant friend, Emilie, recommended this book to me and I know it’s well-loved. But I didn’t love it! I even read it on the train to Naples (the book is set in Naples) so it couldn’t have been a more perfect setting. But I just wasn’t grabbed by the story or the writing style. I can appreciate that it’s very well-written but it wasn’t written for me.
Before 2019, I wasn’t exactly sure what genres I liked to read. I grew up reading fiction, but in the years after high school, I struggled to find fiction books I really liked. So I switched to true crime, and found a new genre I enjoyed. But I’ve learned it’s not just gore and crime details I’m after; I like my true crime books to have something else. I loved Columbine by Dave Cullen because it’s not just the facts of the school shooting but it’s looking at the police response, the psychological history of the shooters, the aftermath in the media, the victim response, etc.
I also assumed, before 2019, that travel books would be right up my alley. I like to travel, so I must like to read about it. But that’s not always the case. A lot of travel books read like diary entries to me or they spend too much time describing the landscape for my liking. I’m more interested in the story than three paragraphs on how the sand dunes reflect in the moonlight.
Another learning from 2019: I do like fiction! It just takes me a while to find the right stuff. I’m still not totally confident in my fiction picks. But I know I prefer modern-day stories with unpretentious writing, but that are still well-written. Historical fiction and “chick lit” usually don’t do it for me. But I’m excited to find more great fiction in 2019.
And I found some new loves in 2019. I read a few memoirs, which I really enjoyed. And I stretched out of genre by trying a couple of thriller/suspense books, a finance book and even a few historical books. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the suspense books, but don’t think I’m ready for horror or science fiction reading yet.
Special shout out to The Stacks podcast for these book-ish interview questions!
Name two books you loved and one you hated
From this year, two books that stick out for me are Shrill and Parkland. Honourable mentions to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Law & Disorder. One book I hated (and did not finish!) would be The Wedding Date. For one I did finish and didn’t love, it would have to be Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. I’m not a big fan of essay collections.
Last great book you read
I really enjoyed American Predator. Prior to it, I had read a true crime book that was just all right, so it was so nice to find one that was incredibly researched, really engaging, sharp and full of extra insight into the criminal justice system and the media.
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 (and loving it so much – a must read!)
Book you’re most looking forward to reading
I had been really looking forward to The Only Plane in the Sky and my library hold came through just before the new year (but I didn’t finish it in 2019). I’ve also got Michelle Obama’s Becoming on my Kobo and can’t wait to read that!
How do you pick your next book?
I have a long list of books I want to read on my phone, usually collected while listening to an episode of The Stacks, scrolling through Instagram or when a friend mentions a good read. I like to keep a couple of options on my Kobo, usually one true crime and one lighter book, to see what I’m in the mood for. Though I only read one book at a time, I usually alternate between something heavy and something light. Or I read based on the schedule of my library holds – whatever is due back next gets read first!
Book you’d recommend to other people
Columbine is my favourite book and I think it’s a really good read. Shrill is also a super important and great read.
Book recommended to you
My cousins recommended Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime, to me and I really loved it. Funny and a very interesting look at life growing up in South Africa.
Book you’re embarrassed about reading
The nice thing about an e-reader is that no one can tell what you’re reading! I’m not really embarrassed about any of the books I’ve read. I do remember being a little embarrassed when I started reading The Killer Across the Table on a plane. I think my seat-mate was a bit nervous.
How do you like to read?
My favourite place to read is on the train. There’s nothing else to do (wifi sucks and I get headaches typing) so I can read, guilt-free, as we pass through beautiful scenery headed towards a new adventure.
Book you would assign in school
Parkland would be a really inspiring book I think. And The Only Plane in The Sky should be mandatory reading.
Book that would make a good movie
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Mostly because I loved the book so much and I would love to spend more time with the characters!
What do you wish was different about your reading life?
I’d like to get back into reading daily. It’s a nice habit and something to look forward to each day. I’d also love to find a book club so I can talk books with people (instead of rambling on for thousands of words in a blog post!).
Favourite true crime book
Law & Disorder or American Predator
Favourite travel book
Does A House in the Sky count as travel? Otherwise, I rated all of my other travel books a 7/10 or lower, so none really impressed me. Definitely learning that’s not a genre that always works for me!
Favourite fiction book
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or Where the Crawdads Sing
Favourite out-of-genre book
Tiny Beautiful Things. A collection of advice column questions and answers that were always so inspiring and beautifully written. The perfect coffee table book because you could pick it up anytime and read just a few pages.
How do you organize your books?
I don’t! I don’t own many books; we have a few classics (i.e. Harry Potter) that we kept back in Vancouver and most of my e-books are borrowed from the library.
Last book that made you laugh
Naturally Tan. A few good chuckles in that one!
Last book that made you cry
The Dinner List. The ending was very sweet (and sad) so I shed a few tears. Again, my seat-mate on this flight was probably a little concerned. I’m also currently weeping my way through The Only Plane in The Sky.
Last book that made you angry
American Predator. I was so angry at the prosecutor who kept messing up the interrogations!
I’m hoping 2020 is going to be just as good, if not better, a reading year than 2019 and that I continue to read for the rest of my life. I’m not sure if I want to set a number goal for this year, but reading 50 books would be pretty cool. Maybe I’ll keep 50 in the back of my mind but not race to hit it. I don’t want to pick up a book with a high page count and be tempted to put it back in favour of a shorter book just to hit my goal.
But I would like to expand my reading more in 2020. 2019 was all about getting back into reading however I could. I made reading more accessible (thank you, Kobo!) and allowed myself to choose any books and give up on any books. In 2020, I still want to read for pleasure but I’d like to challenge myself to read more diverse books. Whether that’s tough subjects, diverse authors or new genres, I’d like to expand my reading world a bit.
Phew! If you made it this far, go ahead and count this as one of the books you read in 2020 because this blog post has been novel-length.
Let me know how your reading life went in 2019. What’s the best book you read? And what are you looking forward to reading in 2020? Any recommendations for me?