Later in life I still find reading a good book one of my favourite pastimes. In college, when reading for fun is almost always out of the question, I always managed to read for pleasure courtesy of the campus library (let me tell you that no student is ever browsing the fiction section so I had it all to myself!). I also joined a book club in college and one within months of starting my first job to keep up my reading actively.
It helps me to keep reading prominent in my life when I have goals related to it. In 2012 I read a whopping 80+ books (my goal was to read 75) but in 2013, when my goal was to only read ‘Infinite Jest,’ I read much less – maybe 30 books in total. This year my goal is 50. I think that will allow for plenty of focus on it without the stress levels that came with a goal of 75, and I still have time with a goal of 50 to read a couple longer books, which I avoided in 2012.
The purpose of this post was to discuss how I select what to read, but it’s a pretty unscientific process and easy to describe. I listen to the New York Times Book Review weekly podcast which gives me ideas and also inspires me to read more. I like to read award winning books, and have consistently liked the National Book Award winners (and short-listed finalists) over the past 10 years. I have more mixed results with the Man Booker Prize and the Pulitzer Prize winners for some reason – like some, don’t get excited about others. I have also consistently enjoyed the notable books that the NYTimes puts together at the end of the year. I focus on the top 10, but then I’ll expand to the broader top 100 if I run out of juicy choices. I just finished ‘Life After Life’ which is on the 2013 Top 10 list and loved it. I have two more that I’m working through now.
Also importantly, here’s where I don’t get good book recommendations. Bestseller lists, including Amazon Top Sellers and New York Times Bestsellers are usually not my cup of tea – I don’t love mass market novels (a la James Patterson) and those tend to be massive bestsellers all the time. I have also tried to follow several book bloggers, but I haven’t ever found a person who has similar interests and tastes (and frankly, when people receive advance copies of books for free to review, I’m always a little sceptical of their ability to be honest no matter how they try). Finally, it’s always good to be wary of a ‘Must Read Before You Die’ list written by, well, anyone. These lists tend to be heavily filled with classic literature and are usually exercises in pretentiousness, and while I recently enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby (which is probably well-represented on such lists), I definitely do NOT like some classics, especially when I’m reading for pleasure and not a grade. See note above about childish taste in literature if you need further explanation.
Here’s to a great year of great reads. I’m loving ‘The Interestings’ by Meg Wolitzer so far, and it’s calling my name.