A few years ago I was a mother of two, working full-time and would read a few books per year that were complete mind-numbing trash. I would read on vacation, but it was not a part of my daily life.
In 2014, I was invited to a book club with a reading commitment I was pretty sure I could manage. We read only one book during the course of a year -- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. As a group, we would read a chapter each month and made habit goals based on a life theme like "energy" or "family." During "leisure" month, we reflected on the hobbies we had as children and made a goal to revive an activity purely for the joy of it. As I thought back to my childhood, I realized that I spent much of it with my nose in a book. Some of that was certainly an escape from things I needed to escape from. But also… I just liked reading. Then I began to grow up and as I had more responsibilities, reading for fun became a smaller part of my life. As a high school, college and law school student, I read less as each year went by. Then when I had kids, reading became a forgotten activity almost completely and something I only occasionally did to feel less guilty about watching television every single night.
The year I was in The Happiness Project book club, I began reading again gradually – maybe 5-10 books that year. After I started reading again, I began to read things that were not entertainment-only-trash. I found myself more engaged as a reader when I read books with better writing. Go figure.
I started reading outside my comfortable literary diet of John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and Dan Brown that had dominated my adult reading. Owning a Kindle let me comfortably try out new genres (because all books look the same if you’re reading an ebook). As a kid, I never read fantasy or science fiction because I found the book covers in that section of the bookstore so… alienating. Something about the Harlequin-style illustrations of knights, aliens, dragons and other monsters gave me the creeps. There seemed to be no middle ground in between standard fiction and full-blown D&D role-playing status. As a kid, picking up that kind of book was too big a leap for a 14-year-old band-geek who still wanted to have a boyfriend or two in the near future.
Once I found a few page-turners – books that wowed me and made me feel like I did reading Judy Blume’s Blubber or Roald Dahl’s Matilda – I discovered that I had lots of time to read. I just wasn’t prioritizing my energy for a hobby that required a little more active concentration than the latest addictive Netflix marathon. I found that starting my day several hours earlier with a few cups of caffeinated heaven and a good book made me feel less frantic in my morning routine. I began going to sleep earlier, which meant I spent a lot less time in the evenings watching TV. I began exercising and listening to audiobooks, which increased my reading count considerably. I joined another book club with several women who read comics and graphic novels. I discovered that there are some dope-ass-feminists creating comics and graphic novels these days.
I used to read one book at a time. I discovered that many of my reading friends liked to read multiple books at a time, so I tried it. I found that I read more as a whole if I have 3-5 books in rotation. I don't get “stuck” on a book that isn’t clicking with me for whatever reason. Instead of asking myself in a spare moment “maybe I should read?” I asked myself, “what do I feel like reading right now.” I found that I liked different genres at different times of the day. I like “thinking” non-fiction like personal development and business books in the morning when I am most rested. I spend my time in the shower and driving to work reflecting on what I’ve just read. Nothing makes me happier while breaking a sweat than a comedian or feminist’s memoir. Or better yet, a comedic feminist’s memoir (i.e. Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee, etc.). I like fantasy, science fiction, and YA at night when I am tired and just want to think about something other than real life.
I read 42 books in 2016 and followed up with 65 books in 2017. This past year I also changed jobs, moved our family to a new house, got a puppy, and dealt with several serious medical issues with myself and my kids. I still have the same family and work obligations I did five years ago, but I am reading 2-3 books a week. I don’t actually have that much more free time than I did reading 2-3 books a year. I just had to figure out how to fit something I love into my working-mom-life. From that, my life is richer, more fulfilling, happier, and more fun. I have more interesting things to talk about with people to mix up the standard conversation starters of generic gossip and “my kid did the funniest thing last week.”
I decided that 2018 is the year I will conquer 100 books. It’s doable, but a definite challenge. My next thought: “Well if I’m going all in with a new year’s resolution, why not start a blog along with it?”
We’ll see how this goes, but if nothing else I will be excited to have a place to connect with other readers online. Having a blog also gives me a reason to break my Luddite-Facebook-posting ways. I'm learning true life-skills of the 21st century this year opening my first Instagram and Twitter accounts. Never Snapchat, though. I have standards. Also, those filters with the big eyes creep me out.
Thank you for reading and if you have any tips, book recommendations, or a similar experience, please don’t hesitate to share in the comments.