I already mentioned that every December I enjoy looking back on the books I read that year and finding (or forming) a narrative for what my reading life told of my life that year, what those books showed about my interior life, or what these books taught me about life and loving others. I wanted to do a more thorough exploration, since 2018 has officially ended (THANK THE GOOD LORD) and my 2018 “read” list has been made official on Goodreads. If your reading list is not mentioned on Goodreads, did you even read?! Do you even Goodreads, bro?!
Anyhoodle, here are the biggest of my takeaways from my 2018 reads.
I read significantly fewer books in 2018 than in 2017.
With a goal of 40, I was quite pleased with reading 42 books this past year. (Well, technically I read 50, but only 42 were worth mentioning. The rest were annual re-reads.) This could look like I was slacking, however, because in 2017 I read 105 books. ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE. That is very many books! Forty is a far more modest number, BUT in 2017 I wasn’t in graduate school and thus wasn’t reading 100+ pages of dense philosophy, dissecting arguments, writing papers, and preparing presentations every week. In 2018 my friend and I also started a podcast and launched our podcast website, so some of the time I would normally spend reading has been occupied by other — equally stimulating and enjoyable — pursuits.
That’s why I’m pleased with my more modest number for 2018. It says I lived life differently. Not necessarily better, and not necessarily in a way I want to live every year, but it’s a reflection that I was bold last year, that I tried new things, that I challenged and stretched myself in ways I hadn’t before. That feels good, and I feel good about the accomplishments that happened in between readings.
I’m also really happy with what I was able to read in the midst of all the new endeavors. Overall, I think the goal was good and what I did with it made me happy.
2018 was the year I discovered fantasy.
Harry Potter! Lord of the Rings! Circe! I’ve never been interested in fantasy, so it was fun to give in and explore a new genre that, so I’ve learned, has many riches for the curious, thinking soul. Right now I’m reading through the Wheel of Time series with my husband and will probably continue to read through the rest of the Harry Potter books, so I imagine 2019 will continue on the same theme.
I actually count this development as part of me wanting something new and fresh in my life, being frustrated by certain aspects of my life that I can’t change (yet) and that are deeply unpleasant. I looked for changes to make elsewhere.
I also credit this new reading interest to me finally listening to my friends! Everyone and their dog has recommended Harry Potter (of course), many have recommended LOTR, and my husband wanted to read a book together and chose Eye of the World. Maybe it was also about me dismantling some of my silly biases, or even dismantling a bit of pride (“I have never read Harry Potter” … “I prefer nonfiction because I’m soooooo eruditeeeeeee” barf). Whatever the reasons, I’m glad I ventured into the genre.
Update: yep — so far my first two “read” books of the year have been fantasy: Eye of the World and Return of the King. Looks like fantasy is holding strong this year.
2018 was the year I read and learned more about situational and systemic injustices.
From epistemic oppression, to the horrors of our “justice” system, to Romantic notions of social contracts, to many fall-from-nature arguments, to explanations of how modern humans evolved and survived, I was really interested in looking at how the systems we are embedded in (and help create) exert enormous pressure on and impact our lives. I was also really interested in learning about how these systems disproportionally affect marginalized peoples, even as those same systems may work to my advantage. It was an “enlarge my world view” year.
2018 was the return of the novel.
I kind of lost my devotion to novels somewhere along the way, but I recovered it this year. I tend to gravitate towards books about “real” things, forgetting that novels can contain some of the most real stuff across genres.
I think there is a very simple reason for this — it doesn’t take as much brain power to understand or “follow” a novel as it does to understand or “follow” a philosophical article or book. For my leisure reading I needed a bit of a brain break. Novels fit the bill. I was still challenged by what I read and learned a lot from the novels I chose, so I was still able to enjoy my favorite part of reading. It was a year that reminded me of the richness of fiction and of communicating powerful truths through imagination.
My reading interests and my podcast interests are very different.
In what was probably an effort at escapism, this year in podcasts I gobbled up true crime podcast episodes like popcorn. In my reading life, however, I only read one true crime book. I’m a little relieved about this, because true crime can get super dark! Also, I need more intellectual stimulation than true crime alone can give. But it was funny to see what I have preferred to listen to vs. what I have preferred to read.
It was a really good reading year, and I think 2019 will look similar — that bodes well. I set my 2019 reading goal for 40 again and have several books lined up for my “in between” moments. Happy reading to you all!
As you look back at your year of reading, what stands out to you? Any themes that tell you something about your growth or inner life in 2018?