*Please note: This blog post was written a while ago. My thoughts, opinions, and writing skills have changed since then and this post does not fully reflect my current thoughts, opinions, and writing capabilities. If you would like clarification on my thoughts/opinions about any specific points mentioned in this post, feel free to reach out to me.*
The last year of the decade represented a lot of shifts in my relationship with reading, shifts that reflected those in my everyday life as well. This year, I reflected a lot on how I have changed as a reader, and have come to accept these developments in my view of books and reading.
I’m sure many of you in the bookish community are aware of the yearly Goodreads Reading Challenge. At the beginning of 2019, I again set my goal to 50 books, as I have done (but have failed to accomplish) year in and year out for many years. If this seems like a direct contradiction to Einstein’s wise words, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” well–it is.
As someone resistant against change and failure, I refused to face the evidence presented to me: I was failing the reading challenge by setting my goal to an unachievable number. I easily read double this amount back in middle school, I told myself. I’m a fast and good reader, I just need to discipline myself into reading, which I will this year, I reassured myself. And firmly ignored the explanations of I have less time to read, my reading stamina has decreased, and the dreadful I just don’t care about reading that much anymore.
Of course, the number set in the reading challenge is completely arbitrary, but to me it represented change and failure. I was scared at the idea that by not meeting the challenge, I was less of a reader, which was something of an identity that I’d wrapped myself in.
2019 was also the year I quit Bookstagram. This wasn’t my first hiatus–I’ve taken long breaks before, out of procrastination and having to prioritize other responsibilities such as school. This was something else to come to terms with: after making it one of my resolutions to post and blog weekly, I’d virtually (pun intended) dropped off the face of the earth with no explanation (not that it was really necessary, since I have few followers). However, I didn’t provide any reasoning for my disappearance because I again didn’t want to think I was defeated despite my adamance that I would be a good Bookstagrammer, and that I deserved my identity as a reader.
So every week, I told myself I would post the next week, until the next week came, and I told myself the same thing again. It nagged me and was in the back of my mind constantly, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and ended up taking the longest break from Bookstagram that I’ve ever taken in the five years I’ve been a part of it.
Here we are in 2020, and I’ve gained some perspective on the whole ordeal. At the time, it seemed like a really big deal, yet another aspect of life that I’d failed in. I’ve struggled a lot with mental health issues and change throughout the past year. After writing my college essay on my identity as a reader, I realized that how many books I read and how much I post about them online has no bearing on my ability to love books and call myself a reader. There’s no prerequisite or quota to say that you love books. Now, I realize that removing that weekly responsibility–which had become a weekly burden–was one of the best things I could’ve done for myself, and absolving myself of the guilt for not posting really helped my mental health.
This school year, I’m taking AP Literature, which has forced me to read more and pick up a lot of books I wouldn’t have approached otherwise. I’ve made some more trips to the library, and it’s been an amazing experience to rediscover that feeling of finding a book and devouring it the minute I get home because I’m so engrossed in it. I’ve slowly been able to reconcile myself to the fact that maybe I do read less, and it’s been liberating to accept that of myself and allow myself to do it. It’s certainly made reading a more enjoyable experience, to not be constantly worrying about how the book I’m reading would look in a flatlay, or whether reading a long book will harm my performance on the reading challenge.
With this fresh perspective, I’m excited to start posting on Bookstagram and this blog again. I’m approaching my reading journey with more grace to myself. I’ve set my 2020 reading goal to 25 books, and I feel great about it!
With that said, I proudly, unashamedly present to you a roundup of the 26 new books I read in 2019:
2. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 5/5 – A really sweet and beautiful reflection on the different kinds of love and relationships and how they shape us. Also a life-changing read. Read my full review here!
3. Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini 5/5 – Written by one of my favorite authors, this short story once again is a work of art by Hosseini.
4. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein 5/5 – This book took me awhile to trudge through, but I’m constantly amazed by Tolkein’s storytelling and lore, and aim to finish the rest of this series.
5. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli 5/5 – I absolutely devoured this book. The voice is so well-written, it focuses on important themes without feeling preachy, and the characters/plot are all lovable. The movie was amazing too!
6. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli 4/5 – Although still reflective of Albertalli’s talent for voice, I didn’t like the characters as much and the plot felt slow and a bit pointless to me.
7. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli 4/5 – To be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened in the book, but although Albertalli’s writing again has great voice/humor, I think I was just underwhelmed by the story and didn’t click with some of the characters/relationships. It’s probably just because of how amazing Simon was that I am judging Becky’s other books more harshly!
8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 5/5 – I love Fitzgerald’s writing style. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was beautiful and I loved the tragicness of the story. Easy to see why this one’s a classic.
9. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy 5/5 – I’ve known about this book for years, but never felt compelled to pick it up until after seeing the movie, which I loved. I just think this story is so unique, and it’s amazingly well-written, in a way that just brings you into the book. Its messages are also super important, which is why it’s awesome that the other elements were so well-executed.
10. What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera 5/5 – Just a super cute, super feel-good story, with a great plot twist ending.
11. Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder 4/5 – I thought this book was well-written and provoked a lot of reflection, but the lack of any real conclusions or explanations was unsatisfying (although, I realize that’s kind of the point).
12. Love & War by Melissa de la Cruz 4/5 – Kind of disappointing after how much I loved the first book in this series. I liked reading the historical allusions, but I felt the plot was slow and a bit pointless, almost as if it’s just filler until the scandal and other events that I assume are presented in the third novel.
13. Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner 5/5 – I CANNOT recommend this book enough! It’s a historical fiction but told in such a unique way that I’ve never seen before. I loved delving into the relationships, seeing the historical events through the eyes of the main characters, and just watching them grow across decades and decades. I ate up all the little historical references, and was amazed at the detail that Weiner was able to provide in a book that spans so much time.
14. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë 5/5 – Such a unique, thought-provoking story. I always enjoy books that explore the motives behind characters so that you sympathize with them. Brontë does a great job of creating three-dimensional, grey characters.
15. Emma by Jane Austen 4/5 – Austen’s humor also makes me laugh, and I love all the little mix-ups and misunderstandings she weaves throughout the entire plot. The pacing was too slow for me, but the relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley was one of the highlights of the book for me, and also has become one of my literary favs.
16. East of Eden by John Steinbeck 5/5 – Where to begin with this book? Everything in it was utter perfection, from the writing style to the plot to the characters to the biblical allusions. This completely altered how I see the world, and I think it’s amazing when a book can do that. I will never be over this story!
17. Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun 4/5 – A cute little story with a lot of important themes, and a little bit of sadness and melancholy. Sun really pulled off the mixture of philosophy and social commentary with humor and accessibility, which isn’t an easy feat.
18. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan 5/5 – Just as hilarious, just as well-written, just as good as the first. I loved reading all the descriptions, and I loved the relationships, and I loved the story.
19. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 4/5 – I thought this was a well-written book, just not one I was particularly interested in.
20. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 3/5 – I thought this book sucked. I know what it was trying to say, and I know why what it was trying to say is important, and therefore this book gets an important spot in the canon of literature, but Conrad just made it so hard to understand, so contrived, and so darn boring. (And so difficult to like).
21. 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario 5/5 – This book was a welcome beacon of relatability for me as I was in the midst of applying to colleges. I always have a soft spot for poetry, although I wish more plot points were elaborated on, and I felt like the verse format was more an artistic choice than one that actually suited as a vehicle for the story.
22. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su 5/5 – If you haven’t seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, go do that right now because it is one of the best things to exist on the Internet. I adored this book, and I loved all the great moments/backstory it provided to the web series. #Dizzie forever!
23. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 4/5 – The story is so unique, but it seemed that Jane and Mr. Rochester’s relationship didn’t really have any basis (at least in the beginning). The reason I didn’t give this book a full 5/5 may also be due in part to the fact that I stayed up all night until 6 am, then didn’t go to school and read until 3 pm, in order to finish this book for English class, all while sick. Not a fun time.
24. Again, but Better by Christine Riccio 4/5 – The premise of the story seems like it’s straight out of my YA novel dreams, but the writing style was hard to get around and everything just seemed too unrealistic. The protagonist, Shane, bothered me a lot and I didn’t like a lot of the choices she made. The self-insertion by Christine was also extremely obvious and that kind of detracted from my enjoyment of the book because I couldn’t take it as seriously knowing it was sort of a self-fulfillment fanfic. The fantasy element in the second half of the book was cool but sort of came out of nowhere. I couldn’t accept the main relationship in the story because Pilot (by the way, who names their kid “Pilot?”) was already in a relationship. Although the characters were all kind of one-dimensional, I did appreciate the friendships and certain elements of the story.
25. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka 3/5 – The surrealist elements in this story were just not for me. I realize the pacing and storytelling was done on purpose to create a certain effect, but that didn’t make the read enjoyable in any way.
26. The Magical Christmas Horse by Mary Higgins Clark 4/5 – This was a picture book I had to read for my English class. It’s a cute story that children would enjoy.
Thanks for following me on my reading journey. I’m excited for what this next year will bring! Let me know if you have thoughts on any of these books I’ve listed, or if you have any recommendations for me for 2020.