Well, it’s that time again, when the Earth approaches that point in its orbit that we’ve arbitrarily associated with an end and a beginning. But just because it’s an imaginary line doesn’t mean we aren’t affected by tradition, right?
As always, we’re taking a look back at our 2022 reading resolutions and comparing to the year that actually happened. What worked? What didn’t go as planned? What was surprising?
Jonathan H. Liu
The first thing I’ll tell you is that I did not stay ahead of my book piles, at all. Last year I’d cleared enough boxes out of the way to get to my shelves and hoped to get through some of the other boxes piled to the side. Well, this year I not only added to those piles of boxes, I now have more books in front of my shelves again. I tried to fool myself by not putting them in boxes because, you know, it was just a book or two, not a whole box full. Yeah, now I have at least a box or two worth of books just leaning against the base of the shelves.
I did finish the three specific titles I’d mentioned in my resolutions and shared about them: Noumenon Ultra by Marina J. Lostetter, City Spies: Forbidden City by James Ponti, and Light Years From Home by Mike Chen. But I also forgot to check in every so often this year with my resolutions post, and I did not get into the diverse sci-fi shelf or the Rick Riordan Presents kid’s books—instead, I discovered The Murderbot Diaries and finally got around to the Lady Astronaut series, both of which I have thoroughly enjoyed.
My overall reading pace has still not picked up to my previous levels. This year I took on an (overly?) ambitious project to make an Etch-a-Sketch drawing every day of the year, and although that doesn’t necessarily take an inordinate amount of time each day, it certainly adds up! That, combined with the fact that I’ve been able to start hosting game nights again after a long time of digital game nights conducted over video calls, meant that I generally didn’t spend as much time just curling up with a book. Still, I did manage to finish over 100 books this year (many of those shorter fiction or graphic novels), and I did enjoy a lot of those, so I feel like it was a decent year of reading overall.
I have managed to maintain the one big pile of books under my bedside table and not add to it (nor do I have stacked unread books anywhere else in the house). I did so by trying to read immediately whichever slimmer books I laid my hands on during book fairs and then just piling the bulkier ones on the TBR pile.
I am proud to say that I achieved my resolution and started focusing more on translations, diverse voices, and books from abroad that are published on American soil. I am still trying to get Bolivian books on the list, and I at least succeeded in making contacts and opening a booth at the Miami Book fair for Spanish Bolivian books this last November, thanks to the Cuatrogatos Foundation.
Last year felt so weird to me; we did almost two entire school years online and ended up rushing through our three main country book fairs in a four-month lapse in 2021.
This year was a bit more sedated but we are now reaching smaller book fairs and cities, so traveling has interfered a bit with my reading. Maybe next year will balance itself out, who knows?
I hit my goal of reading 22 books, and I read some really fabulous ones this year!
I read the first two books of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series, which were fabulous, and I look forward to reading the third. I’ve been spreading the books out because they are a bit intense, and I’m also trying to savor them. I highly recommend them for anyone who likes sci-fi, alternate history, or women-centered stories.
Rory and I also finally finished reading through all of the Jane Austen novels together, with Emma and Persuasion both this year. We’ve been reading the annotated versions, and discussing them chapter by chapter, which is great fun. I look forward to tackling some other types of novels with him in the future.
Some other highlights from my 2022 reading include:
- Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
- The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Currey (a great follow up to his first Daily Rituals book)
- Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
In addition, I did read a few rom-com fluffy books, as good palate cleansers in between the more intense books. They have the same relaxing, recentering effect as cheesy Christmas romance movies (for me, at least), because of their predictable nature.
Looking back at my reading resolutions, I discovered I made only one solid commitment. I’m pleased to say I kept it, even if it took until the middle of the year to do so. I did read Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. Did this book blow me away? No. Grip me? Also, no. Am I glad I read it? Yes.
It’s always odd reading a book in translation when part of what makes the book special is its use of language. I can’t imagine what it would read like in the original Polish but translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones kept hold of the essence of Tokarczuk’s novel and its central character’s look on life. A tale of eccentricity and the lot of an older woman in rural Eastern Europe, the book is nominally a whodunnit – members of the local towns and villages kept turning up dead. Yet, Drive Your Plow… is just as much about local government incompetence, the corrupting influence of corporations, and humanity’s disregard for ecology when there is money to be made.
The intention of reading Drive Your Plow… was to see if I had it in me to read the acclaimed but much much lengthier The Books of Jacob. Whilst I’m glad I read Drive Your Plow, I did find it slow going. I’m not sure I’m ready to take on Tokarczuk’s magnum opus.
More generally, I did increase my reading time. I was struggling with feeling guilty about reading when there was so much else to do. I slaked this guilt by combining it with school pick-up. By turning up 20 minutes early, I could park in a position that would later save me 10 or even 15 minutes by avoiding being stuck in a traffic queue. The math made perfect sense, and what better way to use that 20 minutes than to catch up on my book? Further to that, possibly the best 45 minutes of my week, is sitting in the car with a book and thermos of tea whilst my son has soccer practice. A small but joyous win that I’m sure any bibliophile can identify with.
My final resolution almost solved itself: The idea of spending less time on social media. In the middle of the year, whilst the UK government self-immolated, it was impossible not to trawl Twitter looking for the latest shotgun to the foot moment. The arrival of Rishi Sunak and the clear edict that nobody in his government should attempt to do anything remotely remarkable, combined with the acquisition of Twitter by You Know Who, has made keeping off the site much easier.
Reading productivity levels have increased!
At the time of writing, the organ grinder has stated he’s stepping down in favor of a new monkey. Who knows whether Twitter will be worth frequenting again in 2023?
So, I had written my part for this post and when I was done, I remembered I had a second app on my phone to track my reading. What I saw caused me to erase my previous notes and start new because as it turns out, I did way better. Initially, I thought I had only read one book on Kindle and three books in Audible this year. After looking at my Reading List app, that number went up to eleven physical books read, three audiobooks, and one digital title.
In August I had a dedicated day of reading, which is how a few of these books were even possible. I also didn’t limit my reading to “adult” aged titles. There are a few young kids books on the list as well as a few young adult and “self-discovery” books. Of the titles I read this year, the one I enjoyed the most was My Brother’s Husband (manga). I borrowed it from the library and it was an interesting look at single father’s journey to accepting his brother’s widowed husband into his life. A book I wasn’t expecting to find was A Psalm for the Wild-Built which follows a monk who leaves the order to become a tea monk, going town to town making tea for people. He is later joined by a robot in search of learning more about humanity. It was recommended to me at a local bookstore and I’m eager to read the sequel.
Overall, I’m happy with all that I was able to read. I opened my mind to enjoying stories meant for a younger variety, re-read an old favorite that taught me a lot about anxiety (The Joy of Living), and rediscovered my love of manga.