Dear Friends – I am happy to share that my reading slump ended around mid-November. In September I deleted my Goodreads Reading Challenge and stopped tracking the number of books I’ve read. And then – I just kind of stopped reading for myself. But that break was important because it allowed me to flip a reset switch. I’ve found that I’ve naturally shifted to a “less is more” attitude about reading, which was a long time coming.
I’ll spare you my thoughts on every book I read this month (yes, even Captain Underpants, which can be quite entertaining when consumed in small doses), but there are a few themes from the month that I’d like to briefly discuss.
🐌 I really embraced the slow in November. Two of the books I read were over 800 pages long (The Love Song of WEB Du Bois and The Shelters of Stone). If I were focused on ending the year with lots of books under my belt, I would have been hesitant to pick up either of these. Instead – I just really want to be sucked into good stories and fat books are a good way to do that. I hope to spend 2022 with some of the fattest books I can find.
👊🏾 I chose the perfect time to read The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois. It’s set in Georgia and spans a massive period of time – from the white settlers colonizing the Natives of the land to present day. Reading this history just before the Ahmaud Arbery trial brought the stakes into sharp focus for me. I was awaiting that verdict on pins and needles and was massively relieved by the jury’s decision.
Libertie and Passing were also about the African American experience in the United States and both were so good. I plan to make diversity in authors and characters a priority in 2022.
📘 I didn’t know anything about The Sentence when I got it from the library and had no idea that it was a ghost story — it added such a fun element to this novel! This is my fourth or fifth book by Louise Erdrich and is my favorite so far. She tackled the coronavirus and the murder of George Floyd. She made me laugh and cry; she gave me the heebie-jeebies with some really scary ghost scenes; and the book ended with so much hope (and fantastic book lists).
☁️ I was very excited to read Cloud Cuckoo Land. I tried talking about it to my husband, but I found it really difficult to describe even when I was about 2/3 of the way through. I said, I think it has something to do with climate change and destroying the forests. And an old book. I stick with that description! It has multiple storylines that span centuries, from late medieval (I think?) Constantinople, Idaho in the 1950s to present day, and aboard a spaceship in the distant future. It’s hard to see how they all tie together until the end, but it was a beautiful reminder about how our past, present, and futures can all be connected thanks to literature.
📚 A major theme in Cloud Cuckoo Land and The Sentence is the love of reading and the power of books – one of my favorite topics!
🥧 The Magic Apple Tree: A Country Year is one of the coziest books I’ve ever read! I highlighted so many recipes and garden tips that I got dizzy when I reviewed them (you can see my highlights here on Goodreads). (And I got sucked right back in when I hopped over to Goodreads to get that link!!)
I’m thinking a lot about reading and writing in 2022. I don’t want to set any solid goals, but am thinking in terms of themes. I’m certain that one of my themes will be to s l o w d o w n.
Here are a few more of my bookish focuses in 2022:
+ Mary is hosting a Louise Erdrich readalong in 2022: 6 books with Zoom discussions and chats in Discord. I’m totally stoked! I’ve ordered a copy of our first selection from Thrift Books, Love Medicine, and it arrived in New Hampshire last night! I’m hoping it will be in my mailbox today. (I love Thrift Books but have been spoiled by quick shipping from other stores.)
+ I’m a Novel Pairings Patron and hope to be more active in that community. There are bonus podcast episodes and classes available to patrons, as well as a fun book club that I’d like to get caught up on.
+ I’ve been tempted to join FictionMatters after Mary’s beautiful post about that community. Sara’s booklists seem right up my alley and it will be so helpful for me to have people with which I can discuss those books!
+ I love following along with the Tournament of Books every year in March. They’ve announced their shortlist – and I’ve already read four of them! I’m going to try to read as many of them as I can before the tournament begins. And they’ve started a Discord channel this year, which has been a lot of fun so far.
+ George Saunders started a newsletter, Story Club. It’s free right now but will slide behind the paywall in about a month. So I’ll have to decide if it’s something I want to pay for in the future.
+ I have been thinking about layering in some gentle writing accountability, but I’m not sure how to do that. I’d love to find a very small group of like minded people who simply want to write for the joy of it. (And perhaps I already have that, right here in my blogging world? Maybe we could start a discord channel to encourage each other and even meet up for some writing sprints? My mind is racing with ideas right now.)
I am going to have to make some decisions about these subscriptions because, of course, I have a budget! But isn’t it exciting to dream about?
So tell me – do you have any reading themes planned for next year? Is there a reading community you love being a part of? How about writing friends? I’d love to hear how you’re planning for a bookish 2022. And of course – please share any of your reading recommendations for me!
It’s so wonderful to read that you’ve rediscovered your love of reading and books. And very brave, to let yourself hit a full stop, not knowing where it would lead. I look forward to the unfolding ahead — and SO appreciate what you share here!
This is a very thought provoking post and has made me consider how I want to approach things next year. I’ve also had a look at Story Club – I’m a fan of George Saunders and his way of approaching texts, so thank you for bringing this to my attention!
What a lovely array of books this month, Katie! Well done! I have added a few to my “read soon” list! Thank you!
I just finished The Sentence late last week (I listened to the audiobook, which is read by Louise Erdrich herself), and like you I had no idea of what it was about before I started it. And I loved it! It made me laugh and cry, and I thought it was just beautifully written. I’m glad we’ll read it again and discuss it next year as part of our Erdrich-along.
I am also trying to read more books written by authors of color and featuring underrepresented voices. I have a feeling with all the Erdrich books next year, I’m also going to be exploring more Indigenous authors as well.
Reading is just such a joy. I am after happy books at the moment, too much upheaval in my life and in society and I don’t need it in fiction.
I’m so happy you found your way back to reading! and with Love Songs, Cloud Cuckoo Land, and The Sentence, you read three of my 2021 favorites in a month! I’m planning to stick with my four intentions (delight, connection, diversity, and growth) next year – and I’d like to see upticks in connection, diversity, and growth – currently, about 1/3 of the books I read are that and I’d like it to be closer to 1/2.
So many books that I’m interested in! And I know, Captain Underpants can be really funny! The Dog Man books are really sweet. I love your enthusiasm for the reading life and all it entails.
As for plans for next year, I’ve been thinking (of course!) I really want to tackle some books that have lingered on my TBR list for a long time. So I’m thinking about how many I’ll try for. Also it’s the last year (mostly) of my Classics Club project so I have to knuckle down and get those read! Which means being willing to slow down and take on door-stoppers. So your post is most welcome!
What a fun and lovely post! ♥️🦋
I just read Passing and very good indeed! I also have Libertie on my shelf but haven’t read it yet. So glad to hear it’s a good read! As far as reading projects coming up, I am planning to participate in a 2022 Japanese Literature Challenge that starts in January. I am also a member of the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club which I enjoy.
These all sound like really lovely books. Several other bloggers have read Cloud Cukoo land so I really need to give that a try! When I was in elementary school, reading was my THING, and that kind of went away at some point. I felt really frustrated that I don’t do a ton of reading anymore. But like you, I just had to accept that that’s the kind of reader I am now. I go in sprints where I read a lot and some where I read a little. I still set a yearly goal, because I like the statisfaction of meeting goals, but it’s like 10 books so if I have one or two spurts I meet it pretty easily.