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K.I. Press on writing • literature • publishing

Tag: reader harder

2018 Reading Challenge: Part 2

My method of choosing books to read in 2018 looked systematic (I like systems) but had a whole lot of serendipity embedded in it. When I heard about, or remembered, or researched, or otherwise discovered, a book I wanted to read, I looked it up in the public library, and if it was there, I added it to a list in my account. My lists are divided up by subject and genre, to keep them organized. Sometimes, when a book wasn’t in the library but I really, really wanted to read it, I’d put in a purchase request, or else order it from interlibrary loan.

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I kept my holds list full, with the holds mostly suspended, and when I took a book out and a hold spot opened up, I’d go to my lists and, rotating through the different subjects and genres, I’d place a new hold on something that took my fancy at the time. I tried to have one longer book and several shorter books checked out at all times.

And how did I find out about these books? Several ways:

  • Social media. Even though I am not on it that often any more, the majority of my friends and followees are writerly types who talk about books rather a lot. A lot, but not all, of the books I learn about this way are Canadian books, because that is the world I friend in.
  • Goodreads—the platform I have not blocked. Not that many of my friends are on it, but the feed is 100% about books.
  • Personal recommendations from friends, colleagues and students IRL.
  • Library research on subjects of interest to me, often for writing-related reasons.
  • Podcasts. I listen to a number of book-related podcasts to hear about what’s new, and what I’ve previously missed, in the book world. Some of my favourite book shows this year:
    • LeVar Burton Reads. He reads contemporary short stories and has really good taste. Also, he’s LeVar Burton.
    • The New Yorker Fiction Podcast and The Writer’s Voice (respectively, older and newer stories from The New Yorker).
    • Literature and History. This is a podcast about the history of English literature and everything that influenced it. It’s been going on for years and he hasn’t even got to the English language yet. It’s all about totally canonical stuff, but I haven’t read all of that (and it’s been a while since I read what I read). He also recommends scholarly works.
    • Professional Book Nerds (from OverDrive), and Bookworm (from KCRW, with Michael Silverblatt). For book “round-up and interview” shows, those two are my current favourites, though I am also known to listen to the BBC’s, The Guardian’s and the TLS’s book podcasts for British book news, plus a whole slew of other American ones. (And the CBC, too!)

So, how did my semi-managed reading turn out by the numbers in 2018? Here are some percentages; keep in mind they are approximate, since I haven’t thoroughly researched the bio of every author and might not be privy to how they identify. Also, some of my genre attributions are probably debatable.

  • About 68% of the creators (usually authors, sometimes illustrators, editors, or translators) were women or non-binary people.
  • About 46% were Canadian.
  • About 14% were LGBTT*.
  • About 25% were BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour).
  • About 8% of the books were translated from another language into English.

I gravitate towards books by women, plus the methods by which I get book information—due to the makeup of my friends circle—is going to emphasize books by women and books by Canadians. I need to put more attention towards choosing books by BIPOC, LGBTT*, and non-English-writing creators. My plan is to focus on the third in 2019, since it came in at a measly 8%. I’d love to practice actually reading in French (I used to in university), but I’m afraid that would slow me down a lot on my quest for 95 books. I’m looking at Asymptote for recommendations on new translated books. (Alas, their book club no longer ships to Canada!)

As for genre, here are the significant ones:

  • About 35% of the books I read were novels (my first love).
  • About 33% were SFF (science fiction and fantasy, though I’ve defined that broadly).
  • About 21% were children’s and YA (young adult).
  • About 21% were poetry.
  • About 20% were in graphic forms (comics).
  • About 14% were some form of narrative non-fiction.
  • About 14% were based on myth or traditional stories (either presented straight-ahead as non-fiction or retold as fiction).
  • About 11% were biography, autobiography or memoir.

For research purposes, I was actually trying to read significant amounts of mythology, YA, and SFF work this year. Those trends will probably continue, though I kind of got the bug for reading biography, what little of it I did.

I probably should have counted the living versus dead authors – but I can tell you the number of dead authors would be small. I also read a tiny bit of mystery, short stories, and informative non-fiction.

Next time: highlights of the year.

2018 Reading Challenge: Part 1

What is this? An actual blog post? Yes, it is, only two years since the last one. The thesis novel I last updated you about is back up to 92,000 words and officially in draft 5 (but who’s counting); yes, I did get my degree, but that doesn’t mean the book is finished. I just compiled that draft 5 MS today, December 31, so I felt it was a good milestone to mention.

But on to other, better books than my unfinished behemoth. Dismayed at my declining reading over the years and feeling distinctly like the internet has been making me lose my ability to read in depth, in 2018 I decided it was time to take on a reading challenge and publicly track my reading, which I did over on Goodreads – DAMN ITS EASE OF USE, AMAZON IS EVIL.

(Self-flagellates.)

Alas, I have not established a new tracking system for 2019.

Though I was most aware of Jonathan Ball’s #95books challenge, I decided to go for the more modest 52 books, a commonly declared challenge on Goodreads. I’m aware that these reading challenge numbers are all relative: to some people (let’s say, most of the students I teach), 52 books in a year might seem like a lofty goal, but to many of my writer and academic friends, not to mention friends who are voracious genre readers, it probably seems laughably small.

While there were times during the year that I fell behind, in the end I made 52 books quite comfortably, with about a month to spare, and then had a very productive December (vacation, air travel), getting my final total to 66. (Actually, it was 67, but there was one book I read early in the year that I wanted to forget and decided to delete from my list in a fit of pique.)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 9.48.16 PMBuoyed by this success, I’m going to try for #95books in 2019. Things I need to keep in mind, given my experience in 2018:

  • Read on the bus. I’m lucky that I don’t get motion sick. That’s at least 40 minutes per day reading right there, so long as I don’t get seduced by the news apps.
  • Read before bed. Working or going on-line before bed does not help me sleep. Reading is better.
  • Stay off social media. My reading time this year shot up when I installed a social blocker which I’ve set so I’m only allowed on social media during limited periods of the day. As a result, no one likes my Facebook posts any more (I’m guessing they are not even seeing them), but who cares, really? I found pretty fast that once I blocked myself, I no longer wanted to go online, and got into the habit of reading instead.
  • Less Netflix. It’s so easy to start watching something and binge through a bunch of episodes for hours on the couch. I’ve tried to limit Netflix to two hours per week, and—just like with the social media—I found that after a while I no longer really wanted to go there, to the point that I had to schedule in my two hours so I didn’t completely ignore that form of storytelling.
  • Use the library. Not only does the public library offer good tools for organizing lists of books you want to read, the due dates create a deadline and a sense of urgency that I just never have when reading books I own (and believe me, I own a lot). But yes, I actually buy the books by people I know.
  • “Book” does not only refer to 600-page epics or weighty literary masterpieces (though those are also good). Only three of the books I read this year were upwards of 500 pages. Au contraire, lots of the books I read were poetry books, children’s books, and comics. I counted the books I read to my daughter for bedtime (five YA novels over the course of the year). I counted the ones she insisted on reading to me (three YA graphic novels which I had to look at over her shoulder). Books are books.

Parts 2 and 3 of this post will break my reading habits down a bit, and then highlight a few of my favourites from 2018.