Tag: reading challenge

2019

10 Reading Resolutions for the New Year

Everybody has that one friend who powers through seventy books in a year. Maybe you’ve got more than one friend who does this, and you’re the friend who doesn’t. Or maybe you are the friend who reads seventy books a year, driven by the knowledge that you—even you, of all people—will never be able to read them all. Reading goals depend on the person setting them, and no goal is better than any other. Most people want to read more, regardless of how much more actually is. Here’s the thing—you can read more and have a better time doing it. So here’s a list of New Years’ resolutions that don’t involve going to the gym.

1. Snag a book from your favorite author’s Goodreads page

 

Maggie Stiefvater's "read" shelf on Goodreads

 

Let’s assume your favorite author likes to read—that’s probably part of how they became your favorite author. (If your favorite author doesn’t like to read, maybe pick a new one.) Many authors have presences on Goodreads, but some actually use the site themselves. If you love an author’s actual writing just as much as you love their stories, search their profile for their own reviews and ratings. Chances are, you’ll find a new favorite book.

 

2. Read a book with friends

 

A group of friends reads 'Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass' by Meg Medina

Image Via Exchange.org

 

This doesn’t mean ‘read a book at the same time as your friend.’ It means read it with them. Choose the right book (or the right friend) and discuss your opinions, feelings, and reactions with each other. (Note: it still counts as a discussion if the reaction is !!!!!) Set specific places to check in and discuss—after part II, around 100 pages, etc. If one of you pulls ahead, the other will have to catch up before the faster-reading friend gets lowkey pissed. Peer pressure: now offering you more than cheap liquor and ill-conceived high school relationships.

 

3. Borrow from a friend

 

A flowchart to determine whether or not you can borrow my book.

Image Via Epicreads.com

 

Here’s the logic: if you borrow it, you’ll have to give it back. When you give it back, your friend will ask if you liked it. And if you admit you didn’t actually read it, you’ll probably feel like an idiot.

 

4. Try a new genre

 

Three popular genre works, including super-famous 'Children of Blood and Bone'

Image Via Nerdmuch.com

 

“I hate all fantasy. It’s all about swords and elves and fighting. Sometimes,” you say, like someone who has read two fantasy novels, tops, “they change it up and kiss each other.” The elves kiss the swords? If you insist. The point is that, chances are, you dislike a particular genre because of a few unpleasant encounters. Maybe you dislike the ‘classics’ because you’ve never gotten over your whitewashed high school curriculum (not that you need to get over it). Maybe your brain will liquefy if you see another poster for a YA dystopian blockbuster. Just try again.

 

5. Join your local library

 

"Having fun isn't hard, when you've got a library card!"

Image Via Tumblr.com

 

The cartoon aardvark Arthur said it best: “having fun isn’t hard—when you’ve got a library card.” Many people are surprisingly hesitant to take life advice from an early 2000s cartoon. If the advice is that a teenager can and should catch a murderer via trap-door and pulley system (Scooby Doo), that’s fair enough. This one’s solid, though. Even better, it’s completely free.

 

6. Find a BookTuber whose opinions you trust

Logo for Booktube, a subsection of YouTube content which covers books and authors

Image Via Bookwork.com

 

Here’s some news: YouTube isn’t just a place for pre-teens to make asinine comments. (It’s also for Vine compilations.) You may not be aware that the site has a thriving literary community, with many avid readers recording reviews, reactions, unboxings, and more. The obvious downside is that YouTube can be a bit of a popularity contest, and the top BookTubers to come up when you search might just have the highest-quality cameras or the most colorful bookshelves. Try searching for a review of a book you adore to find people reading the same things as you (regardless of the hits on the video). If you agree with that review, maybe you’ll agree with the others.

 

7. Try a memoir that speaks to you

 

Some of the best memoirs of 2018, including 'Educated' by Tara Westover and 'Sick' by Porochista Khakpour

Image Via Time.com

 

Maybe you assume most memoirs are too dramatic to resemble your life. They’re only for famous people, you think, or geniuses, orphans, criminals—people who are important, or tragic, or so often both at once. That’s a big assumption to make when life is the most dramatic possible thing, and you’re important already because you’re alive. Whether you relate to a writers’ cultural background, sexuality, profession, or even sense of humor, it’s powerful to feel a connection to another person—a person who, this time, is far from fictional. Many audiobook versions of memoirs are actually read by the author, which makes the experience all the more personal.

 

8. Learn something new

 

A selection of 2018's bestselling reads

Image Via Time.com

 

The difference between a work of non-fiction and your high school textbook is that the former is meant to be as fascinating as possible—while the latter is usually thick enough to inflict blunt-force trauma. Maybe you encountered a new topic on YouTube and want more information than a twenty-minute video can provide. True crime? Scientology? The Roman Empire? The real difference between a work of non-fiction and your high school textbook is that, with non-fiction, you can learn exactly what you want.

 

9. Pick a destination

 

An open book with a globe coming out of it

Image Via Abaa.org

Chances are, you’ve always wanted to go somewhere. (No, ‘to the refrigerator’ doesn’t count.) The destination doesn’t need to be far to be a destination—it only has to excite you. Or maybe you have an upcoming trip to somewhere a little less thrilling. (Off for the holidays to see your estranged aunt in rural Kansas, anyone?) It’s always possible that the sun over the fields will feel more beautiful once you’ve seen it through someone else’s eyes.

 

10. Develop a routine

 

A book, a fire, and a cup of whiskey

Image Via Craftybartender.com

 

In the ideal world, reading is a little more like this: you’re curled up by a fire with a mug of your preferred warm beverage (cocoa with marshmallows, Hot Toddy heavy on the whiskey), possibly in a sprawling library filled with plants you haven’t managed to kill yet. But you’re not in the ideal world—you’re in this one. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have a day of uninterrupted, peaceful reading, it’s better to carve out thirty minutes to read and drink a cup of tea before you head off to bed.

 

Featured Image Via Goodhousekeeping.com

Image of two generals dividing the Earth with bookshelf overlaid.

What Does it Mean to “Decolonize Your Bookshelf”?

Many among us are obsessed with the state of our bookshelves. We meticulously organize, arrange, and decorate our personal libraries according to varying criteria: author, title, color, height, etc. But how often have you paused to consider how those books made it to your bookshelf? Have you ever read between the lines of one of your favorite works and found something troubling? And how often have you stopped to wonder about the classic works accepted into the Western literary canon and why they’re there?

 

Those of us who have ever studied postcolonial theory have, at the very least, a cursory familiarity with how pervasive the effects of colonial history have been and still are on society. Everything from politics to beauty products has been touched by colonialism, and there is still contention over whether or not colonization is even a thing of the past.

 

 

Map of the British Empire circa 1897

Image Via The British Empire

 

Colonialism has had one of its most insidious effects on literature. For instance, today when we hear of colonial regimes and policies, we recoil instantly (or at least one would hope that’s the general response), yet we still hold up works like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as being examples of exemplary literary skill and talent in spite of its perpetuation of horrific colonial narratives. And aside from lauding literature that directly engages with colonial oppression, there is an even more insidious effect of colonialism that erases the narratives written by those who are/have been colonized.

 

 

Shelf of selected works in the Western canon.

Image Via MC Easton

 

When I was in college, I elected to take a course on Caribbean literature; it was taught by one of my favorite professors, and I trusted that in addition to a new world of literature, I would also be getting an important history lesson. In one of the first weeks of the class, my professor told us an anecdote about what happened when she told her mother about the class. Her mother, who was living in another country at the time, decided to visit her local library to pick up a few volumes of Caribbean literature in order to get a sense of what her daughter would be teaching. When she asked the librarian where their Caribbean literature section could be found, the librarian responded: “Oh, I don’t think they have literature there.”

 

 

Facepalm

Image Via Tenor

 

I hope I’m not the first to tell you this: yes, the Caribbean has literature. In fact, there is some amazing Caribbean literature you can look up with a quick Google search, literature you probably haven’t heard of before, unless you’ve had the opportunity to devote serious time to literary study. This is not because these texts require some level of exclusive literary expertise to access, but simply because the famous works everyone has heard of were written by people who had the power to circulate them all over the world, specifically people who are white European men.

 

The phrase “decolonize your bookshelf” has been on the rise in recent years, and its meaning is fairly simple. Decolonizing your bookshelf means examining the books you keep and the books you love and considering whether/how each book has served to uphold the acts of colonialism. In addition to sifting through the works you’ve already read, decolonizing your bookshelf means actively seeking out and reading works by authors whose work has been disadvantaged by colonialism. There is an incredible wealth of literature out there that has not made it into the Western canon simply because of the circumstances in which the author lived/lives.

 

Now to be clear, you aren’t a bad person if a significant percentage of the books in your collection were written by white European men. The reason why that percentage may be high has more to do with the systems in place that delivered you to that literature rather than any fault of your own. And by the way, no one is going to begrudge you your favorite books. The point of decolonizing your bookshelf is not to punish you, but rather to recognize the circumstances that suppress the literary output of colonized or formerly colonized people, and to swim against the tide in an effort to resist some of history’s evils. The destruction of colonialism can never be undone, but we can (and should!) certainly find ways to honor what has been destroyed.

 

Banner draped on the steps of the Brooklyn Museum reading "WHEN WE BREATHE WE BREATHE TOGETHER DECOLONIZE THIS PLACE"

Image Via Hyperallergic

 

 

Featured Image Via South Africa Today and Everything Fiction Wiki.