I feel I owe a big debt of gratitude to my sister-in-law, Janet Beasley. Last year at this time she was posting about how she was furiously reading to hit a specific milestone number of books for the year that she had set as a personal goal. That got me to thinking. I’m an avid reader, but I had never been particularly intentional about it. I couldn’t have told you how many books I read in a year. I mainly just went to the library each weekend and took out whatever caught my eye.
Her enthusiasm intrigued me, though. So I decided that in 2017, I would keep a record of what I read. Not only that, I also decided I would try to break out of my rut a bit. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d bet 90% or more of what I read the previous year would have been classified as either a cozy mystery or a procedural. Some were more literary than others, some perhaps more humorous, but in general mysteries are my favorite books, and I tend to gravitate to those two types.
Thus inspired, I started a spreadsheet and recorded every book I read in 2017. And while I still read plenty of mysteries, especially cozies and procedurals, I made it a point to read other types of books, too. I started literally keeping a “to-be-read” list, fed by reviews I read in the New York Times Review of Books, NPR, recommendations from friends and from the Jungle Reds authors’ blog (which I HIGHLY recommend!), and other random sources.
All of this definitely led me to up my reading game! I have about 170 pages left to finish my last book of the year, and I am absolutely confident I will make it. When I finish that one (and I’ll stay up late on the 30th if need be to ensure I do) I will have read 60 books this year. I’m not sure if that’s more than the year before, but I am sure the variety was greater and that I challenged myself more.
Drumroll, please: here’s the tally. This year I completed 15 procedural mysteries, 14 cozy mysteries, 11 contemporary novels, five spy novels, three historical novels, three religious books, three short story collections, three thrillers, two memoirs, and one business book. I enjoyed all of them really. Still, a few that I probably would never have read had I not decided to be more intentional, yet that stand out in my memory, are Bel Canto, The Hearts of Men, A Man Called Ove, and A Gentleman in Moscow. I recommend them!
So I end where I began, thanking my sister-in-law for drawing my focus to my reading. I plan to continue tracking what I read. And while I will never lose my love of mysteries, I hope to also expand my reading variety even more in 2018. In fact, it is one of the things that makes me feel really hopeful about the New Year!