Before the whole corona thing happened and everyone got stuck in their homes, forced to return to neglected hobbies, I began the year with the intention to read more. Of course, when I was younger, this was never a problem. I was constantly in the middle of a book. And then in school, I always had assigned readings.
Now, with the choice to again read for pleasure, I decided to challenge myself to read more this year. Of course, even for people who love reading and were avid readers in the past, there are many distractions that can make it hard to open up a book. So, in this post, I’m sharing tips that have helped me read more this year and a list of the books I have read so far from January to March (if you ever get to the bottom of the post).
Here are some strategies I have been using to read more this year:
Okay, so some book reading tips suggest to put your phone in another room or turn it off. This is not feasible for me, but if it is for you, then you should do it. Or at least place your phone facedown. The main strategy for me is to get engrossed in a book, and then, even if I’m getting notifications or there’s an interesting conversation going on in a group chat, I will totally ignore my phone as I continue reading. How do you get to this point? Well, check out my other tried and true tips below.
Make a List
This is an important practice I have started this year that is keeping me going. I love checking off lists, and my favorite part about finishing a book now is that moment when I can check it off my list. You can do the same, and it doesn’t even have to be a fancy one. I just started a list in the Notes section of my phone with an option to check each item off as I finished reading it. If you want to be more fancy, you can create a colorful list on paper or a fun poster, but if that is just going to take up a lot of time and turn you off from reading, then don’t bother with the fancy stuff. Just start reading. Jotting down the books you are reading, if you do it long enough, will also be a fascinating record to look back on later in life.
Honestly, I’m still struggling a bit with this one. I’m the type of person who reads and re-reads a paragraph to make sure I’m not missing anything, and that can be hard to do when listening to an audiobook. Also, audiobooks are super long and can take much longer to get through than simply reading by yourself (the trick for an audiobook is to listen to it at double speed). However, this has come in handy for me a few times because it is a way to get some reading in while also performing some mindless task meanwhile. I started practicing hand-lettering earlier this year, and found that my practicing time was great for listening to audiobooks. Vacuuming, washing the dishes, putting away clothes, driving, and time spent doing other tasks are also great for listening to an audiobook. I started with a nonfiction book because I don’t like missing parts of a story. I haven’t commuted far enough anywhere recently (and not at all the past few quarantined weeks) to make listening to a story while commuting practical. Also, my siblings get picky about what I listen to while driving them.
Don’t be afraid to skip a book
Finally, the most important tip I would suggest is one I got from my favorite reading blogger. Don’t be pressured to finish a book if you don’t like it. Now, this might seem wrong to you, but hear me out. If you were starting to watch a TV show and began the first episode thinking you would have to watch the entire show before moving on to any other show whether you liked it or not, would you ever want to start watching a show? It’s the same with reading a book. A lot of times, you can start reading a book and don’t really enjoy it, and that keeps you from reading anymore because you didn’t get enough joy from it. The trick is to simply stop reading a given book and move on to another. If you’re a perfectionist and don’t like to leave things unfinished, this idea may seem insane to you, but it really works. You may not be in the mood to read the same genre every day, or maybe sometimes you just want a lighthearted read, while other times you are willing to read something heavier. I tried this out while reading my books this year, and it was great. Many days, I alternated between reading nonfiction and fiction, and I was never afraid to start reading a book because I didn’t feel the pressure to finish the book if I didn’t want to. Usually, I finished reading the books, anyway. I shared this tip with one of my friends who also planned to read more this year, and at first, she couldn’t imagine following the suggestion. However, after being stuck on the same book for weeks, she decided to try the trick out, and moved on to another book. She soon found herself reading hundreds of pages a day. This is a big reading trick and is probably the main reason I read as much as I did this year.
So, without further ado, here are the books I completed reading during the first quarter of 2020 from the beginning of January to the end of March. (I’m also in the middle of a few more, so I’ll update those when I actually finish them in my next quarter post.)
My 2020 Reads: January to March
1- Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
Anne of Green Gables lovers, do I need to say anymore?
This was my first read of the year that totally got me pumped to continue that cycle of reading for the rest of year. My mom saw it in the airport, and thought of me immediately, since I am the biggest Anne of Green Gables fan ever. This was a very sweet read about Marilla’s early life, and there’s a lot of background information that is only barely touched on in the Anne of Green Gables series. Obviously, the author took a lot of creative license with it, but since I didn’t have high expectations to begin with, I enjoyed the read and loved the references to the original series. The most unique thing from the book was the detail on political drama, which is always brought up in the Anne books, but never with any specifics, as well as the reference to world events (like the Underground Railroad) happening at the time. Also, of course, we got to see Marilla’s history with John Blythe, which is definitely what most fans are interested to see. The way their relationship ended didn’t seem super believable to me, but it worked for the storyline. Overall, I enjoyed the book, even if I could totally tell when the writing wasn’t in L.M. Montgomery’s voice.
2- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
After all the hype about Just Mercy and when the movie came out, I had been thinking about reading it for awhile. Then, an online book club I was following inspired me to actually get it and read it. This book took the longest to get through because 1) it has super heavy, distressing material and 2) I was listening to it as an audiobook. I was trying out an Audible trial and decided to try listening, especially back in the beginning of the year when I was trying out hand lettering. The book covers a very important and difficult topic in a personal and engaging way. Since I was listening to it, there’s definitely a lot I missed, but I still learned a lot, and I’m glad I read it.
3- Lovely War by Julie Berry
This was the March book I read for the online book club. I knew the least about this one before I got it, so the storyline really surprised me. It is a very unique historical fiction novel primarily about World War I, but switches back and forth between time periods and different character storylines. The book is huge, but it was one of the easiest books to get through because the chapters were so short, so I just kept flipping until I finished the book.
You will also probably realize that most of my reads fall under the category of historical fiction, which is usually my favorite genre. This book did not disappoint, even though it seemed a little weird in the beginning. I also learned fascinating (and tragic) information about World War I, which I hadn’t known before.
4- We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders by Linda Sarsour
When Linda Sarsour’s book came out, I got it, unsure what to expect. It turned out to be a great read, and I finished it a lot faster than I had expected. Even if I may not agree with all of her platforms, this book was very inspiring and a fascinating look at her life and activism. There’s a lot of insider information about behind-the-scenes drama while planning for the Women’s March, the experience at the racial justice march, and how Linda began her life as an activist in the first place. I also had no idea she had so many sisters!
5- That Can Be Arranged by Huda Fahmy
This was the funnest, quickest, and most highly anticipated read out of all the books on this list! I love Huda Fahmy’s comics, and this book was definitely her best work. Also, the cute pink cover is adorable.
6- The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
This one I read in a day. It was some time after I finished Marilla of Green Gables, and I wanted to read something related to the Anne of Green Gables books. I had bought this book a few years ago to read when I saw that it was written by the same author. Somehow, I had never gotten around to reading it. The Blue Castle is considered one of L. M. Montgomery’s more adult reads, so it tackles a few themes you wouldn’t find in the Anne books. At the same time, the more wild stuff is addressed in a very subtle, indirect way, which I appreciate. The sarcasm in this book was so much more pronounced than it is in the Anne books, and I found the book to be hilarious. Once I started reading, I had to find out how it ended, so I finished the whole thing within a day. I don’t know why I hadn’t read it all this time, but I’m glad I did this year.
7- Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
This is actually the only book on the list I had read before, and I wasn’t even supposed to start it until April as the April book for the online book club, but I picked it up on the second to last day of March and finished it before April even started, so it actually ended up on this list. It’s a very fun, light-hearted read, and it actually works perfectly as a quarantine read because it features a relationship and connection developing over the Internet, which is what we are all doing now.
I am currently in the middle of a few other books, and I’m planning what to read for the next quarter of the year. If I’m not careful, I may end up re-reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series, which I do almost every other year. I also plan to dedicate some time to reading some of my Islamic Fiction books I haven’t read in a while.
Please share if you have any book suggestions for me to read in the future.
And, phew, this post is finally over. It has been a long time in the making, and yes, it took forever, and yes, I meant to post it a few days ago. But anyway, here it is now. Now, onwards to my next reads.