2017 has been an interesting one in terms of my goals, and what I’ve achieved, particularly when it comes to reading. Strangely enough, 2017 was the first year in a very long time that I didn’t have a specific reading goal on my resolution list, and yet somehow, it has been the year in which I’ve managed to get my act together most. (I’m sure that says something that I’m not ready to face about the usefulness and benefit of my resolution making, but meh, I’m just going to keep ignoring that fact for now.)
Why I Stopped Reading Fiction, And How I Turned It Around
Now, as a kid I was a reader. I loved books, I sped through them at a rate that kept my Mom exasperated because I was constantly running out of them. I read voraciously all throughout my adolescence. In fact, I majored in English in college specifically because of my love of stories. But somewhere along the line, as I aged, as I got my MA, and as I fully made the switch to History as my discipline – my fiction reading just evaporated. I became convinced that if what I was reading for pleasure wasn’t discipline related, it was a waste of time and energy. Even if it made me happy.
And that’s just damned silly. And it partly stems from the onset of my anxiety problem in my early 20s. For a long time, I felt like I had to be productive every minute. Because if I wasn’t, it meant I wasn’t working hard enough. It meant that I wasn’t worthy of this amazing privilege I’d been given to be able to teach in a college classroom despite not having my Ph.D..
And as I’ve aged and gotten my anxiety under control, I’ve managed to mostly banish that particular symptom of imposter syndrome. Others still rear their heads from time to time, particularly around course evals season, but I’ve regained the ability to allow myself to truly enjoy things that aren’t work related just for the sake of enjoying things.
Because look, I love my job and my work as a History instructor to death. It’s part of who I am, and even if I won the lottery tomorrow and never had to work again a day in my life, I’d still keep teaching. It really truly makes me feel alive, and there’s nothing more exciting to me than being able to show a classroom full of non-History majors why I love the discipline so much.
But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is even with all that love and passion for what I do… I still need to be a person beyond my job. Defining myself solely as who I am in the classroom was incredibly detrimental to my mental health. I need not just my vocation, but avocations as well, or else, Helllooooo burnout city. And while that was hard for me to see at the age of 23 when I first got hired, as an old crusty 30 year old who has let anxiety control aspects of her life for far too long, I recognize the importance of it more than ever.
So these realizations, combined with the fact that I was able to start the year with a reading “bang” thanks to a week long vacation to Disney, really helped me enjoy reading again. As it turns out, allowing myself that “unproductive time,” allowing myself to enjoy fiction for the sake of fiction again was the big key that was missing in terms of developing a habit.
What I Read in 2017
And so 2017 turned out to be a really good year for me, both in level of enjoyment, and in number of books finished. In total, I logged 37 books on Goodreads (I don’t log stuff I read specifically for work), most of which were fiction. That’s a huuugggeee jump from last year’s 13, and some huge progress made in making reading a regular habit.
I also generally really liked what I read, with only a few slight disappointments, and only one truly disliked book. That honestly is a pretty good record, I think, particularly given how critical I tend to be of what I read.
So here’s a brief run-down of all my reads for 2017 – with links provided for books I did full reviews on.
1) Unit 731 Testimony: Japan’s Wartime Human Experimentation Program by Hal Gold – 3.5 stars
2) My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows – 5 stars – Full Review
3) Sabriel by Garth Nix – 3.75 stars – Full Review
4) The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating, and Making It Work! by Tim Gunn – 3 stars
5) Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher – 4 stars
6) Ninteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – 4 stars (re-read)
7) Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith – 3.75 stars
8) Lirael by Garth Nix – 4 stars (after finishing Abhorsen) – Full Review
9) Abhorsen by Garth Nix – 5 stars – Full Review
10) 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – 3 stars – Full Review
11) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – 4 stars – Full Review
12) Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas – 4.5/5 stars – Full Review
13) Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy by Eri Hotta – 4 stars
14) Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas – 3.5 stars – Full Review
15) Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – 3 stars – Full Review Pending
16) Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – 3 stars – Full Review Pending
17) The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – 4 stars – Mini Review
18) Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – 4 stars – Mini Review
19) Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – 3 stars – Mini Review
20) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – 3 stars – Mini Review, Full Review Pending
21) Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs – 3 stars – Mini Review
22) The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy – 5 stars
23) Dragon Age Library Edition Vol. 1 (compilation of The Silent Grove, Those Who Speak, and Until We Sleep with commentary from writers and illustrators) written by David Gaider – 5 stars (I’m a sucker for anything DA, especially comics)
24) Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas – 4 stars – Full Review Pending
25) Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell – 5 stars
26) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – 1/1.5 stars – Full Review
27) Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – 4 stars – Full Review Pending
28) One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus – 4.5 stars
29) King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard – 4.5 stars – Full Review Pending
30) Graceling by Kristin Cashore – 4.5 stars
31) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – 4 stars
32) Cinder by Marissa Meyer – 5 stars – Full Review Pending
33) Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – 4 stars – Full Review Pending
34) Cress by Marissa Meyer – 5 stars – Full Review Pending
35) Winter by Marissa Meyer – 5 stars – Full Review Pending
36) Stars Above by Marissa Meyer – 3 stars
37) Wires and Nerve Vol. 1 by Marissa Meyer – 5 stars
This Year’s Faves
The highlights of my reading this year were by far My Lady Jane, The Abhorsen Trilogy, and the Lunar Chronicles. You can read all about why I loved My Lady Jane and the Abhorsen Trilogy in the reviews that I linked above. The Lunar Chronicles, well, I have a lot to say about them, and eventually will at least do a Series Review post, if not individual review posts for each book. They are fun, inventive, unique, and honestly, they’ve been my favorite overall series of the year. Every book in the whole quartet is super strong, and the characters are all unique and well-developed, somehow managing to avoid tired character tropes, even when you consider that the whole series is based on the retelling of fairy tales.
This Year’s Flops
As you can see from my ratings above, there was really only one really big flop for me this year, and that was Outlander. That said, I have spilled plenty enough ink explaining why I disliked it in the review, so if you’re interested (and I fully admit that my general distaste for the genre plays a big part), head on over to my review post. Other than that, there really weren’t any other books I fully disliked. I had some disappointments based on my original expectations for the books – For example, I was expecting The Natty Professor to focus more on pedagogy, and Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms were a bit of a disappointment when it came to the character writing I had come to expect – but overall there were still enough positives to every book that I ended up enjoying the experience overall.
Reading Goals for Next Year
Given my success in 2017, I’m looking to make 2018 even better, and to do that I’ve set a goal of 52 books on my Goodreads Challenge. Overall, I hope by upping my goal, I can not only tackle more fiction, but also start working my way through my massive collection of history stuff that is more relevant to my personal research interests than my classes. In doing so, I’m hoping to reduce the time I spend on my phone and computer when it’s not necessary.
So far, so good, too – I’m about two and a half books in as of writing this post!
What were your reading goals for last year? Did you meet them? I’d love to hear in the comments!