3 Ways My Reading Life Has Changed in 2018

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First off, can you believe we’re already over halfway through 2018?? I don’t even know what to do with that information. So far, it’s been a good year for me. I’m looking forward to the next half, both to the exciting plans and the big unknowns. Thank you as always for journeying with me and being such fun, supportive readers. ❤

One of the things I’ve done in 2018 is read.

No, really. I have. Try to believe it.

It’s been a bit of a different reading year for me. I haven’t read as much as I normally do. I don’t mean that I haven’t spent as much time reading, but I guess I’m just not reading as quickly. My goodreads goal is lower than usual, and I’m still a little behind, which isn’t like me. I know reading isn’t about numbers, and if lower numbers mean more comprehension and appreciation of the books I do read, then I’m glad. But I don’t know, I feel a little sluggish this year book-wise. Maybe everybody has slower years. Maybe I just need to give myself grace and let myself go at the pace that I need.

Well, there’s no maybe about that. I know I need to do that. We all do. Give yourselves some grace and go at your own pace, my peeps. (Heyyy that rhymes. I should put it on an inspirational poster. *hands several out*)

ANYWAY. Enough chitchat. On to the main post. (I think I say some version of that every single time. My introductions always end up becoming mini posts themselves. Good grief.) 


three ways my reading life has changed this year


1 } Audiobooks 

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One reason I’m reading less this year might be that I I am listening to more audiobooks, which take longer. My family has been listening to audiobooks together at night for a year or so, which is a tradition I love, but I don’t think I would have delved into them on my own if I hadn’t been forced to. This January I developed some headaches and eye pain while reading. To my great relief and gratitude, the combination of reading glasses and regular neck stretches to relieve tension have made that pain manageable, but until I figured that out, I really couldn’t do much actual reading. Not a good state of affairs for a bibliophile like me. That’s when audiobooks came to my rescue.

I’ll say this about audiobooks: they can be tough. I’m much more of a visual learner than auditory, and I have trouble finding things to do while listening to them. I found that I dislike just sitting there listening—I need to feel like I’m doing something productive with my body. When you’re reading a book, you’re at least holding it and flipping through the pages (or swiping if it’s an e-book). Plus, I love how when I’m reading I can hear what’s going on around me and feel included in it even if I’m not directly interacting with it. With audiobooks, I feel much more isolated from my surroundings.

All that to say, I totally understand why they are not some people’s cup of tea. However, after being conscripted into their service, I have found several benefits. For one thing, they force me to slow down, pay attention to each word, and savor the book. There’s no skimming or skipping here (unless you fall asleep for parts. Which, ahem, may have happened to me on occasion.). I often struggle pay attention to the language and word choice in books, which is detrimental to me as a writer. Audiobooks help fix that.

Even better, audiobooks can bring stories alive in a way paper books simply can’t. The different voices and accents, the sound effects and music some productions put in, the sound of another human who is partaking of the same story—it’s a special experience. Some books benefit more from audio transformation than others. My absolute favorite audiobook is Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. It’s a middle grade novel set in World War II about three children living in different parts of the world whose stories are connected by a magic harmonica and a love for music. Because music plays such a large role in the story, the fact that an audiobook can incorporate all the songs and instruments mentioned is perfect. Plus, since the kids live in different places, the accents of the narrators make those characters feel more real.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. I’ve found that if I haven’t listened to an audiobook in a while, it’s harder for me to get into one. But if I use them regularly, it’s easier for me to be still and absorb the story through my ears.

2 } Diverse books

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I honestly hate using the word diverse because it’s so politicized and overused these days, but it really does describe a big change in my reading life recently: as I named a shelf on goodreads, I’ve been reading more books with characters that are “not just white people.” I didn’t do this intentionally; somehow I just picked up more books about cultures that I am unfamiliar with. And I’m so happy about it.

I love learning about different parts of the world, and I love seeing how other cultures are unique and yet how people are fundamentally the same. Stories do a wonderful job of that—they give us a peek into another world, telling us what it looks like, what food there is, what customs exist. But they also provide a window into another human’s heart, and even though the surroundings may be foreign and that human may look or even think nothing like us, there is always at least one part of their heart that we can relate to.

Here are a few books that have been especially eye-opening to me:

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins / multi-generational saga of an Indian family that moves to America—HIGHLY recommended (+ the audiobook is phenomenal)

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai / a novel in verse of the journey of a young girl fleeing to America from Saigon due to the Vietnam War

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee / the subtitle says it all but honestly guys, I can’t believe this actually happened. It’s just—super eye-opening, tough and dark but also inspiring

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper / middle grade novel about a young African American girl growing up in the early 1900s under the shadow of the Ku Klux Klan (also she wants to be a writer & I love watching that journey)

They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East by Mindy Belz / this’ll be one of the best books I read in 2018; fascinating & moving account of the Iraqi Christian communities & what ISIS has done to them—super relevant (see my goodreads review of it for more thoughts)

3 } Reviewing books

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I noticed recently that if I finish a book and don’t review it, I carry around a sense of incompletion, a niggling feeling that there’s something I need to do. I want books to change me; I want to learn from them and both remember and apply that knowledge. I hate reading something and thinking, “Oh, that’s good, I want to remember that,” and then, well, not. I still remember in the back of my mind that I wanted to remember something but I don’t know what it is. So I subconsciously fret about it and try to remember whatever it was that struck a chord in me. If I let too many of those instances build up, it’s honestly not good for my mental health.

The solution? Review each book when I finish it. And I don’t mean review as in some lengthy essay or detailed list of pros and cons. I just need to record something, a few impressions, a favorite quote or character or scene, or whatever random things stand out to me when I think back on it. Somewhere, whether in my journal or on goodreads, I need to string together a few words that describe a portion of what I feel or think about the book. I think I just need to be able to articulate some of my thoughts about it to prove to myself that I actually read and absorbed it. Most people probably don’t have this compulsion, and I know there are plenty of other reasons to review books. Do whatever works for you.

I do have to be careful that I don’t put too many requirements on myself about what I write. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in perfectly capturing my thoughts about a book—I want to perfectly articulate every fleeting opinion and idea the book conjures up in me. Which, of course, is impossible. The reason why I started making myself review books in the first place was to remove stress, so if I find find that reviewing causes more stress than it alleviates, I should give it a break. And honestly, some books don’t deserve a review. Not all books have to be something I learn from, and not all books are going to change my life.

(Take a chill pill, girl.)

And I feel like that was basically a therapy session for myself. xD It is really nice, though, to be able to scroll through goodreads and see what I thought about each book I read. I think I’ll really appreciate that in the future.

Now I really want to hear from you—how has 2018 been treating you? What’s your reading life been like? Are you an audiobook lover or ardent hater or somewhere in between? What are some of your favorite books about other cultures?  And do you find it helpful to review books?

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13 comments

  1. […] Happy 2019, my friends! It’s the most wonderful time of the year ––the time I get to look back on all the books I read in 2018 and share with you my favorites! It’s also a rather agonizing time of year, because it’s so hard to choose. You can see previous years’ favorites at the links above, and if you want to hear more about my reading life in 2018, check out this post. […]

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  2. Hi Abby,
    I actually raised my goal this year to 75 on good reads 😂 I tell people I try to compete with your number. 😊😂 Also you are right I read Echo and now am listening to the audiobook and it is amazing! We are going to listen to it on the drive home from Michigan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 75 is impressive! Haha, I’m honored to be competed with. ;D Oh yay, I’m glad you liked Echo and the audiobook especially! It’s the perfect book for long car drives. =)

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  3. I actually feel like I’m flying through books this year! *lol* Most of them have been less than 400 pages, though, with only one or two longer than 500 pages. So that might explain the “speedy” feeling. And while I’d love to try audiobooks at some point, I don’t really know when I’d fit in time to listen to them. My commute to work isn’t long enough to justify it (plus, I like to use that time to listen to soothing music).

    Also, yes to books with character and cultural diversity! I’d really like to check out You Bring the Distance Near at some point. And if you’re looking for recommendations – have you read American Street by Ibi Zoboi? It’s about a young Haitian girl who’s trying to navigate through her new hometown (Detroit) and her new family (American-born relatives) after her mother is detained by immigration officials. So given what’s happening in the US right now, it’s a very timely story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I’m glad! It’s a lovely feeling to be reading a lot. And I understand about not having time for audiobooks. I’ve had a very quiet year so it’s been easy to fit them in but once things start picking up I foresee myself listening to them much less. Listening to soothing music before work is super important too. ❤

      I think you'd like You Bring the Distance Near! And I haven't heard of American Street but it sounds fascinating and super relevant. I've been following the current immigration issues closely so this is the perfect thing for me. Thank you! *adds to goodreads*

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh!! Thanks for taking time to share this, Abby. 🙂 I love other cultures, so I really appreciate the diverse book recommendations. I want to read ALL of them. Especially You Bring the Distant Near and They Say We Are Infidels.

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  5. Yes, I feel like I’ve been reading less this year, too. Definitely relate! (except for when I get a new fiction book… and read the whole 490-page thing in like 5 days… *coughs* really bad for any kind of productivity).

    Yeahhh, I concur on the audiobooks. For me I think part of it is they’re too slow–I’m told I read very quickly, and audiobooks just seem to take so *long*. Plus there are few good times for me to listen to them.

    I feel you on the diversity thing. Honestly I want to broaden my reading horizons a bit, but given my busy schedule I’m always a bit pressed for reading time, and I mostly end up just picking up whatever is closest or whatever book strikes my fancy. Like, I’m currently reading Henry IV (from my new Shakespeare collection), Lit! by Tony Reinke (which is about reading books! ha!), and Knowing God by J.I. Packer (that’s another thing–I’m also trying to read more nonfic). And I’m in the middle of Sherlock Holmes Vol II, but paused for a bit. So all that to say, I haven’t been reading much if any of what’s on my TBR, which is sad. But I’m going to try to make some of my next lighter-fiction reads something outside my comfort zone. I may have to check some of these out. =D

    Oh! And I concur with Sarah’s question, too. How are your wrists doing?

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    • Glad I’m not the only one reading less! Oh goodness, those books that suck you in are so bad for productivity but such fun too. =P

      Mm I feel you on just reading what’s nearby instead of what’s on my TBR, especially since I haven’t had a library for the past two years. Although all the books you’re reading sound really good. I think that’s a great idea to make your lighter-fiction reads more diverse/different. They’re shorter, so if you don’t like the setting or whatever as much, it’s not a huge waste of time and you don’t have to be stuck in that world for too long. Most of my “diverse” books are middle grade novels, and I love them. Plus I don’t have to worry nearly as much about objectionable/overly politicized content than with adult novels. xP

      Thank you for asking! They’re much better than even a few months ago but I’m not sure if they’re ready for college yet. I’m still dictating a lot but I can do smaller things (like replying to comments or doing Insta posts) which feels like a big deal. We’ll see what happens but I’m thankful for any improvement. ❤

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  6. Thank you for perfectly summing up my struggle with audiobooks, ’cause I feel the exact same way. I normally knit or walk while I’m listening to them, but I can only do those for so long too . . .

    Out of curiosity, how are your wrists? Still an issue?

    I’ve also been reading more diverse books, and I’m quite enjoying it! (Though it’s more “fantasy realm and peoples based on places they aren’t medieval Europe” and less “actual places and people”.)

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    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way about audiobooks. And yeah, you can only go on a walk or do a hands-y activities for so long. And well hey, I consider any fantasy that’s not medieval Europe to be quite diverse. xD I love fantasies set in unique places and I think they accomplish much of the same things diverse books set in our world do.

      Thanks for asking about my arms! They’ve been feeling better this spring but I’m not sure if they’re ready for college yet. I’m still dictating all my posts on here, although I’m replying to this comment by typing, which was unthinkable a year ago. I’m super thankful for improvement and we’ll see how soon I can get back to full normality.

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  7. Dearest Abby,

    When I was little I read a lot because I was sick a lot and had to stay in bed. Other than that, I was never a big reader. If I sat down to read a book I felt that I should be “doing” something and not just sitting and reading. So I always left the book to “do” something. When I became a substitute teacher I had a lot of time to read. Yes, I read books about different cultures and I really enjoyed them. I read one about a young Indian girl who came to this country for an arranged marriage. I read another about the Israeli-Palestinian situation. I read one that took place in England. I read some historical books that your father left for us to read. Now that I am no longer subbing I am reading very little.

    All my love,

    Grammy

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