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New year, new books

2 min read

For a number of years now, I've tracked my reading on this site. Sometimes I have a grand goal; sometimes I just read whatever grabs my attention. My goal for 2022, for example, was to read mostly books by women or non-binary authors. (See how I did.)

Reading with a singular goal in mind can be a little exhausting, for sure. Turning reading into a goal-oriented exercise can sometimes be the fastest way to drain it of all joy.

So I'm planning to enter 2023 without a major reading theme in mind. That said, I may pick up smaller goals throughout the year. Here are a few that sound kind of interesting to explore:

Fill in a gap
Everyone has gaps in their reading history, books that it seems everyone else has read and somehow we've missed. It can be a little embarrassing to own up to those blind spots, but I embrace them. Everyone's experience is different. This year, though, I may try to read a few obvious books I've never attempted. I can't believe I've never read East of Eden, for example, or If Beale Street Could Talk, or The Brothers Karamazov, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

First book, last book
I may also select an author, then read their first novel and their final novel back-to-back. It's always interesting to see how a writer changes over the course of a career; you might read a novelist's first book, and be completely stunned by the sort of book they wrote at the end. Consider Elmore Leonard, whose final novel, Raylan, published in 2012, was an adaptation of the TV show Justified (which in turn was based on one of Leonard's own short stories), and whose first, The Bounty Hunters, was a classic western published in 1953.

Consecutive books by one author
Similarly, it can be interesting to see how an author changes, book over book. It's been interesting to follow Kazuo Ishiguro's tonal shifts over his last several novels. When We Were Orphans, from 2000, could be considered a quiet detective novel; Never Let Me Go, five years later, was dystopian science fiction; The Buried Giant, ten years after that, was a fantasy novel; and Klara and the Sun, published last year, darts back into the realm of science fiction. All of these might be unexpected from an author whose first four novels were rooted in realism, with very interior, reflective characters.

Fact vs. fiction
I'm also interested in the way a single event might be portrayed in nonfiction and fiction. Reading a book about, say, the events of World War 2, then reading a novel set against the same backdrop, would be illuminating, particularly if the novel's author had personal experience with the event.

Revisit old favorites
I think our relationship to the books we love changes as we age. Reading A Wrinkle in Time with my daughter was a profoundly different experience from reading it as a child myself, as an adult before I was a parent. There are many books I love that I discovered in my teens or twenties, but haven't read since. How might they feel different to me now? How might they or I have changed?

I might attempt some of these, or perhaps all. Mostly I just want to sink onto the sofa with a good book every day of the week for the entire year, and just read.

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