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A Return to Reading

 

I have always been a big reader. I zipped through books as a kid like I was drinking water, and although my interests evolved over time, I really never stopped reading. Until I did.

The Covid pandemic brought a halt to my ability to read a book. In recent years, I've logged my reading on Goodreads and, as can be seen in the above screenshot, my reading took a nosedive just as Covid surged. I suspect it wasn't just the pandemic that caused this, but everything happening in the world - I couldn't let go of reality long enough to lose myself in a book, and it shows in my reading challenge statistics.

The low point occurred in 2021, with only 3 books read. Two of these were books written by friends; the third is a book of poetry that I don't even remember reading. It distressed me that I wasn't reading, but not enough to do anything about it. 

And then I was asked to write a selection for the Washington Independent Review of Books column Bedtime Stories, where authors write about what they're reading. Panic! What could I do....but be honest. So, I was, and talked about how I couldn't focus on books anymore, but fondly remembered books I'd read in the past. It's still posted here, if you're interested in reading my rambles.

In 2022, I decided I needed to at least try. I started with another book by a writer I personally know: "The Other Ones," by Dave Housley. This turned out to be a great read, but I still couldn't get into novels. The next book I tried was nonfiction: "American Republics," by Alan Taylor. This fascinating history of the US and Canada in the period before the US Civil War kept my attention all the way through, and I was able to read the whole thing.

I tried a few more novels after that, and really enjoyed "News of the World," by Paulette Jiles. I'd never heard of this author, but found this short novel in a Little Library in my neighborhood. The short length helped me finish, but the story and the writing were both fantastic. That year, I also enjoyed "Sleepwalk," by Dan Chaon, a bizarre but totally compelling thriller about a near-future world much like our own.

I still felt like I was not reading, though, and months would go by without me picking up a single book. I decided enough was enough; I needed to approach this the way I do my running. I needed to go back into training - put myself on a schedule and read at least one book each month. It worked!


Last year, I exceeded my Goodreads goal of one book a month, and I have kept the momentum going. I am currently on my fifth book of the year in 2024, so have gone back to my goal of 25 books per year, a goal I never had trouble reaching before the near-end of my reading life. 

There are no shortage of books to read, after all. One favorite among the five I've read so far this year is Jill McCorkle's new book, "Old Crimes: and Other Stories," which I found on the "New Books" shelf at the library. I've become a regular at the local branch of my public library. This is the way it should be. This is who I am: a reader.

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