A book a month. That’s about what I averaged this year. I’d like to say it was more, but it often felt hard, harder than ever before in fact, to carve out the time from the endless whirr of news. While I don’t think reading books makes you a better person (and history has shown us that writing them certainly doesn’t), adopting a reading habit probably makes you easier to be around. A day spent on Twitter and I’m a nervous wreck; stealing away every spare moment to get to the end of a page-turner and I’m more generous, open-hearted and calmer than if I’d spent that time scrolling through my phone.
One thing I’ve noticed is that reading books is a compulsive activity. Once you start, you’re reminded of how freeing it is to enter the hermetically sealed world of another person’s imagination, and then you want to do it more and more – until life gets in the way, or, worse, you come across a dud book, and the spell is broken again.
This makes it all the more important to only read good books, which is to say, enjoyable ones, because they feed the virtuous cycle. We tell children to simply read what they want – which for me was The Baby-Sitters Club – but somewhere along the road to adulthood, we start to judge one another’s choices. We even, sometimes, shame a fellow reader just because their summer reading didn’t win the Booker.
In the spirit of full disclosure, and because any reading is better than none, here are some of the books I read this year. There was no non-fiction, because I find that difficult to read at 9 o’clock at night with a tempura-ed brain. And now that I come to think of it, no Booker winners. There
was, however, a full-blown phenomenon: Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. This is one of those titles, which because it’s by a woman, we are more likely to call popular fiction than literary fiction. But the truth is, it topped The New York Times bestseller list for 20 weeks for a reason. Reese Witherspoon, the Oprah of our time, nominated it for her Hello Sunshine book club because after a slow burn of a start, this haunting romance set in the swampy marshlands of North Carolina really picks up.