I’ve been trying to write about my relationship with books in 2016 for the past week. I’ve scrolled through my list of top 10 books of the year — a list that has steadily remained at seven reads for the past few months — and tried to add others but fell short. I looked through notes I scribbled down in Goodreads when I was particularly jazzed about a read, and grew upset with myself for not being more detailed.
The question is: how do you measure your reading life after recording your reading life pretty routinely for almost five years and then stopping cold turkey?
The answer is: I’m not entirely sure.
Here are a few things I could say: I read Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King because my boss at one of my side hustles sent me a galley. It utterly changed my reading life, and I immediately ordered a copy to send to my sister. I loved it so much that I was too shy to go up to Jeff when he traveled to New York City for one of my favorite annual events of all time: NYC Teen Authors Festival (a festival I never would have started attending if it wasn’t for this blog). I went on a job interview for a job I would eventually get after a weekend of being snowed in and talked up Courtney Summer’s All the Rage and Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things. Both so wonderful for such different reasons. Later that summer, during Independent Bookstore Day, I convinced one of my oldest friends to buy a copy. On a long bus ride to the beach, Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrand kept me company. It’s the perfect middle grade mix — magic mixed with realism, love mixed with confusion, and family paired with self-discovery. This was another doggy earred galley I left on my sister’s bed during a visit home. I picked up The First Time She Drowned because Jeff Zentner plugged it, was instantly taken by the beauty and pain of the book, and passed it along to a friend a few months later when her mom passed. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy read for her, but I also knew she had a lot of the strength the main character possessed and this was the best way I could tell her. And then there was a recommendation from the dependable Emma and the discovery of a brand new author: Leah Konen. The warm summer afternoon I gobbled up One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid and immediately passed it to my close friend from college. (It was a year of passing it on.) And the incredible second book by Juliana Romano, The Summer in the Invisible City, that had my hand yearning to write, pick up my own story, and challenge myself to write just as well. (Impossible but still. I was inspired and continued to be. You’ll be shocked to know I bought my sister a copy of this for Christmas. Note to self: has she read any of these yet?)
This is the first year in five years where I bought less than 12 book for myself in a year. This does not mean I didn’t buy a lot of books for others because I did. (Like the incredible and addicting middle grade from Natasha Friend: Where You’ll Find Me.) I read so many books from my own library, from stacks that line my apartment walls, and donated over 75 of them in one fashion or another. (There is one happy reader in my apartment building.) I stopped — we stopped — writing here for so many reasons but one of mine was to simplify. I thought if I took a break from here, I would be able to concentrate on other projects. More private ones. And I did. And I didn’t. And I rediscovered what it means to love a book and share it with your friends who understand you and not rush and not feel any pressure. I took out over 75 books from my library this year, I paid probably 50 dollars in fines, but I know I shopped thoughtfully this year. I reminded myself countlessly that there are a million ways to support authors, even if you aren’t buying a book as soon as it comes out. Hey, I even introduced my cube neighbor to Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I Loved Before and delighted in our conversations about if she was Team Peter or Team Josh. It was organic, and so fun! (Another note: just because a platform pauses/closes, doesn’t mean a voice stops recommending and encouraging people to buy your books.)
2016 was not my best reading year. I put a lot of books down. I read 100 pages, and decided if I really didn’t want to pick a book up at night, what was it doing my nightstand? Like everything else that is a hobby, it’s okay to make those decisions. It’s okay to know your limits and want to FIND JOY. (I did finally read On the Island and I’m kicking myself because people have been singing its praises forever. Oh, and then Little Women — I tackled my goal of 26 years by actually finishing it.) My priorities may have shifted to personal projects and fitness and watching all seven season of Gilmore Girls, but I have missed this space. I know I’m lucky because I’ve been able to channel my love for this space and this community at work, and have a great time doing it. But I miss brainstorming and laughing with my friend over books; I miss having a project to gap our distance. For almost a year now, I’ve struggled with (and maybe this is what the age of digital is all about) who I am as a blogger and who I am as an actual publicist. (One of my proudest/scariest moments I had this year was speaking on a panel about blogging and my professional life at the wonderful BlogBound.) The support and incredible relationships I made because of this blog mean so much to me. I respect what you do because I’ve done it too. I know it’s a labor of love, and I know how much authors and the books we love need the genuine passion you express in whatever way you wish. This blog and all of the experiences connected to it have made me better at my job, it’s made me even more of a creative thinker, and it’s made me love the art of collaboration so much more than I ever have.
It’s a new year, and it feels right to be back here with Magan. We’re celebrating six years of friendship at the end of January, and I feel luckier than ever — to be surrounded by books, fierce and imaginative people, and the freedom to sit here and write this to you. I’m ready to learn more about others and myself too.
Here’s to 2017 — to reunions, rediscovery, and curiosity.