Literacy 2021: Call for suggestions

Back in 2008, I resolved to read 26 books by the end of the year. I didn’t even make it halfway. (It looks like I made an abortive attempt to try again in 2010, but stopped after one book. I suspect that was the year of a family emergency that threw off all my plans).

Goodreads has its own reading challenges, and I’ve managed to meet my less-ambitious goals of the last two years, partly because I’ve included graphic novels in the list, but also because I’ve stopped working at jobs with a horrible work/life balance.

Looking back, I think that I developed this attitude about reading as far back as middle school, and that’s what’s kept me from ever developing a good cadence of reading. It’s a kind of vicious cycle of lazy snobbery that means I’m perpetually losing patience while still being frustrated with myself for not reading more.

My reaction to The Guest List last year shows how baffled I am by the very concept of reading for entertainment. It was so engaging that I read the whole thing over two nights, but I still couldn’t get past the idea that it was somehow “beneath” me — which, to be clear, was 100% snobbery on my part, and entirely unfair.

At the same time, usually when I try reading Literary Fiction™️, I’ll hit a particularly pretentious chapter or dour passage that kills any momentum I have. Since I’m so hyper-critical of anything that’s too under-written or too over-written, it just takes one less-than-stellar book to turn me off reading altogether.

I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman a few years ago, and I realized I’d forgotten how much I missed being completely engrossed in a book, looking for spare moments to get back into it, and being excited about going to bed and getting some uninterrupted reading time. Just recently, I read an Anthony Horowitz murder mystery over three nights, and I wish I had an infinite supply of them, even though the formula’s already made itself apparent after just two entries.

I’m five books into 2021, and I feel like I’ve got a stronger incentive to get back into reading than I have in the past: I want to ween myself off of Twitter. I’m constantly complaining about it, it never fails to make me feel sad or angry, and it’s an absurd time sink. But it’s always sitting there as something new and easy to read. Anytime I get a free second, especially when I’m procrastinating, it’s easy to just open it up, lose 15-20 minutes, and end up more pissed off than I was when I started. It seems so much healthier to replace that with a book.

There are over 200 books on my “Want to Read” list, but I’d still like to get some suggestions for books — or better yet, series — that I can get engrossed in. Previous hits for me:

  • Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series
  • Anthony Horowitz’s murder mysteries
  • Most things Neil Gaiman
  • Most of Douglas Adams
  • As a teenager, Stephen King, but I feel like his 21st-century stuff is too dark for me

I’m also going to go back to stealing my friend Joe Maris’s format for book recaps on here.

7 thoughts on “Literacy 2021: Call for suggestions”

  1. Are you familiar with the works of Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher? I’m thinking she might be to your taste. You liked Pratchett and she’s a little like that but with more sex. Maybe start with Clockwork Boys.

    1. Never heard of the series or the author but it’s added to the list now. Thanks!

  2. I genuinely enjoyed the Culture series by the late Iain M Banks. I’d temporarily skip the first book and grab any of the others. They’re readable in any order. The Player of Games is a good one.

  3. Some books I’ve read lately that didn’t bog down:

    Alternate Routes, Tim Powers (urban fantasy)

    The Vapors, David Hill (non-fiction about an illegal gambling town in Arkansas)

    One Person, No Vote, Anderson & Bolden (non-fiction about voter suppression)

    And yeah, Culture books by Iain Banks are good.

    1. Added, thanks! Although I tried to read Stacey Abrams’s book about voter suppression, and it just made me too angry to sleep every night. I had to abandon it.

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