With so many “must-reads” out there, which should you pick first?
Most of us have more time on our hands at the moment. And reading is one of the best ways to make the most of it.
If you’ve fallen out of love with books, it’s time to get the reading bug back!
Get the stats working for you
Like many bookworms, my reading has often been sporadic. I will read any book in any form: fiction or non-fiction, horror or romance, paperback or e-book, classic or contemporary. It’s rare I don’t have at least four on the go at any one time.
I would guess that I finished more than 50 books in 2019. But since I didn’t record them, I have no idea what percentage were written by women, or how many different cultures I explored.
Similarly, I would struggle to say whether I read more first- or third-person narrators, and whether I spent more time in the past or future.
Of course, you may wonder why you should be interested in this data. After all, you read in order to enjoy a good book not so that you can create pie charts.
This is the argument I repeated to myself for years to justify not tracking my stats.
To be clear, I firmly believe reading is about feelings not maths. It boils my blood when I see an article like “Ten tricks to hack any book”, invariably written by some “self-made entrepreneur” who would sell his grandmother’s kidneys if the price was right.
Reading is a pleasure not a commodity. But having a greater awareness of your preferences allows you to enjoy reading more.
Keeping track of your books isn’t just statistical. Here are four major benefits of recording your reading:
- It helps you read more widely and therefore experience more cultures, genres and styles
- It opens your eyes to subconscious prejudices that may be creeping into your choices
- It makes it easier to remember everything you’ve read
- It motivates you to keep reading!
Picking the right books
Reading opens the door to new cultures, new experiences and new ways of thinking. And the best way to do this is by making an effort to include writers, themes and viewpoints you might (unintentionally) be neglecting.
There are an overwhelming number of challenges available online though, bizarrely, many seem to restrict rather than extend your reading.
This should not be the case. Categories like ‘A book with the letter X in the title’ or ‘A book about the medical profession’ are far too arbitrary and won’t help you become a better reader.
These sorts of challenges dictate to you, rather than help you make more informed choices.
The following four-week challenge was born out of this frustration. Its six categories are open ended enough not to constrain you, whilst still offering a framework to guide your selections.
How many categories can you tick off in four weeks?
- A “classic” you’ve not read before
- A book with a child narrator
- A book recommended by a friend or relative
- A book that’s been sitting on your shelf unread for a long time
- A book set in a location significant to you
- A prize-winning book
Here’s what I’ll be reading:
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (recommended by my sister)
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (has been sitting on my shelf for at least ten years)
- Yuki chan in Brontë Country by Mick Jackson (set in Haworth, West Yorkshire)
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (winner of the Man Booker Prize 2017)
What books have you picked? Leave a comment below!