I was a voracious reader when I was little. I remember once instance where, after I’d been naughty, my mom disciplined me by forbidding me to read anything for an hour or so. It was a very effective punishment. I also remember coming home from the library with a stack of books one afternoon, then crying my eyes out that evening because I’d read them all over the span of a few hours. Obviously, I needed to learn how to pace myself.
I continued to read a lot as a teen. Although I didn’t care much for Dante or The Pilgrim’s Progress (sorry, Bunyan fans), I did enjoy my assigned readings of Mere Christianity, Shakespeare, and The Odyssey in school. As far as pleasure reading was concerned, I gobbled up all of Jane Austen’s novels, Jane Eyre, The Lord of the Rings, Gene Stratton-Porter’s marvelous The Keeper of the Bees and The Girl of the Limberlost, and several of The Scarlet Pimpernel novels.
And then…I got an iPhone.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I have an iPhone and I’m so, so thankful for all the wonderful friendships I’ve made through social media! I wouldn’t have friends in Poland, Australia, Brazil, and Canada if it weren’t for social media–and I never would’ve met one of my very dearest real-life friends if my grandmother hadn’t given her my email address several years ago. But I highly doubt I’m the first to admit that social media has had a negative impact on my reading habits. It’s far easier to reach for a phone than a book, and it takes less mental energy to scroll through a Twitter feed than it does to focus on a world of words.
Maybe this wouldn’t be as big a problem for some people, but it is very bad for my profession. I’m a writer, and writers are supposed to be readers, right?! To put it bluntly, I’ve been shooting myself in the foot. As I step into 2019–a year that, hopefully, will be full of brand-new writing adventures–I really want to change that. I want to be passionate about reading again.
I’m not leaving social media. In fact, in a slight twist of irony, I’ve even set up a Goodreads account in the hopes that it’ll keep me accountable in my new reading goals. But I am going to try to spend less time on social media, and more time burying myself in books that’ll edify and encourage me spiritually and creatively.
Last year I read thirteen books:
- Victoria: The Heart and Mind of a Young Queen* by Helen Rappaport
- Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire* by Julia Baird
- Middlemarch* by George Eliot
- Victoria & Albert: A Royal Love Affair* by Daisy Goodwin & Sara Sheridan
- Dollbaby: A Novel* by Laura Lane McNeal
- Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir* by Clint Hill
- Doctor Who: Deep Time* by Trevor Baxendale
- North and South* by Elizabeth Gaskell
- The Borrowed House* by Hilda van Stockum
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel* by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
- All Creatures Great and Small* by James Herriot
- The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father* by Jim Wight
- Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch* by Sally Bedell Smith
Some of these were re-reads, like Guernsey and The Borrowed House; with the sole exception of Dollbaby, I enjoyed/would recommend them all, and I’m so glad I was able to read them.
THIS year, however, I have a much longer and more ambitious list of books I want to read. I’m starting with these four:
But it’s not simply that I want to beat last year’s number of books. That’s not why I want to read more in 2019. Instead, I want to spend more time nurturing and investing in myself. Sarah Clarkson, the author of Book Girl: A Journey through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life*, says this about the power of a well-read woman:
A woman who reads is a woman who taps into the fundamental reality that she was created to learn, made to question, primed to grow by her interaction with words. A book girl is one who has grasped the wondrous fact that she has a mind of her own, a gift from her Creator, meant to be filled and stretched, challenged and satisfied by learning for all the days of her life. A woman who reads is one who takes ownership of herself, aware that words give her the holy power to seek, to grow, to question, and to discern. She knows that to read is to begin an adventure of self-formation in partnership with the Holy Spirit that will shape the choices she makes, the dreams she bears, the legacy she leaves in the great tale of the world.” [emphasis mine]
So whether I’m delving for the first time into the insightful wit of G.K. Chesterton, immersing myself yet again in the inspiring story of Queen Elizabeth II, returning to old favorites like C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, or taking on Leo Tolstoy’s rather intimidating Anna Karenina or Charles Dickens’ (only slightly less intimidating) David Copperfield–I think it’s going to be a very wonder-full adventure.