My Year in Books
I realize I read many more books this year than in years past. I think this was due to consciously rearranging my time to allow for more reading, reading more comic books and YA lit (I joined a YA book club), and due to the Little Free Library (LFL) I started this past spring. Stewarding the LFL prompted me to read a lot of books before I put them out on the shelves. It also was a great way to share books from my own shelves that I knew I wouldn’t read again, but I also knew other people would enjoy. Why let books just collect dust when someone else can read and love them too? (Don’t worry. I have some books that will never leave my house.)
In the past year I read more comic books, went back to reading more Science Fiction (my favorite genre), rediscovered audio books, and I tried to read a lot of things that were on my list for a long time but I never actually picked up. Out of the 89 books I read, 17 were comic books (mostly trade compilations), 23 YA lit titles, 8 were audio books, and 5 were eBooks.
Goodreads has a cool feature this year that shows all the books you read in a fun visual format. Feel free to check out the books I read in 2015.
The Read Harder Challenge
I am looking for ways to diversify my reading. This summer, I stumbled upon Book Riot. It was kind of like falling down a rabbit hole. Book Riot is a whole community of book lovers, with blogs, podcasts, and more. This is where I found the Read Harder Challenge. Book Riot is big into helping people get out of their comfort zones and read more diversely. This challenge was designed to help readers do exactly that. The categories I found most intriguing included a book originally published in another language, the authors over 65 and under 25 categories, a book published by an indie press, and a book award winner. In the past, I read a lot of books in translation in college (especially from Africa), and I read more from Asia when I taught Asian history. This category reminded me how great these books can be, and I plan to read more. When I started looking into indie press titles, I learned a lot more about that part of the publishing industry. I also discovered a self-published book I really liked (I’ve been leery of self-pub books after some bad reads). The award category had me looking through lots of different titles, and my TBR pile (to be read) became significantly larger. I am glad they included a category on comics and graphic novels. I think these books should get more attention.
Around the World 2015
Since I’m looking to read more diversely and start to read more books in translation, I found the Around the World book challenge an interesting visual representation of what I’m reading. Through mapping my books, I realized that I read a lot of books set in New York (about 12%, with mentions of NY in even more books). I didn’t read anything set in South America. I will see what I can do to broaden my reading more in 2016. Here is my map:
Online Book Services
I discovered and used some online services and apps this year that enhanced my reading life.
First, I played around with a few subscription reading services. I loved Oyster, and I am really bummed it is shutting down. The variety of Scribd, with audio books, comics, and now sheet music, is fantastic. I’m also currently tinkering with Audible. Between Audible and Scribd, I have access to a plethora of audio books that actually means I now look forward to doing the dishes and folding laundry!
Did you know there are sites online where you can trade your books out? I decided to explore this a bit. I signed up for both PaperBack Swap and Bookmooch. They both run a bit differently from one another. I’m not sure these sites really save you a lot of money compared to the cheap used books available online (unless you end up getting some nice hardcovers), but they do add a bit of serendipity to what you end up reading next. I started using them in November, so I’m still deciding if they are worth it for me. So far, I’ve sent out 13 books and received 8 books. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll tell you more about my experiences.
This year I started getting books from Goodreads First Reads program and LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. I got 5 free books in exchange for my honest review of each title (one of these books is in my top 10 list for 2015). It seems to be easier to get these free books from LibraryThing as opposed to Goodreads. This may be because less people use LibraryThing, so there is less competition for the books. I’ve gotten 4 titles from LibraryThing (including 1 eBook) and 1 title from Goodreads. There are other sites like NetGalley where you can sign up to get ARCs (Advanced Readers Copy, or copies of books given away before their publication date in exchange for reviews). However, I’m not using that site just yet. For now, I am sticking to options that provide physical copies of books I can put into the Little Free Library when I’ve finished reading them.
If you are looking to connect with other people who love reading, there are communities of book lovers, as well as Little Free Library stewards and patrons on Instagram. It’s been enlightening to follow what people are doing with books and LFLs on social media. You can also find sizable reading communities on Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter.
My Favorite 2015 Reads
Here is a list of the books I enjoyed the most or learned the most from this past year (in no particular order). A note to those working with students: I think the Alexander Kwame’s The Crossover will be fairly popular. I can’t wait for it to come out in paperback so I can start handing it out.
- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
- Between the World & Me
- The Crossover
- The Giver
- The Martian
- The Power of Habit
- Ready Player One
- The Seeds Project Interviews
- Station Eleven
- World War Z
Which books did you enjoy the most in 2015? What did you notice about your own reading? Do you have any reading challenges you want to try out for 2016 or enjoyed in the past? What have you learned about the book world or your own reading habits you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.