I did it! I read 12 books in one year!
It doesn’t sound like that big of an accomplishment to avid readers out there but it’s not the sheer numbers that I’m so excited about. It’s the fact that I did reading for pleasure!
Growing up, I was a huge reader. We would pick up little books at yard sales that I had never heard of and I would devour them. (I actually still have many of these books). And when it came to the Choose Your Own Adventure series, I was unstoppable. I’d read and read again until I picked just the right ending.
But then high school and college came and reading became a chore. And then when I hit my working 20s, spare time was spent going out or watching TV. Period. Then I fell into motherhood and like so many moms out there, my reading repertoire was reduced to Goodnight, Moon and Guess How Much I Love You? Both great, classic books, but a little weak on plot and character development.
I forgot to mention that somewhere along the way, the internet became kind of a big deal and everything we consumed was digital: Facebook updates, tweets, articles (that we clicked away from if they were too long), and blog posts, of course. But I was missing my love of a good story, both fiction and non-fiction. I picked up a few audiobooks along the way while I commuted to work. And even made time for some really thick books from the likes of Ken Follett. But reading was no longer a habit. It was a luxury.
Then I moved to Maryland, met an amazing community of women, and we started a book club.
I’ve heard stories from so many other women who tried book clubs and there were either personality conflicts, or lack of commitments, or no real intellect or interest when it came to discussing the books. Not us, my friends. Not us.
One neighbor volunteers to host each month (usually on a Saturday, around 7pm). She picks the book for the month, schedules the date, and provides the wine (because there HAS to be wine) and munchies. We started out socializing for the first hour and discussing the book for the second hour. Now it’s more like chatting for 90 minutes before someone says Hey, we should probably discuss the book!
We usually spend the next hour discussing questions we’ve all written anonymously and then socialize more before we head home, buzzing about the next book we’re going to read.
It’s been an amazing 12 months of getting to know my neighbors (no personality conflicts – SHOCKING!) and reading such a wide variety of books. I thought it might be fun to share how our reading progressed over the last year (along with my quick, no-spoiler review of the book from Goodreads).
November – The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
My review: “What I thought might be a gimmicky idea (story told from a dog’s perspective) ended up making what might have been an ordinary story quite extraordinary. Beautifully written fiction bordering on philosophy. I loved this book.”
December – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My review: “I think I liked this book more as I was reading it than after it was over. I found it a little too much of a stretch, even for fiction.”
January – Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson
My review: “I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Again, thinking it might be gimmicky, I found myself looking for flaws on incontinuity. Surprisingly, I found no gaping holes. It was a quick read with a nice twist (that was not ridiculous enough that you never saw it coming). A definite page turner and for me, an imagined happy ending. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
February – The Giver by Lois Lowry
(I hosted this month and picked this book)
My review: “Keeping in mind that this was a young adult novel, I found that it was a great story with food for thought. I was surprised at how much discussion it generated at book club. But it definitely felt like it was for a younger audience. It was a little too short for my taste.”
March – Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
My review; “First book I’ve read by Emily Giffin and I did NOT expect to like it. I’m generally not a fan of chick lit but this was our book club selection. It was an easy, enjoyable read that really hooked me for the second half.”
April – Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner
My review: “Totally enjoyed this page turner. While this is one in a series of books about the lead detective (who incidentally I found to be to least interesting character), it’s a great standalone book. Getting ready to discuss this at book club this weekend and I can’t wait. It was a satisfying ending but not a happy one and definitely one worth discussing!”
May – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
My review: “This was a beautifully written piece of historically inspired fiction. It’s inspired me to learn some unknown history. I’m normally not a fan of the story switching between past and present but felt this worked and the modern story was woven in quite nicely. No fairytale endings make this an enjoyable but believable piece of fiction.”
June – Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
My review: “I didn’t think I loved this book. But I’ll admit that over a month after I finished, I was still thinking about the characters and reflecting on my own community and book club.”
July – Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann
My review: “I get where the author was going with this. Our lives are all interconnected, often in ways we never realize. While the characters were well-developed, there was too much narrative and parts that felt very much like filler. Good book but not one I’d recommend.”
August – Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
My review: “Not many books are well-written, entertaining, and hold my interest. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this from start to finish. The style of writing is what I loved so much. Easy reading!”
September – State of Wonder by Anne Patchett
My review: “I think it helps make this book more enjoyable if you have an interest or background in science. Having done both field and lab research, I could totally appreciate the characters (yes, there are people like Dr. Swenson out there). More importantly, this was a great read for book club as we came up with some good philosophical questions for debate.”
October – Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen
My review: It’s a fun quick read without a lot of depth. The characters are a bit like caricatures but it makes it easy to see the book in your head as if you’re watching the Lifetime movie. Good summertime, at the beach kind of reading.”
We’re already moving on to the new year and all new book selections (next month is “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes). But I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these books or you recommendations for a good book club selection. We’ve got 11 more selections to make!
Disclosure: All of the images above are Amazon affiliate links. But mainly, it made it easy to embed an image of the book.
Congrats on reading 12 books in a year! I started this year with a goal of reading 36 books this year but realized it was a bit too much and dropped it down to 15. I’m currently on book 11: The Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse.
Others have included On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and Outlaw Journalist by William McKeen. I loved that last one. A compelling, thorough look at the life of Hunter Thompson.
It’s been exciting to read so many this year compared to last year. Last year I read a grand total of one book. Going up to 10 (and working on 11) has been a huge accomplishment for me.
36 books?? What were you thinking? I’m happy with one book per month, plus I usually have another book that I listen to sporadically as an audiobook in the car (right now, Under the Dome by Stephen King). I guess with audiobooks, I did more than 12. Go me! But I’m happy with just 12 🙂
I’ve read and enjoyed many of the books on your list! Congratulations on finding a book club that really works. Since you did ask, here are a few more suggestions for great book club reads: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Rifka Brunt, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, The House Girl by Tara Conklin, The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult, and The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes. Ah, sorry, I just went into bookseller mode for a minute. Oh, and it seems like your group likes suspense/mysteries a bit, so Tell No One, Gone For Good or The Woods are all fabulous books by Harlan Coben. And I loved Ok. I promise I’ll stop now. Oh, and Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn was, in my opinion, MUCH better than Gone Girl. Ok. Really shutting up now.
Actually, I love that you gave so many suggestions. I always rely on people’s recommendations rather than just randomly picking something. One of our books was the recommendation from a worker at B&N and it didn’t go over well that month.
I’m definitely going to revisit your list!
I LOVE reading – so much that when it dawned on me that after my kids were born I’d pretty much stopped, I started reading 2 books at a time and keep one in the bathroom (because after daddy gets home, I actually CAN be alone in there!), and one on my nightstand, and I don’t go to sleep without at least reading for 10 minutes. I also read for my college courses (double major in English/Teaching), but I don’t count that as my reading time because like you said, it feels more like a chore that HAS to be done. You are SO lucky to have found a book club that gets along so well!
Computers and iPhones (and kids) have been the downfall of my reading. When I have a free moment, I waste time checking email or Facebook or playing stupid games on my phone. At least once a week, I take a nice hour long bath with nothing but my Kindle Touch. Heaven!
Your book club sounds awesome. I’m afraid I’m not going to find a good one unless I start it myself… and oh, my, gosh, that just isn’t gonna happen.
I didn’t start this one but was lucky to be invited from the get go. I couldn’t ask for a more interesting group of women that like to eat, drink, and actually talk about the books! And because we all live in the same neighborhood, logistics are never a problem because we walk to everyone’s houses!
[…] for me. I create my own running movie in my head when I’m reading. Sometimes, just for fun, at my book club, we’ll ask who should play the major characters of the book if it were ever brought to the […]
I popped in from a link in your other post. How wonderful to meet in person and discuss books.
I join in now and then with Goodreads groups, but it would be more fun to socialize in person.
Congratulations on finding/making time to read for enjoyment!
I am only in the 8th grade and i love to read! Me and my friends wanted to make a book club but never really thought about it….. All these books sound wonderful and i think we are going to try some of them out. 🙂 My recommendation is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. His writing is beautiful! if you haven’t read it you should buy it on your kindle, go to the library, or pull it off your shelf right now! His other one ( I Am the Messenger) is great too!
Mya! So glad you read. Keep doing it all your life! I think my favorite was the first book we read: The Art of Racing in the Rain. I’ve heard great things about The Book Thief. Maybe I’ll recommend it as our next selection!
Loved State of Wonder and Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Great list of books! My book group has been meeting for 12 years and we were just talking about the fact that we should have kept a running list.
I think The Art of Racing in the Rain and Where’d You Go, Bernadette were my favorites this year but I liked them all for different reasons. It helps that I keep tabs of everything on Goodreads. And if you’ve been doing a book club for that long, you should definitely read Angry Housewives if you haven’t already. It’s about a book club!