Reading in 2020

When I am reading a new book and know exactly who I’m going to buy a copy for their Christmas gift.

’tis the season for book giving! I love to comb through my Goodreads Challenge in December to figure out which books I’m going to buy for the loved ones on my gift list. The silver lining of going nowhere and doing nothing this year is that my husband and I finally have the time to participate in a holiday tradition I’ve long coveted, the Christmas Book Flood, where you exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the rest of the night in bed reading and eating chocolate.

But also…when I realize I can’t book-talk it to that person and gush about how great it is…for fear they’ll buy a copy before I can gift it.

When I was a baby writer I used to give my brutally honest opinion on Goodreads with 3- 2- and 1-star reviews—really just for my own record keeping purposes, since I treated the first few years after graduation like a DIY MFA program, reading as much and as critically as possible for craft purposes while simultaneously drafting my first few (totally 0-star) practice novels—my system has streamlined into:

  • 5 stars: love it! Recommend it to anyone who will listen! Definitely a gift contender.
  • 4 stars: liked it, will read something else by this author, but for whatever reason—often, a personal distaste for the ending, maybe—likely won’t book talk it to everyone I meet.
  • No rating: This book wasn’t my cup of tea and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the right audience for it. And, therefore, I’m not going to muddy the review pool with my opinion.

What a weird year for reading, though. It happened in fits and starts, when it was happening at all. The first few months, I had a hard time finding the mental peace and quiet necessary to sit down and focus on reading anything lengthier than my newsfeed. After that, I was exclusively drawn to books set against the back drop of either WWI and the flu pandemic or WWII, domestic stories with an international tragedy overshadowing it all. And with all the extra time for home cooking experimentation, I found great joy in actually sitting and reading the cookbooks in my collection I’d only perused before (returning to this one for baking and this one for new dinner recipes again and again). Thanks to #MGBooktober, October was an inspiring page-turner of a month where I binge-read ten books, driven by the fast and furious book recommendations and the desire to keep up with the daily prompts (definitely check out the hashtag if you’re looking for suggestions for your next great MG read, or if you have a middle grade [~9-13yo] reader in your life!). While I normally read an average of 65 books a year, this year I’ll likely clock in more like 50.

The reading format was a bit of an upheaval for me this year too. In the past I’ve tended to read more audiobooks than anything else, thanks to the daily commute, but WFH has me focusing more on print, especially combined with screen and video-call fatigue from the day job (total: 25 print books, 14 audiobooks, 10 ebooks / 50% print, 29% audiobook, 21% ebook). And just a call out for libraries, an absolute godsend with their curbside pickup and digital options. 35 of my books this year were library loans. And to the indies (consider BookShop.org to support local bookstores when shopping online! Or, if you don’t have a specific book in mind, gift an audiobook subscription through Libro, which also supports local bookstores!) and B&N who have kept me well-stocked with online orders and preorders for joyful pandemic mail—and who I’ve already ordered my holiday gifts through. (If you haven’t placed your book orders yet, consider doing so ASAP! There’s been serious shipping, paper supply chain, and printer upheaval and delays with the pandemic that might put a wrinkle in your plans!)

Besides reading books, I’ve also been crafting with books—old mass market paperbacks that I’ve been unable to donate during pandemic. Tutorials for the pumpkin and Christmas tree, if you’re interested.

Published by hannahkarena

author & book publishing person.

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