In the last couple years, I’ve made a conscious effort to become a more consistent reader. With everything that’s going on, both personally and in the world today, I’ve learned you just have to find a quiet spot with a hot beverage, good lighting, maybe a dog, and sit and read.
Finding the time is not easy. Sometimes I catch up on reading before dinner, but usually after I’ve put my daughter to bed and the house has quieted down. I’ve found that it takes a while for me to switch my brain away from everything else I feel I need to deal with and just get lost in a story. Sometimes it just isn’t happening. But if I’m lucky, I’ll get sucked in and read well past midnight.
I’ve always believed I could be a writer. I have a ton of ideas written in notebooks and in different apps. Anything I start to write usually gets abandoned, and whatever I do finish is probably rubbish. Still, the nagging call to writing persists. And I believe one of the keys to inspiration (as all my writing idols will tell you) is to always be reading.
In my case, I try to read the types of genres that I want to contribute my own stories to, usually ghost stories and fairy tales.
In looking through my Goodreads history, it looks like I’ve read 19 books in 2017. No doubt that sounds like a lot for some, few for the more voracious readers. I consider it a pretty good accomplishment.
Here’s what I read this past year, in rough chronological order, starting with the most recently finished:
* = repeat read
“Strange Weather” by Joe Hill
- “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
“The Man Who Invented Christmas” by Les Standiford
“Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson
“The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures” by Aaron Mahnke
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“Burnt Offerings” by Robert Marasco
“20th Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill
“The Dead Zone” by Stephen King
“The 13 Clocks” by James Thurber
- “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson
“Hyde” by Daniel Levine
“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
“Slade House” by David Mitchell
“1984” by George Orwell
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick
“Animal Farm” by George Orwell
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
“Tales of the Peculiar” by Ransom Riggs
I think it’s a healthy mix of the modern and the classic. Several of these I’ve always wanted to read, but just never got around to it. For some, like “Frankenstein”, I’d always thought the writing would be inaccessible. It took some getting used to, but you quickly get into the flow and it gets easer.
Best read of 2017? That’s almost impossible to say. “The Haunting of Hill House” is one of my all-time favorites that I’ve read at least five times. Same for “A Christmas Carol”, which I gleefully wrap myself in every year.
I’d never read a Sherlock Holmes story, and really enjoyed “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. “Frankenstein” was a treat, especially to see how the real story went, in contrast to every Hollywood adaptation (spoiler: the movies are WAY different).
I picked “Hyde” off the shelf purely based on its cover. Its premise sold me, and it turned out to be a great supplement to “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (I recommend reading the latter first, if you haven’t yet).
2017 included two anthologies from Joe Hill, son of Stephen King. I recommend both, if you’re a King fan.
One big left turn in genres for me was “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson (aka, The Bloggess). My wife has followed her blog for years, and recommended I give it a chance. I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) and loved it. Like me, Lawson is a creative struggling through multiple issues, including depression. I’ll be talking more about that this year, but her stories and anecdotes really spoke to me and gave me encouragement. The takeaway, for me, was that we are all broken in some way. It’s just how we each choose to deal with it, and still manage to make and put things into the world.
So that’s it. Nineteen books in twelve months. I’d love to shoot for 20 (or more) in 2018. What’s up next? Here’s the first few I’m going to tackle:
“Artemis” by Andy Weir
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker
“Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks
“I’ll Be Gone In the Dark” by Michelle McNamara
“A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeleine L’Engle