I fell short of my reading goal this year and that’s ok. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m not falling short. I’m missing it by about a fourth.
That’s still ok.
I began setting a Reading Goal for myself a few years ago when the Goodreads app asked if I wanted to. I had no idea how much I could read in a year so I just randomly chose 100 books.
I met or exceeded my goal a few times but this year was different. My interest in reading ebbed and flowed. I sometimes tore through two or three books quickly. Then would fall into a rut where I couldn’t finish anything.
Part of it has everything to do with me and my health. The brain fog has improved drastically but continues to be an occasional problem.
Part of the problem is that my go-to fiction category is historical fiction. A lot of the newly published titles have been formulaic and frankly, terrible. It’s like the publishing world caught on to the fact there’s money to be made in this genre and just started churning it out as quick as possible. It has become the Hallmark Christmas movie of the publishing world. Bleh.
Long story short, a lot of the historic fiction I attempted this year got tossed in the DNF pile – Did Not Finish for all of you who aren’t excited about reading.
My friend Johnna jokingly suggested I dive into the stack of vintage storybooks that I collect to hit my goal. While tempting, it isn’t really within the spirit of what I’m trying to accomplish.
This year will end at 75 books. That’s not shabby considering I work full time, travel and have other hobbies.
The 2023 goal will remain at 100. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, here are the ten books I enjoyed most. In random order:
Bambi: A Life In The Woods by Felix Salten – most people think that Bambi was created by Walt Disney. Instead, the classic cartoon fawn was created by an author and critic in Austria. Early children’s literature wasn’t what it is today and this 1926 is downright dark. It it’s also beautifully written and poetic in places.
A Christmas Memory by Richard Paul Evans – Evans is the king of heartwarming Christmas stories and this one is no exception. It’s a story of tragedy and survival, kindness and unlikely friendship. It’s also an easy heartwarming read.
Final Girls by Riley Sager – this author has taught me to enjoy a good thriller. His books usually keep you guessing and turning the page for more. I didn’t see this ending coming.
A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw – this is another one that kept me hooked despite the fact the title has nothing to do with the content. It involves a missing person and a reclusive community known as Pastoral where a man disappears while searching for that missing person. I was a little sad when it ended.
The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani – so far, I haven’t met a Trigiani book that I didn’t like. Her books focus on rich characters and beautiful settings. From Appalachian Virginia to New York City to old world Italy, every book is special. This one is no different, weaving stories of past and present that draw the reader in and inspiring thought.
As a side bar, listen to the Big Stone Gap audiobooks. This series was my gateway into the Trigiani universe and they’re still among my favorites.
The Deepest South Of All by Richard Grant – the author is an award winning journalist who moved to Natchez, Mississippi and wrote this amusing book about the life and characters of this town. This wins the award for one of the strangest reads of the year.
Dirt by Mary Marantz– I bought this book at Ollie’s for $3 and had low expectations. Turns out, it is one of the best pieces of contemporary Appalachian nonfiction that I have read. This memoir was written by a woman who grew up in a single wide house trailer in the mountains of rural West Virginia. Generations of her family were loggers but she escaped this harsh and dangerous lifestyle to attend Yale Law School. It is well done and I recommend it to any child of Appalachia.
Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh – this is a slender volume and an elegant meditation on solitude, relationships and contentment. She wrote it while on vacation at the sea and it is teeming with wisdom. And yes, she is that Lindbergh. The Lindbergh baby was her child.
The Growing Season by Sarah Frey – this was another standout. Sarah Frey grew up dirt poor, helping earn the family money as a young child selling produce to store managers. Today, her family company, Frey Farms, is one of the largest fresh produce growers and shippers in America. If you have bought a watermelon in this country, you likely have bought one of her melons. If you’re looking for a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” story, this one is extraordinary. I admire her work ethic, creativity and good old fashioned scrappiness.
The Face Of Appalachia by Tim Barnwell – this was a souvenir from Asheville, North Carolina. I bought this volume of local photography because the images are extraordinary and the book is signed. The photographer spent years convincing strangers to let him make their portraits in their natural environs. Think homes, storefronts and even chicken yards. These images all seem to be from the eighties and captured scenes and the faces of people who are likely almost all gone now.
But it’s not just images. He captured oral histories too. This guy’s work is the stuff of dreams, the kind of photography that I would love to practice. The author has published other books and I’m dying to see them all.
I feel pretty uninspired when looking back over this year’s reading. You wouldn’t believe the stack that I couldn’t finish including one in particular that was truly disappointing.
There’s a lot of good stuff in my To Be Read pile and I’m excited to get started again. What are you reading? I’m always up for a good recommendation!