What I Learned from Reading 52 Books in 2018
I love to read.
Reading has always been a source of entertainment for me. I can remember walking three blocks to the local library during the summer as a kid and checking out as many chapter books as I could. Then I would half walk half run back home and plop down under our weeping willow and read until it was time to come in for supper.
As I proceeded through elementary school, I read so many books that I earned Top Accelerated Reader for my grade(s) (and later, school). Then throughout middle school and high school, I helped in the school libraries by checking books in/out. I can remember setting aside books for myself as I would check them in instead of putting them back on the shelf – was my excuse to find new reads! Additionally, reading was so ingrained in my daily life that a friend and I participated in a lunch time program called Books Between Bites sponsored by the county library.
Then first semester of undergrad arrived in the fall of 2012 and reading quickly disappeared from my list of hobbies. Like many others, I found myself drowning in “required” reading trying to determine which reading I could let slip for the week; I was unable to keep up. For the next three years, I would occasionally pick up a book from the library, but I couldn’t seem one that truly peeked my interest.
Fast forward to August 2016 and I once again found myself faced with a plethora of “required” reading for graduate school. This time, it felt a little bit easier sifting through what would be truly helpful to know and what I could let slip. However, I was living alone for the first time. I no longer had a roommate or family member to help keep me entertained or to talk to when I got bored/lonely. I think this was the catalyst that got me reading for entertainment again.
Over the next year and a half, I had very little income. So while many of the students in my program were going out, I was curled up inside with a book. Reading helped me stay above water during those 18 months.
At the end of 2017, I received a wonderful job offer and moved even further away from my family to a town where I knew no one. I quickly realized that I could only fill up so much free time with Netflix before I came bored. Soon into the new year, I signed up for a library card at the Bartholomew County library. I’m so thankful to have lived in a city with such an expansive selection of books that are FREE. I will certainly miss this when I move in a few days to a much smaller town.
I am a very goal-oriented person so I realized shortly after getting my library card, I wanted to set a hefty reading goal for 2018. I remember scrolling through my Want to Read list on the Goodreads app and realizing that I had saved more than 75 books over the last few years, but had barely made a dent in the list. So using the Reading Challenge within the Goodreads app, I set a Reading Challenge for myself: 52 books in 2018.
I’m proud to say that on December 15th, I completed my goal! For a few weeks in the fall, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to reach the goal. I kept checking out book after book and not being able to make it past the first chapter. However, as I scroll through the list of books that I read, I realize that I’ve grown as a person in several ways.
I got comfortable reading in unconventional places.
I travel a week out of every month for work and to pass the time while waiting for my food in restaurants, I began to pull out a book and read. At first, it felt really uncomfortable sitting in a restaurant surrounded by people chatting with their friends or family. As I did it more and more though, it began to feel empowering. Here I was sitting in a busy restaurant, getting lost in a book.
I began to always have a book with me: digital or physical.
I have the Libby app through my library that I occasionally use to check out books that I want to read, but are unavailable for some time in physical form. I’m not a huge fan of digital reading as I enjoy having a book in my hands, turning the pages. However, during this challenge, I found that I always had a least one version one me: digital or physical. I found that instead of reaching for my phone to aimlessly scroll through social media, I would pull out a book and read instead.
I selected books outside of my normal genre of thriller or mystery.
I love to read psychological thrillers and mysteries. While my background is in public health, I have never been one to read non-fiction; my, how that has since changed! Earlier in the year, I started to browse through the library’s new book selection before checking out and started to pick up genres outside of my normal reading. This eventually lead to me reading more non-fiction this year which fascinates me. I’m curious to see what I pick up next year. Which leads me to my next reflection …
Reading helped me expand my knowledge on topics outside of my areas of expertise.
As you can see below, I read a lot of personal finance books this year. Money has always been an area of concern for me as I’ve never felt confident with money. As I started to read through these books, I realized that my lack of confidence was correlated with my lack of knowledge. As I began to educate myself more on debt and personal finance, I began to feel more confident with my financial situation and future.
Reading became a form of self-care that helped me tackle feelings of loneliness and depression.
I really struggled with loneliness this year. Feelings of anxiety and depression often filled the corners of my apartment as well. While it took me nearly all year to fight through the loneliness and become content with living alone, I don’t think I would have even gotten to this point had it not been for reading. Reading truly became a form of self-care – a place where I could curl up in the recliner after work with a cup of coffee (decaf of course) and blanket and forget about my current circumstances.
As I look ahead to 2019, I have a lot more opportunities to help me continue to fight loneliness and improve my work-life balance. However, I don’t foresee reading going away at all. That being said, my reading challenge for 2019 will be 60 books!
While I have a few books left on my Want to Read list from this year, I have been slowly adding to it over the last few weeks. I want to add more classic reads and books that were later turned into movies to my list.