The Year I Learned to Love Reading

Here’s the secret I’ve harbored for many years: I have never liked to read.

Sure, I had to read a lot of books in grad school. And, sure, I have always liked wandering used books stores, opening books I’d never heard of and hunting down Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Bronte—for the longest time the only authors that made my heart sing. But I never really liked reading. I’m antsy but I like to finish things, even books I don’t like by page 37—a habit that got worse right after grad school when I felt I could/should learn something from books I didn’t like. I’m also hard to please—though, in my defense, I could do worse than Woolf and Bronte.

But 2015 was the year that all changed. It was the year of graphic novels and essays, of finally tackling a books that have been on my nightstand for several years. It was the year I finally read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Traveling Mercies and The New Jim Crow and Mystery and Manners. It was the first year I can remember not reading Virginia Woolf. It was a year of nostalgia for the great writers at Pacific University and the year I fell in love with Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison all over again. It was the year I stopped finishing books I did not like, the year I realized there were too many books on my To Be Read list to waste time on books that didn’t electrify my writing brain.

It was the year I fell in love with reading, and the year I finally realized that what I put in my brain shapes what comes out of it.

As I’ve been contemplating my own writing I know it’s time to return to To The Lighthouse (I have referenced “Time passes” too many times this year to deny its hold on my soul) and to Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which I read for only the second time at the end of 2014. Though I devoured The Luminaries and Things We Set on Fire and All the Light We Cannot See, I miss these old favorites. Now that I have discovered the intoxicating magic of literature I’m eager to return to my roots, to read them more closely than ever. Still, I already have a stack of six or seven books waiting for my attention, thick novels beckoning me into worlds unknown.

Here’s what I read in 2015, in order of appearance:

  1. In the Middle of the Middle West (essays)
  2. Ida B, Katherine Hannigan (novel)
  3. Uprising, Margaret Peterson Haddix (novel)
  4. Changing Light, Nora Gallagher (novel)
  5. Self Storage and Other Stories, Mary Helen Stefaniak (short stories)
  6. Stone Harbor Bound, Madeleine Mysko (novel)
  7. A Mercy, Toni Morrison (novel)
  8. The Crowded Grave, Martin Walker (novel)
  9. Things We Set on Fire, Deborah Reed (novel)
  10. District and Circle, Seamus Heaney (poetry)
  11. Past, Perfect and Present Tense, Richard Peck (craft)
  12. Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor (memoir)
  13. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, JK Rowling (novel)
  14. The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton (novel)
  15. Red Lightning, Laura Pritchett (novel)
  16. The Coast of Chicago, Stuart Dybek (short stories)
  17. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson (poetry)
  18. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (novel)
  19. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (novel)
  20. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing (novel)
  21. At the Jim Bridger, Ron Carlson (short stories)
  22. Ron Carlson Writes A Story, Ron Carlson (craft)
  23. Comfort, Ann Hood (memoir)
  24. So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell (novel)
  25. The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander (nonfiction)
  26. Bel Canto, Ann Patchett (novel)
  27. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (graphic novel)
  28. Trinity, Jonathan Fetters-Worm (graphic novel)
  29. Home, Toni Morrison (novel)
  30. Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen (graphic novel)
  31. Carry Yourself Back to Me, Deborah Reed (novel)
  32. Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel (graphic novel)
  33. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante (novel)
  34. Hedy’s Folly, Richard Rhodes (nonfiction)
  35. Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor (craft)
  36. The Plague of Doves, Louise Erdrich (novel)
  37. Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott (essays)
  38. Crossing Thresholds, Lucy Forster-Smith (memoir)
  39. The Writing Life, Annie Dillard (craft)
  40. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling (novel)
  41. Just Kids, Patti Smith (memoir)
  42. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman (novel)
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