Way back in 2011 I decided to keep a running list of all the books I read that year. I had heard people around the internet doing the 50 Book Challenge, and I wasn't consciously trying to participate, I was mostly just curious how much I actually read. I've always been a bookworm, but I had no idea how many titles I was actually going through each year. By the end of that year I was at 83 books, feeling very smug indeed. Since then my hubris has caught up with me, and I can now acknowledge that was an outlier. 2011 was the year I took most of my survey courses, so 45 of those titles were read for school. Ever since, the closest I've come to breaking 50 was 45 in 2013, and my worst year for reading was 17 in 2015. Usually the year end total hovers around 30, until now. I finally made it to 50 this year!
At the start of 2017 I decided to take the challenge seriously, but I still credit most of my success to the fact that I was working in retail at a shop where I often worked full shifts alone, with some days so slow that a maximum of 3 different people would enter all day. (Turns out not many people are willing to venture out into freezing Chicago temps to blow tons of money on skincare.) I was able to finish entire books during my shift, which is the only reason I was already on book 12 at the start of February. My second shout out definitely has to go to the Chicago Public Library, for having the best library app I've ever used, and staying open til 9pm on weeknights.
To celebrate hitting the 50 book mark for the first time in 6 years, here's my top 5 (in no particular order), along with a lil review in case you're trying to jumpstart your new year's reading:
I'm not embarrassed to say I discovered this book by watching Gilmore Girls, during a scene where Jess recommends it to Rory. If you're at all interested in New York, or punk rock, you need to read it. This book does such an amazing job of capturing the moment in all of its grit and magic that I was simultaneously reveling in how cool all these people were and realizing that they're just normal humans who were probably assholes a lot of the time. It's just the right amount of gossipy, because I do want to know about the groupies Bowie slept with, and that Nico gave Iggy Pop chlamydia, but it never feels like it's shit-talking any one person (except maybe Nancy Spungen). I love reading about moments in time like this, Chelsea Hotel in the 70s, Paris in the 20s, any scene where a group of creative friends all become famous in their own right. Read it and then email me so I can pitch you my idea for a Sable Starr biopic.
I wish I could remember how I came across this book, but I write down every interesting title I see online/hear about in a podcast/overhear someone talking about/see someone reading on CTA so there's no way of knowing; but in this case the fact that I can't remember makes the whole book even creepier than it already is. This is without a doubt, the scariest book I have ever read. Reid does such an excellent job crafting the story and slowly ramping up the tension that by the end my heart was pounding and I was thoroughly terrified. Also probably didn't help that I read it alone at work on a particularly solitary winter day. I don't even want to tell you anything about it because you just have to dive into it. Preferably with the lights on.
Oh Patti Smith. What a goddess. I just want to wrap her words around me and wear them like a cloak that protects me from the rest of the world. I don't know why I waited so long to pick up M Train, because I adore Just Kids, but better late than never. I read this while I was spending a lot of time in cafes applying for full time jobs, but it made me wish I was spending a lot of time in cafes with Patti Smith.
I've never been disappointed by Neil Gaiman, so I don't know why I haven't read more of his work. I picked up American Gods and immediately wanted to get to the end but also to read as slowly as possible to savor every word. Obviously my impatience won, but it was one of the most fun reads of the year. There's a great section where Gaiman ruminates on the draw of roadside attractions, and you already know I think the best part of a road trip is the weirdo roadside attractions (shoutout to the International Banana Museum.) I loved it so much I asked for it for Christmas, so I can read it again & again.
Lucia gave me this book when I started blogging again, because she is an angel and one of the best gift-givers I've ever met. I put Durga Chew-Bose on the same level as Patti Smith, because both of them write like I wish I could write. I read most of this in D.C. while visiting Sunny, and I was sitting in Ronald Reagan airport on my way back continually having to put the book down to scribble down notes/inspirations. I was thinking about these essays long after I was done.
If you're reading anything exciting, let me know. Maybe I'll put it on my list.