I set an ambitious book goal for the year. I did not come even close to achieving it.
The most important thing to know about my reading experience, is that it based on a game I like to call “library roulette.”
Almost all the books I read these days are electronic, and almost all of them come from the library. I read on a Lenovo tablet using the Kindle app, and primarily use the Libby app for managing loans and holds.
I have two library cards. Most obviously, I have a card for my local Finger Lakes Library System. They have a modest selection of ebooks, allow 5 loans and holds total at a time, and allow loans of up to three weeks. As a New York State resident, I also qualify for a card from the New York Public Library. They have a pretty robust selection of books, allow for a total of 15 holds and loans at a time, and allow loans of up to two weeks.
The way you get recent, popular books it to search and locate, then place a hold using the appropriate library card. Putting a popular book on hold might mean a wait period of six months or more.That book then shows up ready for download whenever it becomes available. It is then magically taken away as soon as the loan period expires. When other people are waiting, you cannot renew.
No matter what the estimate says when you place a hold on a book, they show up at the whims of the library gods. So, you might have no books. Then you might have 5. In fact, this just happened to me. And while typing this, I just received an alert that book #6 has just been borrowed. Which there is simply no physical way I will be able to read.
This is not the best system for someone with chronic illness who can’t always concentrate enough to read. And it largely removes the ability to choose what one is in the mood for.
That said, the fact that I read more than 20 books playing library roulette while chronically ill feels like a win. And I’m racing the clock to try to finish On the Come Up by Angie Thomas before the end of the year.
I read a bunch of books, and that’s a thing that many of my MECFS comrades cannot do. So, I’m grateful.
Here’s my list of favorite books I read this year. There was more fiction in the mix than usual.
- City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is the most fun read I’ve done in a couple of years. The characters are quirky and fabulous; woman who were charting their way and participating in unconventional relationships and creative outlets.
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This novel was recommended by Rachel Cargle, as a way for white folks to understand the generational impact of slavery. It is one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. Her writing is gorgeous. I wrote about it here.
- A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum. This was a very emotionally difficult read. If you can’t deal with women in pain, I don’t recommend. I wrote about it here.
- If, Then by Kate Hope Day. A surreal read about possible paths.
- Swing Time by Zadie Smith. This novel takes places in several locations, and explores a number of different aspects of privilege.
- Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Fun! Nerds! Books! Secret societies!
- The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I wrote about it here. A strange story about a strange man, interwoven with a great exploration of libraries, and their roles and evolution.
- The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick. A fun and fluffy adventure about family secrets and baggage.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Yes. I was a little late to the party on this one. Thoroughly enjoyable.
- She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. I wrote about it here.
- Inheritance by Dani Shapiro. Utterly fascinating memoir by a woman who discovers through a DNA test that she is not who she thinks she is. How is that true? What does it mean for her identity as a Jewish woman who knows herself in part through her bloodlines and family story?
- Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma. Haben is an attorney and speaker advocating for rights of the disabled. Her memoir tells the story of how she got to that point.
- No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell Moore. A raw memoir of growing up in Camden, NJ, and onward. Darnell Moore tells his story of coming to terms with identity.
- Me And White Supremacy Workbook by Layla Saad. I wrote about it here. An expanded version is coming out as a book release tin February 2020. If you pre-order the book through her website, you can download a copy of the original workbook to start with.