What I Read in January
Plus a favorite winter picture book, and three observations of my reading life.
Today, I’m talking all about what I read in January, plus some thoughts about the readerly life.
I would LOVE to hear what you’ve read recently and enjoyed in the comments. And you get to define recently… it can be yesterday, last month or last year! Either way, head to the comments below and tell me what you’ve been reading 📚
January was a wonderful reading month for me, which was sorely needed after a dry, restless December. Here’s what I read with a one sentence thought (see below for the emojis key.)
🎧 💬 “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. I’m glad to have read it. 🖤
📚 💬 “Jesus and John Wayne” by Kristen Kobes Du Mez. Not as mind blowing as I anticipated, the tone grated me at parts, and I felt it oversimplified some aspects of history that deserved more nuance, but it provided helpful insight to my lived experience as a child and the context and culture where I am currently. 🧩 ➿
📱 “All the Lonely People” by Mike Gayle. Much to my disappointment, this was not the next “A Man Called Ove” as it was peddled, but I’m not sad I read it. 🖤
🎧 💬 “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. I’ve had this book on my shelf for three and half years, and this was the season of I needed Brown’s words. 🖤 ➿
🎧 “Anxious People” by Frederick Backman. Hands down, my favorite read of the month. (Content warning: suicide) 🖤 🧩
🎧 “Domestic Monastery” by Ronald Rolheiser. There’s a weird bit at the beginning about sex and love and friendship, but this was hands down the best bang for my buck and gave me so many new thoughts about what spiritual disciplines and practices look like in the context of home life and caregiving. ➿
🎧 💬 “Long Days of Small Things” by Catherine McNeil. Another thoughtful and nuanced book about home life and caregiving to children, listening to this while at home for Covid quarantine was balm for my soul. 🖤 ➿
📱“A Line To Kill” by Anthony Horowitz. I am not sad I read this, but walked away truly ambivalent about Horowitz’s characters. 🧩
Honorable picture book mention…
“Wolf in the Snow” by Matthew Cordell. A cozy, heartwarming, wintry wordless book that captivated my daughter and me.
(🎧: audio | 📱: Kindle | 📚: print… other emojis explained below.)
Some thoughts on my January reading…
I’m a firm believer that enjoyment and taking time to sit with a book and let it affect you is FAR more important than the number of books read. But, I also think it’s true that as we find books we delight in reading, we’ll naturally read more.
All of that said, the number of books I read in January combined with my satisfaction with this list made me want to pause and give thought as to why January was such a rich reading month for me. Here’s what I came up with.
1. While some of these books stretched me and only a few were five-star reads, all of them were in my wheelhouse. Yesterday, I listened to a Currently Reading episode where Meredith and Katyee discussed the themes that defined their reading life. I gave some thought to the three themes of my reading life (see below), and it was obvious that each of these books touched at least one of the themes, and most of the books touched two of them.
🖤 I like ALL THE FEELS. And when I say all the feels, and what I really mean is I like to laugh so hard that I’m crying, and/or just have a good cry. This also means I need characters I am rooting for or identify with.
➿ I like books that help me make connections in my own life or help me define an experience. That is, books that make me say “Ah, that’s why that is the way it is.”
🧩 I like books that have a puzzle element in them. I want there to be something that needs to be figured out or sorted through.
2. Half of my January books were read alongside others or intentionally discussed with others. I’m not a big fan of the traditional book club, but I’ve loved finding unconventional ways to read in community. 💬
3. My format was varied. These books were a mix of audio, Kindle and print. The portability of the Kindle is one of the reasons I can read so easily. I really liked “Jesus and John Wayne” in print. And, I was reminded that some books are so much better on audio, and “Braving the Wilderness” and “Anxious People” were two such titles. 📚🎧📱
Now, you might be asking… Is this navel-gazing on my reading life really necessary?
Well, I absolutely think you can have a rich reading life with just picking up whatever piques your interest, is recommended by friend, on the end caps at the library or lying around your home, etc.
But I’ve learned two things about myself since I picked up reading as a hobby a few years ago.
First, reading is essential my mental health, helps me cultivate empathy and is an essential source of delight. So, it’s important that I do all I can to make sure I’m reading.
And yet, I’ve also learned that I’m a demand reader (vs. a supply reader). This means I only really read when I have something that I want to read. I marvel at folks who read whatever is sitting around, or who have the endurance to plough through a book they don’t enjoy… that’s not me.
So, if it’s important to me to read, yet I know that I’ll only read if I have something on hand that interests me, then YES the introspection is very important. Attention to my reading life helps me remove barriers to this hobby and ensures books are ever-present companions in my life.
Some Bookish Links
When Listening to a Book Is Better Than Reading It from the NYT (I love this article so much).
Reader, Know Thyself from the Currently Reading Podcast
Libro.fm is a FANTASTIC audiobook service that supports independent booksellers.
The Importance Of Reading At Whim and Developing Your Own Taste from Read Aloud Revival, with Alan Jacobs
How To Create a Book Club Culture At Home from Read Aloud Revival
How to Read a Wordless Book from Read Aloud Revival
Supply vs. Demand Readers from Laura Vanderkam
“Read what gives you delight—at least most of the time—and do so without shame.”
Drop a comment below with the books that have been bringing you delight!
I read something you recommended: The Mother In-Law. Definitely a page-turner! I hadn't read this author before, but I liked her, and I find it interesting that there are several current female authors from Australia who write in a similar genre.
That's how I felt about J&JW too. I didn't finish it. I'm sure it was a valuable read for a lot of people, but I felt like I was just getting a bunch of facts I already knew thrown at me.