This year, I really want to focus on reading from my own bookshelf before bringing more books in, so I’ve picked out 10 books to share with you that I can’t wait to get to this year.
1. The Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
I was more than halfway through the audiobook when it was due back to the
library. I was late to the Harry Potter party and started reading them when I was in college after the final movie came out. I’ve really enjoyed working my way through the biggest part of the series this year. Reading them as an adult certainly hasn’t put a damper on the magic at all, but I’m ready to finish this series and see how it ends!
2. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Can’t wait. I love The Lord of the Rings movies, but have never read the books. This year, I will get to The Hobbit and work my way forward. I have a feeling my love for LoTR will be reignited.
3. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
The subtitle is self-explanatory, but it’s on my TBR because I’ve done research in the past on child soldiers and even interned for an organization that helps rehabilitate them. I’ve never read a full book about the issue, so this will be a good way to learn more. Helping former child soldiers is a cause that I really care about.
4. Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters / Seymour an Introduction by J. D. Salinger
I want to be able to say I’ve read all of Salinger’s work by the end of the year, and Roof Beams is the only collection I haven’t read. I would really like to tick this one off the list this year and be able to say I’ve read all of Salinger’s novels since he’s one of my favorite writers.
5. I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son by Kent Russle
This was a Christmas gift several years ago, and I’m disappointed that I haven’t finished it yet. This is Kent Russle’s first essay collection. It explores masculinity and what it means to be a man in America. I plan on reading an essay from the collection here and there until I finish it.
6. If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski
Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, and this book is a collection of essays about his work and life. Based on the blurb, I’m hoping this book will fuel my motivation to make change in the world and inspire me to keep going, but at the very least, it will be intriguing to read about the beginning of TWLOHA.
7. Love May Fail by Matthew Quick
A few summers ago, I read Every Exquisite Thing by Quick, and it resonated with me even more than I thought it would. Since then, I’ve read another of his books and really like the way he dealt with the topic of mental illness. This year, I’d like to also read Love May Fail since I already own it, and maybe even borrow and read his newest book, The Reason You’re Alive.
8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
If you can’t tell, I’m always late to the hype on books. I can never settle on one book to read next, and popular books, though they’re on my radar, don’t make it onto my TBR for quiet a while. I read half of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a little more than a year ago (a millennia after it came out) and by then the hype had fizzled out. I loved the story and Oskar as the main character, so I am bent on finishing the second half this year.
9. Ghostbread by Sonja Livingston
Sonja Livingston is a former professor of mine, and I love her writing. Basically, I want to read all of Sonja’s work, but finals got in the way and I only finished half of Ghostbread when I picked it up a few years ago. I’d like to start from the beginning and dive back into this one, and then maybe read her other two books, Queen of the Fall and Ladies Night at the Dreamland as well.
10. The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
Marina Keegan was a talented, young writer who died in a car accident shortly after her graduation from Yale in 2012. I read some of Keegan’s writing before buying the book, and I was not only intrigued by the premise of the title essay The Opposite of Loneliness, but also struck by the strength of her writing. I want to read it now so hopefully I can learn something from her craft and also to celebrate her life.
These are just a few of the books I’m dying to get to this year. The theme seems to be finishing what I start and going with my gut. I hope the new year finds you well and exited for the future too. Let me know what books you’re most excited to get to!
When other people talk about their goals, it motivates me. Being around friends trying to change their lives has always given me a reality check. It makes me think whether I’m taking active steps toward my own goals. It helps me realize that I can do the same things my friends are doing. With that in mind, I hope my goals give you ideas or just help you stay motivated during this first month of the new year.
Use the one rejection in, one submission out rule
I learned this from Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic, although she didn’t call it a rule. She says back when she was still an unpublished writer and rejection letters came in, she took her story out of the envelope, read it over, decided whether to change it, and then resubmitted it. I appreciated the urgency she placed on getting her work back out in the world. She felt disappointed when she opened the rejection, but she didn’t wallow. She revised, then submitted her work elsewhere. As soon as a rejection comes in, I’ll send my work right back out, and, eventually, some of those letters will turn into acceptances instead of rejections.
Branch into freelancing
I’ve always been on the fence about article writing. I wasn’t sure if it was my style or if I could be formal enough. This blog has made me more confident in my abilities, though, and I want to branch into writing for websites. I have a few websites on my list along with article ideas I’m drafting, My goal is to have one article submitted by the end of January.
Learn how to plot a book
My biggest hang up for writing fiction is plotting. I’ve researched a few books to help me, and I’d like to read those by the end of the year and maybe even draft a novel. This, funnily, is one of my more difficult goals for the year because I’m primarily a poet, not a fiction writer.
Make sure I’m submitting to journals and magazines I’d be proud to be in
This seems like a no-brainer, but after you’ve gotten a lot of rejection letters (like we all do), it's tempting to throw your work out at random and hope it sticks. Not only is this a bad method to find magazines that are interested in the themes you’re writing on, it’s also a bad method for finding publishers who care about your work. I want the places I'm published in to give my work the right attention. My goal this year is to make sure every single place I submit to is one that I will be very proud to point at and say, “They liked my work!”
Write every single day
This is a rule I’ve always tried to follow, and it’s one that defends me against writer's block because it teaches me that I don’t always need the inspiration to write. This year, I’d like to continue with this rule. In the past, when I’ve gone through busier seasons of the year, it’s been easy to push writing to the side because it could wait. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to carve out 30 minutes to an hour every day to write, even if all I can do is put a few lines down in my journal. An important part of a writer’s career is having a nice backlist of work to draw on, and I want to build mine up.
January can be an overwhelming time knowing that the whole year is ahead of us, but it can also be a time of happy expectation if we let ourselves dream. Those are my writing goals for 2018. Let me know what yours are!
I have a lot of favorite books, so I don’t want to write at length about why I loved them (that would probably get boring for both of us!), but I would like to give a short tidbit about why these books have stuck with me this year in case you were thinking of giving them a try and I can persuade you to give them a chance.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
I read this in May, and it was the first book of the year to stop me in my tracks. The writing is beautiful, the plot is set up amazingly, and the characters really felt real to me. Some people won’t like this for its “insta-love” aspect, but in my opinion, the quick romance didn't hinder the story at all. An awesome book.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
There’s a lot of great tidbits about writing in Big Magic. I’m still thinking about them months later. It can be a little hokey pokey, but I urge every writer to give it a shot anyway.
Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly
I read this in one day. It’s short but immersive and expressive. I felt sucked in by the end of the first chapter. I will definitely be keeping this one of my shelf to share with others.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
I like stories about brave little girls. Coraline is a gem that I actually couldn’t get into the first time I tried to read it two years ago, but recently, I read it in one sitting and found myself cheering Coraline on and empathizing with her fears.
Turtles all the way Down by John Green
I needed this book. There are a lot of valid critiques out there of John Green’s characters, but I think this book shows just how powerful his characters can be. I needed a book like this to know that I’m not alone, and I am incredibly thankful to Green for publishing it
Animal Farm by George Orwell
I read this late in the year for the first time and really enjoyed it. There’s humor, horror, and familiarity, and it all sums up to a great story.
The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Again, another book that I needed, full of tidbits that I will take with me. The thing I remember the most from this book is Mark urging the reader to take responsibility for their own happiness. He said something along the lines of, “even if the problem is not your fault, take responsibility for how you will respond to it.” (Paraphrase). I’m still thinking about The Subtle Art months later.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
I devoured this book. I stayed up late to read it and procrastinated on work to finish it. It gave me the encouragement I was looking for and the kick in the butt that always motivates me. I’ve been telling other women (and even men) to read this book since then.
The 4 hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
There’s some great stuff in here, but unfortunately, the presentation just wasn’t for me. I felt like it was a one size fits all prescription for success when only 20% of it was truly applicable to all people. That doesn’t mean that Ferris doesn’t have some great insights. I believe he does. But based on my reading, there just wasn’t enough room in his ideas for people to do their own thing and do what works best for them personally.
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
I really enjoyed the first half of Uglies, but my wave of excitement leveled out quickly. I felt the story dragged out too long. I’m not a fan of super long books unless every single paragraph is critical to the story. Otherwise, I just feel like my time is being wasted. If you like dystopian, you may still like this story anyway, but unfortunately this one wasn’t for me.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
I expected to really like this book, but it got cliched fast. I hate critiquing a story as “cliche” because I think people misuse the word (especially in writing workshops, but that’s beside the point). What I mean by cliche, is that the same old problems were met with the same old solutions. High school characters were presented in stereotypical ways instead of complexly. Some old tropes of YA lit were met with resolutions that just didn’t surprise me or provide deeper insight at all. I expected more from this book; however, that doesn’t mean someone else won’t like the story.
That's the great and the bad of what I read in 2017. Are there any books you’re dying to get to this year? New genres you want to try? Did any of my favorites or least favorites surprise you? Let’s chat in the comments!
If you've read any of the books on my list, leave a comment and let's discuss!
Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.