My reading year in review

Published 9:30 am Saturday, January 7, 2023

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By Cathy Hunt
Chairwoman, Troup County School Board

As someone who preaches the importance of reading, I like to hold myself accountable for broadening my literary horizons every year. If left to my own undisciplined devices, I would no doubt take the path of least resistance and read mystery after mystery, usually with a police detective featured and often with a setting in the British Isles. 

My reading goal on Goodreads last year was 36 books; I actually finished 41. At this point, I must emphasize that I could accomplish that only because I’m retired. Some of my retired friends do much better. When I was teaching and rearing children, I did well to read ten new books a year.

A little over a third of the 41 did indeed fall into the category of mystery or crime. And that’s okay. Why would I resolve to deprive myself of my favorite genre? I also have a penchant for books set in our recognizable world but with a touch of fantasy, horror, science fiction or magic realism, including maybe time travel or ghosts. Nine of my 2022 books fit into that classification.

I’ve had to push myself to read more non-fiction, which I never used to do unless assigned it. I enjoyed five non-fiction books this year, which is pretty good for me. Only one of those fit into the category of biography/memoir, so I want to do better there.

Female authors accounted for about 3/5 of my list, which is fine. I read nine books by Black, Asian, Native American and Middle Eastern writers as I continue to attempt to diversify. Two books leaned heavily into theology, one on Christianity and one on Judaism. Four books qualified as historical fiction, two as Southern Lit, and two as Scandinavian noir (see love of detective/crime stories!).

One rule I have for myself is not to read more than one or two books by my favorite authors in any given year. That wouldn’t help in my quest for variety. Certain authors always appear on my reading lists and could easily lead me down their own personal rabbit holes if I let myself go there. These would include Stephen King, Val McDermid (Scottish mystery writer), Kazuo Ishiguro, Stephen Graham Jones (Native American novelist) and Carol Goodman (academic mystery writer). And there are a handful of writers that are going to suck me in every time they publish something new, so I give big props to Amor Towles, Emily St. John Mandel, Tana French and Erik Larson (my non-fiction hero).

One of my recent resolutions was to read the last book in two fantastic trilogies, The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin (apocalyptic/horror and yes, vampires) and the Wolf Hall trilogy by Hilary Mantel (fiction about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII). I’ll finish those this month. And in 2023 I must get back into Ken Follett’s engaging Pillars of the Earth and (20th) Century trilogies after having read the first books in each of those. I also need to add some never-read classics to my list.

So I ask you to resolve to read with me in 2023. If you’d like to read some of my (short) book reviews, send me a friend request on Goodreads. Or just join Goodreads if you’re not already a member. They don’t sell books; it’s just a fun site where you can interact with other book lovers and keep track of your own reading accomplishments. Happy New Reading Year!