What did I Read During my Blogging Hiatus?

I’m back! I had to take a hiatus from book blogging while I prepared for the horrendously maddening customs broker exam. Thank goodness I passed! I don’t know how I would’ve coped with failure knowing how many books I could’ve been reading instead. In between slogging through thousands of pages of dry customs regulations I was able to sneak in some reading for pleasure.  

Here are some brief thoughts on the books I read during those trying times.  I’m hoping to expand on some of these with full reviews in the future.

True Story:  What Reality TV Says About Us by Danielle Lindermann: To make my guilty pleasure of watching reality television less guilty, I read this sociological take on my favorite tv genre (I watch Survivor religiously). I didn’t find any of the content to be groundbreaking, but I did enjoy learning some of the basic concepts of sociology through a topic of personal interest.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio: My first foray into dark academia was fantastic. This murder mystery within a prestigious Shakespearean acting program was brilliant! Upon finishing I immediately googled lists of must-read dark academia books. I’m thinking Donna Tart’s The Secret History is up next.

Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow: This is an excellent memoir, though be warned it will get you in your feelings. Kat Chow writes of the loss of her mother to cancer, and her family’s subsequent grief. The author beautifully weaves stories from past generations of her Chinese American family into the narrative. Anyone who has lost a close family member can relate to this book. I sure do.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin: I finally read Giovanni’s Room! This has been sitting on my TBR for far too long. This novel has been referenced in many contemporary queer books I’ve read and for great reason! It is a powerful story that I highly encourage everyone to read.

Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite: This book is beautifully written, yet highly disturbing. Equally disturbing my younger sister gave me this book as a Christmas gift. Gay serial killers killing gay men, cannibalism, necrophilia, AIDS, gay men being rejected by family, this book is packed full of gay trauma and gross violence. It is easily one of the sickest stories I’ve read. Somehow the quality of writing kept me reading.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: This was a wonderful novella that made me nostalgic for the fantasy I read as a child. Anyone looking for a short book to get back into reading should give this a try.

Her Body and Other Bodies by Carmen Maria Machado:  This is a highly creative short story collection from Machado. I honestly didn’t understand most of the stories’ plots because they were loaded with ambiguity. Nonetheless this collection is powerful and still lingers in my thoughts months later.  The Husband Stitch is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. Many of the themes in this collection are especially relevant today with the infuriating possibility that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers:  I love my wholesome science fiction!! I was disappointed when I realized this did not follow the main characters from the first book in the Wayfarers series. But I quickly got over it and fell in love with these new characters.

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny: I read this for a book club, and it was a major struggle to get through. The premise, which blends Hinduism and science fiction, was cool, but the language was so dense it was a slog to get through. I found myself skimming and relying on the Wikipedia summary. It was comforting when I got to the book club meeting and realized that many of my fellow members had a similar experience.

How Long ‘til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin: Jemisin is a major talent, and I will read anything she publishes. But I do question her decision to include so many stories in this collection, quite a few were weak in my opinion. It was neat to read earlier versions of what she later fleshed out into full novels. Favorite story:  L’Alchimistra

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara: Oh Hanya Yanagihara, I’m still not over the piece of garbage that is A Little Life. I’m aware most people love that book, but for me it’s a piece of hot, stinking trash (maybe one day I’ll get around to writing my planned rant). Out of curiosity I read her newest novel and it was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t offensive or distasteful. I think it could have been edited down to fewer pages, but I enjoyed its unique structure and prose.

What are my 2022 Reading Goals?

As an engineer I love my data and graphs. I look forward to reviewing my reading statistics at the end of the year (thank you Storygraph!) Looking at my reading habits is a great opportunity to create reading goals for the coming year. I like to avoid setting goals focused on the total amount of books I read, because for me that creates stress. Reading is supposed to be fun!

Goal 1: Read More Sustainably
My records show that 59% of the books I read in 2021 I purchased brand new (yikes!)

For the sake of my wallet and being more environmentally friendly I am challenging myself to limit my reading of newly purchased, physical books to 20% of my 2022 reading. I think this can be easily done. Between used bookstores, my local library, e-books and all the unread books already on my shelves there are plenty of alternatives. And the 20% leaves opportunities to buy new releases from favorite authors that I want in my permanent collection.

Goal 2: Embrace DNFing
DNF stands for “did not finish”. When I consume media, I am a completionist. Every book or tv show I start I stick with until the end, for better or worse. I want to break this habit. There are too many books and not enough time to read them. If I’m not feeling a book, I’d like to get in the habit of setting it aside for something I’d enjoy more.

Goal 3: More Nonfiction
This goal is very straightforward. This year only 8% of the books I read were non-fiction.

I love memoirs, true crime, and science related books. Especially now that I’m no longer in school I want to learn more about topics that interest me. My goal is for 15% of the books I read in 2022 to be nonfiction.

Goal 4: Branch Out to Book Twitter
Now that I’ve gotten into the routine of posting on this blog and my bookstagram I’d like to branch out to try to engage with more readers. I’ve heard a lot of great things about book twitter, I plan on creating an account and giving it a try in 2022.

Goal 5: Read More Feel-Good Books and Welcome the Warm and Fuzzies
Someone recently asked me for feel-good book recommendations. I went to my list of recently read books and saw nothing but trauma, death and violence. Then I reviewed my reading mood chart from Storygraph and saw that “hopeful” was my least read mood. Red, White & Royal Blue was the sole book I read from this category. This book was also one of my favorite books of the year.

While I will always embrace traumatic books filled with murder and violence, I will aim to read more feel-good books next year.