It has been years since I’ve felt like I’ve read for pleasure. I mean, of course I have, but even when I was, I felt like I had to post a detailed analysis of it on this blog, or that I had to write a paper about ti for a class, or I wasn’t reading for pleasure and I had to take notes and write about it for Ph.D. comprehensive exams. And then there’s the teaching. I read things to teach and lead discussions with my students. I haven’t felt able to just read and enjoy a book for that simple pleasure for a while.
This summer, I have changed that. Part of it is because I haven’t been posting on this blog regularly for a while, and that has freed me from feeling like I need to read with a blog audience in mind. The other part is having time to check out the latest books from the library and just tearing through them as I enjoy my summer break. I’ve been reading while watching my kids participate in swimming lessons, I’ve been reading on the couch in the hot afternoons when the housework is done and the children are playing, and I’ve been reading in bed at night and in the morning. My love for reading has returned because the drudgery is gone.
I went through a year or so where reading anything, even a fun novel, seemed like another task to check off a list. I wanted to read what I had bought or what had been recommended to me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now I’m feeling that love again.
Here’s what I’ve read lately.
All The Missing Girls (2016) and The Perfect Stranger (2017) by Megan Miranda
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (2017) by Roxane Gay
The Mothers (2016) by Brit Bennett
This Side of Paradise (1920) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My (Not So) Perfect Life (2017) by Sophie Kinsella
Big Little Lies (2014) by Liane Moriarty
Outlander (1991) by Diana Gabaldon
Euphoria (2014) by Lily King
A Man Called Ove (2012) and Britt-Marie Was Here (2014) by Fredrik Backman
Homegoing (2016) by Yaa Gyasi
A Monstrous Regiment of Women (1995) by Laurie R. King
The Shadowland (2017) by Elizabeth Kostova
What was the best one, you ask? Well, that award would go to Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It is a masterpiece.
What have you been reading lately? I hope you are still reading for pleasure!
this summer i’ve been reading for pleasure and work. Instead of asking my students to read one novel, i gave them a list and had them choose. this list were novels i’ve wanted to read, so that’s the pleasure part, but they were assigned, that’s the work part.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahira, Passing by Nella Larsen, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Fone With the Wind.
one book i did read for pleasure was I Am Malala.
i am now reading The Handmaid’s Tale but it is also assigned for another class. when i finish this i still have to read House of Mirth, Age of Innocence and The Things they Carried for work.
but… i have a goal to read The Glass Castle before august 7 when the movie comes out. and The Gentleman from Moscow before Sept 10 for a book club. aack. although these are almost all for work, i chose to be an English teacher so work is pleasure.
That’s the best way to combine work and pleasure: do something you love as work! You are reading some great gems. I wish I could go back and read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn again for the first time. I love that book.
I don’t even think of it as “reading” unless it’s for pleasure. Everything else is “work.” I still enjoy it, but it’s a different activity completely for me. It’s wonderful that you’ve taken back “reading” just for yourself!
You are so right! I have been reading for work for 5 years now, and it is time to distinguish between the two!
That’s a good decision 👍
For me taking notes makes my reading a slow process, and the problem is that I can’t read without taking notes, I’ve that fear of losing an idea or a thought! So I keep taking notes even if it make my reading slower!
What do you suggest?
I still suggest writing in books and underlining favorite passages. I’m just relieved not to have to think about what I’ll share with others about what I’m finding interesting in the books. I can just take the notes for me.
Well, yay! You’ve read some good ones, too.
I agree. I have been enjoying these reads!
Thanks for writing. I know exactly what you mean! I have been a mother, a teacher, and a writer…and each phase/role has given me a different perspective on the material I read. I’m now reading mostly as a writer, but I am also now retired, which gives me the leisure time to read for pure pleasure. Surprisingly, I have been inspired to read some non-fiction this summer: THE AMERICAN SPIRIT, David Mcculough; THE ROAD TO CHARACTER, David Brooks. But I’ve also finished several fiction novels (I wait for the paperback to come out): THE NEST, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney; ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, Anthony Doerr ; THE ODYSSEY, Homer, Fagles translation. The latter, I taught to 10th graders for a few years, and I love the Fagles edition. I’m looking at the hero’s journey with new eyes this summer. I am also trying to challenge myself with old classics that I missed along the road, such as LIGHT IN AUGUST, by William Faulkner. I’ll add HOMEGOING to my Goodreads list!
I hope you enjoy Homegoing! It is a lot like Alex Haley’s Roots, but more fictional and it follows the family on both sides of the Atlantic. Did you like The Nest? I tried that one but just could not get into it. Maybe I should give it another chance?
Congrats on taking back your love of reading. I agree, Homegoing is stunning!
Such a good book!
What a refreshing post, Emily! Thanks for sharing. Enjoy the pleasurable reading 🙂
Yay for just reading for pure pleasure! I’ve been doing that a bit this summer as well. I haven’t posted on my blog in a couple of weeks – I’m just letting myself read until the urge to write about it hits me. It will come…
What a bunch of great books! Homegoing was one of my favourites last year – it’s amazing!
It sounds like reading without posting is working for you too. I like to wait until I feel inspired to write, so I hope the I spration hits you soon as well because I like seeing what you’ve read!
Thanks for the ideas on what to check out next on my pleasure reading list. I have been mostly reading nonfiction but would like to get back into fiction and I think fiction provides more fuel for the imagination
Agreed! I have gone through some nonfiction phases but it is always nice to read fiction!
I know exactly what you mean. It is quite different when you ‘have to’ read the book as opposed to wanting to. I always ensure I am reading at least one novel/book just for me. Presently I am reading the absolutely stunning ‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney which received such huge plaudits here in Europe. Can I ask of all those books listed above, which was your favourite? Thanks.
My favorite was Homegoing. I will see if my library has a copy of the one you are reading. And I like your rule.
Just coming out of college, I understand what you mean. For years, what I have been reading has been dictated by the schools I have went to. When school’s reading takes precedence, it became difficult for me to pick up a book to read for pleasure since I would rather spend that extra time sleeping, eating, or making long lasting memories with friends I may or may not see once in a blue moon. I have been reading this book titled “The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish” ( don’t know how to underline via comment ) recently and I highly recommend!
Sounds like a good one. Enjoy your new freedom in reading!
It took me 3 years to read a book without analyzing it. (I was an English major.) Oddly enough it was a YA novel, “The Forest of Hands and Teeth”, that got me back into reading for pleasure.
Glad you found your way back!
Emily, thanks for the recommendations. A quick read on an important topic is “Climate of Hope,” by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope. It is a good companion piece to the “An Inconvenient Sequel” documentary movie produced by Al Gore. Thanks again, Keith
Thanks for the recommendation, Keith! It sounds like a good one.
I’m glad you’ve been enjoying your reading, without any pressure to read for work/blog/etc. 🙂
I’m coming to the end of the Neapolitan Novels which I blogged about a while ago. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, but after reading four books with the same characters I’m looking forward to immersing myself in something new!