The 20s are almost upon us! Are we going to call the next decade the 20s and continually confuse each other with references to flappers and the Jazz Age? I probably will. Anyway, the end of the year is usually a time of reflection, but I think this prompt is more interesting than just thinking about this past year’s reading.
I checked my trusty Goodreads account to see what I was reading in 2010, but according to Goodreads, I became an active user in July 2013. My, how Goodreads has changed since then! Just kidding. It’s still the same poorly designed, inexplicably beige site it always has been. (Even though Amazon owns Goodreads now, it’s still terrible. How and why?! It’s like Goodreads is the forgotten stepchild of the Amazon empire.) I remember that when I joined the site, I was a bank teller at a not-so-busy location, and I was bored out of my mind. For some reason I decided it would be a good use of my time to try and add every book I had ever read to my Goodreads shelves. I guess it wasn’t acceptable to me to just start with a clean slate of reading stats. All of that to say, I don’t have solid reading stats to show my progress, which, as a lover of infographics, is truly saddening to me.
Here’s what I remember about my bookish life pre-Goodreads. First of all, I had no awareness of the book community – what books were popular, what authors were winning awards, etc. I used the local library a good bit, and I would just browse the shelves for something to read. That is mind boggling to me. I don’t think I’m capable of casually browsing anymore, because I already know what books and authors I want to read, so that’s what I’m always looking for. The first popular books I remember being aware of were The Hunger Games and Twilight. I don’t think I really even knew that Young Adult was a genre (not just an age range) until The Fault in Our Stars came about. I mostly read physical books from the library, with the occasional audiobook. I got a Kindle for Christmas in 2011, which I used to *gasp* buy (I’m pretty sure I had no idea that the library had ebooks) ebooks, which was basically blasphemy to all print book lovers. I believe I was shamed out of using my Kindle, which was only resuscitated and used again this year.
Before I figured out what genres I actually liked to read, I went through a phase of only reading (or claiming to only read) classics, because I was a pretentious book snob. This was also around the time when I started keeping track of the books I owned and hadn’t read, which became another source of book snobbery (the bigger the tbr, the better) and also the beginnings of book guilt for all the things I hadn’t read. That’s the downside of being aware – you feel guilty for all the things you didn’t know before. This went on for a while, unfortunately.
A few years ago there came a time in my life where I decided to stop letting myself feel guilty for the ways I thought I had disappointed others and myself. Part of this process was purging my toxic tbr, and I got rid of a lot. I picked up each book individually and asked myself if I was still interested in reading it at any point (thanks, Marie Kondo). That Penguin Classics edition of Bleak House I bought in 2011? Never gonna read it. Part of the problem was that I was buying books I thought I should read rather than books I actually wanted to read. My book buying habits have improved, and now I make it a point to check my tbr regularly and decide if there are any books on those shelves that I don’t care about anymore. I don’t see the point in trying to force myself to read something that I bought months (or years) ago that I forgot I even owned.
I used to read pretty narrowly in terms of genre, and I was hesitant to try new things. Now that I know more about how to find reliable book reviews and perform Readers’ Advisory (yay, library school), I’m much more widely read, though I still have room for improvement. I also didn’t really know how to seek out, or even that I should seek out, books by authors of diverse nationalities, races, religions, and gender identities. Over time, the percentage of books I read by heterosexual white men has dwindled considerably.
Thinking about how my reading life has evolved since 2010 has been a bit enlightening. Yay for self awareness! I’m loving reading everyone else’s posts on this topic, and I would love to chat more if you want to drop a comment.
My biggest hope is that after 10 more years of reading, Goodreads will be a different color, but I have pretty low expectations.