I just love Goodreads! It's like a virtual library . . . you can wander through all the virtual bookshelves you could ever imagine. It's such a handy place to keep track of books you've read, books you want to read, the books your friends read. You can write reviews and award stars. There are even virtual book groups and author book talks.
And, best of all, at the end of the year, Goodreads provides you with your reading stats.
In looking through my year-end stats on Goodreads, I see that I gave 26 books a 5-star rating. In fact, my average rating for the year was just over 4 stars . . . which tells me I'm a pretty good judge about the kinds of books I'm going to like to read!
If I were going to pick my 5 favorite books in 2016, it would be these:
- The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
- The Nix by Nathan Hill
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Chicago by Brian Doyle
- In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler
I've already made a good start with my 2017 reading. I have a few specific goals.
- First, in terms of quantity, I set my Goodreads Challenge at 75 books this year. This is an increase, but manageable. And, truth be told, much more in line with the # of books I typically read in a year.
- Next, in terms of quality, I always have a goal of reading many/most of the nominees from my favorite book awards: The Orange Prize, The Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Award. (I have never read ALL of the nominees. Ever. But it's always my goal!)
- And, new for me this year, I want to try to read books that will shake up my perspective and worldview a bit. You see, since the election this year, I have come to realize that I really and truly hang out in a very specific . . . bubble! I need to get outside that bubble - even if I don't want to, and even if it's going to make me uncomfortable.
In other words, this year I'm going to read a few books that I might never (in a million years) choose to read otherwise.
It's another way to take ACTION: to learn; to expand our perspective; to get out from under our bubbles. In the words of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat*, reading books that critique Western liberalism can give us a "clearer sense of [our] own worldviews, limits, blind spots, blunders and internal contradictions."
With that it mind, I'm planning to read a couple of books already on my Goodreads To-Read shelf. These two are books that might help me understand the "red state" thing from a different perspective: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning in the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.
I'm thinking about reading How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley. Although this one looks a bit ... academic ... it might help me understand how propaganda is working to undermine democracy, and maybe get my head around this whole "post-truth" concept.
I'll definitely read this article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates. His writing always challenges my thinking -- and it's essential to understand the racial element of Trumpism.
Ross Douthat of the NY Times recommends The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch and Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington. According to Douthat, both of these books illustrate how Western elite has "burned the candle at both ends," resulting in a rather gross mis-read of the political situation in both Europe and the United States.
These books will not be "light" reading at all, and - in fact - many of these titles sound downright disturbing to me. But. I will be reading at least a few of these books this year. Because it's important to understand the context of our world.
Bottom line? READ something unexpected. Step out of your bubble.
You can read Ross Douthat's recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Books for the Trump Era, here.