A Year of Reading (The “52” Challenge)

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Some of Stephanie Belcher’s selections from her Year of Reading

Stephanie Belcher’s Year of Reading
At the beginning of 2018 I challenged myself to read 52 books that year. I knew it meant finishing one per week, but I figured that to be adjustable over the course of the year. Some would be faster, some slower. What I didn’t factor in was entire weeks where I never left my office and could barely read my mail let alone a book. By spring I was behind by so many books, there was no catching up. I read 13 in the first half of the year and 21 in the second half, for a total of 34 finished.

Stephanie Belcher is the area coordinator for the Music Industry Studies Dept. at DIME (Detroit Institute of Music Education). She specializes in business management, entrepreneurship and marketing…, but she’s also an avid reader! We saw Belcher sharing her reading list, along with this inspiring essay, on social media earlier this week. We wanted to share it here on our blog. While 52 books is ambitious, 34 is very impressive! As we start this new year, we’d encourage all our patrons to try something similar…, maybe just 12 books in one year? 24? ….35, maybe? Here’s more form Belcher:

The experience was life affirming. Reading is a huge part of my life – my grandparents were constantly reading in front of me, my mom would take us to libraries, Borders, Half Price Books. I love the smell of the pages and the crack of the spine. The door opening to a different world, one that maybe you knew existed, but maybe you didn’t. Many of the books I read this year introduced me to new worlds. In 2018 I visited France during World War II, ancient Greece, San Francisco, London, Colombia, Sweden, Alaska, Australia, and Willy Wonkas chocolate factory.

These books opened my mind to different ways of thinking. Some books painted such a clear picture that I had no choice but to feel every feeling described in the page, even if I had never thought about that situation before. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah literally changed my mindset on war. Before reading it, I had never considered what it would be like to live at home while your town or country was occupied by an enemy of war. I began to realize the complexities of war, of raising a family, maintaining a community, loving people, owning guns, having children. As I got deeper into the book, my world grew. I’ll never be the same. This is the power of a well-written book.

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Although I fell short of my initial goal, I’m proud to know I finished a book just about every 10 days. Meanwhile, my 7-year old daughter, inspired by my challenge and slightly competitive, challenged herself to reading 55 books in the year. She crushed it, and we stopped keeping track in August.

Some of these books were on her own, but many of them were with her father and I, at night before bed. Out loud we read a dozen chapter books, including The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Esio Trot by Roland Dahl, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Fudge-a-Mania by Judy Blume. We read half a dozen Magic Tree House Books, which are wonderful for teaching kids to explore their surroundings. We fell in love with Nancy Clancy and Clementine, and we revisited classics like The Hundred Dresses and Little Women. My first grader tests at a fourth grade vocabulary, which doesn’t surprise me, thanks to amazing authors like Jane O’Connor and Eleanor Estes. I read to my children so they can explore other worlds, learn new things, and challenge themselves.

Anyway, I love reading, and this challenge taught me a lot:

⭐ In downtime, reach for a book first, before a screen. Set app timers, or move your charger to a different room. Get a book lamp for bed.

⭐ After heavy emotional material, I can’t digest another fiction story right away. I need time to process. I’m exploring new genres like memoirs and comedy books to read while I’m rebounding.

⭐ Being inclined to read business books during busy season at work is natural, due to the conversations in having with clients, but I shouldn’t expect to finish those books. They are reference material, not stories to be completed. Don’t consider this wasted time, but rather, adjust my goal to include pages or chapters read.

⭐ Children’s chapter books count. I didn’t realize this at first, because I thought they weren’t long enough or dense enough. nonsense!! Sometimes my daughter and I read 40 pages a day, out loud, Wonka’s tongue twisters included.

⭐ It’s important to read the reviews and ask friends. Quality over quantity. Goodreads is my friend, take time to update it.

⭐ Borrow from the library as much as possible. Don’t attempt to purchase every book. It took me WAY too long to realize this!

Overall, I give this challenge ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars and I will be doing it again. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me, lent me books, and listened to me cry about the Nightingale.

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Everything I read:

Circe by Madeline Miller: incredible. Best book of the year. Riveting and extremely well written. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Wonderful insight into another’s life. Character study. This one stayed with me. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Hollow City: slow, drawn out. Was ready for the end. ⭐⭐.5

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: still a lovely read. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: powerful story about holding people too close. very well written. Set in my hometown, it’s extremely accurate. Felt like stepping into my high school yearbook ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce: cute idea could have been executed better. ⭐⭐⭐

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: Haunting. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Man Called Ove: cute, endearing. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Tipping Point by Malcolm gladwell: brilliant analysis of consumer behavior. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Year of Yes by shonda rhimes: great stories, could have been shorter. ⭐⭐⭐.5

A Wrinkle in Time: fun, exciting. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Subtle Art: a life changing exploration into our value systems. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Other People’s Houses by Abbi waxman: cute conversation about fidelity, neighborhoods, and gossip. ⭐⭐⭐.5

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: one of the most affecting books I’ve read. Rocked my world. Changed me to my core. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Vacationers: cute, memorable beach read. ⭐⭐⭐.5

The Art of the Idea: philosophical, interesting. Kinda weird, in a good way. ⭐⭐⭐.5

Library of Souls: riveting ending to the trilogy. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

The Immortalists: loved the first half, didn’t love the second half. 2nd half felt rushed. Couldn’t explain why some characters did what they did. Twist at the end left me confused. ⭐⭐⭐.5

Big Little Lies: loved this story. Was deeply moved. Makes me want to protect my tribe. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Summer Wives: really liked the story elements, didn’t love the writing. ⭐⭐⭐.5

Crowdfunders Strategy Guide: excellent advice, well written. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Fruit of the Drunken Tree: set in Colombia. Very interesting view into how Pablo Escobar affected children and families. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Girl, Wash Your Face: incredibly empowering. Life changing. Powerful read. Be prepared to be changed. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

How to Walk Away: nice easy read but not memorable. ⭐⭐⭐

Fudge-a-Mania: still adorable. Was fun reading about vacation in Maine after taking one. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Year of Fog: interesting but lots of extra words. Ending left me unsatisfied. ⭐⭐⭐.5

The Book of Essie: should come with a trigger warning. The last book I’ll read without reading reviews first. Not bad, but intense abuse subject matter. ⭐⭐⭐

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: story holds up. Writing is great, but the vernacular is tough. Read this out loud, struggled. Still amazing though. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer: one of three books I read about raising the dead. Excellent. Must read more like this. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

The Philosophers Flight: cool idea, but can’t remember how it ended. Enjoyed it regardless. ⭐⭐⭐.5

Hit Makers: brilliant, dense with information. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Nancy Clancy series: very sweet, great vocabulary. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Clementine: proving that girls can cause trouble too. Very cute. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Esio Trot: I have issues with lying. Lead to some interesting conversations. ⭐⭐.5

The Hundred Dresses: LOVED this book. Powerful reminder of what people are capable of. ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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