My Year in Books or: How I Learned To Stop Wasting My Bus Commute

So I started out this year with the goal to read a book a month, alternating fiction and nonfiction and writing up review after each one (in a sincere but futile effort to stall the inevitable fading of my awful, awful memory). This was actually a pretty lofty goal considering my reading habits since grad school had consisted entirely of manga, comics and Song of Ice and Fire rereads. Turns out, I vastly underestimated the amount of reading I could squeeze into a hour long bus commute (and devouring books was the perfect replacement to doing actual work and improving myself in tangible ways!). I ended up rounding out the year closer to 8 books a month coming in at a hot 98 with an almost perfect split of fic/nonfic.

But I didn’t write this shit up just to humblebrag all over your beautiful faces, I also wanted to share some things I learned over the span of the year. Apologies if these are already common knowledge, I honestly have been living under a Netflix-shaped rock for the last five years.

HOW REVIEWING GETS YOU FREE BOOKS
Now back in the swing of a full blown book addiction, I’m swimming upstream against the last few years of bestsellers and near constant flow of new releases. To make matters even more complicated I realized there are services that appreciate book reviews so much they send you free Advance Reader Copies just to hear your honest opinion.  Blogging for Books sends you books in exchange for a review (though I actually haven’t yet read or reviewed the book they sent me because I’m the worst). Netgalley is a website for authors to receive feedback from booksellers, librarians and reviewers and I’ve gotten some pretty incredible ARCs from them (here’s a handy how-to guide with more information). LibraryThing, a great website for organizing your library and to-reads, offers early reviewers a chance to grab books, again, with the expectation of feedback. Goodreads also has giveaways for free hardcopy or ebooks but I either have terrible luck or the algorithm just hates me– apparently posting reviews for books you are sent gives you a more favorable chance of receiving another but let’s be real, it’s all a numbers game.

LIBRARIES ARE ROCKING THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION
Libraries have come so far in the last few years! Getting e-books and audiobooks is super easy with either your phone or e-reader (assuming you have a recent-ish one which I unfortunately do not). Overdrive allows you to log in with your library card and place holds on a surprisingly great selection & Hoopla doesn’t even make you wait in line – everything available can be downloaded immediately (though you are limited to 8 borrows per month). Both of these sites/apps are linked to your local public library system, but if you currently live in an area with a limited selection, there are libraries that let nonresidents to gain membership and access.

HOW TO SUPPORT LOCAL IN AN INCREASINGLY ONLINE MARKET
Online behemoths like Amazon will obviously give you the best bang for your buck, but if you’re into voting with your dollars, your brick and mortar book purchases make a statement about what you value in your community. Indiebound has a bookstore locator if you’re unsure about what is available near you. Why support local? Bookstores give you the chance to become more connected with your community and the reading world at large – either by offering events with authors, reading clubs, or an opportunity to browse expertly curated selections of books. Sometimes you just want to know what’s out there and the hivemind over at r/books can get a little circlejerky.

GOING FORWARD: WHO’S UP FOR SOME READING CHALLENGES?
Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can still read, I think I want to focus less on quantity and more on casting a wider, more diverse net. Popsugar posted a fun reading challenge that may force me out of my comfort zone a bit. I don’t plan to do all of them, but I like the idea of reading a “book set in the decade you were born“,  a “book by local author” or a “childhood classic you’ve never read.” Bookriot has a Read Harder Challenge with prompts like: “genre fiction in translation”, “a book with a female protagonist over the age of 60″, “a comic written or illustrated by a person of color”.  I’ve got some work to avoid y’all, LET’S FUCKIN DO THIS.

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