This month, I finally broke my five-book rule, in part because I read some shorter books and also because I found myself bouncing between longer books. If you’ve missed any of my past months, you can find them here: January, February, March, and April.
In my latest for the The Athenaeum Review, I looked at two titles in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series, short books on single albums. I had some fun collapsing the intellectual distance between Nine Inch Nails and Arcade Fire in writing about their albums, Pretty Hate Machine and The Suburbs, respectively. Daphne Carr’s book on Pretty Hate Machine lands in my top three of the series, alongside Marvin Lin’s book on Kid A and Kirk Walker Graves’ book on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
You can read the review here.
Whoever said we would have more time to read now did not anticipate how hard it would be to focus. Although sure to change in the summer, sticking to five books in April was only challenging in that I struggled to finish five, opting for some poetry at the end of the month to ease my mind. If you missed my previous 2020 reads, you can find them all here: January, February, and March.
I hope you are still ordering from your local bookstore, and I hope you find something here worth reading, as I did through and through. Although I often prefer essays, I read quite a bit of fiction in April, as stories with at least some semblance of unreality were easier to delve into than the so-called real world in this moment.
Since limiting my reading time in January, I thought more time at home in March might challenge that boundary, but I stuck with my commitment and only read five books this month. If you missed January and February, they’re still waiting for you.
Bookstores could really use your support during the current closure, and indie bookstores especially. I personally love Deep Vellum Books in Dallas and Commonplace Books in Fort Worth, but I’m also partial because I have friends and roots in both places. Wherever you are, try to find your local bookstore and order from them.
Last month I shared that I was limiting my monthly reading so that I would have more time to prioritize writing and people in my life. I also wanted to get better at reflecting on what I was reading, so I started this monthly newsletter to write a few words about each of the five books I read in a given month (you can read about my January books here).
In February, two works of criticism (by Emily Nussbaum and James Baldwin) deepened my understanding of the critical task, while two novels (by Sally Rooney and Annaleese Jochems) both coincidentally included sharp commentaries on capitalism. As the shortest month of the year draws to a slow end, I turned to poetry (by Ada Limón) to settle into the slowness and change my thinking process. More on all of that below:
Yesterday, I wrote that I turned my annual reading goals into a reading limit so that I might spend less time running a marathon and more time reflecting and sharing my learning. Each month this year, I’ll be limiting myself to five books, and my hope is to record a note about each so that I can read more consciously and hopefully connect with others who read books from the list. Drop me a line in the comments or an email if that’s you.
In October of last year, reading 100 books in 2019 seemed possible if I really pushed myself. Over the years, my annual reading has steadily increased by about ten books, and last year I planned to read eighty. After surpassing this and hitting triple digits, regret—instead of accomplishment—settled in.
The privilege to read for leisure is not lost on me, but something about indulging a personal scorecard felt especially off. The last two months of the year felt like reading to win a marathon rather than reading to learn or enjoy. I skipped my reading journal and seemingly picked books at random. Writing and reflecting became secondary to the act of digesting pages.