It was 2017. I was chatting with a group of friends at a New Year’s Party. We were talking about goals and aspirations for the new year (2018). After everyone around the room had spoken, we were surprised to find that several of us aspired to read more.
So we built ourselves a reading community. We connected on GoodReads and supported each other with book reviews and recommendations. We monitored and encouraged each other’s progress. Since then, we have all set annual reading goals and actively share what we read on that platform.
Here is a snapshot of my reading challenges over the years:
Fast forward to 2022. We are definitely on the other side of the pandemic and boy, do we love our freedom! We can finally venture out of our homes, take vacations, watch movies, and meet people – do all the ‘normal’ things we took for granted before the pandemic.
Still, booklovers like me find time to read as much as possible.
When I browse my GoodReads page for 2022, I am filled with joy and gratitude. Here are some highlights of my reading activity this year:
· 100 Books read. I finished my 101st on January 1, 2023.
· Of the above, I gave 74 books a 4 or 5-star rating
· The books I read were in English, Gujarati, and Hindi
· Genres – Business, Literature, Mythology, Historical fiction, Self-development, and even some children’s books
· 9 authors showed up more than once on my reading list
· The largest number of books by a single author is 7
Reading Myths debunked:
· Reading too many books will make your reading experience ‘shallow’. Quite the contrary, I found that as I read more, my focus and ability to retain information increased. Reading multiple books by the same author or on the same topic has given several perspectives on a particular topic or in a style of writing.
· Reading is all about quality versus quantity. An extension of the above myth proved untrue for me. I have found that reading many books is working very well for me. There are tons of great books out there and if you pick from good lists, the chances of your picking a good book are pretty high. Almost 75% of the books I read this year ended up getting a 4- or 5-star rating from me. So when I picked quantity, I didn’t have to compromise on quality.
· Reading too many books will make you an introvert and socially awkward. Nothing is further from the truth. Reading helps you connect with people on a deeper level. As I mentioned my reading journey started with a community of readers and today, I continue to nurture those and many more reading buddies. I have also been able to connect with authors and other readers of books I enjoy.
· Fiction is a waste of time. Only business books or self-help books give actionable insight. Books of all genres teach you something. Even books that don’t actively instruct, nudge you towards insight. Reading gives a deeper understanding of this world and the people that live in it.
· If you ended up with a bad book, tough luck, it was a complete waste of your time.Good books are definitely life-changing. The not-so-good ones also teach you something. Sometimes a book dwells on a topic that you are not familiar with or even comfortable with. You may unfairly blame the book for not grabbing and keeping your attention. Still, if you stick with it you will come out with good insight.
· Social media is a waste of time. This year, I read seven books by Colleen Hoover. I liked many of them or rather many parts of many of them. To me, however, they are not all fantastic. How then, did five of the NY Times’s top ten best-sellers end up being books written by Colleen Hoover? Undoubtedly, many people just love her books. But in addition, I believe, her success is strongly leveraged by the power of social media. There is a cult-like following of Colleen Hoover on several social media platforms. Her fans go so far as tattooing quotes from her books on their body and sharing pictures on social media! All that activity will make even the most skeptical onlookers curious and this likely ends up furthering the sales of her books.
All said and done, if I could have an Oscar-like ceremony for the best books I read this year, this short list below would certainly take the red carpet. Drum roll!!!
· Best books on personal growth, productivity, and effectiveness
o The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (reread)
o Extraordinary Leadership by Robin S. Sharma
o Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less by Michael Hyatt
o The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self by Martha N. Beck
o The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know by Katty Kay
o The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra
o A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport
o This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide by Geneen Roth
o How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen
· Best books on personal financial management
o You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck to Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want by Jesse Mecham
o The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
· Best Fiction (English)
o Lady Susan by Jane Austen
o Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover
o The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
o Animal Farm by George Orwell
o The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
o Verity by Colleen Hoover
o Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
o Murder in Old Bombay (Captain Jim Agnihotri #1) by Nev March
o My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
o The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
· Best Fiction (Indian Languages)
o Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh (Hindi)
o Trijo Kinaro by Varsha Adalja (Gujarati)
o Raavi Paar: And Other Stories by Gulzaar (Hindi)
o Mrutyudand by Varsha Adalja (Gujarati)
o Neelima Mrutyu Pami Chhe by Varsha Adalja (Gujarati)
o Niranjan by Jhaverchand Meghani (Gujarati)
o Miya Fuski (books 2, 6, and 14) by Jivram Joshi (Gujarati)
o Ambaji Express by Archana Desai (Gujarati)
· Best books on Indian Mythology
o Mahabharata – The Greatest Spiritual Epic of All Time (Iskcon edition)
o Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel (this is a book based on the Ramayana but the author has taken artistic liberties and modified several sections. I still think of it as mythology though)
· Best books on writing and storytelling
o Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
o Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
o How Your Story Sets You Free by Heather Box
o The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron