Non-Required Reading

  • January 6, 2020

Life is short. Enjoy your book!


Welcome to a new year, a new decade. This is the time of year when you’ve got experts, coaches, fitness trainers, and your next-door neighbor telling you what you should change to make your life more productive, happier, healthier, and more balanced.

Eat fiber, they say. Meditate, they tell you. And if you’re online (which, if you’re reading this, you are), the suggestions are ridiculously wide-ranging and come from every angle.

Well, here’s my angle: Don’t read books you don’t like.

I understand that sometimes we have to read books not of our choosing — books that are dictated by school, work, or some other “authority” that won’t take “no, thanks” for an answer.

I’m not talking about those books. I’m talking about the ones we choose for ourselves, and I can’t tell you how many times people have described a book they’re reading without anything resembling pleasure in their voice.

We choose books for a variety of reasons. Maybe we’re trying to learn something, or we’re curious about a famous figure. Maybe we just want to lose ourselves in a wild thrill ride or solve a mystery alongside the protagonist in a cozy. Or maybe we want to be swept away by a saga full of romance and relationships.

But sometimes we read a book because someone told us we should. Or because we want to be able to say we’ve read it.

I may be alone on this, but I don’t think I am. Nobody wants to be hit by a bus while holding a book they were suffering through simply because their mother-in-law would be impressed by it. Life is too short for that. And the one minute of approval they might get isn’t worth the hours they’d spend slogging through the “impressive” tome.

So, to channel Marie Kondo, I suggest you read books that spark joy. If, after a couple chapters, you’re not enjoying a particular one, stop reading it.

Here is my New Year’s list of absolute favorite novels, in no particular order. All of them have brought me joy in the past decade:

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