One of the most powerful and inexpensive ways to grow and learn and stretch is by reading. I love to read and even if you don’t, I want you to read more this year.
Can I tell you to read twelve books in 2019? Just one book a month? I don’t care how you read it: audiobook, Kindle on your phone, borrowed from the library, or stolen from the store (just kidding). I just want you to read books this year.
I’m not telling you what to read. If you want some ideas, you can choose the “weekend read” category on the right and see what I loved last year or in years past, but you might not like to read the same books as me. That’s okay.
Let me put on my English teacher’s hat and tell you why you need to read:
1. Reading makes you smarter. Higher level thinking skills dull over time if you’re not challenging yourself with facts and stories and opinions. Your mind is getting slower and less sharp as you age, combat this with reading books!
2. Reading helps you know what you believe. If you only read books that mirror your own opinions, you live in a vacuum and that’s dangerous. You don’t have to agree with every book you read, but you need to know how to hear other opinions, hear other thoughts, and hear stories not like yours because you’re a human and other people besides you matter. Sometimes I read books and don’t like the author or what he or she is saying very much. I formulate reasons and arguments in my head to respond to what the author is presenting. This translates into a real life skill we all need. Sometimes I read books and I really like the author or what he or she is presenting. I pick apart why I like it, how it fits into my worldview or life experiences, and I’m a better at articulating who I am because of those books.
3. Reading helps us be more creative: WORDS! IDEAS! PLACES! PEOPLE!
4. Reading allows us to model good habits for our children. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of parents I’ve talked to through my years as an educator who wanted their kids to love books and read books at home and at school yet NEVER READ A BOOK THEMSELVES. Guys, that’s not how this works. Our children pay attention to our actions. That is how it works. Kids learn behaviors and skills and patterns they’ll follow by imitating their parents. We teach the majority of important lessons to our kids without words. I can’t tell my daughters to be kind to each other, but then talk to every person I come in contact with like a butthole. The parenting philosophy “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work and is really bad parenting. Your kids won’t grow up to be readers, love reading in school, read themselves to sleep at night, pretend to write novels in middle school, and all the other great things book-loving kids do if you don’t read at home, don’t fill your house with books, don’t take your kids to the library to stock up on books you read on the couch together. Read books this year because it’s a powerful parenting strategy. I don’t care if the chick lit novel you’re reading isn’t something you’d actually read to your kid, but you can sit on the couch reading as they play; you’re modeling a skill you want them to pick up. (But also, read age-appropriate books to your kids, especially when they’re little. Language acquisition is happening even when they can’t talk yet. Start reading to them when they’re fresh little babes and don’t stop.)
5. This is a secret, please don’t tell everyone: Did you know the majority of movies and TV shows we’re watching are stories originally written in books? I KNOW. That’s insane. Even more insane: The books are 99.99999% always better than the movies. It’s true. Head to the library, tell a librarian what shows you like to watch, and they’ll recommend some books in the same genre. For real, they make books about everything. Try it.
Reading books is a great equalizer; we don’t have to have money to have access to books, and we don’t have to have loads of free time. There are few excuses to not reading books this year.
How about just twelve books? I know you can do it.
Some personal book related resolutions for me:
I’m not buying new books this year. I’ve known for months this was coming. I’ve told my people, ones who will hold me accountable and question where my books come from. One of the things I learned writing about my 38 books to read in 2018 was I still borrow a lot of books from the library even though I have ones at home to read. I learned that I like audio books (for free) using my public library’s free app. And that I still have plenty of books to read at home. I can easily spend a year reading as many books as I can and not need to buy a single one.
Always a but with me. *disappointing head shake* Some things I need to confess: I get sent books from publishers to review. I’ve already received new books this year, books I didn’t buy or ask for. That won’t stop in 2019 which means I’ll still be accumulating book this year. I knew this book freeze was coming, and I ordered five books on December 31st because I’m a cheater and a fake. Two of them were Bible study/devotions because I’m officially out of those at home. The other three were not. My friend Jess, who is an enabler in the best possible way, knew this book freeze was coming so for Christmas she gifted me a young adult book of the month club for 2019. That means once a month, I get a new (SIGNED!) YA novel in the mail. So I’m still getting new books because my friends are awesome. At the Front Room Studio, we’re doing a monthly book club this year. (If you’re local, check out the schedule here and join us!) Jess and I created the reading list around books we (mostly) already own and want to read, but there are a few I don’t have. I’ll borrow them from the library or, as a last resort, buy them. But I’m going to try really, really hard not to. And finally, my last caveat: I am actively looking for a new Bible. This hurts me to say because getting a new Bible is not something I take lightly (all my notes! all my underlining! all my tear-stained pages!), but I would really like a study Bible with two translations (NIV and something else; NLT? The Message?). I’ve been going back and forth for months, so this isn’t a new idea, but I didn’t want to stress-buy one in December and not like it, so I’m allowing myself to still buy a new Bible when/if I find the one my little, very picky heart desires.
I don’t have the time to type up all 100+ books waiting on my office shelves, but here are 20 I’m really excited to read this year:
Educated by Tara Westover
Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr
Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet Geringer Woititz
Sparkling Gems, Volume I by Rick Renner
The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile
Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth A. Tucker
Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
Mystics and Misfits by Christiana N. Peterson
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumback (this will be a re-read)
Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May, MD
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Shrill by Lindy West
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle
Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs
If you do need some book recommendations, you can check out any of these posts for books I love:
10 best books of 2018
13 books I’d give to anyone for Christmas
9 Christmas gift book ideas from your favorite book recommender
9 favorite books of 2015
*I also send out a monthly book review email, sharing all the books I read last month, if you should read them or not, what books my kids are loving, and anything else book-related I come across. You can subscribe to it HERE.
*You can also follow my book Instagram account where I share what I’m currently reading and short blurbs about books I’m loving and hating.
*DISCLOSURE: Affiliate links used.
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Love podcasts? May I suggest you listen to the Not Terrible Podcast? My friend Jess and I co-host a weekly show where we discuss hard stories with hope and humor. I’d love for you to listen and subscribe.