Reading Better | February.

I finished up the last journal entries for my February finishes (here’s my 2022 shelf on Goodreads) this afternoon and spent a bit of time reflecting. It’s pretty clear that books and reading were my respite settling back into everyday life with two people and a dog … and then preparing for just two people. Holly and I spent hours in the chair with a book (and if it was an audiobook, a book and knitting). We started at 5am most mornings and ending many evenings well past 9pm. Books and reading – and buddy reads and bookclubs (connecting over books) – really grounded me in those hard days (and nights). Here are the ♥-notes from my February summary:

♥ re-reading. Three of those 5-star reads (all except Vital Phenomena) were re-reads, as was The Shell Seekers. I never thought of myself as a re-reader (because SO many books and so LITTLE time), but I’m converted now. and my first March finish was a re-read!
♥ still loving memoir & essays – this has turned out to be a great way into non-fiction for me, and I find that it works really well on audio, especially if the author narrates.
♥ becoming a completist: Sarah Winman – I have one more novel to go, and Anthony Marra – I’ve now read both of his novels and they were five star reads. I pre-ordered his third novel, coming in July.
♥ exploring further: Bernardine Evaristo (see March TBR) and Rosamunde Pilcher (planning to re-read Coming Home with folks from Fiction Matters in April).
♥ having a TBR. This was the first month since I started putting one together that I actually finished or at least started all the books. I did read four other books, so I’m still being a little flexible 😉 … but having the books planned – especially when I borrow most of the books I read – has improved the quality of my reads. I don’t find myself reading something just because it’s “immediately available.” I did realize midway through February that I needed more audio and I needed something light to balance heavier reads (and life). I took all that into consideration when I planned March. We’ll see! (and note that I planned March on Sunday … a few days ago.)

February TBR / March TBR

When I shared my February reads on Instagram (yesterday), Betty asked if I’d ever experienced times when “reading” was just “reading words” and “nothing made sense”. I replied: “I’ve definitely had days when I didn’t want to read anything. But rarely more than a few at a time. Reading is such a routine part of my life that *not* reading feels out of balance. So I lean into different kinds of books … the period when my dad was in hospice and after he passed I picked up historical romance (will always be grateful to Sarah MacLean for that), and when COVID started I read/ reread Mary Kay Andrews. I’m also in multiple bookclubs and there is always a selection or two that I want to read each month so I can discuss. I guess for me the key is just to read – even 30 minutes a day- and trust that I’ll eventually come back to the self that wants to read all the things 24/7.”

I finished a book on Tuesday morning (while we were waiting to go to the vet) and didn’t pick up anything else that day. Yesterday, I spent that early morning time doing other things; I finally picked up a book mid-day (a new one for Lent) … and late in the afternoon really wanted to read something. I texted my mom this photo

with the comment that the chair seemed way too big. She suggested I needed a bigger pillow. and some time. The book is After You’d Gone, Maggie O’Farrell’s first novel and I can say it’s very engaging. Also, the chair still feels very big.

In closing, my edition of A Year of Marvellous Ways, by Sarah Winman (which I highly recommend if you love a bit of magic in your stories) includes a lovely essay “To Be a Reader” at the end.

To be a reader is to feel a little less lonely. To be a reader is to be challenged. To feel anger, to feel outrage and injustice. But always to feel, always to think. To be a reader is not a passive state, it is active, always responding … to be a reader is a cool thing to be … to be a reader is wealth.

Sarah Winman

nah, really in closing, I want to know if we have any March plans in common? connecting about books is one of my very favorite things about Being a Reader!

10 thoughts on “Reading Better | February.

  1. I started reading Heavy but it was just too much for me right now. I do love the first line and I plan to get back to it. I see a few others that I am also reading right now. I have already veered off my plan because I needed to read Beloved again. I agree with your mom – a second pillow would be perfect.

  2. I’ve become a dedicated re-reader. There are some books that perfectly capture the season for me and I revisit them again and again. And there are some characters that I truly enjoy and look forward to spending more time with them! So welcome to the world of rereading 🙂

    I’m finding my reading legs again and am seeking out the books I missed while I had my attention elsewhere. That’s the loveliest thing about reading for me: there’s always something wonderful to choose, no matter how much or how little time you spend with it.

    And I agree with your Mom: a bigger pillow and lots of time. ❤️

  3. I’ve joined a virtual book club through the library so we’ll see how that goes-the next read in the Engineer’s Wife. I have so much on hold that I’m just going to be surprised, and I REALLY need to finish that tome Go Tell the Bees! Only bout 700 more pages.

  4. Your experience of reading through rough times reminds me of Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair (which I know I’ve mentioned to you before). I’m glad you had the comfort of your chair and your books during a very difficult time in your life. XO Anthony Marra is one of my favorite authors — and I can’t wait for his new book to come out later this year. He’s wonderful, and I’m glad you’ve fallen under his spell. As for re-reading . . . like you, I’ve always had the idea that there are too many NEW books for me to bother with re-reads of old favorites. But I’m realizing that a lot of the NEW books aren’t as satisfying as some of those old favorites, and now I’m enjoying re-reads more than ever! Happy continued reading, Mary.

  5. Aw, I teared up a little at that photo of your reading chair. I think your mother is right.

    I find that if I have a day without reading (which is really a rarity — if it’s a day I can’t read for pleasure, it’s usually because I’m reading for work), I feel very unsettled. There’s a part of my brain that’s engaged when I read that helps me to feel grounded, even if it’s one of those days when I’m physically reading the words but not necessarily taking them in.

    Are you planning to do the audiobook of Heavy? I listened to it (read by the author) last year and thought it was really good.

  6. I’m glad reading has provided a respite so often in your life. And re-reading “comfort books” can be a good thing, too. I love The Shell Seekers (not great literature, but such wonderful domestic descriptions) and have re-read it every few years. Coming Home is at least as good, and September and Winter Solstice are also wonderful. (And Pilcher’s short stories, too)! I hope your good memories can sustain you along with lots of reading.

  7. I need to read the Maggie O’Farrell you’ve started. Year of Marvelous Ways was simply marvelous. I’m happy you suggested being a completist of Winman’s canon. I’ve read some of the books on your March list and will be reading others right along with you. I love our book connection. Do you think it might be okay to have the chair feel empty? It’s a way of acknowledging and remembering Holly and, in time, the chair will no longer feel so big. XO

  8. I hope you continue to find comfort in reading. I know that chair must feel big and empty right now, but I hope, with time, it won’t seem so big.
    For comfort reading, I often re-read old favorites. I hope to re-read The Shell Seekers this year and maybe Winter Solstice.
    I plan to read the John Green book I see on your March TBR, but probably won’t get to it this month. I am also looking forward to the new Anthony Marra book.

  9. I love your chair, looks perfect for curling up in with a throw and a good book. I often re-read books, especially if I love the characters and the author.

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