January 2021 Wrap-Up

Well, I’ve done it for a whole month so far: chosen books deliberately, read them with care, and written a considered piece on each book before reaching gluttonously for the next. This has involved spending a number of my weekday mornings before work with a coffee and my laptop, slowly coming to and exercising my brain, and I’m so grateful to have carved out that quiet, intellectually creative hour and a half for myself.

As far as selections go, I’m pretty happy with the balance between old and new so far. I read ten books in January, four of which were proof copies, new releases or new reprints (Lightseekers, The Prophets, Dostoevsky in Love and Without Prejudice). Three were from the Great Unread on my shelves (Don Quixote, Water Music, The Summer Without Men), and one of those was a classic. Two were new purchases. I’ve started allowing myself one new book a week (purchased on Wednesdays, delivered on Fridays, just in time for the weekend), and both of January’s choices were great in different ways: Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox and Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky. I also finally finished Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat, which I’ve been reading from front to back like a novel for about a year. Her prose fills me with joy, and I’ve been cooking from it more and more too!

With regards to calming down about the Goodreads numbers: I think slowing down my pace of reading, and focusing on writing something analytical about each book, is doing a lot of the work here. I still think about it too much, but I’m not nearly as distressed by the fact that I “only” read ten books in January as I might otherwise have been.

As far as my other reading resolutions go, both Rosenberg and Anders are trans, which is good as I want to explore more trans, nb and GNC authors this year. Femi Kayode (Lightseekers), Robert Jones Jr. (The Prophets), and Nicola Williams (Without Prejudice) are all authors of colour, which goes towards maintaining the racial diversity of my reading. No translations, though, unless you count Don Quixote (which I suppose I should; it was, after all, a good translation.)

For February, my vague aim will be to focus more on authors in translation, to continue working through as-yet-unread backlist titles on my shelves, and to preserve my senses of whim and balance when it comes to choosing my next book.

In non-book-related stuff, I’ve been trying to stay both sane and physically healthy, as we all are. Mostly, for me, the necessary sense of stability comes from routine and ritual. Working out three times a week helps. So does making myself write those book essays, and I’m also trying to write (no matter how small an entry) in my journal every day. Having to plan visits to the supermarket like the Peninsular Campaign has paradoxically led me to cook more (including, amongst other things, Tuscan bean stew, pork rice bowl with green beans, roasted paneer with potatoes, tomatoes and peas, a bacon, leek and bean soup, and slow-cooked Venezuelan beef with red peppers and bay). Going on endless weekend walks is pretty much the only way to see anyone, so I’ve been doing a lot of that (Woodberry Wetlands in Hackney with my best mate today, where I’d never been–it’s historic and lovely, with proper space for nature, and the local area feels like a real little neighbourhood!) M and I can’t see each other in person but we’ve been doing movie dates on the weekends thanks to Teleparty, and are working steadily through Studio Ghibli’s back catalogue. My housemate Joe and I, meanwhile, have been clinging to Junior Bake Off and The Great Pottery Throwdown for gentle, kind-hearted weirdness, and I’ve been blasting through The West Wing (I’m on series 7 now. Santos-McGarry For America!)

What about you? How are you doing with your reading so far this year? How’s your life? What are you enjoying, or not enjoying? Where does your sense of stability come from?

12 thoughts on “January 2021 Wrap-Up

    1. I struggle with this too, especially with books I’ve either loved or feel neutral about. A big part of it for me is feeling a review HAS to cover every angle, then feeling overwhelmed, then putting it off and never writing anything at all, which then makes me feel restless and like I have mental indigestion. Hence the new approach!

    1. I certainly don’t think gobbling books is bad! I just realized near the end of last year that I was using them like a bandaid instead of actually getting something rich and intentional out of each one, and although we all need bandaids, I noticed I was feeling a bit intellectually unfulfilled by that. Hence the change in direction and the increased intentionality, for a bit, anyway!

  1. Your routine sounds great, though I’m sorry to hear you’re not able to see your partner. I should try the Great Pottery Throwdown. In a similar vein I have just started Blown Away on Netflix which is about glass-blowing and obviously centres around people accidentally smashing their creations…

    I am living with a friend but unfortunately am not able to see anyone else apart from my dad (who is a single household and so in my bubble) because all my friends in Newcastle and Durham live too far away from me for me to meet them without using public transport. On the upside, unlike the first lockdown, I now live within walking distance of the sea 🙂

    1. Omg Joe (housemate) is OBSESSED with Blown Away. It’s also so clearly something I could never do in a million years (as opposed to pottery, which I know I’d be bad at but not impossible).

      I’m so sorry your pals are all so far from you. It’s such an isolating feeling. The sea must be a great solace, though. I miss it, and the mountains.

  2. I also read cookery books just for the sheer enjoyment – lush colour pics, nifty tips, fresh ideas, and occasionally a recipe that I’ll try out. But I have to say: NL not my favourite. I’ve seen her over the years on Australian MasterChef . My stability point? probably cooking! I cooked through Covid during our first harsh level 5 lockdown last year, starting in March. And developed a taste for Cozy Mysteries. And fluffy Brit rom-coms on Kindle. This is definitely confession time!

    1. I haven’t watched her on telly very much! I like her over-the-top prose style, though I suppose if it’s completely unaltered on television it might feel a bit excessive. Cooking really helps, doesn’t it?! It feels like a point of control and order in my day. Fluffy romance and cosy mystery certainly seem to be helping a lot of people out, too!

  3. My reading’s got off to a good start this year, reviewing less so, but I’m picking up now. I still want to review every book I read, but will happily do some shorter write-ups to keep on top of things. I have been watching a lot of telly too, nearly finished The Crown at the mo, and started Call My Agent (both on Netflix)

    1. Shorter write-ups help! I’m letting myself just stop writing at a certain point (like with Lightseekers) and that helps. Call My Agent is GREAT from what I’ve seen (bits of s4) so I’m going to start from the beginning once I’ve finished West Wing.

  4. It sounds like you’ve found a pace and endeavours that work for you. This month I set weekly reading goals for myself and so even though Goodreads helpfully tells me how far behind I am, I feel good in how much I’m reading. Regular walks are also hugely helpful for my mental state!

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