What I’m most proud of this year is completing my 2020 reading challenge on Goodreads. If you feel an aversion to the concept of reading as a “challenge”, that’s fine, I felt it too at first. What got me into it was a conversation I had with my friends Ece and Nazlı at the end of 2019, where I heard myself telling them how much I miss reading, how I used to love reading as a child, how my mom would yell at me almost every night from her bedroom: “Zeynep, it’s late, turn off your lights now.”
That kid who devoured books stopped reading for joy.
Reading slows me down, grounds me, and connects me. My guess as to why I wasn’t reading so much anymore is the rush of life, the demands of work, the information overflow, the books I "had" to read for school or for work. In that conversation with Nazlı and Ece, I noticed that the reasons why didn’t matter - I simply wanted to go back to that joy.
We do more of what we pay attention to. "Energy flows where attention goes", is the saying. I knew deep inside that I needed to pay attention to how much I was reading, what I was reading, and to my experience of reading, if I wanted to read more.
Tracking books on Goodreads was one of my greatest joys this year. No moment of it felt like a “challenge”. It wasn't pressuring or stressful. I deeply enjoyed marking that I read another 20 pages of a book, seeing what my Goodreads friends were reading, noting all the books I’d like to read in the future, organizing my virtual bookshelves, and giving ratings to my books. The application helped me spend more time on the topic of reading, pay more attention to it, and get more out of it.
The result was that I smelled, touched, read, and lived with these 25 books this year - THAT feels amazing. The number of books doesn't matter. What matters is how much my horizon expanded, how deeply I felt when I read poetry, how seen I felt in a mindfulness book, how captured I was in the storyline of a novel. Thanks to these books, I cherished the Turkish language again, I reconnected with fiction, I read some classics, I discovered innovative ways of writing prose, I had new materials for my classes, I had new things to think and write about, and I spent less time on screens. None of this can be measured. There is just a sense of being fulfilled.
This year I also had the pleasure of constructing a big new library at our new home in the South of France. My partner and I spent hours dusting, caressing, flipping through, organizing, reorganizing our books. We embellished the shelves with family photos and souvenirs. We agonized over which books were going to be front-facing so that their covers could be seen from afar. Having a big library in my living room was a dream of mine. I now have a lovely sense of home when I sit on our couch. It feels like the books, their wisdom and their memories welcome me.
Reading was always a fundamental part of my life, and I’m so happy to have reconnected with the joys of reading this year. I look forward to setting my 2021 reading challenge on Goodreads and spending more time in the wonderful world of books. A challenge is just a means to an end. It gets you going when you're trying to build up a habit. I'm confident that tracking won't be necessary after having done it for a while. I will simply find myself reading, maybe a little too much, and telling my inner child, "Zeynep, it’s late, turn off your lights now.”
For Your Reflections
- Did you read any of my 2020 books? What did you think of them?
- Does reading matter to you, and if yes, why?
- What was your relationship with reading as a child? What is your relationship with reading today?
- What wonderful books, articles, magazines did you read this year?
- What are some new ideas or concepts you started considering thanks to your reading?
- How do you pay attention to reading?
Continue reading this series: Community
Go back to the beginning: Fundamentals