When we were little, reading was our favorite thing to do. We always had one handy to pull out during free-reading and would look forward to the next book in our favorite series.
But as we’ve gotten older, most of us would rather watch Netflix or hang out with friends than pick up a book.
In 2020, during the full-fledged quarantine months, I wanted to get off my devices and do something to clear my head of the madness outside my front door. I took a random book from my bookshelf and began to read. Sparking imagination in the depths of my mind, I spent less time on my phone and was able to ease my anxiety after reading a few chapters.
During the last half of last year, I read over just over 15 books. Although not sounding like a lot, I hadn’t picked up a book since Romeo and Juliet in the fall of 2019. Not for fun, but for school.
There is a big difference between reading for education and reading for pleasure.
While making resolutions on New Year’s Eve I decided to challenge myself: I set a goal to read 21 books this year. New or old, familiar or estranged, I would pick up 21 different books and read them all the way through.
The books that reside on my shelf, with their spines cracked and pages worn, are some of my favorites. As we welcome the second month of 2021 into our lives, I encourage you to take these recommendations to heart and pick up a book yourself.
The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James
Based in upstate New York, the semi-dark and science-fiction novel focuses on present-day Carly Kirk and the mystery her aunt discovered and left behind in 1982.
Joined by her roommate, an intriguing motel-guest, and an old-time cop, Carly disrupts the settled dust at a rundown motel and uncovers the hidden secrets of the small town.
The chilling novel held me captive and absolutely enthralled by the ‘Twilight Zone’-like entertainment.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
On a personal note, the critically acclaimed Joan Didon is my favorite author of all-time. Her word choice and personal anecdotes evoke childhood memories I don’t remember having and can romanticize any broken heart.
‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ is a memoir describing her emotional fatigue after her husband’s passing. She highlights her own personal struggle with mental health and her fight to keep her daughter physically well.
Anyone who has loved another human being will see value in this memoir. Her devout honesty and connection with the reader is refreshing as she opens herself up becoming extremely vulnerable.
Although a hard book to read, the realities of life smacked me across the face and yelled at me to wake up; appreciate every breath I take and every cloud in the sky.
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Originally published separately in the New York Times, the short novel focuses on identity, learning to cope in an ego-centric world, and the harsh realities of screaming into the void.
Surrounding the struggles of the Glass family, an intellectual and wealthy family living in New York in the 1950’s. The book is centered around the youngest of the five kids, Franny, as she struggles with an internal spiritual battle to find the meaning of life.
Zooey, one of her brothers, offers Franny advice from his renowned acting career and as an understanding yet confrontational older sibling.
The book is mainly a dialogue between Franny and Zooey with some critical remarks by their mother as they take on the idea of achieving everlasting peace after years of mental exhaustion in a broken family. As Zooey struggles with keeping the family together, the two dissect their cultures’ and personal obsession of consumption.
These three books made me question the mindset of a pedestrian life I was living. The authors challenged the fundamentals of literature and the concept of basic fiction was completely thrown out the window.
It can be hard to have enough self-control to put down your phone and pick up a book instead. More a matter of interest or even self-betterment. Reading uses more parts of your brain than scrolling through Instagram does, and the concept might even seem foreign.
Improve your vocabulary, understand different cultures, and be able to think differently than everyone else does. Disregard society’s standards and pick up a book.