A Year in Books

a pile of open books

There is something ridiculously satisfying and pleasant about logging books and other media I've consumed — at least for me. Anythink blogger Luke has written on this topic in the past, and while this became a happy pastime for me before I read his fascinating blog post, I was originally inspired by one of my favorite authors, Marissa Meyer. Up until 2018, she compiled basic stats on the books she read yearlong and posted them to her blog. Every year I waited to see what my favorite author had read and what she recommended. Her reading lists inspired my own. Around the time I discovered her debut novel, “Cinder,”  I began using the website Goodreads to log what I read. 

While I appreciate Goodreads, there are alternatives out there depending on what your preferences and priorities are. I mainly log my book consumption through Goodreads, but I’ve found that I prefer to use it as a private diary rather than post public reviews, which doesn’t seem to be its intended purpose. Because of this, I used to keep what I called a Reflection Journal to compile my thoughts on media (books, movies, etc.) I consumed and experiences I had (concerts, trips, etc.). This way, I was able to record what I thought about those experiences and keep it as private as I wanted.  

Using my Reflection Journal helps me do exactly that — reflect. I am a serial re-consumer of content I enjoy, which I plan to write more about in a different blog, but I mention it because I like to see what my thoughts were about things I’ve consumed in the past. What did I think after I finished reading Michelle Zauner’s “Crying in H Mart” for the first time or watching K-drama “Crash Landing on You” for the first time? After consuming this content a second (or third) time, how have my thoughts on it changed? 

I also like to see how my interests trend from year to year. As I grow older, I am trying to broaden the genre of books I read. I have been actively trying to read more than just young adult fantasy series and novels, and have added more adult romance, adult fantasy and memoirs to my to-be-read list. That being said, the fiction that I read almost always includes some sort of romance tied into the plot (when I say fantasy, I really mean romantasy). I’ve also noticed that I almost always read a book with a female protagonist, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. 

In 2023, those trends held strong. Here’s everything I read this year: 

  1. Book Lovers” by Emily Henry 
  2. “A Venom Dark and Sweet” by Judy I. Lin 
  3. “Making a Scene” by Constance Wu 
  4. “I Want to Die But I Want to Eat Tteokbokki” by Sehee Baek (translated by Anton Hur) 
  5. Crying in the Bathroom” by Erika L. Sanchez 
  6. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy”  by Megan Bannen 
  7. Work It Out: A Mood-Boosting Exercise Guide for People Who Just Want to Lie Down” by Sarah Kurchak 
  8. My Happy Marriage” Light novels 1-4 by Akumi Agitogi (translated by Kiki Piatkowska and David Musto) 
  9. “The Moon Represents My Heart” by Pim Wangtechawat 
  10. “Villains are Destined to Die” Volumes 1-6 by Suol (original light novel by Gwon Gyeoul, translated by David Odell) 
  11. Kingdom of the Wicked” Books 1-3 by Kerri Maniscalco 
  12. Painted Devils” by Margaret Owen 

Currently reading: 

  1. Novelist as a Vocation” by Haruki Murakami (translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen)
  2. Immortal Longings” by Chloe Gong 
  3. Longevity for Cats” by Gary Richter 
  4. Sunshine Nails” by Mai Nguyen 

Logging what I read helps me acknowledge what my current priorities are in life. What do I currently find relatable and/or interesting? What books am I choosing to pick up and finish? 

After looking back on everything I’ve read in the past few years, I noticed a few emerging trends. I tend to gravitate toward books that: 

  1. Deal with immigrant or refugee familial relationships or experiences  
  2. Are about navigating society as a person with mental health issues 
  3. Are about experiences as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color) woman in America  

And while I love identifying these trends, it also doesn’t need to be that deep. Sometimes, I’d rather mindlessly read lighthearted romance novels or a lovely romance manga than spend my extra brain power trying to follow an intricate plot set in a fantasy world or reading about real-life suffering. Regardless, keeping a Reflection Journal helps me see all of these trends in my habits. 

For years now, I’ve been trying to understand why people stick to journaling, whether it’s keeping a personal diary or gratitude journaling. I keep a weekly planner, but I find it hard to stick to journaling for my mental health, even though I’ve had therapists and friends recommend it to me. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that my Reflection Journal is one way I can make journaling work for me. It gives me insight in my never-ending and nonlinear journey to becoming a physically and mentally healthier me. Now, I just have to start using it regularly again. 

Do you also find logging your book reading (or movie watching, traveling, etc.) cathartic?

Comments

Thanks for the shout. This is great! I especially like how you reflect on your tastes and habits based on what you logged throughout the year. You made me realize that this kind of account-keeping is absolutely just as enlightening as "dear diary"-type journaling is. Keep it up! (I thought the Murakami book was really interesting, and you've reminded me how much I want to read "Book Lovers")