I read 29 books in 2017 and five so far in 2018. Some were incredible. Others were not. But in the process of reading so many different books (about one per week since June 2017, when I started my Alternative Grad School project), I’ve learned so much about the books that draw me in.
Throughout much of last year, I obsessively read self-help books. I had just graduated from college and was looking to figure out how I wanted to live the rest of my life. I read almost 10, but they left me without answers. I read about authors who lived alternative lifestyles, traveled a lot and worked for themselves. They seemed to have everything they wanted and so I set a goal of being like them. Still, the books felt repetitive to the point of being cliche and I grew bored.
I later shifted toward reading memoirs of people I admired. Their books showcased their successes but, more importantly, they exposed the long series of missteps and failures happened came first.
Since January 1, 2018, I’ve read four absolutely incredible books: The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coats, Just Kids by Patti Smith, and Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur. Each one of them taught me more than 10 self-help books could.
In the past, I tried not to read books simply because they were popular (these all made the New York Times Bestseller List); I mixed fiction and nonfiction equally (as someone with a background in journalism, I’m naturally drawn to nonfiction and I’ve started to just accept that); I read books on a wide range of subjects, trying not to read too many on one subject (reading topics that interest me creates continuity and keep me reading).
I am trying to say that you should read what you want. Disregard what and how you think you should read. Seek out books that keep you reading and keep you learning. That is all.