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Gretchen Tries Stuff Episode 16: The One With 50 Books + My Winter ’19 Reading List

reading, books, gretchen holzgang

I don’t often do a “traditional” New Year’s Resolution. I favor instead to make a list of actionable, super-specific goals or intentions that all work together to get me closer to accomplishing bigger life goals or lifestyle changes. Inspired by YouTuber Hannah Witton, who’s set this challenge for herself nearly yearly, and because I’d been failing at reading as much as I normally do, I decided to set myself the challenge of reading 50 books in 2018.

I am very relieved to say that I accomplished my goal and managed to read exactly 50 books in 2018 (came in just under the wire, finishing my 50th book on the 30th of December). There were times I felt over confident on my ability to read 50 books in a year and times I thought I really might not make it. I love reading and traditionally consumed tons of books when I was growing up or in college (sadly I never counted my yearly book consumption until now, but I’d be curious know what my numbers were as a kid and how much it changes year-to-year.) But I knew that even for an avid reader it was pretty ambitious goal—particularly when considering that I also worked full time, blogged, filmed and edited YouTube videos, trained for and ran a marathon, and all the other things I cram into my daily life. It was a tough challenge, I’ll admit.

Will I set the a goal to read another 50 books in 2019? Not officially, but I am super competitive with myself and already create a note on my phone to track my 2019 books read… so interpret that as you will.

The Parts I Loved

There was a lot of aspects about this challenge that I was really excited for. First of all, I got to pick any books I wanted. If I felt like going on a fantasy binge, I could go on a fantasy binge. I wasn’t needing to follow any specific reading list for school, work, bookclub, etc. There’s always been something freeing about being able to read without much agenda. Second, I liked that I had an “excuse” to set aside more time to read. This challenge became a really good opportunity for me to bring reading back into my night routine. It was a reason to unplug from my devices every night, take a break from looking at a screen, hold a physical book, and have a bit of me time.

Surprisingly this challenge also changed my view on audiobooks. I know many people who love audiobooks, and although I love listening to podcasts, audiobooks was something I just hadn’t gotten into. That is until this past December. I needed to find a way to finish the last of my books and knit my boyfriend his Christmas present (I thought it would be nice to hand make a present this year) and of course bake an insane amount of Christmas cookies. Turns out, I’m not someone who can magically read, knit and bake all at the same time (no surprise there). But I can enjoy listening to something while I knit or bake. Completely caught up on all the podcast episodes in my queue and feeling the pressure to read, I turned to audiobooks as a solution to my problem. I found it to be a much more enjoyable experience than expected and have even downloaded the Libby App so I can rent audiobooks from my local library. Life changing!

The Parts That Weren’t So Great

Even though I was in compete control of my reading list, there were moments when reading felt like school work or my job. I love reading, but I’m not a fan of forced reading. I also almost always read a book completely through even if I’m not really enjoying it (who knows, it might be redeeming in the end). But occasionally when I just can’t get into a story, I call it quits or take a break and find a new book. With my 50 Book Challenge looming, I felt a lot of pressure to finish every book I started. If I didn’t fully complete a book, I couldn’t put it on my list and I didn’t feel like I could waste time reading half way through a book just to not finish it and not have it count. This lead to a few moments when reading wasn’t as enjoyable. I pushed my way through the second half of a few books I’d kind of wished I hadn’t started. I don’t want to throw shade on anyone’s writing, but I read a few dryer texts this year that I maybe should have saved for a time in life where I wasn’t concerned about my book count.

Here is a list of all 50 books I read in 2018

My Winter ’19 Reading List

With 50 books already read, you’d think I might take a bit of break (maybe catch up on TV or play a video game or two), but I jumped right into my 2019 winter reading list. Much like last year, I’m starting my year with a fair amount of nonfiction on my reading list. Some of these are my Bookclub picks for January, February, and March. (For anyone following along with my bookclub, due to the holidays and busy schedules our meeting have been moved to the end of the month so my December pick is also my January pick.)

Educated, A Memoir by Tara Westover— This was my December/January bookclub pick. It’s an amazing true story about Tara, her experience with the education system and not entering into any formal education until she was 17. A Truly inspiring story.

Inferior by Angela Saini— This is actually my February bookclub pick. This is an eye-opening book about biases in science and medical research and how those have shaped our preconceptions about men and women.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman—This is a story about Eleanor Oliphant and her timetabled existence. Everything in her life is perfect…. except for when it’s not. It also happens to be my March bookclub pick (surprise!). I heard this book is delightfully relatable.

Cordially Invited: A seasonal guide to celebrations and hosting, perfect for festive planning, crafting and baking in the run up to Christmas! by Zoe Sugg— Zoe, also known as Zoella, is one of my favorite YouTubers. Like Zoe, I also love hosting dinner parties, baking, seasonal decorating, and crafting. So when she published a book of her own tips for hosting beautiful get togethers, I knew it would be my kind if book. I have a total love for beautiful photography and books that can double as a coffee table book and a useful resource.

The Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard— This book I first picked up in December to start reading (but I ended up taking a break to read some more holiday-themed stores). It depicts an unseen world of magicians living in New York City and the dark secret behind where magic comes from. An action-filled world of magic and high society… (Truth be told, I’m just over half-through with this book as I’m writing this blog post and so far I find it a very pleasant read.)

How To Raise a Plant and Make It Love You Back by Morgan Doane and Erin Harding—First of all, I think the title of this book is cute. Secondly, I am a big fan of house plants and am constantly in desperate need of help when it comes to not killing them. This book may have just saved the lives of my many house plants.

The F Word: A Personal Exploration on Modern Female Friendship by Lily Pebbles— When I was younger, most of my close friends were guys and I lacked a lot of female friendships. By my 30s, however, I’d developed a close circle of female friends and actually don’t have as many male friends as I did growing up or in my 20s. My experiences with female friends have varied from some of my worst to some of my best experiences in my life. I think that’s why this book really stood out to me. I’m interested in hearing other’s views on the subject.

An Edited Life: Simple Steps to Streamlining your Life, at Work and at Home by Anna Newton— I was really drawn to this book as someone who’s work life and home life overlap. This book is a new release but I’m already hearing great things, and l hoping it can give me some helpful tidbits for decluttering, budgeting, and streamlining the growing list of tasks I take on daily.

Have thoughts on any of these books? Questions about the bookclub? Recommendations for books I should check out? I’d love to hear them. Leave me your questions, thoughts, and recommendations in the comment sections below!

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2 responses to “Gretchen Tries Stuff Episode 16: The One With 50 Books + My Winter ’19 Reading List”

  1. Susan Holzgang says:

    I read 53 books without realizing it. I had to go back in my kindle app and count plus the 4 books you lent me in hard copy. Not that I’m competitive or anything. 😉

    • Gretch says:

      Sounds like a humble brag, lol. But seriously I feel an odd amount of pressure to read at least 51 books in 2019, but if I continue to add a book every year I’ll hit a point where I can’t accomplish it/it’s unsustainable. Got to keep myself in check; however, if I ended up having a longer car ride commute, I could see myself consuming a lot more audiobooks throughout the year.

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GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.

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