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I’ve always read a lot. My habit of carrying a book every where began in elementary school. I read Jane Eyre in snippets in between lessons in sixth grade, and it still made a big impression. (More on that in the video.)

But it was only as an adult that I began tracking my reading, a habit that has made me a better, more intentional reader.

Jeopardy! started it. A contestant said she’d read 1,000 books over a decade, and I scoffed. That didn’t seem like that many! (Spoiler: it is.) I’d never kept track, I told my husband, but I bet I read at least 100 books every year. (Spoiler: I don’t.) So, in 2008, I started a list in the back of my planner. That first year, I read 65 books. The second year, 101. Year three, 88. My annual average is 106.

Tracking began as a way to see how my reading stats compared to other people, but has become an intensely useful and personal tool. Trying to get to 100 books a year, I gave myself permission — finally! — to skip books that weren’t entertaining or educating me. Realizing I read most when I was overwhelmed — for example: 110 books in 2014, when we made big job decisions and moved — I set parameters to make sure I wasn’t using books to avoid life. Scanning my list regularly, I make sure I’m reading a wide variety of authors from different places and backgrounds. And I mark my favorite books, so I’m always ready with a book recommendation — or two, or three, or as many as you'll take

My lists still are decidedly low-tech, handwritten in the back of my paper planners each year, separated by month. It's my preference. 

But I have friends who use spreadsheets. And there are dozens of apps that can help. Goodreads is the most obvious and popular choice — you can set reading challenges for yourself! — and I've also had fun on Litsy. A friend aptly described it as the lovechild of Goodreads and Instagram. 

The first advice financial planners give to people wanting to save money is to create a budget to track spending. Your reading list is like a budget. If you want to read more, tracking the books you're already reading is a great way to start. You'll see what books bog you down, what authors or types of books you gravitate toward, and when you have time to read. You might be surprised by how much — or, as I was, how little — you're actually reading.

And you'll be able to set a realistic reading goal moving forward. 
Make America Read: First Love Book
Make America Read: What book did you first fall in love with?

If you liked Sex in The City or Girls, read All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg. (People have complained the main character is unlikeable, but that is beyond the point.) 

If you liked Lincoln in The Bardo, it's time to revisit Our Town by Thornton Wilder. (This is a book recommendation in reverse, too.)

Like is not the right word here, but if you've followed the Black Lives Matter movement nationally, you should read They Can't Kill Us All by Washington Post reporter (and Ohio University grad!) Wesley Lowery. Lowery covered the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, as well as shootings in Cleveland and Baltimore, and continues to work on the Post's groundbreaking reporting on police-involved shootings. 



Recent favorite: The Bear and The Nightingale, Katherine Arden — A feminist Russian fairytale.

Up Next: Stamped from The Beginning, Ibram X. Kendi

Read Harder: We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo — Junot Diaz blurbed this, and the writing feels similar, clear and unflinching. 

Here's my full spreadsheet for the Read Harder Challenge. Read along to expand your horizons this year. 

EXIT WEST by Mohsin HamId

Read the book this month.
We'll discuss it next month.
Details to come.

The 9-year-old’s pick: The Eye, The Ear and The Arm, Nancy Farmer
Basically, he loves everything Farmer writes after reading The House of the Scorpion.

The 7-year-old’s pick: Choose Your Own Adventure books — “I want all the weird stuff to happen.”

And if you're looking for good books for kids, you can't go wrong with the Newberry Award winners. Here's this handy PDF my friend Jess made. 

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