By Stacie C.
I said what I said.
The past year has been unbelievably tough on my emotions, and honestly, I was glad to see it go. I have had to re-evaluate friendships and the character of people around me in a way that I never thought would be necessary. I’ve been scared for my life and scared of the direction the U.S. was heading. I’ve had to watch Nazis walk through the streets. The constant stress severely affected the topics that I read about in 2017.
All the same, I read a lot last year, and I’m proud of the fact that I don’t stick to one genre. But because of the political climate here in the U.S., I haven’t wanted to challenge myself and read books that I felt would be too emotionally draining. I bought The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas the week it was released. It sat on my bookshelf for weeks. I knew that I wasn’t ready to read it yet. When I finally picked it up, I loved every single word of it. I was emotionally attached to the book and the main character. It hit close to home, and I had to give myself time to prepare for the read. That was 2017 for me, preparing myself to be emotionally vulnerable in ways that I hadn’t before.
Mind you, throughout all of this change I never stopped buying books. I would just work around the books that I knew I couldn’t handle. But after a while, those books started stacking up. Mid-July I realized it was time. I needed to continue to challenge myself and not let everything going on around me severely affect my love of reading. I made a list that I crowned my “2017 August-December Must-Read List.” I held myself accountable by posting my goal and list on Litsy and tagging friends that I knew would keep me reading and inspired. Then I got to work crossing each book off my list as I went. Sounds simple enough, but it was time to get to work.
Now, this list wasn’t only a list of books that I knew would emotionally tear me to pieces. It consisted of books of course like Invisible Man Got The Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It also included some books that I had been dying to read like The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I was trying my hardest to create a list that would hold a semblance of balance. I knew I would still be reading ARCs during this time but these were my priorities.
Slowly, I crossed off each book as I finished, carefully choosing which book from the list would be next. There were twenty one books on my list and only one book proved to be a nuisance. The Heart of Everything That Is by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin was one that I couldn’t bring myself to finish, not because the subject was too grave, but because of the disrespectful way the authors were portraying the Native Americans. After battling with myself over the author’s tone on the subject, I ultimately chose not finish. The other twenty books on my list I was able to finish and review, but I’m not sure I would have been able to if I hadn’t prioritized.
This whole process was new to me. I have never been in a position where the world was so overwhelming and troublesome that navigating my “to be read” pile became a challenge. That is until this year, where I had to reconsider so many aspects of my life. Reading just happened to be one of them. I had to remind myself to just keep reading. Keep doing one of the things you love. I did, but emotionally it took its toll. So much of what I read brought into stark contrast a lot of the issues revolving around social justice and racism that are so relevant to me and prevalent today. But I made it through, that list and that year. Moving forward, I know to keep challenging myself and to keep a balance. To not let the world become so tiresome that I’m not allowed to relish in my reading. I’ll just keep reading, keep moving forward, and keep persevering.