One of the things that I wanted to accomplish this year was to read more for fun. In the past, a slow year would have seen me consuming a novel a week. I devoured books. And then I suddenly didn’t.
Early in my academic career, likely during the end stages of my Ph.D., I stopped reading novels. Instead, I occupied my time with academic papers, textbooks, and other documents that would have been relevant to the research I was doing at the time.
And since then, not much has changed.
This isn’t to say that I don’t read (and write) a lot, because I do. However, my reading materials these days typically can be classified as one of two things: academic or administrative in nature. This includes reading and re-reading student papers and theses, doing my best to stay on top of research in several different domains, reading and editing collaborative papers for peer-review, and reviewing administrative documents for the various committees I’ve been on.
It’s more exciting than it sounds, but it’s also not the same kind of fun reading that I get from a solid novel. Academic and administrative reading often lacks the adventure, mystery, intrigue, character development, betrayal, and humanity that comes from short stories and novels that I so love. Shocking, I know! Anyway, this year I opted to set a goal to get back to reading for fun. More specifically, I set out to read at least six novels.
Thanks to my sabbatical, I have managed to achieve this goal. Of the novels I’ve finished1, here are my three favourites2:
- Split Tooth, by Tanya Tagaq
- Astrophysics For People In A Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Let’s Go Exploring: Calvin & Hobbes, by Michael Hingston
By far, however, my absolute favourite read of 2019 was Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq. I devoured this book on the flight from Dalian to Taipei in October. To be honest, there were times while reading Split Tooth that I found myself holding my breath, shocked and deeply moved by what I read. It’s not often that I have such a visceral and emotional response while reading a book, but this one struck raw nerve after raw nerve. Tanya’s words are as harsh and wise as they are honest and real, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to read this book. If you have the time, I highly recommend you read it.
Inhale hard love suck in the smell and reward reap eat chew swallow devour all the goodness and love that is given to you.
Exhale calmness in acknowledgement of the beauty within the courage it takes to not fear love.Split Tooth, Tanya Tagaq, 2018
To close out the year, I’ve also just begun reading The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account Of Native People In North America by Thomas King, which was listed on the Great Canadian Reading List and selected as one of the Canada Reads titles in 2015. I don’t imagine I’ll finish it before 2019 is ushered in, but so far I’m quite enjoying it.
Here’s hoping I can keep up this routine in the new year, especially when I return to my regular academic life post-sabbatical.
Happy reading all y’all.
1 When I was younger, I used to force myself to finish novels even if I wasn’t feeling them. As I’ve gotten older, and as time constraints have become even more significant, I find that I won’t waste my efforts on a book unless I’m truly enjoying it. This might mean that I miss out on those books that are slow burns, but I trust that my friends will prevent me from missing out on an essential read.
2 Yes, I recognize that one of the books on my list of fun reading is about astrophysics and that many people might classify that too close to an academic read, but I don’t care. It was super fun to read, and I may or may not be a nerd at heart.