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What to Read Next (No. 205): my 2022 reading plan + interview with Oliver Burkeman
Happy Friday, readers! This week, finally, I’m sharing my 2022 reading plan. It’s been months in the making and has been tweaked again and again, for no other reason than I can’t stay away from creating and editing a good book list.
Also this week is my review of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, as well as a really fun interview with Four Thousand Weeks author Oliver Burkeman, which was easily one of my favorite reads of the year. (Read my review of that one here.)
One more note: For the first time in nearly four years of sending this email on Friday mornings, I’m taking next Friday off. Enjoy your Christmas Eve! There’s no reason to hear from me on a day of rest and reflection and, hopefully, reading. I’ll be back on New Year’s Eve to review a couple great new books and share another interview.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Part of my new job at WordPress.com involves knowing our product in and out. To that end, I’m using WordPress to document the Stephen King Reading Project. My latest review there features King’s second published novel, ‘Salem’s Lot. At its core, the book is a re-telling of Dracula. More than anything else, though, the story highlights King’s ability to craft a large cast of characters and create an incredible world/atmosphere for them. Check it out by clicking below:
The Big Read 2022
You wouldn’t believe how many readers I run into who have said something along the lines of: “I’ve always wanted to read War and Peace but have never had the gumption to start it.”
At The Big Read, we’re a community of readers tackling Tolstoy’s epic at the pace of just one chapter per day. It takes 5-10 minutes a day and the epic novel’s 360 short, readable chapters make it perfect to read over the course of a year.
If you need more reasons to read Tolstoy in ‘22, click here to read four of ‘em + a few testimonials.
If you’re ready to join in for $5/month or $50/year, click the button below:
A Few Bookish Questions With Oliver Burkeman
I’ve said quite a lot about Four Thousand Weeks recently, so it doesn’t even feel like Mr. Burkeman needs an introduction here. He writes about productivity, happiness, and time management for a number of outlets and across a number of books. This week, I had the pleasure of asking him a few questions about books, reading, and writing.
I’ll highlight just one of my favorite questions, but then you’ll have to click through to read the rest since Gmail doesn’t like long emails.
Which authors and/or books have influenced your approach to writing?
In terms of nonfiction prose style, Janet Malcolm is the master. I wouldn't have the audacity to claim that my writing bears any resemblance to hers, but I don't think anyone working at the intersection of journalism and philosophy can afford not to read, say, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession or The Journalist and the Murderer.
In a different vein, the "comic sociology" of David Brooks's book Bobos In Paradise made a big impression on me, in its vivid exploration of abstract ideas in a funny way.
In terms of the daily practice of writing: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, of course; and also an old and hard-to-obtain book about the psychology of writing, How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency by Robert Boice, which is about the importance of not turning writing into a huge and therefore intimidating centerpiece of your life, but working in regular, non-intimidatingly small chunks instead.
My 2022 Reading Plans
Early last year, my pal Kyle and I decided to dedicate 2022 to reading more women authors. The reason why can be summed up in a conversation I had with another friend just a couple weeks ago.
Jonny and I were talking about books, publishing, and a recent conservative uproar about a few of the amazing women historians who write about America’s evangelical movement. (Uproar might be a strong word, given that it’s a very small slice of pop culture.)
We ended up on the topic of male authors vs. female authors and came to realize that one of the primary patterns of inequality between them can be found in nearly any book’s acknowledgments page.
In most books by men, you’ll see something like:
“I’d like to thank my long-suffering family, who put up with my numerous absences, missed dinnertimes, and weekends away.”
In most books by women, you’ll see something like:
“I wrote this book over rushed lunchtimes, while covered in spaghetti sauce, and late into the night with far too many hours of lost sleep.”
There’s hardly ever a mention of leaving the family behind for a season.
Women are writing in the midst of life, while men have often been able to simply escape it.
That, in a simplified nutshell, is why I’m spending 2022 reading women. The writing process is different, the publishing industry has treated them differently for decades (centuries, really), and women offer a unique perspective that I just haven’t read often enough.
Over the course of the last six months or so, Kyle and I worked on a big list of books that we’d like to read—old classics, new voices, non-fiction, fiction, short stories, etc. We covered the gamut.
But then I realized I didn’t want the entirety of my 2022 reading to be planned out. I do best with a good mix of planned/unplanned reading.
So the list I’m sharing today has 30 books on it, which is roughly a third of what I tend to read over the course of a year. That leaves two-thirds of my reading to my own whims and interests. I’m excited to use a lot of that two-thirds on books that have been sitting on my own shelves for years.
Not every book I read in 2022 will be penned by a woman—between book club (picks are out of my hands), the Stephen King project, and some new books I’m excited about, I don’t want to be 100% strapped into this one thing. But my intent is that the vast majority of my 2022 reading will consist of books by women authors.
Since Gmail won’t like me including all of those book covers within this email (again with Gmail, I know), click the button below to check it out as a post on the readmorebooks.co site:
Thanks so much for the time and inbox space—I really appreciate it. As always, I love to know what you’re reading, so shoot me a message back or comment.