Magenta Chicken | No. 4
The Big Year
As part of my intention to deliberately turn down the noise in my life, I’ve been disappearing into my books. The act of reading grounds me in a safe space and the stories set me free.
Last year, I read locked-room mystery after locked-room mystery, six of which were written by Agatha Christie. I exceeded my annual challenge goal and read a total of 58 books. I read poetry and Star Wars comic books. I participated in two virtual read-a-thons and The Sealey Challenge. And I, once again, failed to finish “The Greatest British Novel of All Time,” my nemesis book, Middlemarch. That effing book!
But this year, this year is The Big Year, the year I am within spitting distance of my longtime goal to read 1,000 books. I’m currently at 926, only 74 more to go. I’m uncertain which book will have the honor of being the 1,000th book or how I will celebrate the reading of the last page. (Send ideas, please!)
Here’s what I am exploring in my bookish Big Year:
☑ First Read of the Year (I always start the year with a classic.) — Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I watched The Green Knight before I read it. It’s a trippy story and I am certain I would have been lost in the book without the visual references of the film.
☑ In February, the shortest month, I read short books. Everything superfluous has evaporated and you are left with the salt of these stories — condensed, distilled, sharp, pungent, shocking. There is no time to wallow or ramble.
A few I read this year: Rachel Cusk’s Second Place + The Annual Migration of Clouds (LOVED!) + Disquiet + The First Lady and the Writer, Provincetown 1961 + Jamaica Kincaid’s scathing dress down of tourists in A Small Place + The Off Season + Springtime: A Ghost Story
My Long Read for the year — A Brief History of Seven Killings. I try to read at least one book over 500 pages. The Jamaican patois may trip me up, but I continue my quest to learn as much as I can about my favorite island.
☑Re-reading of a favorite — The Westing Game (I’m certain I missed 90% of the social commentary when I read this as a kid. Absolutely worth your time to experience as an adult.)
I’m working through the Read Christie Challenge again this year. I did half of them last year, we’ll see if I can do all 12 this time. (For an alternate option, the Maidens of Murder are reading selections from the Detection Club).
The Sealey Challenge — Instead of reading a book of poetry a day in August (or November, when I’ve normally done it), I’m reading one poetry book a week for the whole year. Claudine Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric knocked me over.
I’m continuing to make my way through all of Mary Oliver’s work.
I love the Moomins and am reading the rest of the Moominland books.
Authors to work into my plan — ☑ Rachel Cusk, Dorothe Nors, Fleur Jaeggy, Clarice Lispector, Ruth Ozecki, Octavia Butler, Ali Smith, and Helen Oyeyemi. And a few men: Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, Michael Chabon.
I also try to read at least one listed book for The Women’s Prize. Long List will be announced on March 7!
And, friends, this is the year I finish that nemesis book, Middlemarch. I found a schedule on the interwebs that breaks it down into tiny, tiny bits and a character map to help keep the cast of characters straight.
What are you all reading this year?? Send me your syllabus! And your best recommendations!