What I Read This Month: December 2020

Books Gretchen has read

For three years now, every Monday morning, I’ve posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads.

I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

When I read books related to an area I’m researching for a writing project, I carefully read and take notes on the parts that interest me, and skim the parts that don’t. So I may list a book that I’ve partly read and partly skimmed. For me, that still “counts.”

If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my “Reading Better Than Before” worksheet.

You can also follow me on Goodreads where I track books I’ve read.

If you want to see what I read last month, the full list is here.

And join us for this year’s new challenge: Read for 21 minutes every day in 2021!

The year of 2020 was a tough year, so as a treat, this 2021 challenge is a delightful challenge. If you read for 21 minutes per day for 365 days, that’s 7,665 minutes, or almost 128 hours of reading. You can read a lot of books in 128 hours!

A surprising number of people, I’ve found, want to read more. But for various reasons, they struggle to get that reading done. #Read21in21 is meant to help form and strengthen the habit of reading.

December 2020 Reading:

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (Amazon, Bookshop) — I really admire the work of Roxane Gay so am working my way through her writing. Great essays.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (Amazon, Bookshop) — Heartland Prize for non-fiction. Powerful, haunting memoir of a family and a neighborhood.

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar (Amazon, Bookshop) — This is the third time I’ve read this brilliant, thought-provoking novel; I love it so much. But it’s funny: I love it, but I’m surprised that so many other people have loved it too. It’s not the kind of book that I’d expect many people to want to read.

Winter by Ali Smith (Amazon, Bookshop) — One of Smith’s Seasonal Quartet novels. A family comes together in a large house in Cornwall for Christmas.

Brown White Black: An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion by Nishta J. Mehra (Amazon, Bookshop) — Fascinating essays about many complex subjects  through the lens of one person’s experience.

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender (Amazon, Bookshop) — National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Moving novel about a boy, his family, and the people around them.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Amazon, Bookshop) — Stonewall Book Award, Lambda Literary Award, GLAAD Media Award. I loved this book. I’ve been meaning to read it for years.

Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography in Essays by Claire Messud (Amazon, Bookshop) — Very thought-provoking essays from the transcendent to the very personal (dogs).

Even The Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou (Amazon, Bookshop) — this book is described as a collection of “wisdom essays,” which is a satisfyingly cogent way to characterize it. I do love a wisdom essay.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan (Amazon, Bookshop) — Borders Original Voices Award. I love the work of Michael Pollan, and his accounts of the apple, the rose, marijuana, and the potato are fascinating. I see the world in a new way.

Here for It; Or, How to Save Your Soul in America: Essays by R. Eric Thomas (Amazon, Bookshop) — Once I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. Thoughtful, funny, very compelling.

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts by Ryan Holiday (Amazon, Bookshop) — someone told me that this was one of the best books they’d ever read about how to engage with an audience, so I had to read it. Practical, very useful. I did several of the exercises to help clarify my thinking about my next book project.

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel (Amazon, Bookshop) — I loved Bechdel’s Fun Home (see above), which focuses on her relationship with her father, so I couldn’t wait to read this graphic novel, which focuses on her relationship with her mother.



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