I did a lot of things differently this year. I didn’t write nearly as much about books as I wanted to (at least not publicly) as both the good and bad parts of 2018 swallowed me whole.
But amid the ups and downs of this year, two things stood out for me: my personal reading journal and the growing list of authors that I follow on Twitter.
The Reading Journal
When I created this blog, I had intended for it to be my personal reading journal: a public exploration of what I read, what I liked (or disliked) about my readings, and what I took away from them. This did not play out as planned, and my blog has become a miscellaneous space that’s half-opinion column, half-portfolio.
Besides, when I was writing about the books I loved, I would always draft my reviews on yellow notepads or in old notebooks or on sheets of paper from my university binder. Life would override me, and I would forget where all of the pieces were. Then, of course, I would never post them.
I decided to solve this problem by putting all of my opinions in a single book: an A5 Clairefontaine ruled notebook that I designated to be my reading journal.
At first, I had every intention of sharing all of the contents of this notebook on my blog, but 2018 was 2018, and I only managed to share three.
However, through my private writings in this reading journal, I developed a newer and more intimate relationship with my books. Amid the months’ long silences, I was filling these pages with my opinions: identifying the styles that I liked or disliked, grumbling about what seemed unrealistic, or lauding or crying over what was so real, that it cut through my soul. I picked up on patterns that I never noticed before, made connections that would have slipped away with my shifting consciousness had I not taken the time to write them down.
At first, I told myself that this was just me drafting for my blog in a more organised fashion, but it became much more than that: by finding all of these patterns, I became a more keen and critical reader, and my own writing – both professional and otherwise -began to improve.
Admittedly, I was not always faithful to this journal. Between walls of handwritten text, there are still blank pages for books that I started and never finished, still lines for dates I forgot to write when I moved onto other books too quickly. But this small, ink-smudged book served its purpose, and I am definitely planning to continue this practice as I move forward with my reading habit.
Following Authors on Twitter
I created this blog around the same time I created my Twitter account. I started following authors then, too, but I didn’t pay as much attention to Twitter. This year, however, when I had followed enough authors that I loved, I began to pay more attention to their Twitters.
At first, much of the content I saw was social or civic commentary from J.K. Rowling or Steven King. Slowly, however, as I paid more attention, I began to pick up on more.
Authors would share information for young writers, encouraging them to keep on writing, keep on practising, keep on creating because their art matters. I would watch the way they engaged with people – and trolls – and would linger in silence for them to drop something that I could snatch up and consume and use in my own life.
Nnedi Okorafor is my favourite Twitter author so far. She seems so transparent, showing everyone where she got much of her inspiration from and how she uses it to weave her stories. Both her work and her tweets made me excited about my local folklore again, made me excited to dream radically about a future that is far removed from the Western concepts of futurism. After reading through some of her feeds, I would lay awake at night and dream about what I could possibly write about my own country’s future, and about the history that tethers and untethers us all.
Roxane Gay is another one of my favourite Twitter authors. I started my year with her book Hunger, and since then, I have been reading her Twitter feed, her essays, her articles and her books for more inspiration. She’s a big girl, just like I am. She’s black like me. She’s a writer. She went through the same shy, awkward, insecure phase that I am going through now. It took her years to overcome her worries and everything that haunted her toward her size and toward her current writings, but through her story, I found ways to confront my own demons and start walking on the path to overcoming mine.
And lastly, my favourite debut author of the year: Tomi Adeyemi. I remember that I almost cried when I saw she had a website which she used to offer writing advice to students like myself. I almost cried because she was the first black writing coach I ever saw and this mattered to me. It mattered because her book – Children of Blood and Bone – is the kind of book I have wanted to read since I turned 20. It was a fantasy novel with characters that looked like the ones I have been creating for years, set in a world where their blackness is not the only thing special about them. I almost cried because of her gentle honesty and calming advice. I almost cried because her book was like a little dream come true for a younger me.
So much happened this year with my readings. I enjoyed most of what I read, and I enjoyed reading almost hourly updates from other authors, too. Because of my journal and because of social media, I read more women and people of colour than I had last year and I want to continue this trend into the next year.
Reading helped me to explore the richness of the world and writing about my reading – however meta – helped me sink right into it.
Here’s to an even more prosperous reading year next year!
Happy 2019 everyone!