Spoiler alert: It did not look like me sitting at the edge of a bright blue body of water.

I love reading. It’s my favorite thing to do, more than watching TV or eating chips and queso. Even more than sleeping (evidenced by the many, many nights I’ve stayed up way past my bedtime reading “just one more chapter”). However, I don’t always read well.

Left to my own, unchallenged devices, I read the same authors over and over, ignoring the hundreds of new (or new-to-me) authors out there. I stick to one or two genres, despite the fact that I truly do love reading so many different types of stories. I default to dozens of free-on-Kindle books while putting the books I really want to read on my never-ending, always-growing TBR list. And while you know I’m not opposed to fluff or reading something a bit mindless when you need an escape, I know I’m not making good reading choices when I spend weeks reading the same basic story over and over in multiple books that are poorly written and/or edited with underdeveloped characters and unrealistic scenarios and dialogue.

So this summer, I decided to do something different.

Inspired by my conversation with Emily Freeman about how frequently many of us get in ruts with our media choice, I forced myself to actually do the thing I want to do. I collected a few reading lists and guides from the book people I trust most (to be specific, Anne Bogel and Amy Clark, plus Goodreads and BookRiot). From those lists, I selected the ones that sounded good to me (not the ones I thought I should read, because who has time for that?). And then I requested every single one from the library.

According to my library’s website, the books were supposed to become available at a nice, staggered pace over the summer months. Buuuuuut, that’s not exactly what happened. They came in stacks and piles and droves! All at once, or at least what has felt like all at once. And so, determined to take this opportunity to read a lot of the kind of books I want to read, I dove in. And now, two months into the summer, I’ve read 30 books. Here’s how I did it (and keep reading for the list of the actual books I read):

I focused. I tried to read only one book at a time, so I didn’t get distracted and end up with seven or eight half-read books. At the most I’m reading one physical book and one e-book.

I made a plan. Even though my tendency is to pick up the easiest reads first or tear into that one book I’ve been most excited about first, I’ve been reading the books in order of due date. I literally stacked up the physical books I’ve checked out, with the ones due the soonest on top. That has (mostly) taken away the problem of having to return books before I’ve read them, and it’s also removed the time-sucking, “What should I read next?” debating I do when I don’t have a plan.

I never left home without it. I read a lot of books digitally, using the Kindle app on my phone. So I literally walk around with an entire library in my purse or pocket. But I also made a point to take the physical books I was reading just about everywhere we went this summer. I finished a lot of chapters during swim lessons, waiting at camp pickup, and sitting in the summer school carpool line.

I turned off the TV. You simply can’t consume all the TV or movies you want if you also want to read all the books you want. I’ve tried, and it cannot be done. So most nights when I might normally take in three episodes, I’ll turn off the TV after two and pick up my book instead. Seems simple, but I haven’t done it before.

I acted like a child. I don’t know how many times I heard my mom say, “Get your nose out of a book!” but it was a lot. Enough that it’s part of my internal soundtrack, enough that I still hear it (and ignore it) now when I’m neglecting chores or people so I can read more.

I don’t recommend this step! I’m embarrased by it, really, but I also didn’t want to act like it’s not true. I am perpetually behind on the laundry and the dishes, and my kids have had to remind me more than once that our family rule says no books at the dining room table. Insert guilty face and shrug emojis here…

Anyway, that’s how I read 30 books in the last two months. I’ve got a list of the actual books for you now, with a real short review. And I would love to hear what you’ve read recently, too!

What I’ve Read This Summer

  • A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer: This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and I looooved it!
  • Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry: I’ve really loved every other book by this author. She writes gritty YA with a redemption theme. But this one fell flat for me in a big way.
  • The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson: This is adorable. Basically a slightly edgier, snappier Hallmark movie in book form.
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: Fantasy story with a female hero. And a love triangle, because obviously. I thought it was fantastic and can’t wait for the next book in the series.
  • There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon: The romance between two Indian-American teens is sweet, and so are the storylines focused on their families. This is my favorite of Menon’s books so far.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: This book WRECKED me. It’s a memoir by a death row lawyer who makes an undeniable case for corruption in the criminal system. It’s devastating and infuriating and I still don’t know what to do with the things I’ve learned about. Still, I recommend this one to everyone.
  • The Wicked King by Holly Black: It’s a book about fairies, but not the sweet Tinkerbell kind. This is book two of a trilogy, and I liked it even more than the first one.
  • Rock Bottom Girl by Lucy Score: What?! A romance about a 38-year-old woman? Yes! This got spicier than I expected, but I liked the story a lot.
  • Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey: Adorable romantic comedy, although the main character got a bit annoying by the end.
  • Meet Cute by Helena Hunting: Enemies to lovers story but with more weight than I anticipated with the addition of a family plot line. This was really great.
  • Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum: This YA romance is about survivors of 9/11, which was interesting. I didn’t like that the main male character was dishonest. But the book as a whole was cute.
  • Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo: Same goes for this one — very cute YA romance about a pop star and a supposedly “regular” guy, but I could do without the dishonest male protagonist.
  • Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff: As far as space adventures go, this is my least favorite of those written by this duo. And yet it’s the one being turned into a TV show, so there you go.
  • The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: Co-workers and competitors hate each other and then love each other. This was fun.
  • Night Music by Jenn Marie Thorne: Coming of age meets romance, and it all takes place in the world of music? YES, PLEASE. I loved this book.
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary: Much as I enjoy watching people fall in love through correspondence, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. It was still cute, just not my favorite.
  • One in a Million by Lindsey Kelk: And I also didn’t love this one as much as I hoped! Perhaps I wasn’t digging the British romcom as much as the American ones? I don’t know, but this gender-flipped My Fair Lady adaptation was fun. Just, again, not my fave.
  • You Won’t Know I’m Gone by Kristen Orlando: Book two in a book about a teenaged female spy. That’s right up my alley, but this middle book made me dislike the main character a lot.
  • You Won’t See Me Coming by Kristen Orlando: Luckily I had this final book of the trilogy to read right away, and everyone was redeemed. I liked this series quite a bit!
  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory: Everyone’s raved about this book, but I didn’t love it. It’s a lot of sex. So…if that’s your thing, go for it. If not, maybe skip this one.
  • Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith: Typical book for this author, with two teens falling in love on a train ride across the country. Very simple and very cute.
  • The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez: Points to this book for addressing menstrual cycles and infertility. Big eye rolls to the secret-keeping plot device and the conveniently happy ending.
  • Now and Then and Always by Melissa Tagg: Only a few Christian fiction authors are on my must-read list. Tagg is one of them, and I liked this book a lot.
  • Finding Jack by Melanie Jacobson: This was labeled a “fairy tale flip,” and since I love twisted fairy tale adaptations I read it. It was okay, but not great.
  • Coldhearted Boss by R.S. Grey: I’ve read a few books by this author and while they always have steamy sections I skim, the dialogue keeps me coming back.
  • Technically You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson: This book is written completely in texts between two teens. If you like that sort of thing as much as I do, you’ll probably like this as much as I did (a lot)!
  • I Hate You More by Alexandra Moody: The dialogue in this book was snappy, but the book was a bit fluffy. Kindle Unlimited young adult romance.
  • Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer: Two teens dealing with major family issues connect, and it’s lovely.
  • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Technically I’m still reading this one. It’s basically a behind-the-music documentary script for a fictional band, and so far, it’s really fun.

So, that’s it! Although…it’s not really. I still have 16 books checked out from the library, 8 books on reserve at the library, 18 books I’ve bought in this calendar year, 5 books I’ve borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, and 3 books I checked out from the library but had to return before I read them and want to check out again.

Surely I can read 50 more books?

Sure! As long as no other books are published. Or recommended. Or just, you know, mentioned in passing.

I’ll probably always have an overwhelming TBR list. I can’t resist either brilliant-sounding books or the idea that I will someday read them. But at least for a season (and maybe more if I can keep up these habits), I’m moving enough books to the “Read” list to keep up with my ever-growing “To Be Read” list!

What have you read this summer?

Photo by Angello Lopez on Unsplash

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