This is simultaneously a really easy reading list for 2018, and also a bit of a challenge. There are only a few books here – with plenty of choice – and a few of them should be breezy fun. On the other hand, a few are directed at dealing with our chaotic moment in history. You can do it as-is, or you can pick and choose, or you can find another plan. The only real hope is that it helps you choose wisely while also giving you permission to read more than just what you’re “supposed” to read. Also, I hope it’s helpful in moderating any trend-chasing tendencies. Reading is a bit like eating: there is not a damn thing wrong with dessert, but you do have to make sure you get your nutrients.
Read 2 Pulitzer winners from 2 categories you don’t usually read. You can fudge it by reading a book by someone who won for a non-book category, like journalism or criticism.
Read something written by a journalist. Post about it or recommend/give it to a friend. Here is a stellar list, with some very familiar names, from Book Scrolling. We have a list ourselves, from a while back.
Read some crappy pulp fiction of any genre, preferably in its original edition, those flimsy paperbacks with the lurid artwork.
Read 3 books of poetry, and mix it up: contemporary, classic, in translation, etc. Try to take your time; don’t just jam through it.
Who is the most important kid in your life? If they were taking a trip to Mars and back, what 5 books would you send with them? Make sure you’ve read those 5 yourself, then give them to the kid. (I know Christmas is over, but they’re gonna be in a rocket ship for two 1-year stints, plus a however-long stint of sitting around indoors staring out the window at rocks, so come on.) Of course, you have to tell them that the 5 book set is for their trip to Mars.
Read the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and all the amendments. It’s not long, and some parts are a little dull, but it’s important. You don’t even have to buy it; here it is in the National Archives. (But you can.)
Read one or two things from a faith (or non-faith) tradition other than your own. For example, if you are Jewish, read something Zen. If you are Christian, read some Christopher Hitchens. If you are atheist, read something from a mystical writer (which can come from a variety of specific faiths). It doesn’t have to be, like, the entire Bhagavad Gita or the entire Bible – just find a quality example of something from that other way of thought/belief.
Either read a book about food and/or cooking OR find an interesting cookbook to explore this year. It could be something to challenge your skills or an exploration of a different cuisine. It should be fun and in-line with your cooking habits, ie if you don’t already cook a lot, then don’t pick something really demanding. Personally, I’m leaning towards Prison Ramen or something about booze.
Read 2 books from folks neither European nor American, at least one in translation from a non-European language.
If you don’t read non-fiction, then read at least one non-fiction book. If you don’t read fiction, read at least one novel. Also – hey, knock it off. My own dear father looked me right in the face a few weeks ago and said, “I don’t read fiction.” He didn’t blink or say “ha ha, just kidding.” He was serious. No one should ever just not read an entire broad category of books. To put it in perspective, imagine going back in time and hearing Jesus speaking, and saying, “Wait – did that ‘parable’ thing actually happen? I am not interested in made-up stories.” Or imagine never picking up a newspaper, because you “don’t read non-fiction.” Geez. Seriously.
Read a bio/autobio about someone who is as different from you as you can imagine.
That’s only about 15 books. It leaves plenty of space for spontaneous reading. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice you can even combine a few of those suggestions, making it an even shorter reading list. That’s it. 2018 is gonna be smooth sailing.