Sarah To Zero

Hi!

You’re probably wondering what the heck ‘Sarah To Zero’ means.

We’ll get to that.

Today, I’m gonna share with you my reading goals for the year! But first I wanted to give you a little review and wrap up of last year.

Last year I had ten goals. TEN. Have I met me? I don’t know why I did that. Although, a lot of them were more just intentions and quite abstract. They weren’t massively rigid. So I think I actually did a good job of hitting them all a bit. I read almost every day. I didn’t allow seven consecutive weeks to pass without finishing a book. I read more women than men. So I’m feeling good about those and they’re habits I’d like to carry into the future.

My main goal was of course, the number of books I wanted to read. I set it at 50 again after a very busy December 2018 reading 17 books to meet my goal. I wanted to reach 50 more comfortably before I moved it up. Sensible, I thought.

WELL.

I only went and read 73 books! I was so bloody chuffed with myself, so it’s okay if you are too. Haha. I comfortably reached my goal in about September and after that I just wanted to see how further I could actually take it. I definitely went above my expectations.

But, you know, I can’t take all the credit. A big shout out has got to go out to my new best friends: audiobooks! For some reason I only started listening to these in the later section of the year. My office thankfully allows headphones and WOW the amount of books I’ve been able to listen to. I’ve really enjoyed the different medium as well, to be honest, and have no idea why I waited so long to try them!

So yeah, pretty solid year I think. I had a lot of fun.

But on to this year. The goals. So they’re ambitious. But simple.

They’re twofold.

I want to read 100 books.

Yeah, don’t question it. It’ll be fine. I already know I’ll be taking part in about three readathons; me and my mate are setting up a book club(!) (did you see my last post?); and I only discovered audiobooks in like October or something and that really boosted my book count so imagine an entire year of them! So I feel like I definitely have the tools to push my 73 up to 100. It’s just a matter of whether I use them.

I want to minimise my unread owned books as much as I possibly can.

This is Sarah To Zero. Get it? This is me reducing my owned unread books to zero. This has been something I’ve thought about for a long time, and actively tried to change over the last couple of years.

I love books.

I want to consume every word ever written. So it makes sense that I’ve bought several books over the years. It didn’t help that in university I lived two minutes away from an amazing second hand bookshop; this is the culprit for many of my books! Couple the buying with the fact I wasn’t reading more than twenty books a year and you are obviously left with disaster and disappointment.

But I want to change that.

And I like to be real with you guys. So I’ll tell you. I started twentytwenty with 214 owned but unread books.

Yikes.

Ideally, I think I’d like that number to be 20.

SO.

We’ve got our work cut out for us. But only I can control this number.

Therefore, making no books a top rule in my no buy for this year was paramount. I picked a 100 books to read because I like to push myself, and also because I think I can do it. But imagine getting to December 31st and only having 114 books left on my shelf. That floods me with relief, even though some of you are probably thinking, what the fuck Sarah, that’s still so many books!

For me, that’s not many.

And what’s funny is I’m desperate to read all the books on my shelf. Otherwise they wouldn’t be there. I wouldn’t have bought them. Or I would have donated them by now. It’s just a matter of slowly working through them. I want their knowledge.

My newfound love for audiobooks is also going to help me out here. I have an existing subscription to Scribd (which is therefore allowed to continue according to my no buy rules) and I’ve already discovered that a massive amount of my physical shelf is on here. Being able to listen to them in work is going to hugely impact my ability to crush through them. Last year I listened to a lot of books I don’t own, because the magic of discovery was so exciting. But this year I have a clear focus so listening to the books that I already physically own will really help me reduce my shelf. So yeah, Sarah To Zero. It’s happening.

And that’s it. Didn’t you see in my twentytwenty post that simplicity is my word of the year? I really mean it.

What are your reading goals for the year? I’d love to hear them! Have you set an unrealistic goal for yourself? Do you want to get back into reading after having a long break? Do you own too many books like me and have a similar challenge to reduce them? Let me know!

Since joining it a while ago, I’ve found bookstagram a really motivating place. It makes me want to read more. So if you’re struggling or needing some inspiration definitely check the world out. My bookstagram is @theunreliablereader 🙂

The Wolves (Act I and II) – Bon Iver

 

August/NEWTs Readathon Wrap Up

Guys, I did it! I read my nine books for the NEWTs readathon! I’m now a qualified Curse Breaker if someone wants to hire me! Haha, in all seriousness though, I surprised myself there. I can be quite the procrastinator and nineteen days into the month I had only read one book. But I think I’m just so stubborn when it comes to finishing a book challenge (and I really can’t do anything in life without an imminent deadline that I’ll almost certainly miss) that with ten days left of the readathon I just read like hell and did it! And some great books I read too:

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali – Sabina Khan

A YA contemporary that I couldn’t stop reading. On my latest trip to Gay’s the Word in London, I saw this book in three separate sections of the shop! How could I say no? My interest was fully piqued. Moved into action by the deaths of numerous openly gay people in Bangladesh, Khan has fictionalised an American Bangladeshi coming out story. It’s heartbreaking and well as heartwarming. Learning about cultures different from your own is always fascinating and I loved how the simple parts of a culture were also present: food and clothes etc. Whilst I thought the end was a breakneck change from the start, I still enjoyed the journey.

The Easter Rising: A Guide To Dublin In 1916 – Conor Kostick, Lorcan Collins

A book that I stole from my dad and has been on my shelf for years! It’s no secret that I love Ireland. If you didn’t know that about me then, hi my name’s Sarah and I most definitely prefer my Irish heritage to my British. I traveled to Dublin in 2016 on one of our many trips to the capital city. This one was pretty special though. We went at Easter, an April that marked 100 years since the Easter Rising. The rebel’s goal? To demand an Irish Republic separate from the British, in simple terms: freedom. This book takes you on a tour of Dublin through all the significant buildings and landmarks of the Rising. It also introduces you to all the keep players. Very informative and has lovely little human anecdotes to compliment the facts. Also, the writers curate an actual walking tour in Dublin if you’re ever there!

The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One – Amanda Lovelace

The last book in this poetry series and I’m honestly gutted. These collections have been amazing and are books I’ll keep coming to again and again. They are not for the faint-hearted. But if you want to get uncomfortable and become a better ally or friend or if you want to work through your own demons then read this. It’s quite honestly perfect. Poems will leave you hollow inside whilst others will steal a smile from your lips. To do both in consecutive pages is a real talent.

The Testament of Mary – Colm Tóibín

I love a good recommendation from a friend. Occasionally they can come with a lot of pressure because what if you don’t like it? Is the friendship over? Fortunately, I won’t find out today as I loved this book. It takes a look at Mary’s life after the crucifixion of Jesus. And damn, this Mary is cool, why does nobody talk about her? She’s strong willed but quietly so. She’s empty after the loss of her family. However she doesn’t believe her son did these miraculous things so she’s finding it very hard to consider him the messiah. Mad right? Just read it.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

I was supposed to read this book in uni. I wish I had. A lot of the books I chose to read this month had heavy themes of religion. Which is odd as I am an atheist. However, each is uniquely critical of certain aspects of religion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually anti-religion. If it works for you that’s cool. But what these books I’ve read show is how people twist the definition of god with power. They’re not a synonym; at least they shouldn’t be. People abuse the bible and what they think is a good way to live simply so they can have power. In this particular book we’re focusing a lot on homosexuality. Knowing it’s a semi-autobiographical text wounded me a little. I’ll simply never be able to understand why people must try to oppress other people’s right to be authentically themselves.

Women Talking – Miriam Toews

For two years in a Mennonite colony, hundreds of women were drugged and attacked in the night. They were told they were being violated by demons who had come to punish them for their sins. In actual fact they were being raped by a group of men from the colony. This is a real thing that happened. This book is a fictionalised tale of the women’s response and how they fought for their freedom back. It was narrated really interestingly through the minutes of a meeting of eight women from two families. Their friendships and rivalries will restore your faith in the human spirit.

After Dark – Haruki Murakami

I loved this book. I’m not sure it’s going to be for everyone. If you love heavily plotted books with explicit, explained endings then don’t read this. If you like something just a bit bizarre but fascinating then read it. Set in a Japanese city, it explores what happens on the streets when the last train ends and before the first one begins. I think I just really felt affinity with the night people because I’ve always been a night person. I can pin point the moment when I was fourteen and messaging a boy I liked on msn; since then I’ve been staying up past four am. The night is quiet and full of magic. I don’t know, I just liked it.

Neverseen – Shannon Messenger

I’m really getting into this series and I love seeing the characters grow as the books go on. The blossoming moments of friendship are some of my favourite parts of the novel. I don’t read many series so it’s hard to tell you anything about this that isn’t a spoiler (this is the fourth book to the Keeper of the Lost Cities series). However, I enjoyed the change of location for this book as well as the new characters. And that’s all I’ll say..

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life – Hector Garcia Puigcerver, Francesc Miralles

A solid 3.5 book for me I think. I found it very slow to get into, often getting overwhelmed with references to other works instead of making its own point. I enjoyed the parts about finding your ikigai or your passion/reason for existing/etc., and it was quite inspiring and renewed my own goals for my own life. But ultimately the endless focus on being 100 years old put me off. Getting to that age is amazing but it’s not what makes a happy life and I don’t think ‘being old’ is what we should be aiming for. Life is fleeting and we don’t know when it’s gonna end so I’d say don’t even plan for your golden years, just live the ones you have right now.

And that’s it! I’m moving into September with five books left on my yearly Goodreads challenge! Let’s go 📚

Under A Dome – Of Monsters And Men

2019 Reading Goals

We’re headed in to our fourth month of the year so I thought it was about time I tell you my reading goals for the year. We were stuck in a Wrap Up cycle there for a while but now we’re up-to-date they should just be monthly moving forward! I love talking about books almost as much as I like reading books or buying books or rearranging books on a bookshelf. Books just make the world go round, right? Since finishing uni, I’ve been making it a bigger priority in my life to read good, important, brave, inclusive, informative, diverse, funny, honest, blunt books. Each year I’ve done a little better. Last year I managed to complete my challenge of reading 50 books. This was a HUGE deal for me. Going back a couple of years i was reading maybe 14 a year. Which is still a big number and the right amount for some people. But I knew I wanted to inhale more words. I wanted to expose my brain to more ideas. So I needed to read more books. Between January and June last year I read 26 books. Literally crushed it. Then between July and November I read 7 books. Leaving 17 to be read in December. Reflecting on this information, I decided to keep my Goodreads Reading Challenge at 50 for 2019. I think this is sensible, right? It’s a goal I hit but not without a heck of a lot of scrambling towards the end. So now we have the number but what are the other goals?

1. I want to read every day.

2. I want to aim for one book a week. Sometimes I’ll be busier than others and a week may go by with finishing a book. My intention, though, is to not have seven consecutive weeks pass without finishing a book.

3. Stick to my book buying system (find here: https://sarahwilliamsandco.com/2019/02/11/the-book-buying-ban-pt-2-conclusion/) I’m doing really good at this so far!

4. By 2020 own more read than unread books.

5. Buddy-read lots with my boyfriend. (We’re reading the Mistborn trilogy right now!)

6. Read all the memoirs in the world.

7. Choose reading over Netflix 90% of the time. I.e. STOP BEING LAZY.

8. Read more women than men. (Something I seem to be naturally doing after my year of reading women in 2017!)

9. Read experiences that are not my own.

10. Have fun with it. Yeah, I’m setting these goals but I don’t want it to be a chore or it will inevitably end in failure.

Happy reading, kids!

Ticket To Ride – The Beatles

my year of reading women: the conclusion

At the end of 2016 I was at an impasse with my reading. I’d spent a life juggling assigned reading for school and books I could scramble from the library for fun. But during uni I’d let reading for pleasure fall by the wayside. If we’re being honest, I’d let reading for uni fall by the wayside too. But what English Literature student can’t relate? The sheer quantity is a joke. But if I did pick up a book I was usually doing it out of guilt for an essay due. Not to feed my soul.

So fast forward to graduation and it had been years since I had properly read a book, guilt free, that I had chosen for myself. I was so excited to read every book in the world. So what did I do? I read almost none. Partly I was too overwhelmed with where to start and partly I was just being lazy as always. So going into 2017 I knew something needed to change. Books are my favourite thing in the world so not reading them was a big disservice to my authenticity. I decided to take drastic action and vowed to read only women authors for a whole year. It was kind of a fuck you to all the dead white men I’d read at uni.

And thus began my year of reading women.

And you know what I found? It wasn’t even hard. Because there are so many epic women writers in this world, some who get the recognition they deserve and others who sit quietly on the shelf behind the new James Paterson monstrosity. So by reading only women you’re not cutting our thousands of authors you’re actually opening your mind to millions more. On my shelf alone there was hundreds of women I was excited to read but just hadn’t got to. Never mind the gigantic pool the rest of the world also had to offer.

And it was refreshing. What a year to be reading only women when we were out there fighting for our rights and demanding change in a heavily patriarchal world. It was liberating and made me feel so connected to so many badass women. I wasn’t tempted to read a man the whole year because even when I had a hankering for Orwell or Vonnegut or Baldwin I knew I had so much time to read them in the future. Right now they were irrelevant. This was the year of women.

On analysing my bookshelf in January 2017 I noted I had a shocking ratio of men to women. I had about two thirds men. How I’d got to that point I couldn’t tell you. Having about fifteen Shakespeare plays probably didn’t help my case though. So I made a concerted effort to only buy women when I inevitably found myself in a bookstore. The affect of that is I now have more women on my shelf than men. I know. I buy a lot of books. But it satisfies me to look at the shelf now and know it’s properly represented. At least it’s one small slice of diversity out of the giant library of the world.

For 2018 I’ve decided my reading goal will be to now try and read all the unread books on my shelf. I’m postponing buying more new books until my tbr is down quite a bit. Now at my current rate reading my whole shelf could take years but I’m willing to put in the work. Though when January hit I couldn’t quite stop reading women. Part of me wanted to go for round two but I knew I wanted to really get reading everything on my shelf that intrigues me. Man, woman, black, white, Asian, Native American, straight, gay, bi, transgender, cis gender, gender queer, memoir, play, poem, novel, essay. I want to read all the words.

That’s my real goal.

So eventually in March this year I broke my fourteen months of reading women. If you’re gonna do it it’s gotta be with someone boss so I chose Albert Camus. And I don’t regret it but part of me still longs for the glorious days of celebrating women authors.

I learnt a lot from reading women. I learnt that we have some incredibly talented and strong voices. We have important stories to tell. We’re funny as hell. We are deeply troubled by the world we see yet consumed by it’s beauty. We are wise yet we’re never done learning. We want to help people and show them they’re not alone. We want to tell other women to live their truth too. We are badass. And damn, can we write well. Simply, we are storytellers. And I’m so excited to explore thousands more stories and experiences from epic women. So I see many years of reading only women in my future. As well as I’m sure several other reading challenges.

I wholeheartedly recommend a similar year to everyone.

Cos women are boss, duh.

Peace.

Bitch – Meredith Brooks