It’s time to shake up my reading life! I’m excited to share with you today a new way I’m turning choosing my next book into a game I play with myself. :) 

Here are the contributing factors that led to my decision to challenge myself:

I currently have 292 books on my Goodreads to-read shelf. That means every time I pick my next book to read, I find myself totally paralyzed. How am I supposed to pick JUST ONE out of all those lovely, tempting choices? 

I also own a whole bunch of books I haven’t read, both print and digital. Often those books languish unread because my attention is drawn to newer, shinier releases. 

I haven’t used the library as much this year as I have in years prior. According to my spreadsheet, only 14% of my books read this year have come from the library. That means I’ve been making it rain a little too much in the bookstore.

All these factors led me to decide I need to make some changes. So for the last three months of the year, I’m going to challenge myself to read exclusively: (a) books I already own, and (b) books checked out from the library.

(Pause for collective gasp from the audience)

That’s right, you guys. No new book buying for me until 2020. And I’m actually really excited about it!

I’ve seen plenty of other readers on the Internet talking about “book buying bans,” and I’ve always thought I would never do it. It seems so strict and punitive. Why would I want to ban myself from one of my greatest loves? 

But honestly, the breaking point for me wasn’t the money issue, it was how overwhelmed and dispirited I felt every time I tried to pick a new book to read off my massive, teetering TBR. Limiting myself to just the books I can enjoy for free cuts the list down to a more manageable size. And it’s fun to finally make time for some backlist titles that I’ve been passing over for months or years. I’ve discovered how well-stocked my public library truly is. And for the first time, I requested that my library purchase a book that wasn’t in their catalog, and they did it!

My book buying days aren’t over for good. I’m already working on my Christmas list (because obviously gifted books don’t count!). And it still makes me happy to have a house full of bookshelves (I honestly don’t know any other way to decorate). But for now, I’m having a great time adding to my library holds list and admiring the books I already have on my shelves.

So here are some of my recent recommended reads, all acquired either from my shelves or my library’s. Enjoy!

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of books in Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series, so I was intrigued when I heard about this standalone novel described as a “modern gothic mystery” with a main character who is an English teacher. Having been one myself, I’m always excited to read about teachers, and I love a good school setting. This one is extra creepy because the plot of a famous short story seems to be playing out in real life, including the murder part(!). This would be perfect for your Halloween reading list.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

TBH, I was reluctant to read this one because it’s set in an alternate reality where a woman was elected President in 2016, and I thought the contrast between that world and our current devastating reality would bum me out. And it did, a bit, but I still really enjoyed this funny and sweet romance between Alex, First Son of the United States, and Henry, Prince of England. They have an enemies-to-lovers thing going on that was totally irresistible, and it was fun to peek behind the curtain of White House politics and find good people trying to do the right thing, as opposed to the cockroach-infested pit of corruption that’s actually taken up residence. 

A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar

I’ve seen this book compared to Sadie by Courtney Summers, and it IS a lot like Sadie, right up until it isn't--in a very good way. It’s a mystery about a missing girl and her friend who is looking for her, told in chapters that are purposely out of order, which sounds confusing but really works. I had no idea what was going to happen from one chapter to the next, and that disorientation made for a bit of a slow start, but once I settled in, it had the opposite effect and I was turning pages faster and faster.

Also, I asked my library to buy this book for their collection, and they did! I'm drunk on the power! 

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

This is yet another romance loosely based on Pride and Prejudice--I feel like there’s been a glut of them in recent years--and yet again I was tempted into picking it up even though I don’t care at all for the source material. Ayesha is an independent woman, driven to succeed in her career as a teacher but seen by some in her community as a hopeless spinster now that she’s in her late twenties. Khalid is a pious man whose desire to adhere to his religion sometimes leads him to be inflexible. Their romance is especially unlikely because Khalid expects his mother to arrange his marriage and has no interest in choosing a bride for himself. Of course, best laid plans and all that...

I read a lot of romance and typically my favorites of the genre are much higher steam than this, but I was so bought into Ayesha and Khalid's story I didn't even realize until over halfway through that they had barely touched. Their emotional connection was so strong, it carried the story. 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead really is an author you should be reading if you want to understand race relations in America. His 2016 novel The Underground Railroad is absolutely a must-read. The Nickel Boys is very different, showing his range as a writer. It’s much tighter, at just over 200 pages, and the scope is narrowed to a single reform school in Florida and on two boys in particular who are sent there. Elwood is the quintessential good boy, a striver, an optimist, who plays records of Dr. King’s speeches and takes the words to heart. When he’s sent to the Nickel Academy for a crime he wasn’t responsible for, he struggles to reconcile Dr. King’s words with his brutal daily reality. His friend, Turner, is constantly shaking his head at Elwood’s innocence and naivete. As the story flashes backward and forward in time, it becomes clear that Elwood and Turner’s fates are intertwined, and that their time at the Nickel Academy will mark them forever.