My First Book of The Year 2020 Finished

Photo from late December 2019.

This morning I finished my first book of the year: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius as translated by Gregory Hays. It was the book I initially selected at the start of the month and the year. However, it also was the book I rethought only a few days later might not work for my first book of the year because of another book that I thought would work better to start the year. In the end, though, I think my first choice was the right one.

Interestingly enough, at least to me, it was the right choice for the very reason I spelled out after rethinking it. That being, with there being a lot of aphorisms in Meditations, I thought I’d get more out of it if I read a chapter a day over two weeks and journal on one or two passages each day. And I believe that I did.

Here are a few of the passages that struck me as I read the book:

Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow “or the day after.” Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was—what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small.

It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.

Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.

As for the runner-up, I believe I will return to it eventually. I just can’t say when.

What’s next?

Starting today through Monday, I am doing my own Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend Readathon as I have Monday off from work. I want to begin reading Pillar of Fire: America in the King 1963-65, the second part of a trilogy that begins with Parting The Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, which I read years ago, and concludes with At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68, which I hope to read in the future.

I also want to dip into the following:

  • A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shephard.
  • The Radical King, edited and introduced by Cornel West, which collects speeches and writings of King.

On the non-reading front, tomorrow afternoon I am going to a neighbor’s to watch the AFC Championship game. As I texted him:

Go Ch…. Ti…oh I don’t care. 🙂

It just will be good to see him since I haven’t seen him since…well…last year!

And as I’m finishing this post just before hitting “publish” this morning, it’s beginning to snow, three to five inches expected, not a huge amount, but enough that I’m glad I’m not going anywhere and will be hunkered down for the day reading – and napping, but of course.

Staying on course to start the year

So last weekend after rethinking my first book of the year, this past week I pretty much have been doing what I planned to be doing with my reading.

I’ve been reading a chapter a day from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations each day this week so far in the mornings before I go to work and plan to continue that through to next Saturday, with 12 chapters altogether. Then in the evenings after work, with the exception of last night, I’ve been reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, which will be my first book read this year when I am finished. I had planned to finish by last night, but I now am thinking it will be by the end of the weekend.

I still am looking ahead to my own Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend Readathon next weekend as I have next Monday off from work. However, instead of starting a reread of Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 that I read more than 20 years ago, I am going to start reading Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65. Then once I finish that, I can go on to the final part of the trilogy, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68 in hopes of of finishing the series by the end of the year.

I also picked up at the library two books of collected speeches of King that I want to dip into over next weekend.


Lest you think it’s all too serious, on Thursday night, Kim and I watched Stranger Than Fiction, a not-so-typical Will Ferrell movie about an IRS tax agent who discovers he is a character in a book that is being written. I can’t believe that we took so long to get to it.

Last night, we also watched Wild Rose about a fictional Scottish singer wanting to go to Nashville that also was very good. But the one I recommend for you all in keeping with the literary theme of The Sunday Salon, of which this post is a part, is Stranger Than Fiction.

Rethinking My First Book of The Year 2020

Take a media sabbath this week— put your phone away, leave the television off, and rest your body and soul.

from “Moving Forward” at end of the Forward Day By Day Meditation for January 4, 2020

When I read the above quote this morning, I decided this was more than a good idea, especially in light of reconsidering my first book of the year. On Wednesday, I announced that my first book of the year would be Meditations by Marcus Aurelius as translated by Gregory Hays. But as I started reading it, I realized because of the aphorisms contained within, it is a book to be read in bite-sized portions rather than one meal.

To that end, over the next two weeks, I’m going to read a chapter a day Mondays to Saturdays in the mornings before work and journal on what speaks to me from each chapter. In all, there are 12 chapters in Hays’ translation.

As for the first book of the year that I will finish, I plan on reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. I had started a murder mystery after abandoning the idea of having the Meditations be my first book finished this year. I realized while I like murder mysteries, I didn’t want that to set the tone for the upcoming year. I’d rather begin with hope.

So starting tomorrow and continuing the rest of the week in the evenings after work, I plan on reading and finishing Becoming. I think reading a little each day, I should be able to finish it by Friday. At least, that is the hope.


Beyond that, I am looking ahead to the Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend (Jan. 18-20) when I have off Monday as the library is closed. That weekend I am thinking that I will reread, or at least start rereading, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch that I read more than 20 years ago.

I hope after that, sometime later in the year, to read the rest of the series by Branch that continued with Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 and concluded with At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68. I’ve always wanted to finish the series and this year, in my 50th year of life, seems as good as any.

After all, my “one word” for this year is “recuperate” or in one definition “to regain a former state or condition.” In my high school and college years, I enjoyed reading tomes of history (among my favorites are The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich by William L. Shirer and Truman by David McCullough). It is high time I return to my former love.

Have you already finished your first book of the year? If so, what was it? If not, what will it be? Do you try to pick a book for your first book of the year that will set the tone for the rest of the year?

This Is What And How I Read In 2019

All this month, I’ve been joining Tanya & Kimberly at Girlxoxo and Tamara at Traveling with T for their annual #AMonthofFaves blog event – a fun way to recap the year that was. This coming Tuesday’s prompt, which I’m posting today also since it also help me wrap up my year in reading with The Sunday Salon group, is “This Is How We Read –  Number of books read so far, genre you read the most from, picture of favorite (or most often used) reading location, most read author, % eBooks,hardcovers, paperbacks and/or audiobooks, hint at what your favorite read of the year is (let us guess), types of books you wish you read more of, month you read the most and least).

By the numbers

  • 30 books
  • 15 nonfiction
  • 15 fiction
  • 13 parts of series
  • 10 female authors
  • 7 fiction standalone
  • 6 memoirs
  • 3 collections of poetry
  • 1 published in 2019
  • 0 young adult novels

I actually am surprised…no, not at the low number of books I read this year. As indicated in a previous post on the number of books I’ve read from 2014 to 2019, the numbers per year have been decreasing, especially the last few years: 2016, 48; 2017, 45; 2018, 33.

What I am surprised at is that exactly half of the 30 books I read were nonfiction. I started the year with The Library Book by Susan Orlean and ended the year with The Lord God Made Them All, the sixth in the series, by James Herriot. I also am surprised that out of the crime series that I started, I didn’t particularly care for any of them. I enjoyed Herriot’s nonfiction series more than I did any of the crime series.

I attribute the low numbers to a combination of things from the state of our nation and the world to distractions from social media and streaming services. But I mostly attribute it to things that I discussed back in April and then in May here on the blog:

  • I’m weird in that I like longer stretches of time in which to read. I’m not accustomed to reading in short bursts.
  • To wit, I work during the week and when I get home from work, usually at 8 p.m. since I usually work afternoons, after being on a computer much of the day, one of the last things I want to do is read fine print on a screen or even worse in a printed book. That also is the time I spend with my wife, usually before she heads off to work (she works midnight shift as a 911 dispatcher).

I doubt the lack of reading will change much in the new year, especially since my hours are increasing at the library during the week as the number of hours for full-time employees there also has increased. But I want to read more on both days of the weekend as in the past, I’ve pretty much limited myself to reading on Sundays. My wife usually works two 12-hour shifts, first on Saturday into Sunday, and then Sunday into Monday so since she’s usually sleeping during the day on both days, it is the ideal time for me to read.

I did some of that this past year, reading on both days, especially helped along by events such as Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, 24in48 Readathon, and Thankfully Reading Weekend, to name the main ones. I still hope to participate in all three again in 2020.

As for my favorite reads of the year, I already wrote about that in an early post for A Month of Faves: My Top 5 Books, TV Shows, Movies, and Albums of 2019. Since that post, I’d say my overall favorite for the year was Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. I think it was just that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it yet. I had gotten it for my wife a couple of years through a book blogger gift exchange and it has been sitting on the shelf unread (by either one of us) since. Now I really hope she will read it too because she is a huge fan of the Boss.

How was your year in reading for 2019? What was your favorite read of the year?

Extra: After I finished this post and already had it scheduled, I did come across something interesting via Libby, Overdrive, and my library history. My lack of reading wasn’t for wanting to read more than I did as I borrowed and returned 41 ebooks and seven books that I never read. I also put on hold 29 other ebooks that I canceled before even borrowing. So my lack of reading wasn’t due to a lack of appetite. I just was a lot more selective in what I finally chose to read.