A Guide to Reading More and Achieving Your Reading Goals in 2019

I hear from so many people that they wish they read more. I think that no matter how much you read, you feel like you could be reading more, or reading better, or reading smarter, or reading more diverse, or reading more of what you already own. With so much amazing stuff to read in the world, it can feel like there is always more you could be reading.

Here is a little guide I’ve put together for how to make reading more a part of your life. This will really help if you’ve lost touch with reading and need to get back on track. I come back to many of these when I find myself in a reading slump throughout the year.

  • Set Clear Goals– Make sure your goal is quantifiable. Saying you want to “read more” is easy, but would you really be happy if you read one book more than last year? If yes, great! If not, what do you really mean? If you know you want to read 24 books, say that. Or say I want to read two books a month. Its important you get very clear on your goals so that you know when you’re achieving them.
  • Write Them Down– If you have a goal written down you’re more likely to achieve it. Journal, notes app, post-it, whatever it is, write it down.
  • Tell a Friend– I told my husband when I was planning on reading 12 books in a year. This way, he knew what I was up to when I opted for my book instead of TV time. It also held me accountable, and cheered me on. When I hit the goal we toasted with a little sparkling wine!
  • Pick Up Books You REALLY Want to Read– This is especially true if you’ve never been a big reader, or you just haven’t been that into it. Pick books that excite you, and ones you think you’ll love. If they’re not as good as you thought, put them down. Move on.
  • Put Books Down– Life is too short. Its ok. Not every book is for you. The next one might be the best book you ever read, but you won’t know that if you keep reading the book you’re not that into.
  • Keep a List of Books You Want to Read– I love Goodreads. Its a website that tracks the books I’ve read, want to read, and that I’m currently reading. Its free, and has a social component (if you’re into that friend me), plus you can write rate and review each book as you go. At the end of the year, they send you your reading year in review which is honestly, the best.
  • Create Your Reading Space-Find a place you like to read, and make it your reading spot. For starters (if you have the room) make reading the only thing you do in that space, weather it be a chair or a hammock or a corner of the couch. Get a snuggly blanket, a bright, but not-too harsh light, and a little side table. Now you’ve got a reading nook. Go there to read. Train your body to know that when you’re there, you read.
  • Schedule Reading Time– Decide how often you want to read and plug it in your calendar. Or you can commit to read reading 20 minutes each day. Either way get regular about your reading.
  • Prepare to Read– Make your tea, grab your snack, turn on (or off) your music, go to the bathroom. Make sure you’re ready to fully focus on your book before you get comfortable in your nook. You want to have eliminated all potential distractions so this can be reading time.
  • Get in the Zone (and off your phone)– Seriously. When its time for me to read, I turn my phone on airplane and/or Do Not Disturb mode. I set a timer, and I read. When the timer goes off, I give myself a chore to do, go on a walk, or get on with my day. But I treat my reading time with the same focus and respect I would any other task. Also, the timer will go off and wake me up if I’ve fallen asleep reading (which happens often, my reading set up is very comfy).
  • Talk to Your Reading Friends– Identify people in your life (or on #bookstagram) whose reading aligns with yours, and ask them for suggestions on what to read. They will not only help you find great books, but then you’ll have someone to talk to about all your reading. Its like a book club without the hassle. You can also read along with The Stacks Book Club and enjoy our TSBC episodes where we talk in depth about each book.
  • Track Your Progress– This allows you to know where you are in the process. Goodreads will do this for you too. In addition to Goodreads, I also have an excel spread sheet, where I enter all the books I’ve read, where I got the book, when they were published, the ethnicity of the author, their gender, and more. I also keep a note on my phone with all the books and page counts for the year, month by month. I’m intense, and I love to track things. You don’t have to be like me. But keeping track some way will help you stay focused through the year.
  • Celebrate Your Wins– If you notice you’re on track to hit your goal, celebrate that. Maybe buy a new book, or get a new mug. Maybe you just do a happy dance, or brag to your friend who you told about your goal. Or post about what you’re reading on your social media. However you do it, make sure you feel good about the reading you’re doing.
  • Have a Plan if You Fall Behind– If you look up and your reading isn’t going according to plan, change course. Can you update your goal for the last half of the year? Could you make up for lost time? How about add in some shorter books of poetry or a YA book to get you back on track? Don’t be afraid to modify your goals if you need to.
  • Don’t be Hard on Yourself-If you look up and you realize you’re not hitting your goals thats totally OK. Just reading is doing something good, and enjoy the time you spend with your books. The worst thing you can do is get frustrated and give up.
  • If All Else Fails, Read– Don’t complicate things, pick up your book and start reading, you’ve got this.

I hope that lists helps you get ready to read more in 2019.

Since I think I’ll need a little help achieving my own reading goals in 2019, I’ll share them all with you now.

  • Read 100 Books
  • At least 60% of my reading needs to be books by authors of color
  • At least 60% of my reading needs to be books by women or gender queer authors
  • At least 25% of my reading needs to be by non Black authors of color
  • Read at least 30 books that I already own at the start of 2019–I currently have 136 unread books in my house (#unreadshelfproject2019, #babygotbacklist)
  • Read at least 10 books by queer authors
  • Read at least three books in translation

Here are some other reading goals (many came from you all) not so much focused on overall quantity, and some tips to achieve them.
While the below goals are very general, I suggest you get specific with your own goals and write them down.

  • Read more books by women, or women of color, of queer authors, or any other specific demographic of author.
    • Tip: Pick a number of books, or a percentage of your reading you’re aiming for, and keep track as you go along. This way you’ll see your progress and be inspired by that.
  • Read better books.
    • Tip: figure out what “better” means to you, then follow people, authors, and publications that promote what you want to be reading. Also ask your friends (who you trust their reading taste) if they have other books like this. You might be shocked what books they come up with.
  • Read more nonfiction.
    • Tip: Follow me. I promise I have lots of nonfiction recommendations for you. Also, check out this past post about great nonfiction for fiction lovers, that I put together. Also check out our sponsor My Mentor Book Club for a nonfiction book subscription box (plus you get 50% your first month).
  • Be OK with not finishing a book.
    • Tip: Figure out what is making you not OK with putting a book down. You feel like you’ve wasted your time, you don’t know if you get credit for having read the book if you stop, you’re worried you might like it later on. Once you get to the root of the problem, you can solve it and start leaving books unfinished.
  • Read more books by independent publishers.
    • Tip: Make a list of the independent publishers you know and like, and start going to their site to find whats coming out soon, and check out their catalogs of backlisted books.
  • Read more of what you own.
    • Tip: Set a book budget and stick to it (either number of books or dollar amount). You can also alternate books you own with new books, or switch off monthly between new and owned.
  • Read more classics and backlist books (or any genre).
    • Tip: Set a minimum of what you want to read each month from this category. This way you can read a classic and still leave yourself room for whatever else you like to read.
  • Read the catalogue of an author, Year of Morrison anyone?
    • Tip: Make a plan and write it down. Decide if you’re reading chronologically or by mood, then plot how often you need to be reading books by your author and schedule it. I read a Shakespeare play a month for my #ShakeTheStacks Challenge and always know that Shakespeare is a part of my monthly TBR pile.

This is just a handful of goals and tips to achieve them. Lean on your book loving friends and family to hold you accountable and make sure you share your wins! I know 2019 is your year of reading. You got this.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

My 10 Favorite Reads of 2018

First let me say, 2018 was an amazing reading year for me. I read more books than I’ve ever read in a single year. I finished 88 books. I also kept track of everything I read, partially because I love a good spread sheet, and partially to hold myself accountable.

Before I dive into my top 10 books, here is a little breakdown of what I read in 2018.

  • 44/89 books were by authors of color (49%)
  • 48/89 books were by women (54%)
  • 26/89 books were by women of color (29%)
  • 30/89 books were published in 2018 (34%)
  • 60/89 books were acquired by me in 2018 (67%)
  • 50/89 books were nonfiction (56%)

Of all the books I read here is how the star ratings shook out

  • 16/88 books received five stars (18%)
  • 25/88 books received four stars (28%)
  • 31/88 books received three stars (35%)
  • 11/88 books received two stars (13%)
  • 3/88 books received one star (3%)

I love a good stat, and I could break down my reading even more, but I won’t. Instead here are my top 10 favorite reads of 2018 (in alphabetical order), though they weren’t all published this year.


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

The true story of biotech company, Theranos its founder Elizabeth Holmes, and the scam they ran on the rest of the world. This book has it all, fraud, threats, billions of dollars, high profile characters, and a cute blonde. If you need a WTF kind of book, Bad Blood is your best bet.
Hear our full discussion of Bad Blood with Nancy Rommelmann on The Stacks, Episode 28 .


The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

A unique memoir, of women refugees, set during the Rwandan Genocide that follows Wamariya and her sister Claire as they travel through Africa looking for a way out. Poetic, and with a sense of calm, this book engages with the trauma that was endured and the perspective that it brought.


Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

An emotional memoir of life as a young Black man in Jackson, Mississippi. Laymon is brutally honest and completely vulnerable as he tells of his own struggles and successes, and he connects his life with a much bigger picture of being Black in America. Laymon’s dedication to the written word and to the power of revision is striking.


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

A beautiful work of fiction and a modern day retelling of Antigone set against the backdrop of ISIS in Great Britain. This book is an emotional ride with plenty of plot to keep things moving, but still a real strong commitment to developed and complex characters. This book asks the question “who is the bad guy”?
Stay tuned for our conversation of Home Fire on The Stacks Book Club in January.


Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

The story of Ward’s early years told through the deaths of five young Black men in her life over the course of four years. This book is a Black Lives Matter memoir, before we ever had the language of the movement. Ward crafts a story of pain, grief, womanhood, and Blackness, all with in her signature beautiful writing.
Hear The Stacks discussion of Men We Reaped on episode 4, with guest Sarah Fong.


Othello by William Shakespeare

I revisited this play in anticipation of our episode on New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, and was blown away by how good it is. Othello holds up. This is story of racism, jealousy, entitlement, and sexism. Aside from the language the play, it easily could have been written today. There are scenes in Othello where I found my self in tears simply reading the words. I know Shakespeare is intimidating but I found this to be more accessible than I thought, and it was the spark for my #ShakeTheStacks Challenge.


The Reckonings by Lacy M. Johnson

A collection of beautifully written and incredibly thought provoking essays on justice, revenge, mercy, and responsibility. These essays discuss the most complex and challenging topics of the current moment, from Whiteness to the environment, from terrorism to rape culture. Though they seem like they shouldn’t be placed next to each other, yet it works perfectly. Johnson is a force when it comes to the written word. A true artist, asking questions and leaving room for her reader to find the answers.


Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

If you want to learn about racism and racist ideas and the history of those traditions in America, this is your book. Kendi writes accessibly and in great detail about the power struggle between racists and anti-racists and those in between (assimilationists). He chronicles racist thinking in American life and doesn’t let racism off the hook as simply being ignorant. I still find myself thinking about this book as I watch the world unfold around me.


There There by Tommy Orange

A fantastic novel centered around a big powwow in Oakland, CA. This book is told from many perspectives, and has a cast of dynamic characters. Orange does an amazing job of sharing some of the experiences of urban Native American life, without being preachy or leaning into cliches. The writing is great and the characters are diverse and engaging, plus the plot is suspenseful and keeps you tuned in until the very end.


Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

I never thought I would love an advice book so much, but Tiny Beautiful Things is more than just advice. Strayed is the perfect mix of compassionate and curt. She tells it like it is, and weaves her own stories into her sage words. Sometimes she delivers a warm embrace, sometimes she takes you down a peg, but mostly she does both, and it is perfect. I know this is the kind of book I will return to when I just want someone to tell me about myself.


Thats all from me, but please share your favorite books you read in 2018 in the comments below, and I look forward to reading more great books with all of you in 2019.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here

The Best Things We Read in 2018

Dear Listeners,

Instead of giving you a round up of the “best books” of 2018, I’ve reached out to past guests from the podcast and asked them to share their favorite reads in 2018. I loved talking to this diverse group of humans about reading, hearing their unique perspectives on books and their power to change, inspire, excite, and frustrate, so I decided I’d ask them for more!  Each guest shared with me, in their own words, their favorite book they read in 2018 and one book they hope to get to in 2019. 

Thank you all for listening to the show, and thank you again to this group of amazing humans for sharing their reading life with all of us.

Traci


Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

Dallas Lopez
Teacher and Law Student 

Moving to Oakland and identifying as an Urban Indian, I was enthralled by the complexity of Tommy Orange’s  There There and how he wove in the stories of multiple characters who all converge into one powerful yet, ironic ending. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Dallas was our guest for Episode 1 , and then joined us to discuss Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Episode 2.


CreditSonny Figueroa/The New York Times

Sarah Fong
PhD Candidate in Ethnic Studies

Zora Neal Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo moved me in a profound way. The Atlantic Slave Trade looms large in US history and yet it often feels as if we know very little about it. This of course is not true as there are many, many studies and stories written about the Middle Passage and the experience of slavery once captives reached the Americas. What is largely absent from the literature on US slavery, however, are the personal stories of those who lived it. Barracoon gifts us a deeply human glimpse of what enslavement meant for one man. In the telling of this story, I was struck by the interactions between Hurston and Kossola. I couldn’t help but wonder what the experience of interviewing Kossola meant for Hurston, and what that can tell us about how the legacy of slavery continues to ramify across generations.
Book(s) I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and  As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Sarah was our guest on Episode 3 and then returned to discuss Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, Episode 4.


Chris Maddox
TV Writer

My favorite book I read in 2018 was Mystery in Harare by Dr. M. J. Simms-Maddox. Not only was I trilled to read my grandmother’s second novel within her trilogy, but I also enjoyed learning aspects about Apartheid amidst a page-turning thriller.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III

Chris was our guest on Episode 5, and you can hear discuss Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Episode 6.


Sam Pinkleton
Director and Choreographer

CreditPatricia Wall/The New York Times

My favorite read of 2018 was Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. Friday Black , is a short story collection that must be read to be believed. He creates totally surreal universes that are more real than real life. This is the kind of book that made me breathless in the first few pages; that gave me that totally rare and specific feeling of knowing you’re reading something for the first time that you’ll carry with you forever.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Sam was our guest for Episode 7, and then joined us to discuss Vulgar Favors: The Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, the Man Who Killed Gianni Versace by Maureen Orth, Episode 8.


Vella Lovell
Actress (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

workman.com

I think my favorite book I read this year was An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. It is the story of a young black couple whose marriage is interrupted in its first year by the young man being falsely accused of rape and imprisoned. It is a harsh, tender, unpredictable story about relationships, the inevitability of change, being black in America, the prison system, and love. Jones is incredibly skilled at left turns, and it is one of those books that completely drew me in. I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.
Book(s) I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Swing Time by Zadie Smith and On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Vella was our guest on Episode 9, and returned to discuss New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, Episode 10.


Ross Asdourian
Producer, Author of Broken Bananah: Life, Love, and Sex… Without a Penis

My favorite read of 2018 was The Cannabis Manifesto by Steve DeAngelo. It is to the industry, what the documentary 13th is to incarceration. It’s an intelligent read and great knowledge base for a debate that will only consume more of the country with time. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood  by Trevor Noah

Ross joined The Stacks for Episode 13, and later discussed The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, Episode 14.


Lauren Fanella
Reader and Bookstagrammer, @literarylauren_

One of my favorite reads of 2018 was The Hours by Michael Cunningham. He seamlessly weaved the stories of three women living in different places at different times so effortlessly. The writing was beautiful and eloquent with richly drawn characters. This book had such a profound effect on me.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

You can hear Lauren on Episode 15 and then our discussion of Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore, Episode 16.


Ashley North
Celebrity Stylist and CEO

The book I enjoyed the most this year was Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. I read it with my girls and it was fun to learn along with them.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Ashley was our guest on Episode 17, and discussed Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes on Episode 18.


Jay Connor
Writer, Creator and Co-Host of The Extraordinary Negroes Podcast

Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

My favorite read of 2018 was Kiese Laymon’s Heavy. It’s one of the most emotional journeys I’ve ever experienced while reading a memoir. From it’s deconstruction and examination of the black male body’s place in America to it’s fascination with discovering truth, it’s an exceptional read. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young

Jay is our guest on Episode 19, and discussed Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Episode 20.


Becca Tobin
Actress (Glee), Co-Host of LadyGang Podcast and TV Show

Favorite book I read this year, Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I absolutely loved this read! Moriarty is the same author of another one of my favorite books, (and TV show) Big Little Lies. Her writing is fantastic and this is a very juicy read!!!
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Becca was our guest on Episode 21, and returned to talk about The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, Episode 22.


Jo Piazza
Author of Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, and host of Committed podcast

I usually HATE short story collections. I feel like they’re usually just a big MFA masturbation, but I still think about every single story in Florida by Lauren Groff. I couldn’t wait to get to the next one and I have gifted it to at least 15 people.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Becoming by Michelle Obama

You can hear Jo on Episode 23, and our conversation about Motherhood by Sheila Heti on Episode 24.


Zeke Smith
Writer, Activist

My favorite read of 2018 was The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. It’s a (light) fantasy romp with elves and goblins, diplomats and spies. Part graphic novel, part prose, Brangwain plays with point of view in a way that challenges perceptions of politics, friendship, and diplomacy. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen

You can hear Zeke on Episode 25, and our discussion of Less by Andrew Sean Greer, Episode 26


Nancy Rommelmann
Author of To The Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder

My favorite book of 2018 — which I had the delight of discussing with Traci on The Stacks! — was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou. It’s a masterful portrait of a charming sociopath/narcissist/whatever you want to call Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the “is there really anything here but hype?” blood-testing company Theranos. A friend recently told me that Carreyrou is his neighbor so you might be in for some real-life fan-girling from me in 2019.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump by Robby Soave

Nancy was our guest on Episode 27, and discussed her favorite read of the year Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou on Episode 28.


Harris Cohn
Community Organizer and Activist

My favorite read of 2018 was Give Us the Ballot:The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman.  It’s about the history of voting rights in America.  Makes me want to go hit the streets and make our country better!
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Harris was our guest on Episode 29, and returned to discuss How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, Episode 30.


Heather John Fogarty
Journalist

Patricia Wall/The New York Times

It’s been years since I’ve read a novel as beautifully written as The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, which centers around a woman incarcerated in a California prison. It’s as bleak as it is beautiful, offering grittier snap shots of San Francisco and Los Angeles while also exploring the women’s prison system. I found myself rereading paragraphs just because the writing was so incredible. 
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

You can hear Heather on Episode 31, and our conversation of To The Bridge:A True Story of Motherhood and Murder by Nancy Rommelmann on Episode 32.


Reneé Hicks
Founder of Book Girl Magic

My favorite read of 2018 was Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper. It is such an empowering book for black women (and probably all women) to read. Cooper reminds us that being angry isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that we should never settle for less than we deserve and that our “rage” is our superpower. OWN IT!
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Reneé was our guest on Episode 33, and discussed The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison on Episode 34.


Aja Gabel
Author of The Ensemble

Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times

My favorite read of 2018 was Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. This collection of surreal feminist stories is the Joy Williams/George Saunders mashup of your dreams.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: Exhalation by Ted Chiang

You can hear Aja on Episode 35, and our discussion of If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim on Episode 36.


Traci Thomas
Host of The Stacks

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward is a haunting memoir that has stuck with me throughout the year. Ward’s account of life in rural Mississippi set against the backdrop of the deaths of five young Black men in her life who died over four consecutive years. Ward’s writing is fantastic, and her story is as devastating as it is empowering, and what it all says about Black life in America is powerful beyond measure. A Black Lives Matter memoir, before we had the hashtag.
Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

You can find Traci on all of The Stacks episodes.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here

My Family’s Gift Exchange Book Tradition

I am so lucky to come from a family of activists and serious readers. A few years ago we decided to start doing a Secret Santa style gift exchange, but instead of giving any kind of gift, we donate $50 to our recipients favorite charity, and give them a book to open on Christmas. Aside from that, there are no other rules. Then when we all get together on Christmas night, we go around and discuss the charities we donated to and the books we selected. Its a dream.

I wanted to share with you the books we exchanged this year. There were a bunch I knew and even more I’d never heard of. All on a variety of topics and from writers of all sorts of backgrounds, from novels about travel to histories of America, from translated Russian works to children’s books on US politicians. The list is awesome and you can find all the books below.

Here is the Christmas Gift Exchange Book Haul

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fourtune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted by Susan Wood and Sarah Green
Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Heartland:A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Looking at Mindfulness: Twenty-five Paintings to Change the Way You Live by Christophe Andre
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg by Nicholas Dawidoff
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book) Teacher’s Edition: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart and The Writers of the Daily Show
The Funeral Party by Ludmila Ulitskaya
The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic by George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling
The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Whiskey Words and a Shovel by r.h. Sin
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

I am looking forward to borrowing a whole bunch of these books in 2019.

If you’re interested to know which charities we donated to, look no further, here is that list as well.


To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here

The 2018 Stacks Book Club Battle of the Books

We’re bringing a little friendly competition into The Stacks world as 2018 comes to a close. You get to vote for the winners of this year’s best book from The Stacks Book Club, plus one participant will win one of these books and a tote!

Here is how it works. You go to https://challonge.com/TheStacks2018 or click here. You create your account put your predictions in for who you think will win. Then on The Stacks Instagram Stories, you’ll vote (start 12/20) for your favorite books in head to head battles, until we crown one winner, The Stacks Book Club Book of the Year. The results of each round will be updated over on Challonge (our bracket site) and on our Instagram @thestackspod.

You have until Thursday, December 20th at 9:00am PST to put in your predictions, the person who does the best will win one book from the 19 books in the tournament and a The Stacks Tote bag. We will announce the winner of the tournament and the winner of the giveaway on Monday, December 31st once the results are in.


Some of you might be wondering how the seedings worked out for the tournament, and I’ll be honest, I did a bunch of calculations to rank the books based on a slew of factors The rankings are full of bias, and assumptions, and thats what makes it fun, since ultimately YOU decide the best book. Here is what I looked at to rank these books, and below find a more detailed description of what that means. 

  • Podcast Downloads- Raw number of downloads that episode received according to my data (I know older episodes will be at a disadvantage as the podcast grew over time, but also newer episodes suffer because they haven’t been up as long, I’m hoping it all evens out). It is worth noting that I excluded Open City from this calculation since that episode is not out yet.
  • iTunes Episode Popularity- iTunes lets me see how popular each episode is. Its slight different than raw downloads, because they take into account listeners at the time of recording, but they also only include people listening through iTunes. Again,Open City  was excluded from this category, see above.
  • Goodreads Scores- I just looked up each book on Goodreads and took that score.
  • Goodreads Reviews- I took the raw number of Goodreads reviews for each book.
  • Test of Time- The older a book is, the more credit it got, because it has withstood the test of time. 
  • Social Media Input- I’ve asked you all to tell me your favorite book we read this year on Instagram and Twitter. Those responses are incorporated.
  • Traci’s Personal Ranking- Thats right, I’m influencing this competition a little. Why not?

There are 19 books in the competition, so in each of those categories the books are rated on a scale of 1-19. Each book received a score from each category, 1 being the best, 19 the worst. I then tallied all the scores and divided by 7 (in the case of Open City  only 5). The lower the score, the higher the ranking.

I know that sounds like a lot, but just trust me, it makes sense. Here are the rankings based on these calculations, and their total overall raw scores, remember lower is better. Where there was a tie, I broke the tie.

  • 1 Between the World and Me -5.142
  • 2 Giovanni’s Room – 5.571
  • 3 The Bluest Eye – 5.857
  • 4 Men We Reaped – 6.428
  • 5 Exit West – 6.714
  • 6 Bad Blood – 7.14
  • 7 Year of Yes – 7.714
  • 8 The Mars Room – 9.142
  • 9 If You Leave Me – 9.428
  • 10 Between the World and Me -5.142
  • 11 How Democracies Die – 9.714
  • 12 Less – 10
  • 13 Open City – 11
  • 14 Reincarnation Blues – 12.428
  • 15 Vulgar Favors – 12.571
  • 16 How Soccer Explains the World – 12.714
  • 17 To the Bridge – 13.428
  • 18 New Boy – 13.428
  • 19 Motherhood – 14.57

Voting begins Thursday December 20th, shortly after 9:00am PST for the first round, and will follow the schedule below. Remember you vote in The Stacks Instagram stories. You just click your favorite book in each round’s head to head matchup. Once the results are in, I’ll share the winners with you and we get ready for the next round. The schedule is below.

Round 1 – December 20th – Play In Games

Round 2 – December 23rd – Sweet Sixteen 16

Round 3 – December 26th – Elite 8

Round 4 – December 28th – Final 4

Round 5 – December 30th – Championship

That feels like a lot, trust me, it’ll be fun and worth it. Here is the important stuff.

  1. Make sure you’re following The Stacks on Instagram @thestackspod.
  2. Register for the bracket if you want to be part of the giveaway CLICK HERE
  3. Vote in each round on our Insta Stories,  starting Thursday December 20th.
  4. Spread the word!

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Hear Traci on the What Should I Read Next Podcast

452FE02D-C7E3-4FD6-904D-E25E207B0BE8.JPGI am thrilled to be a guest no this week’s episdoe of the What Should I Read Next podcast, hosted by Anne Bogel aka Modern Mrs. Darcy. Each week Anne helps her guests answer the question, “what should I read next?” by talking with them about their tastes and goals for their reading life.

On today’s episode we discuss some of my most favorite books, my love of nonfiction and true crime, a book I really did not like. And as usually I throw out a ton of other book recommendations to make sure your TBR never gets too short. Then Anne works her magic on me, suggesting some books she thinks I should read next. Tell me in the comments what you think I should read next.

Listen Now

Apple Podcasts|WSIRN Podcast Website

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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Hear Traci on The SSR Podcast

Guess what? I was invited on someone else’s podcast. That’s right, you can hear me on The SSR (Sh*t She Read) Podcast, hosted by Alli Hoff Kosik. The show is all about adults reading and discussing favorite books from their tween and teen years, mostly to see if they hold up and what they notice from their new (older) perspective. I’m on as part of “New Reads November” to talk about the modern classic, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

The book follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, a Black girl, as she navigates life after her friend, an unarmed Black boy, is murdered at the hands of a police officer, and she is the sole witness. The book engages with many topics that surround the Black Lives Matter Movement, code switching, racism, anxiety, and more.

We discuss the book in detail (yes, spoilers) and I give my honest critiques of why I liked, but didn’t love, this book that has become a “must read” for many. I THUG this book back in February of this year, and you can read my full review here.

Listen Now

Apple Podcasts|SSR Podcast Website

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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

21 Reasons Why I Read Authors of Color

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This post was inspired by Diana from the Words Between Worlds Book Club, she asked me to write a guest post about why I read books by authors of color.

I am a reader.

I read for a lot of reasons, mostly to learn about people and places. I read to learn about things I’ve never heard of, and to read about things I’m obsessed with. I read a lot of nonfiction. I love nonfiction. I like the idea of truth and reality, and I know I’ll never fully get either.

Here is a list of some of the reasons why I read books by authors of color. Not that I, or anyone, need a reason. I want to note that while I do read the work of people of color to challenge the narratives that are presented by White authors, I also read authors of color without any relationship to White people. For me, these books exist in their own right and I read them for that reason alone. Reading authors of color is not always a conscious act of resistance. The list below has my reasons and then books that match those reasons. There are many books I love missing from this list, mostly because there are too many books by people of color that are absolutely amazing, and also because many of the books I love are out on loan and I needed a good stack for this picture. I’m just keeping it real.

And before I get too carried away, let me just say, I have a lot of work to do in diversifying my own reading. As a Black woman I skew toward Black authors. I am working on reading more authors who don’t look like me. I could always do a little better. So know that I am a work in progress.

Ok here goes….

WHY I READ BOOKS BY AUTHORS OF COLOR

  1. Because people of color exist. Their stories exists, their experiences exist, and I choose to bear witness.
  2. I like to learn about people who are different than me. I have only lived one life, and I want to know about how other people have lived theirs.
  3. As a reminder that while we are different from each other, we are also more similar than we know.
  4. I want to learn about systemic racism so I can fight against it. People of color do a better job documenting and calling out the work of White supremacy. Often times bringing to the forefront theory I didn’t know, and explaining racism in a new way.
  5. To get intersectional. To learn about life from the cross section of race and any given issue, from gender studies to the environment. Intersectionality is important and is best understood by those who reside in the intersection.
  6. I love learning about history from a lens that is other than White and male.
  7. To learn about a topic that the White community is unwilling to look at, weather it be because White people are implicated, or White autors do not care to explore.
  8. Because representation matters, and so many people have been erased, books give them back their voices.
  9. To hear a good story.
  10. To laugh.
  11. To cry.
  12. To get really angry.
  13. To read an award winning book
  14. Because you don’t have to be White to write a great American novel.
  15. I read books my friends recommend to me. My friends read authors of color. My friends are cool and super smart.
  16. As a Black person, I want to learn about where I came from.
  17. As a Black person, I want to learn about the leaders who have fought for my rights.
  18. As a Black person, I want to learn about people who look like me. To see their struggles and their successes. To remind myself that I can never “turn off” or “take a break” from my Blackness, no matter what.
  19. To read books that teach me how to advocate for people who can not always advocate for themselves.
  20. To learn about a place I’ve never been, a place I hope to go to, a place I’ve always loved. To see the world.
  21. I know that my money speaks for me, and that in buying books by authors of color I am saying that these stories have value and worth. I am saying I support these stories and I support these authors.

These are just twenty-one reasons why. I could go on and on. Mostly, and this is the really important one, I read books by authors of color because I can, and because they are really fucking good.


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Join The Stacks Virtual Book Club

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I get so much joy talking about books with the guests on the show each week, and I wanted to give all of you the opportunity to engage with each other around these same books.

So starting next week, we will be doing our very own The Stacks Book Club video chats. This way we can all connect around the most recent book club pick. We’re starting with Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. You can here my conversation with author Nancy Rommelmann about the book, here.

The way to join these conversations is by joining The Stacks Pack, a group of people who are committed to making this show a reality, and to engaging with each other around books and literature. You can go to our Patreon page contribute $3 or more and you’re in. It is that simple.

We are currently voting on what day of the week and time are best for these conversations. Once we have that nailed down, we’ll get to book clubbing.

Here is what you need to do.

  1. Go to www.patreon.com/thestacks
  2. Pledge $3 or more dollars a month
  3. Vote on which dates and times work best for you
  4. Read the book–if you haven’t yet
  5. Wait for your invite to the book club
  6. Log on and talk it out

Check out our upcoming book club books, and then get to reading, we have so much to talk about.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – November 21

To the Bridge by Nancy Rommelmann – November 7

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt – October 24

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – October 10


The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products, nor does it cost you anything extra. For more information click here.

Ten Non-Fiction Books for Fiction Lovers

AB2EBDFE-7E76-4563-941D-06EB3B3B0AA9As I have become more engaged with the book world, and I have been outed as a non-fiction lover, I have had lots of conversations with many of you on what are some good non-fiction books. So I put together my list of top 10 non-fiction books for people who don’t read non-fiction.

This isn’t a list of the best non-fiction I’ve ever read, but books that I think those of you who love a good novel will enjoy. Those of you looking for a way in. Most of these books are more narrative driven, and use rich language to develop characters and events. While there are a variety of types of non-fiction books on this list, they are all captivating.

This list is presented in alphabetical order, I simply can not play favorites with these books.

Between The World and Me Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic) is known for his work on dissecting the experience of Black Americans. Between The World and Me written to Coates’ son, is a powerful look at the history and practices that have created a culture in America, where Black people are not valued as full citizens. He looks at slavery, discrimination, mass incarceration, and the murder of Black citizens by the police. Coates asks us not only how did this happen? But also, where do we go from here?

 Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood This is the story of Trevor Noah’s upbringing as a mixed child in Apartheid South Africa. It is at once funny and poignant. You learn so much about his life, and gain a new appreciation for his success. I laughed at loud at parts and felt my self tearing up here and there.

Columbine In this deeply emotional reexamination of one of the most famous school shootings in American history. Author, David Cullen looks at the facts of the shooting and uses forensic experts, the killers’ own words, and all the evidence to figure out what really happened on April 20, 1999.

Jesus Land: A Memoir In this memoir by Julia Scheeres, we learn of her childhood with her adopted brother, David who is black, in racist rural Indiana. We see her life in the Mid-West and also her experience in a religious camp in the Dominican Republic. Scheeres’ story is heartrending and emotional. You can’t imagine the world she comes from and the stories she has to share.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption The story of a lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, and his journey as an activist and advocate on behalf of those who are sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. Not only is this book a memoir of Stevenson’s early days as a appeals lawyer, it is also a searing indictment of the United States criminal justice system.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir Over the course of five years, author Jesmyn Ward loses five young black men in her life. This book is her examination of why something like this could happen. It is a look at what it means to be young and black in America. Written with all her skill as a fiction writer, and all the truth of her lived experience. This is a really special book. We cover this book on The Stacks Podcast and you can listen to our episode here.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After In her memoir, Clemantine Wamariya (with co-author Elizabeth Weil) tells her unimaginable journey of life as a refugee from Rwanda in 1994. Clemantine and her sister Claire, travel through eight African countries, before they ultimately end up in America. While the book is about their journey, it is also about finding one’s voice and strength to carry on and to thrive. It is both devastating and empowering. The writing is beautiful.

Unbroken:A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption This is one of those stories that you wouldn’t believe if you saw it in a movie (and guess what, this book is now a movie).  Laura Hillenbrand writes this story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner turned WWII pilot, turned prisoner of war, turned survivor. Its almost more than you can handle, and then you remember what Zamperini went through, and you remember you’re just reading.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith When it comes to non-fiction, author John Krakauer is my favorite. I can highly recommend any of his books (Where Men Win Glory is a personal favorite). In Under the Banner of Heaven Krakauer dives deep into the Fundamentalist Mormon Church. He examines the religion, their traditions, believes, and brings up many questions about Mormonism. This book is not to be missed.

Zeitoun Dave Eggers tells the story of a Muslim man caught in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The book takes place at the intersection of natural disaster response and The War on Terror. The story is almost beyond believe, and the storytelling is illuminating.

63439241-927F-48C9-B6A5-67C450C9950AThis list is a great starting place if you think you’re not so much of a non-fiction person. And if you make your way through this and think maybe you want a little more, here are ten bonus books. While some of these may be less accessible (more niche topics, more clinical writing) for pure fiction lovers, the stories are inescapably engrossing and the writing is of course delicious.

I hope that these books help you add a little non-fiction to your world of reading. And if you already love non-fiction I hope you find something here that sparks your interests. Tell me what you think of my list, and add any of your favorite non-fiction books.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.