by Shannon Stockdale-Elftman

In the interest of honesty, I have a contrary streak—a large one. Sometimes, I don’t like things simply because too many people do. It’s committed me to a lifetime of missing out on stuff like Breaking Bad, Sarah J. Maas, and Takis. Due to my contrary nature, I generally do not make resolutions. If I aim for life-altering change, I will wait until I hit rock bottom in the time-honored traditions of my ancestors. No preemptive SMART goals for me, thank you very much. Besides, I haven’t felt hopeful at the start of a new year since January 2021. That turned out to be less phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes and more put-out-grease-fire-in-my-trailer-kitchen-only-to-have-a-tornado-blow-it-all-away kind of year.

However, despite my dislike of the resolution, I’ve realized that between work, school, children, lack of focus, and increasing existential dread, my reading the past year or two has not been as well thought out as I would like. For starters, there’s been less of it. In years past, I’ve averaged 60–100 books a year (not all hefty reads, mind you, and some in audiobooks, but still). I’ve read 35–50 books a year in bad years. In the last few years (since 2020, really), I’ve been closer to 25. For someone whose primary personality trait (at least if you ask my friends) is “reader,” this is a depressing turn of events. 

In addition to volume, my reading selections have been somewhat arbitrary. I’ve read whatever feels good at the moment (on top of books for my graduate classes and book club). While reading whatever feels good in the moment is great soul comfort, it does leave me languishing as I look for a book to fill my immediate need. It’s the literary equivalent of standing in front of the pantry looking for a snack and being unsure if you want something salty, cakey, gooey, and like a starving woman, you grab a package of peanut butter crackers and call it good. So, to be a bit more meticulous about my reading, I’ve come up with the following list of authors who I’ve either sampled and loved or just books I have in my TBR stack and have been avoiding in favor of the literary equivalent of peanut butter crackers. Because I’m an oversharer, I thought I’d, well, share. 

So, in no particular order (and shortened for space), my reading plans. 

Jo Walton

Jo Walton is one of those rare authors who never does the same thing twice (unless she’s writing a series, but even then, the books are different). I read Among Others, perhaps the novel she is most well known for, quite a few years ago and recently finished My Real Children. I also regularly read her newsletter on, “Jo Walton Reads.” I can’t recommend it highly enough if you haven’t read Among Others. It’s a beautiful book about a lonely, book-loving teenager who also happened to save the world from her evil, crazy mother (not that the world knows or cares) and lost everything she held dear in the process. I plan to read the rest of her catalog, including her newest: Or What You Will

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Author Bio

Shannon Stockdale-Elftman is a Features Writer for Page Turner Magazine. Shannon is a wanderer in the Midwestern wild, a teacher, and dreamer. She is approaching her final thesis semester in Emerson’s Popular Fiction and Publishing MFA program in the fall of 2024. Her thesis project is entitled The Fated Forest and is Northern Exposure meets Welcome to the Night Vaile with a dash of Narnia thrown in for flavor. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband, four children, and a TBR pile that constantly threatens to fall on her.

Categories: Op-Eds