What Backlist Books Taught Me

My backlist books challenge for 2021 was not your normal book challenge but I am so glad that I did the challenge.

It helped me tackle my to be read list and allowed me time to focus on older books instead of new releases.

books laying flat with covers

If you are a new reader, my backlist book challenge was where I challenged myself in 2021 to not read any books published in 2021.

My goal with this challenge was to not get distracted by all the new and shiny books being pushed on social media and book websites.

Over the last few years, but especially in 2020, I bought and read a lot of books that were newer releases that I normally would not buy to read.

A few of the books I ended up enjoying, but many of the books were books that I did not like or that I did not finish. It was not that they were bad books, but they were not books for me.

Backlist Book Challenge 1

I wanted a challenge that kept reading fun but would also encourage me to read the books I own and the books that I had been meaning to read for years.

My backlist books challenge taught me a lot about my reading life and I am sharing what I learned with you. Not everyone will want to do a backlist books challenge, but I hope that sharing what I learned, will help you learn more about your own reading life.

I do not like to be told what to read

I am a mood reader. I like to pick up books that catch my attention or that fit my mood at the moment. I do not want to have to read a book. Reading is my escape and I want it to be fun.

Reading usually loses the fun when someone tells me that I have to read a book. When I see a book being pushed heavily all over social media it usually turns me off.

This was the problem in 2020. I kept thinking I needed to read a specific book because everyone else was or because it fit current times. It turns out that is not how I like to choose what books to read.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I like books that people are talking about years later

I tend to like books more that have stood the test of time. The books that do not just get a lot of attention, but the books that people are still recommending a few years later or even a decade later.

I like to read reviews and see what people are saying about it. I like to be able to see what books others that have similar tastes as I do like and don’t like about books.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society book is an example of that. I read it ten years after it came out and I loved it, but I had no interest in reading it when it got a lot of buzz. After I realized that it had stood the test of time I decided it was worth picking up.

book spines

I love nonfiction

I knew that I loved nonfiction, but my backlist books challenge confirmed that I do. Grace and I like to say we read like fifty year old men. I am often embarrassed by that. Many woman read a ton of fiction. They look at me like I am crazy when I talk about the nonfiction books that I am reading. I need to learn to be okay with that.

I am not saying that I do not like fiction, I do, but the majority of the time I gravitate to nonfiction reads. My top books for the year are almost always heavy on nonfiction. My all time favorite books are almost all nonfiction. I need to get better about embracing my love of nonfiction books.

I like books that make me think

You do not have to agree with a book to enjoy it and you do not have to agree with history for it to be true. I like books that make me think. I like books that challenge me. I like books that show me what other people think and believe even if I don’t agree with them.

I like books that teach me something that I did not know. I like unusual and little-known historical facts.

I like deep complicated stories in both my fiction and nonfiction. I do not shy away from difficult memoirs like A Long Way Home or fiction books like The Kitchen House. Both those books were books that stretched me out of my comfort zone and made me think.

Backlist Books Challenge June and July Reads

I enjoy new releases more from trusted authors

I have realized that most of the new releases that I have enjoyed over the last few years were from authors that I had read in the past. This was confirmed with my backlist books challenge.

One of the goals with my backlist books challenge was to read the backlist of some of my favorite authors. Kristen Harmel is a good example of this. I read The Book of Lost Names in 2020 and loved it. Since then I have read some of her other books and loved them. One of the first books I plan to read in 2022 is her 2021 book The Forest of Vanishing Stars.

I am going to do a better job of focusing on new releases from authors that I love and not get distracted by all kinds of new releases.

Backlist Books Challenge May Reads Downstairs Girl and a Flower

I learned what I like and dislike in fiction

I am picky when it comes to historical fiction and my backlist books challenge helped me narrow down why.

One of my main complaints with historical fiction is the liberties that authors often take with history. The Engineer’s Wife that I read in 2021 is an example of this. It was based on real people and the author added a lot of fiction to their lives.

My complaint with books like this is not usually the writing, it is all of the fiction that is added to a real life.

In 2021 I also read and ended up enjoying the historical fiction books The Last Year of the War and Fire In Belauh. When I started thinking about why I loved these two books so much, it helped me realize what I like and don’t like in fiction.

The Last Year of the War and Fire In Belauh do not shy away from tough topics, which confirms the fact that I like books that go deep. They are also books based on true events, but not real people and I think that is why I liked them so much.

When a book is based on an actual event, but not actual people, I find the story to be more historically accurate.

When I think back over the historical fiction books that I like and do not like, I almost always like books based on a certain time and place and dislike books based on real or famous people.

I think knowing this will help me do a better job at finding historical fiction that I enjoy.

Not all books on social media have not been read by those posting about them

This is something that I have known, but this year I was reminded that it is the big reason why I end up disliking a lot of the books I buy after seeing them on social media.

Reminding myself that most influencers on social media are not reading all the books they post about really helps when I am tempted to buy a new release that I see all over Instagram.

A Way with Words book review

I like to read Christian books

Over the last year or two, I have not read a lot of Christian books and I miss them. I think there are several reasons for this. Some of which are the things I mentioned above.

Like so many other people my reading was just off in 2020 and 2021 and that might have something to do with the lack of Christian books on my list.

But the Christian books that I love tend to be nonfiction. They also tend to be books that challenge me and make me think. That also means they are often controversial and I have shied away from reading them because I don’t feel like they are books that I can talk about here.

For 2022 I need to find a better plan for this. It might be that I work on getting a thicker skin and share books that I know people won’t always agree with. It might also mean that I read them, but don’t always share them here.

It does mean that I will be bringing back an occasional Sunday Reading post. I have quite a few readers that have missed my Sunday reading posts, so I think starting Sunday Reading again will help me get back to reading and sharing Christian books.

Will I continue my backlist books challenge?

I have been asked by readers if I will do another backlist books challenge. The answer is not in 2022, but possibly in the future.

I am so glad that I focused on backlist books for a year. It really did help me pay more attention to why I like some books and dislike others, so I think it will be a challenge that I do again at some point.

For now, I am going to continue reading backlist books because I love them, but I am going to allow myself a few new release books from authors that I read and loved.

5 thoughts on “What Backlist Books Taught Me”

  1. What a great analysis of your backlist challenge! Clearly it was enjoyable while also leading you toward future reading goals. I’m looking forward to seeing what you start your new year with and the return of your Sunday Reading posts.

    In 2019, I started your non-fiction state challenge and have 23 completed so far. Through that, I’ve learned I enjoy reading about disasters such as fires, floods, and hurricanes. I prefer community stories over personal memoirs. That year, I also started a presidential biographies challenge but only made it through G. Washington before getting side railed by other books. I’ll be picking up on that again in the coming year.

    In 2020 I added a theme challenge and focused on C.S. Lewis, reading nine of his books. In 2021 my theme was “heroes” and the books included “Moon Shot”, “Bringing Columbia Home”, “Gifted Hands”, “The Day the World Came to Town”, “Team of Rivals”, and “Rescue in Denmark”. With the way of the world in ’20 and ’21, heroes were good and important for me to read about.

    I’m still looking for a theme for 2022, possibly classics or WWII non-fiction, but I often have one of those going on a regular basis already. Any suggestions?

    • I hope it’s not rude to reply to my own comment but I think I’ve found my 2022 theme. I bought a bunch of books when our Barnes & Noble was closing a few months ago and among them were books about: Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, the Wright Brothers, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, and Guglielmo Marconi. Clearly I was having a strong leaning toward reading about inventors. People who were dreamers, doers, and who made things happen.

      • I love the idea of a heroes theme like you did this year and I think an inventors theme is a great one for 2022. I don’t do challenges every year, but I think they are a great way to read outside of our normal comfort zones. I also think they are a great way to analyze what we like and don’t like. Some day I want to do an around the world theme. Similar to my book from every state, but a world one. That would be a bigger challenge so when I decide to do that I will probably do it over a couple years. For 2022 I am not really doing a challenge. I want to keep reading mainly backlist books, but I am not going to limit myself to them. I also want to get my Kindle ebooks under control in 2022. I have bought so many ebook deals that I have yet to read. I might challenge myself to read a certain number of Kindle books a month. I always love talking books with you because we read so much a like. 🙂 I hope you have a Happy New Year!

        • An around the world theme would be a fun idea. Thanks for sharing all that you do. I enjoy talking books with you too. It’s so nice to know someone who shares such similar reading interests and I’ve referenced your blog and book list countless times for suggestions while browsing in a bookstore or the library. 🙂 May you and your family have a Happy New Year!


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