I admire my bookish friends who set out to read a certain amount of books each year. I love reading and pinning book challenges. I adore seeing what people are reading for their book clubs and buddy reads (and maybe once or twice per year, I might even participate in one.)
However, I have a confession to make: I am a total mood reader. Any rules for reading whether they be self-imposed or thrust upon me by a bookish friend completely turn me off of that book. (One notable exception is when I commit to reading an advance reader copy or ARC. If I commit to reading an ARC, I see that as an honor and a responsibility that cannot be disregarded.)
Don’t get me wrong, I have been known to join a buddy read on social media or with a neighbor from time to time. Once, I even made an effort to start my own buddy read hashtag on Instagram (spoiler alert: this ended in failure. I could not make myself finish the book. Yep. Even for or my OWN hosted buddy read.)
However, I am a goal-oriented person who is pretty structured in all other areas of my life. Not to mention that I do see the benefit of having some order and discipline in choosing the words and stories that enter my brain.
So, below is my approach to reading goals for the New Year. If book challenges (by the way, some great ones here, here and here), setting ambitious number goals, or joining more book clubs are among the tactics you use to help you have more accountability when it comes to your reading life, that’s awesome.
But, if you are like me and have trouble with all of the above but STILL want to find a way to bring a bit of order and focus to your reading life, maybe these guidelines will help you achieve your bookish goals in 2020.
Seek out opportunities that allow more time for reading
For me this means turning off the TV. It also means more multi-tasking and listening to books while doing other things. For example, I LOVE listening to audio books while I run or fold laundry. Funny story, one time I tried listening to a particularly engaging book while making dinner and that effort failed miserably. I was so into my book that I completely messed up dinner. You live, you learn. The bottom line is, to try new things. A few minutes a day can really add up.
Reset the “to be read” (TBR) list
My TBR is ridiculous (I keep a running list on the notes app of my phone). The past couple years, I have gone through in early January and basically zeroed it out (with the exception of a handful of books that I still really want to read). I feel by doing this, the ones that stay on my list are the cream of the crop while the others were probably added more impulsively. Also, it makes room for the millions of new releases that will soon be flooding my Instagram feed.
Take on an overall general goal
I believe that reading goals should not be daunting or too prescriptive and I read mostly for entertainment. However, I do recognize and find value in reading to learn or to help expand my world view. In 2019, my overall general goal was to read books by more diverse authors. There were no specific numbers or benchmarks, I just picked a few and read them. This year, I plan on doing that again, but I also have the goal of taking on some books that are more out of my comfort zone. For me this means books that tackle tough subjects, are outside my normal genre or maybe cover a topic I need to learn more about or see from a different perspective. No pressure, just a general, overall goal for the year that has the effect of expanding my mind a bit.
Read books from my unread shelf
I have so many unread books in my possession! Again, no numbers or benchmarks – just pick a few books I already own and try and get them read. The key is NO PRESSURE, people.
Don’t worry about setting an annual reading number goal
I get that some people like to set a reading goal and then race to read as many short books as possible at the end of the year in order to meet it. I know it helps some people to have a goal that they always meet, no matter what. This is not my approach. I look at my Goodreads goal as a low minimum. I find a low number I know I can reach and set it there so that I have something that will help me keep track, without making me feel like a loser if I don’t reach it. Privately, I do try and exceed my goal from the previous year if possible but it’s not a MUST DO. Since I have been doing this, I have found my reading to be much better on the quality side (even if it is not always as high-achieving on quantity.)
Keep the amounts of books I mark “did not finish” (DNF) in check
I previously would DNF tons of books, literally tossing them left and right until something finally stuck. I know many people espouse the virtues of not finishing a book if it is not working for you, but I was out of control. I finally decided to try sticking with a book for awhile…not forever….but to try reading 50 to 100 pages of a book BEFORE DNFing it. This really has helped the quality of my reading life, allowing me to get through books I previously would not have – some of which I ended up loving. (Where this has failed me is getting through 70% of a book and then still DNFing it….that is a royal waste of time and is highly frustrating. However, I can only think of a few books that happened with for the whole year.) Conversely, if you NEVER DNF a book, but you are very slowly getting through your current read. You are probably finding TV or other activities more enticing than reading and you are wasting a lot of time on a book that, let’s face it, may just not be for you. Bottom line, find balance that works for you on what books you DNF and stay away from the extremes (DNFing everything to DNFing nothing).
Don’t just read new releases
This was my first year blogging about books and being active in the Instagram #bookstagram community. In the past, I have always read a lot of back list (older, non new release) titles because they are usually so much cheaper and more readily available. This year, I read way more new releases than I ever have before (about half of the books I read in 2019 were ALSO published in 2019) and honestly, it was probably one of the best reading years I have had in a long time. So, I hope to continue reading new releases but I plan on being sure I make a concerted effort not to leave beloved back list titles in the dust. They are usually easier to come by and are often even free (library) so I naturally get through more of them and that helps my overall reading in a big way.
Two words: audio books
Downloading an audio book to listen to when I am running, driving around town running errands or just while I am folding laundry was a game changer for me this year. I used to only listen to nonfiction and I still gravitate towards those on audio. However, I have also started slotting in some fiction, especially mystery/thriller, and any other books I hear from book reviewers, podcasters or other book lover sources are especially good on audio. I have found that this also has added benefits. When I am particularly in to an audio book, it makes me excited to do mundane house chores, move my body more (with ear buds IN), and even run my millionth errand of the day.