Updated: Sep 25, 2021
I don’t usually set reading goals, because I’m always reading anyway. I’ve found that if I set many restrictions on my book choices, it really slows me down. Instead of feeling proud of accomplishing a challenge, I’m in the dumps because I put a damper on my reading.
I've made attempts at goals and reading challenges in the past. I tried the Rory Gilmore reading challenge, first realizing after I’d spent a long time searching the books in a library catalog that I had an incorrect list, and then realizing that my timing was just awful. Reading 1984 for the first time when an employee of the President is coining the phrase “alternative facts” is a real head-trip. Then the next two books that I read (The Diary of Anne Frank, which I’d always meant to read, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavilier and Clay) both had Nazis. While we were all learning how popular Nazis are to some people in the US in the year 2020. I dropped that challenge, but I may go back to it someday. I bought a few of the books, so I’ll at least read those.
Here's the list I ended up using and likely will come back to: Going Down Swinging
One year, I meant to read all of Dickens. Lots of people were doing it to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. The first book was The Pickwick Papers. I had always meant to read The Pickwick Papers because Jo March liked it so much. I hated it. (I still can’t believe that Jo let me down. Maybe I should try it again?) I took so long on Pickwick that I decided to adjust the challenge so that I was only reading Dickens books that I hadn’t already read. Then in the summer, I got stuck on Martin Chuzzlewit. It took me months to plow through that book. I hated it so much, but I was still determined at that point to get through the challenge. Then I broke down on Hard Times, which is about ten times bleaker than Bleak House. So, I had maybe 2 books left and just ditched the project. I still haven’t read the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
It didn’t turn me off Charles Dickens, but I found out that I only love him when I don’t hate him. I still read The Christmas Carol pretty much every year. Reading The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep made me want to re-read Great Expectations, which I haven’t touched since hated it in freshman year of high school.
Last summer, I checked out about 25 books on either Romantic poetry or ancient Greece, and I read most of them and liked them. I had meant to take a few free online college classes, but once I made a project out of it, my enthusiasm dimmed. I don’t want my reading to turn into a job, and it always does if I check out too large a stack of books at once.
I’m even checking out fewer brand-new books from the library, because when they’re new, the due date feels like a deadline. I need to get that turned in! Someone else will want it! But when I pull older books off the shelf, I can keep renewing them for awhile and read them when I’m in the mood.
So, what does this mean for reading goals? I’m going to make them really loose. I do have a harder goal that I’ll write about later, but to start off, I have three easy, fun goals:
1) Twice a month, I’ll go to a letter section in the fiction stacks and pick up any book that looks good and I haven’t read yet;
2) Each month, pick out one book from my Goodreads to-read list instead of constantly adding new titles and then re-reading my favorite books;
3) Each month, read a bio/other non-fic/YA/ or kid’s book, just to shake things up.
Yep, that’s four books a month right there.
These goals will be easy (I think) because they’ll be fun and I’ll have lots of choices. The big goal here is to read books that are new to me. I’ll always re-read, but I need help to stop myself from always going back to the same books. I realized some years ago that I was reading Jane Austen, L. M. Montgomery, and Louisa May Alcott on a loop with few breaks. I started keeping a reading journal, which was really just a list of titles by month. It helped me to see that I was really reading very few titles, and pretty much all my reading, at that time, was comfort-reading: going over familiar ground.
Also, there are so many amazing books are out there that I’ll never get to if I don’t keep myself out of a rut. My Goodreads list is so long that I decided not to export the entire thing to StoryGraph. I’ll just move it over a little at a time, weeding out titles that don’t appeal anymore. (When I made my list, I put several old lists into it, so it really stretches back more than ten years. There are some titles that I have no memory of, or I’ve read something else by that author and know that I’m unlikely to pick up another, etc.)
I ’m looking forward to my 2021 reading goals. For now, I’m reading through a big stack of books that I checked out at the end of October when I was afraid that the library would shut down. I already had these goals in mind, and I pulled up my Goodreads lists and went through it for older books. No one is putting holds on these, so I can keep renewing them. I’m probably halfway through. I’m obsessively pulling up the library app to look at my checkouts and making sure that I’m keeping up with the few new books that I have checked out. This is my idea of fun.
Now to get through a few last weeks of 2020...
Anyone else have a reading goal for next year, or one you're finishing up for 2020?
How it's going:
The links are affiliate links to bookshop.org, so if you buy from them, I'll receive a small commission. If you haven't bought from them before, check them out- they support independent bookstores.
The owl illustration that I used is in Little Women, available on Project Gutenberg. Writer Louisa May Alcott, illustrator Frank T. Merrill.