The Year of…?

5 Jan

Last January, I didn’t really set any reading goals. I was immersed in my Children’s Literature certificate program, trying to get this little blog off the ground and prepping for BEA in May, which introduced me to the great wide world of publisher-provided ARCs. I had too many built-in goals to think about where I wanted to steer my personal reading, and I also had never counted the number of books I’d read in a year either. So 2010 in a lot of ways provided a base-line as well as allowed me to focus on other non-book specific goals.

However, this year I have none of that to get in the way. No school, a better sense of what the focus of this blog is, and an understanding of the book blogging community as well as the relationships that exist between bloggers, authors, agents and publishers. It feels like a year for goal-setting.

I rarely make hard and fast New Year’s resolutions – to me, saying that something is a “resolution” is tantamount to saying it will never happen. I set goals, not resolutions (semantics, maybe, but it works for me). This year though, I made some personal resolutions (learn to knit, register to be a bone marrow donor, run a half-marathon, make a serious effort toward finding a new job, and write a book) – some more feasible than others – and I realized as I was making them that I had some reading resolutions as well. And they all seemed to coalesce under the header of “reading deliberately.”

Reading Deliberately is an idea that sprung up, like so many others, from a conversation on Twitter that I never witnessed nor was a part of. But several well-regarded book bloggers decided that they were overwhelmed with the way the commitments to blogging had “swept over” their personal reading goals. Too much of saying yes to review copies and too much ignoring backlist or specialty books in favor of new releases. While I had less of the former, I certainly struggled with the latter. I regularly felt stressed by release dates and new books that I felt were time sensitive to read and review. And what happened? I ended up not reviewing many of the ARCs I did receive and failed to keep up with the Jones’ so to speak. It’s just not possible to read every new release, and there are going to be books that I miss because I’m not a full-time read freak. I wish I were, that my full-time job could involve snuggly socks, a mug of coffee, and a stack of books, but sadly, I have to pay the bills and my job isn’t really the snuggly socks type.

I decided to set some goals of my own, not so much in the Challenge vein, but more in the “these are the kinds of books I’d like to focus on” vein. I’m also setting some blogging goals, which in my mind as a book blogger, are part and parcel.

  1. Chunksters – I ended 2010 with several books over 500 pages, and I felt incredibly productive in finishing each of them. I’m half-way through another (Gone With the Wind) and I’d like to keep the trend going. It’s too bad how often I skip big books because I fear I’ll spend too much time on them and not get to other things quickly enough. That’s going to change.
  2. Classics – It is woeful to me how little of a dent I put into my Must Read: Classics list in 2010 and I’m going to make a concerted effort to work through more of those books.
  3. TBR List – I own literally over 1,000 books. I haven’t read the majority of them. I don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve spent on books over the years. I’m going to actually try to read books I already own this year. I could say I want to read ONLY books I own, but we all know that’s unlikely. On a related note, I spent the first weekend of the year buying books (at one of my favorites, Brookline Booksmith!) and I highly doubt that I’ll be able to not spend any money on books for a full year. But I cross my heart that I will make a concerted effort to limit buying and to focus on those books already on my shelves (shelves, aplenty they are).
  4. Non-fiction:
    1. History/traditional biography – I have a lot of history books because I’m one of those people who learns best by reading (shocker), and I’ve always been fascinated by history. But these books take a serious commitment; they’re often also chunksters and they tend to be slower to read.
    2. Memoir – I used to be an avid memoir reader, and I still actually am, but when I started book blogging, I got a little timid about reading and reviewing memoirs. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe it’s the idea of reviewing what is essentially someone’s life, but I have to get comfortable with commenting on the writing (which is what I do primarily anyway) and not make judgement about the content.
    3. Current events/medical non-fiction/narrative non-fiction – This is more of a catch-all category for the kinds of non-fiction I enjoy and own but don’t read often. This category is along the same lines as the history books; I own a lot but rarely feel like I can commit to them. What else could be more timely over current event non-fiction? Silly that I make the excuse that other things take priority but I do.
  5. Blog more – Review books within a week of reading them. This is straight forward, and it might seem to be out of place on a reading resolution list (after all “reading deliberately” is about reading for yourself, right? And I blog for other people, as well as myself) but actually it makes a lot of sense. I’ll explain: many of the details of books I read in 2010 that I didn’t review are fuzzy. I have to really squint to remember plots and characters of a lot of the non-reviewed books I read. But those books I reviewed? Everything is so much clearer because I had to process and recount and explain and argue and defend and think critically about each of them. The details are much closer to my recollection and it’s made a big difference in my reading comprehension and my level of enjoyment with what I’m reading. See? It all works together!

Some of the other participants of The Year of Reading Deliberately noted particular authors they wanted to read, like Tolkien, Dickens and Austen among others, but I think that I will cover a lot of those authors that I would add to the list under categories already listed, like Classics and Chunksters.

This is also just a note to say I won’t be too restrictive when it comes to the review copies I’m sent, mostly because I’m not being inundated like some of my colleagues who took up this goal. I will still be selective about what I accept but no more than normal. And I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to BEA again in the Spring, which could have an impact though I’m not sure what it will be yet.

Reading is and should always be about learning and growing. Reading is – at least for me – what I do to relax and to escape things like my job where snuggly socks are frowned upon. Being mindful of what I’m reading and how I’m choosing my books is only going to enhance my reading life. I’d rather approach my bookshelves with anticipation and eagerness instead of with guilt and stress. I also think that by reading deliberately, I’ll be forced to push beyond my own boundaries and explore genres and authors I otherwise might not have picked up. It will extend my comfort level and shouldn’t this also be a goal of a successful and productive reading life?

I’ll be keeping track of what I’m reading in 2011 once more with a tab at the top of this blog.

Happy Reading!

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10 Responses to “The Year of…?”

  1. Amy January 5, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    If it fits your plans, I’m hosting a read-along of Great Expectations late next month. It’ll be very easy–just three chapters a week. Unless we get antsy and want to read faster. 😉

    • Rachel January 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

      It definitely fits my plans! I’ll put it on my calendar, thanks!

      • Amy January 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

        Yay! I look forward to it!

  2. amymckie January 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Reading deliberately is definitely the way to go, and what great goals you have to go along with that! Best of luck with them all!

  3. Kerry January 6, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Your goals are awfully similar to mine – read more from the books I own/TBR shelves, make an effort to select more classics and non-fiction. Looking forward to following along and wishing you luck with your goals!

  4. Kerry January 6, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    Oh, and BEA is challenging in terms of reading classics and books we already own because of the sheer mass of new releases and ARCs available. Sadly, I won’t make it this year.

  5. Biblibio January 7, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    Ah, yes. The history problem. History books used to make up a large chunk of my reading, but because I found that it took me much longer to read (and my attention span seemed to paradoxically get shorter with age…) I barely read them anymore… You’re right that reading should just be fun. These seem very calm, well-thought goals. I hope you find them enjoyable to fulfill.

  6. Nora January 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I love that you own over 1,000 books. This is why we are friends. I have about 50 that are on my shelf that I haven’t read yet that I own… and yet I still go to the library to borrow ones that I haven’t read yet, that I don’t own. Anyway, love this list! Can’t wait to see what 2011 holds for you in the book/blog world 🙂

  7. Risa January 12, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    This is a commendable list…sounds like it can be done.:D You’re right about things being a lot more clear when you write it down. You don’t forget easily after that. Not to mention, that if you do, it’s all there in your notes!

    Good luck with following your resolutions!:)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “The World Was Hers For the Reading.” « a home between the pages - April 22, 2011

    […] on the wall of my cubicle and I keep looking at it recently, thinking about my quest for this Year of Reading Deliberately. I set quite a few goals, some of which have been more successfully reached than others. I also saw […]

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