Sunday Salon: Making a Plan

So this is the time of year when people are making their plans for next year’s reading. Bloggers are posting challenge lists right and left, and the lists are fascinating. I love looking at them and imagining what I might read to complete the challenge. As Eva said yesterday, reading challenge lists are all about possibilities, and it is fun to dream of what we would read if we had unlimited time.

As for me, I pretty much swore off challenges in the middle of last year. It’s not because I don’t enjoy them. I love making lists of challenge books. I love reading (many of) the books that complete the challenge. I don’t really mind posting a link on a challenge blog (if I remember—and I don’t sweat it much if I don’t). And many challenges cover books and types of books that I really do want to read.

But I don’t enjoy the other challenge maintenance. I don’t like adding challenge blurbs to my posts (because I usually forget). I don’t like going back and updating my lists or linking to the updates, and so on. Those tasks make the challenge feel too much like a chore. (Readalongs, by the way, are in a different category since they usually just involve one book. No lists to update, very little linking back, and I only join if I wanted to read the book anyway.)

But as I watched people putting together their challenge lists for the year, I started to waver. And then I decided I would do the fun part and let the rest happen—or not—as it will. I made a couple of lists and planned a post, but just looking at the lists made me feel overwhelmed. And then I see other challenges get posted that I could also join, and it just gets overwhelming. How to choose? How to set limits? Do I just join every challenge that interests me, even though I know that time and other commitments will keep me from completing them? And what’s the point of generating and posting lists if I’m just going to ignore them anyway? Too much work.

A lot of bloggers lately have been talking about “reading deliberately” a phrase which means something different for each reader but that essentially involves being careful about reading choices, not just reading “any old thing.” I like the idea of making a plan, even though any reading plan comes with the caveat that moods and inclinations change. So what’s my plan?

  1. Climbing Mt. TBR. Because my TBR pile is out of control, I want to make a real dent in it in 2010. My plan is to read only books I own, with a few exceptions: (a) books for the Classics Circuit, (b) books that I receive from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and perhaps an occasional irresistible review copy, (c) audiobooks, (d) book club books, should I join another book club (and if I do my suggestions for book club reads will come from my own shelves).
  2. No More Bad Books. When a book isn’t floating my boat, I want to feel entirely free to put it down, perhaps to return to it later, perhaps not. I’m much better about that than I used to be, but book club foiled me here. If I join another book club, I’m not going to feel obligated to finish a book that isn’t working for me. (If a club requires it, I won’t join.)
  3. Giving Every Book Its Due. Priscilla at the Evening Reader had an excellent post this week about speed reading, and Frances’s review of Howard’s End is on the Landing a few weeks ago included a great quote the value of slow reading. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, especially since the Read-a-Thon, when my book choice required more concentration than other readers’ lighter choices. When contemplating challenges, I started to fear that committing to a number would encourage me to go for quantity over quality—to read the short books first or to read too quickly and not really experience the book. I want to read each book at the pace that suits it—and that suits my level of concentration at the time. A fast read may be enough to get the basic idea of a book into my head, but if I’m reading for enjoyment, shouldn’t I try to get the fullest pleasure possible out of each book I read?
  4. Revisit Old Favorites. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve started rereading favorites over lunch at work, and it has been wonderful. I want to continue that, and I’ve started using some of my Bookmooch and Paperbackswap points to get copies of favorites that I want to revisit. (These acquisitions also help with my craving for new books.) The Lord of the Rings readalong is part of this effort.
  5. Enjoy! I think this is self-explanatory. If meeting the above goals keeps me from achieving this goal, those goals go out the window. 

So what are your reading plans? Do you have any specific goals in mind for 2010?


Notes from a Reading Life (December 13-20)

Books Completed

  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. For the Classics Circuit. Review to come tomorrow.
  • Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton. Nice, light romance that looks like chick lit but lacks everything that annoys me about the genre.

Currently Reading

  • The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. For the January Classics Circuit.
  • The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Lessons in writing poetry. I’ve reached the chapter on odes. Now that classes are over, I want to get back into this.
  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (reread). Reading at work over lunch. Now about ¾ done.
  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (audio). Two U.S. Marshalls are investigating a woman’s escape from an institute for the criminally insane. I’m on the last disc.

On Deck

  • The Campaigners by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. The 14th book in the Morland Dynasty series.
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (audio). I loved Easter Parade, so I’m looking forward to this!

New Acquisitions

All of my acquisitions are books I loved and consider worthy of my permanent collection. A great use of Bookmooch and PBS points without adding to the TBR pile.

  • The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. Read this 10 or 12 years ago and remember nothing much about it, except that I loved it.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The first Atwood I ever read, but I’ve only read it once.
  • Books from the Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper: The Dark is Rising, Over Sea Under Stone, Greenwitch.

Books on My Radar

  • Man in the Dark by Paul Auster. Auster is one of those authors I keep thinking I should try, and this review at Everyday Reads prompted me to add this book to my list.
  • Love Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur. This book sounds heart-wrenching but lovely. Reviewed at Vulpes Libris.
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41 Responses to Sunday Salon: Making a Plan

  1. Eva says:

    I mentioned to Claire yesterday, y’all could just make lists on your favourite topics; that way you have the fun of the list without the obligation of the challenge! :) And then in the future, when you think to yourself “Gee, I could really go for a ghost story right about now” you’d have a nice little selection to choose from. It’d be like your personal version of Booklust! Anyway, that’s really just an argument to get some of my fave bloggers into the list making game so that I can benefit. ;)

    I have this really odd aversion to reading books from my TBR ‘pile’ right now; even though I know there’s over 100 there, I know I’ll be moving in the next year or so, so I want to take total advantage of my awesome library now and stockpile books in case I move to a place without a great library. Weird, right?!

    I’m awful at abandoning a book I’ve started, unless I do it in the first 20 pages or there’s something ridiculously misogynistic in it. I need to work on that! :)

    Aarti’s Sunday Salon talked about reading pace, and while I completely agree that chunksters should get attention, and that prose should be savoured, I worry about the term ‘fast reading’ vs. ‘slow reading.’ I mean, I’m not really a fast OR slow reader, but I am an attentive one, and I’m not convinced that methodical reading has an automatic correlation to a reader’s speed.

    And you know how I feel about rereading! ;) Ok, I’ve written you a post just with my comment, lol. Sorry about that-but lots of good stuff!

    • Teresa says:

      Eva, No worries about the long comment. I had a lot to talk about today, so there’s a lot to respond to. The topical list would be a way to go. Maybe once my physical TBR pile is down a bit–that would give me a library list.

      You know, having the gigantic TBR pile has actually helped me to give up on books because I know there’s something better right in the house.

      You make a good point about speed not necessarily relating directly to attentiveness. Some books do move quickly, and sometimes I’m really focused even when I’m being fast. I guess that, for me, it gets way too easy to focus on finishing rather than enjoying the journey when I’m reading. And I want to enjoy the journey!

  2. I’ve never done a challenge before, so I’m looking forward to our Lord of the Rings readalong!

    I’m still too stubborn to put down a book I don’t like, but I am trying to vary my literary diet. No books of the same genres or by the same author read after each other. I have been whittling down my TBR list, but it keeps growing and growing.

    • Teresa says:

      Literary Omnivore: I’m excited about the readalong too. The only readalong I’ve done was the Infinite Jest one this summer, and it was great to see other people’s thoughts as I was reading.

      And I hear you on the growing TBR list. I don’t sweat the “on paper” list, since I mostly view it as a list of books I don’t want to forget about. But the physical pile (or bookcase) is a problem.

  3. Teresa – like you I don’t really do challenges, but I did set myself some targets this year in some ‘Reading Resolutions’ – I ended up meeting half of them, which is probably a result for me. I don’t really like to plan my reading too much in advance usually – although I had two themed months this year which were partially pre-planned.

    I’m still formulating my resolutions for 2010, but always at the top has to be to reduce the TBR list somehow – anyhow! I added to it hugely this week by having a binge in the Borders closing down sale…

    I plan to join in with your LOTR readalong though – that’s as far as I’m planning – so far!

    • Teresa says:

      Annabel, I saw your resolution posts this week and really liked that approach. Those were some nice goals. And I’m glad to hear you’re joining the readalong!

  4. I love your list; it’s a good one for me to adopt! As for challenges, I noticed this year that without formally entering any, I actually could have said I did some. That seems like a good plan for me: retrospective challenge entering, after accidentally having done it!

    • Teresa says:

      rhapsodyinbooks, Retrospective challenge entering–I love it! I know I’ve read enough for a lot of the challenges out there because so many of them fit what I like to read anyway.

  5. Deb says:

    I also would like to conquer Mount (or, in my case, Mounts) TBR in 2010. At this point, I have at least 150 books in various piles throughout the house that “I’m going to get around to reading–promise!” I don’t buy many new books, but am always checking out books from the library (those get priority in reading because there’s an associated due date) and buying mass quantities of used books (they’re so cheap–who could resist?)

    I used to try to finish every book I started, thinking that I owed it to the time and effort the author put into the book; but, just as I can’t always finish everything on my plate, even if someone has taken a lot of care to prepare it, so I can’t finish every book. I have a 50-to-100 page litmus test. If the book doesn’t grab me somewhere between those pages, I say life’s too short and move on to something else.

    • Teresa says:

      Deb: I’ve had to give up on library visits for a while for the very reason you mention. Even if I go just to grab one book I want to read right now, I leave with half a dozen. And 50 pages has become my rule too. That seems like plenty. And I’ll usually do a post about it to give people a chance to convince me that it improves.

  6. litlove says:

    Those are great aims to have in your reading next year. I like and admire them all. I find I’m horribly perverse and as soon as I’ve made a list (which I love doing) I then end up reading something completely different. The women unbound challenge was the only one I signed up for this year, because I knew I’d be reading those sorts of books anyway. I do enjoy reading about other people being involved in challenges though!

    • Teresa says:

      litlove: I’m pretty good about sticking to a list, but the trouble I have is that there are so many challenges that if I opened the floodgates I’d end up with more lists than I could possibly manage. That’s why I’m limiting myself to readalongs, and those will most likely only be of books I already have.

  7. Priscilla says:

    Thanks very much for the mention! I have also been working on my plan for 2010, and it’s very similar to yours: tackle the TBR, revisit old favorites, and slow down a bit! I’ve also been thinking about authors I haven’t read yet (like Ian McEwin, I am embarrassed to admit) and making sure I read some of their books, and perhaps picking one and trying to read all his/her works. And I’ve decided not to request any LT books for at least the first few months of the year, since I still have a stack to review from 2009.

    • Teresa says:

      Priscilla: I keep telling myself to stop requesting LT books, but I figure my good luck is bound to run otu eventually and then I’ll regret those months when I didn’t try. I also have lots of authors I want to try, but taming the TBR pile will actually help with that because I have a book or two by several of those authors.

  8. softdrink says:

    Great plan. I only join a few challenges, which seems to be manageable. Too many and I start to feel pressured, which is absurd, since I’m the one that signed up in the first place. I’d love to say I was just going to read from my tbr pile, but those darn bookstores are like chocolate…almost impossible to stay away from!

  9. cbjames says:

    I say do whatever works for you. I’ve pledged not to join challenges only to sign up for six and then just complete three of them.

    But then, I don’t finish books I’m not enjoying either. I used to, but not anymore.

    • Teresa says:

      cbjames, Absolutely. I’m just trying to make a plan that suits me right now. Next month or even next week a different plan might seem more suitable :-)

  10. Kathleen says:

    I’ve told myself I won’t do any more challenges for the same reasons you state that you don’t like them. I also find myself waivering so we’ll see what happens in 2010. I, like you, plan to read more deliberatively in 2010 and want to finally tell myself it is okay to put down a book if I am not enjoying it!

  11. I love the “reading deliberately” plan (and all the iterations I’ve seen people post about), but haven’t really thought about what that phrase means for me. I don’t accept many review copies and usually do a good job picking out books I want to read… but I still don’t feel like I’m reading in a way that’s helping me make meaningful progress on something, even though I’m not sure what that something should be. It’s an interesting question, and one I’ll be thinking about this week for sure.

    • Teresa says:

      Kim, Reading deliberately is a great phrase, isn’t it. And it’s very interesting to see what directions different people are taking it. I’ll be interested to see what you decide. (And I think you’re making great progress on contemporary nonfiction, but that might be a broader category than you’re looking for.)

  12. Danielle says:

    I always say I won’t make any plans but then I do and then I usually don’t stick to them, but it’s still fun to think about it all. It’s the same with challenges–I don’t join many as my mood will change and I don’t stick with the books I chose, though there have been so many interesting sounding challenges lately. I like the idea of planned reading, however. I’ll be thinking about all this soon–just waiting for my break from work when I’ll have more time. Good luck with your reading plans!

  13. Dorothy W. says:

    I’m not doing much planning for the next year. The only thing I’m doing is a TBR challenge, but I’ll feel free to make substitutions as I feel like it there. I need to give up trying to whittle down the TBR pile, though, because mine is at about 250, with more books coming in all the time! It’s rather hopeless. At any rate, your goals sound really good. I completely agree with giving up on books where needed (even though I rarely do it), on reading attentively, and on rereading old favorites. I hope you have a great reading year!

    • Teresa says:

      Dorothy: I’m not officially participating in any of the TBR challenges, but I’m there in spirit. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it is becoming a space issue for me, so I need to get the outflow of books to be greater than the inflow.

  14. Pingback: Sunday Salon: A Year of Reading Deliberately « 1330v

  15. Vasilly says:

    Great post! I’m enjoying seeing next year’s reading plans of different bloggers.

    I usually have a hard time reading the books I own but lately I’ve been turning to my TBR pile and favorite books to get me going through my reading rut. I love going back and re-reading old favorites though sometimes I feel a hint of guilt.

    I definitely understand your feelings towards challenges. Rarely do I ever write an update post for challenges. Usually after a month or so I forget that I’m even signed up for a challenge!

    Another thing that makes me feel guilt is reading speed. Some books require you to slow down more than others. I need to stop feeling guilty about slowing down to enjoy a book. A book with beautiful language is always one that I want to read aloud to myself.

    • Teresa says:

      Vasilly: I’d be less concerned about reading the books I own if it weren’t for space. I’m sure some of those unread books aren’t keepers, but they all look like they’re worth reading once.

      And it is sad that we make ourselves feel guilty about enjoying our books. I know just what you mena, though. Some books really award a slower read.

  16. I love reading about other readers’ goals for the new year. I’ve never participated in a challenge just because I’m afraid of getting stressed out about reading a specific book at a specific time. I find that between the classics circuit and my real life book club, I have enough deadline reading that I don’t want to set any more deadlines for myself.

    I DO like making lists, though, and Eva’s comment about making random lists for ourselves sounds like a good idea.

    The only bad thing about not reading bad books is that you never have the opportunity to write a negative review. I’ve realized that I have this problem. But other than that, I love having the freedom to say “this isn’t working for me right now” and setting a book aside.

    • Teresa says:

      dailywordsandacts: Ah, you’ve identified a real problem with the no bad books rule. Hmmm… I know some people disapprove of the practice, but I do post about books I haven’t finished, but I’m always very open about the fact that I didn’t finish, and I’m always curious as to whether commenters can make a case for picking it back up.

      And I probably will still finish some books I don’t enjoy. There have been a few that were quick enough reads or had just enough suspence that I didn’t mind reading them all the way through, even if I ended up disliking them.

      • That’s a good point. I’ve never posted a “review” of a book I haven’t finished. I will have to try that. After all, that opinion is still a valid one. I like to read reviews that say, “The beginning/first half/etc of this book didn’t capture my attention because….”

  17. claire says:

    My plan for 2010 is exactly like yours. I just want to enjoy reading and not feel stressed about deadlines. I have missed reading exactly the way I want to this year, so am resisting every urge to join challenges for the coming year. Good luck to us in tackling the TBR!

    My rule about abandoning a book is also Nancy Pearl’s 50 pages. However, I’ve abandoned many a book on the first or so pages, haha.

  18. Steph says:

    I really like this idea of “Giving Every Book Its Due”, or in simple terms, the notion of slow reading. I find that trying to keep up with the book blogging world can have adverse effects when it comes to slow reads, as there is such pressure to update daily. I think this year I found myself gravitating towards books that didn’t seem all that challenging to me (and there are a variety of ways in which I think books can challenge me), simply because I knew I’d be able to read them faster and get reviews up. When I took the time to slowly read Jane Eyre earlier this year, it was such a revelation! To take the time to immerse oneself and slowly savor a book is one of the greatest pleasures, I think.

    I’m not really one to sign up for challenges or even to make many readolutions for the new year, but I do find that the Classics, with their slightly unfamiliar prose and structure make me slow down and read them carefully… and I always enjoy it! So hopefully I will make more time for them in 2010.

    • Teresa says:

      Steph: I really liked the way you did your Jane Eyre posts. A series like that seems like a great way to get some posts done while still giving a longer, more complex book the time it requires.

      And if you want to read more classics, the Classics Circuit is always a possibility :-) Just a shameless plug there!

  19. rebeccareid says:

    I love your READING DELIBERATELY list. I think I’m going to work on one too.

    While I’m not swearing off challenges completely, I’m really trying to resist. December is about me being strong. But I feel my blogging time decreasing, so it’s easier to resist then. :) As you say, updating challenges lists on the blog takes a lot of time too.

    Happy holidays!

    • Teresa says:

      Rebecca: If I weren’t so busy with school, holiday stuff, work, etc., adding challenges would be far more tempting than it is. I do keep seeing interesting posts on how bloggers are psoting about challenges without doing them. I guess I just don’t like to sorta do stuff.

  20. Lesley says:

    I really like the ‘reading deliberately’ idea. In 2009, I foreswore most challenges and just read whatever. And I have to say, I didn’t read as much or enjoy as many books as I thought I would. For the coming year, I’ve decided to sign up for quite a few reading challenges, but only those that fit my reading tastes and goals. I’m hoping that by having a rough reading plan for the year, I will read more and better. Time will tell if that plan works or fails miserably!

  21. Pingback: TSS – 2010 Resolutions

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