Sunday Salon: 2011 Plans

With the new year nearly upon us, it’s the time when many people make plans and resolutions. In the book blogging world, that frequently means book lists and challenges galore. Last year, I steered clear of most challenges. That worked well for me, and I plan to continue. But that does not mean that I am going into 2011 without any sort of reading plan.

First, I want to do a lot of reading from my TBR pile. As I’ve mentioned before, last year I made a commitment to read or discard every unread book that I acquired in 2006 or earlier. If I’ve had a book for four years and still haven’t managed to read it, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever want to. (And if I ever decide I do, I’ll just get another copy.) I’ve just about made this goal for 2010—I only have two books left, so chances are good that I will make it.

For 2011, I’ll apply this rule to my 2007 books. So today, I hereby resolve in 2011 to read or get rid of the books pictured below. (For titles, see my LibraryThing list.)

To Read or Discard in 2011

I’m hoping also to not be just squeaking the last few in at the end of the year. To that end, I’m joining in on C.B. James’s TBR Dare (not a challenge, a dare). The idea is to commit to only reading books from your TBR pile for a specific amount of time. The dare ends on April 1, and I’m going to try to make it all the way until then. I will have to make exceptions for audio books, book club books, Classics Circuit, and a couple of review copies I’d already requested before the dare began. (I’ll leave it to James to decide whether all those exceptions disqualify me.) For the dare, I’m not limiting myself to the books pictured above, although they will be my focus. But if none of those quite work, I have plenty more to choose from.

TBR Bookcase

I also would like to stop acquiring books until I’ve read those 23 books from 2007. Again, I have to make exceptions for Classics Circuit and book club, although I will try to use the library for those. I love having lots of books in the house, but given the extensive collection at my library (a branch of which is in walking distance), my book collecting has gotten a bit silly. I do love to indulge, though, so when I’ve read these books, I can start acquiring again. This bit of goal-setting may be too much for me, especially if I come across a fabulous sale, but we’ll see how I do.

I’m going to keep the rest of my reading open to whim. I do like to receive a review copy or two a month, but I want to continue reading more old books than new. So although I may continue to request or accept a copy here or there, usually through LibraryThing Early Reviewers, I’m not going to make brand-new books the focus of my reading.

And as I said at the top of this post, I’m staying mostly challenge-free. Making the lists can be fun, but the maintenance—updating, linking, wrap-up posts, and so on—feels too much like work. Plus, with just a few exceptions (usually short-term challenges), I haven’t found challenges to be all that social and interactive. I do enjoy participating in some of the more loosely organized events where readers post on a particular book, author, or imprint at the same time. (I’ve found that I prefer these to structured chapter-by-chapter readalongs.) I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Virago Reading Week, Persephone Weekend, NYRB Classics Week, discussions for the Year of Feminist Classics, discussions by the Wolves, and of course the Classics Circuit. If my mood is right and the book is available when these events happen, I’ll join in.

Review Copies (and a Classics Circuit Book)

Because I do like list-making (or think I do), I was considering a few long-term projects, some of which are inspired by challenges or others’ long-term projects, but when I started making the lists, I also started to get stressed. I think that as soon as a list starts to look like a goal, instead of a pool of possibilities, I get nervous. (This is one of the reasons I’m not sure I want to own the any of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die books, as fascinating as the selections within those books may be. The whole “Before You Die” thing makes me feel like these books are essential, even though they aren’t.) I do like having possibilities to consider, both on my shelves and on my virtual list, but I don’t like turning those lists into goals. The TBR goal seems like enough.

So those are my plans for the year. What are yours? What’s your philosophy toward goals, challenges, and the like? Any books you definitely plan to read this year? Any books on my stacks I need to make a concerted effort to get to?

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54 Responses to Sunday Salon: 2011 Plans

  1. Lenore says:

    I like the idea of the read or purge. I didn’t start acquiring books in earnest until 2008 though. So maybe I should do this in 2012!

  2. For the last three years, I don’t do more than three challenges at any given point of time.

    I also don’t set out to acquire review copies indiscriminately. I am careful for what I ask for or if I am offered, I don’t accept genre I don’t read.

    That way I keep my reading controlled. Yet, I have more than 250 to be read novels in my shelves!

    Here is my Sunday Salon post!

    • Teresa says:

      It’s funny how even with those limits the books keep accumulating, isn’t it? My limits are similar to yours, and I seem to keep around 200 unread books in the house (228 now, I think).

  3. Wow, I’m worse than you. I have a few books I’ve been schlepping from house to house for more than 10 years! And I move a lot. Read or purge is one of my goals this year also.

    • Teresa says:

      Frequent moves (and constant lack of funds) kept me from accumulating much for years. It’s only in the last five years or so that I’ve started acquiring books without reading them right away.

  4. I too like the idea of picking a date and saying if I haven’t read them in all this time, I’m unlikely to do so. It would certainly clear out a lot of space for me!

    • Teresa says:

      It seems like it would clear the shelves, but this last year, I seemed to get a book or two for each book I got rid of, but at least I’m maintaining a sort of equilibrium ;)

  5. Deb says:

    I have books I started in college (late 1970s) that I’ve been carrying with me for over 30 years that still have the bookmarks in them on the page where I stopped reading over three decades ago! Perhaps 2011 will mark the year that I FINALLY give up on those and send them to a nice home at the Friends of the Library Book Sale.

    I like to read what I want to read when I want to read it, so no challenges for me. Besides, reading is what I do for relaxation and pleasure–I don’t want it to feel like work, with its requirements and deadlines.

    I, too, am a list-maker. The first item on my list today: Check the Powerball numbers…perhaps I’m a millionaire already and don’t know it yet!

    • Teresa says:

      That’s pretty funny! When I put a book down, it’s over. I don’t return to it and I don’t hold on to it.

      I don’t mind a few deadlines in my leisure reading, but I’m with you in not wanting it to feel like work. Any deadlines would be for discussions and such, which enhance the reading experience.

  6. litlove says:

    I will just say that this year I’ve read several books that have been on my shelves around about the 20 year mark, and I was very glad to have them, and enjoyed reading them. It’s just that four years seems a very short time for a book when its life is so long. Plus, they are insulating your walls, which in this weather, is no bad thing. :)

    I do love making plans, though, even if I don’t fulfill them all!

    • Teresa says:

      I love your unapologetic stance! It’s mostly a space issue with me, really. My condo is small. Also, It’s just not in my nature to hold onto things I’m not using or enjoying in some way, but perhaps there’s something to that insulation argument…

      Honestly, the 4-year rule is mostly to get me to read the books I’ve had around for a while before I’ve forgotten why I got them. I’d probably think long and hard if it came down to getting rid of an unread book that I couldn’t find at the library or a bookstore at a decent price should I ever change my mind.

  7. Good luck!

    I plan to work on the old TBR, of course, but in the same fashion I’ve been working on it this past year. And I like goals and challenges, as long as it fits into my TBR and what I want to read—nothing I’m doing out of obligation or anything.

    • Teresa says:

      When I was doing challenges, I did mostly choose ones that fit in with what I was already doing, which worked great, but it was the maintenance of the lists that got to me.

  8. Aarti says:

    I like your goal of finishing books purchased four years ago. It’s a good one :-) I don’t know if I could be so disciplined in my reading, but I enjoy the idea of that personal challenge!

    I used to sign up for challenges and then never actually participate in any manner. So now I don’t really sign up any more unless they are very low commitment (i.e., I signed up for the Terry Pratchett challenge because I knew I’d read two of his books, anyway).

    • Teresa says:

      In future years, when there will be more books on the list, I may not be able to be so disciplined, but 23 is totally doable (I think).

      As I said to Clare, I tried the “I’d read it anyway” sorts of challenges, but found that I didn’t really participate or get much out of it, so I’m not bothering this anymore.

  9. christina says:

    I have to admit, I love that James started that dare. I think it’s just the thing to motivate me into reading my own darn books!

    • Teresa says:

      I love it, too! I know there are several TBR challenges around, but I like that this one is about a time period, not a number. And the Dare language is kind of hard to resist.

  10. Jenny says:

    I have so few goals for 2011. I am going to try to read more about Africa, though. I am working on a massive Africa project at work, and I’m embarrassed at how little I find I know. I need a better network of associations for history in African countries.

    • Teresa says:

      I’d like to read more international books and books by people of color, but I’m gradually working those in to my reading (bought several this year but haven’t read them yet). I’ve read very little about Africa, or really anyplace besides the US and Europe. It’s sad.

  11. Emily says:

    This sounds like a totally sensible approach to reading in the New Year, Teresa. Pretty similar to my own, although it sounds like I’ll have a smidge more structure, since I’ll obviously be reading all the Wolves books unless there’s one I hate so much I can’t finish it. My partner and I are also doing a collaborative reading project similar to Amanda & Jason’s Lovebirds Swap, about which I have yet to blog. But overall, I definitely agree that when a pool of possibilities starts to seem like an obligation, it’s no longer fun anymore. Which is the whole point!

    • Teresa says:

      I like keeping a mix of structure and freedom. My church book club will add some additional structure and obligation, but we’re starting the year with books I’ve already read, so it feels like no work at all.

      I thought the Lovebirds swap was a cute idea, and I’ve seen other bloggers share reading lists. I’m not sure I’d trust anyone to assign me books to read! Well, maybe Jenny… she and I could probably have fun with a project like that.

  12. I like your goals, especially with weeding out books. My own philosophy toward goals, challenges and the like is to keep it simple. For now, I’m only in one challenge: the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. I plan on reading more nonfiction, even if it only means three or four, in 2011. I have no books that I definitely plan to read next year. This year, I’d like to finish the Charlie Chan mystery series: two left, Charlie Chan Carries On and Keeper of the Keys.

    • Teresa says:

      Keeping it simple is definitely the way to go. I think the huge number of yearlong challenges takes me away from keeping it simple. I do like the idea of committing to an author or series to finish. I will probably finish the Morland Dynasty series this year.

  13. Vasilly says:

    I noticed we have some of the same goals in common. I have a ton of unread books and I would really like to read most of them next year. I see that you have Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson on your list of 2007 books. I hope you’re able to get to it. It’s really beautiful but slow-going. Good luck on your goals.

  14. Jeanne says:

    I agree with Vasilly; I think you’d really like Housekeeping. (And I wasn’t a fan of Gilead).
    I don’t make reading plans, you know, just bounce from one enthusiasm to another.

    • Teresa says:

      I fully expect to love Housekeeping. I just have to wait until I’m ready to immerse myself in her gorgeous prose.

      As much as I love planning, I also do like to have a little room to be free-wheeling. But I can’t do without any lists. It’s just not in my nature.

  15. chasing bawa says:

    I’m trying to cut down the number of challenges next year but I find that I’m surreptitiously making reading plans already;P However, like you, I think I’d like to read more on a whim next year. Bring the whim back into reading, I say! Good luck with your plans.

  16. Danielle says:

    I hope I am not too tied to my possessions, but I admit to being a complete hoarder when it comes to my books. You pretty much have to pry them from my fingers to weed them, though I am trying to be better about weeding regularly. Still I acquire far faster than I ‘recycle’. I can’t help it as I often will pick up a book I bought years ago, but the timing is right now. On more than one occasion I have wanted to read a book that I owned at one time but then got rid of, then mentally kicked myself for doing so. That said I am trying hard to acquire less and read more from my own shelves, which is going to be something I hope to do more of next year (and have made my list to start from–I’m also a list-maker). I always say I am not going to make too many plans and read at whim (which I more or less did last year), but this year I have all sorts of ideas in mind that I am trying to decide on. I try and avoid challenges (though they are very tempting!) for the same reasons you mention–I tend to get excited about reading them then fizzle out by the end. Good luck on your plans–and reading from your 2007 pile–it seems very manageable to me! :)

    • Teresa says:

      I do know what you mean about the difficultly of weeding. As I said to Litlove, the possibility of culling is partially to motivate me to read books that I want to read but get distracted from. When I have weeded, I’ve only gotten rid of books that my library actually had, so I know that back-up exists if the time ever does seem right. I have found that my interests do change, and so far I haven’t regretted the books I’ve discarded. If I could get my TBR to fit comfortably on the one bookcase, I’d probably feel that I’d achieved the balance I desire.

  17. Jeane says:

    I have done really good at not acquiring any more books until I clean off more of my TBR shelves, but not so good at getting through the read or purge I need to do! So I’ve joined the Dare too, and am hoping I can get a lot of books off the shelves, so I can go out and find more to fill them up with!

  18. Steph says:

    I have been thinking a lot about readolutions for the new year and the only one I can really think of that makes any sense for me is reading through my TBR pile and not acquiring any new books except those for review which are a work hazard. 2011 is going to be the year of a big move for Tony and me, so the more books I can read and send out in the world without bringing them with us, the better!

  19. bookssnob says:

    Getting rid of those TBR piles takes real tenacity! I have to stop buying books. I’ve bought tons since I moved to the US and have no idea how I’ll get them home…

    I hope you manage to participate in the Virago Reading Week…though only if you don’t have to add to your TBR pile to do so!!

    • Teresa says:

      It would be hard for me to resist making tons of purchases with the Strand and so many other great shops in easy reach!

      I have three Viragos to choose from for Virago Reading Week, so it would actually help me with Mount TBR.

  20. rebeccareid says:

    I have no idea which year I acquired most of my books. Althoguh I know I’ve had some of them far longer than 2006 or 2007. And still haven’t read them. I intend to do lots of shelf reading this year. For every library book, read at least one off my shelf…

    I too have lost interest in “challenges” and I think for the most part it is because of the lack of interaction that you mention. I do intend to keep joining the read alongs and I’m going to do a few of the YEAR OF FEMINIST CLASSICS months. But other than that, I’m going to just read. No more “plans” except of course for Classics Circuit, bookclub, and readalongs…

    • Teresa says:

      My LibraryThing catalog is how I keep track of when I got my books. And it helps that I really didn’t start developing a TBR stockpile until 2004 or so.

      I like your non-plan plan. Just read—that’s the way to go.

  21. Alex says:

    I’ve only signed up for three challenges: “One, Two, Theme”, Steampunk and Graphic Novels. Apart from that I have no plans, but by my accounts, only these three challegnes will be 1/3 of what I’ll read in 2011, including lots of books already on my TBR shelf.

    “To Say Nothing of the Dog is on my priority wishlist and I hope you get around to it.

    • Teresa says:

      The One Two Theme challenge does look pretty neat.

      To Say Nothing of the Dog is one I’ll definitely get to. That and Housekeeping are probably the highest priorities.

  22. Marie says:

    Hi Teresa,

    I love the blog and have been a lurker on here for a while. I love your idea of read or purge. I have books here that are between 2-8 years old just sitting on the shelves. I think one of my book priorities this year will be getting through those older books, using my library more, and maybe using my e-reader more. Keep up the great work!

  23. Amanda says:

    Before 2009, I’m not sure what years I acquired which books, but there are some I know that have been on my shelf for a decade. It’s mostly just my Nabokov books, though, as I tend to read one book by him each year, two at most, and have been working my way through them steadily for the last decade. Books like that, I don’t want to get rid of, but other than those, there are very few that I’ve owned more than a couple years. I like the idea of tossing anything if it’s not read by year end…

    • Teresa says:

      I can definitely understand wanting to spread out the Nabokovs. I only have a huge backlog of a couple of authors (Thomas Hardy and Ann Radcliffe), and I wouldn’t want to read those all at once, nor would I be likely to get rid of them if I they weren’t read in 4 years. So yeah, I can see room for exceptions in my personal rule.

  24. Aubergine Kenobi says:

    Hi Teresa,

    I love reading and I love books, but having lived in different countries has turned me into some sort of minimalistic person, so unless I loved a particular book or is part of my TBR pile, I don’t own that many books (but I love the pictures of your shelves, they look great!).

    Right now I have a couple of self-imposed challenges, in them I’m trying to incorporate as many books from my TBR pile as I can, as well as trying to branch up my reading. One of these challenges is to read 80 books by authors of 80 different countries (although the list is far from finished, right now I’m going from what strikes my fancy), since I’m a slowish reader I haven’t set a time limit for it (I’ve read the first 6!). Another of my goals for next year is to read a book in Dutch (I’m learning it, so I have no idea how long it will take me!). My last challenge is to read at least more books that I have read this year, which would not be so difficult, since they amount the grand totale of 8! (see? I’m a slow reader!).

    • Teresa says:

      I love that 80 authors from 80 countries idea. I was thinking of doing the same sort of thing as a long-term project, but as I said, once I make many goals, I get stressed. I am trying to read more international authors though.

  25. Kathleen says:

    I don’t usually set firm reading goals but one I will set for 2011 is to read more off my shelves this year so I can read what I have before buying too many more.

  26. Heather says:

    I agree with you about the “more loosely organized events” being the ones that are most appealing; I have my eye on some of the same ones you’ve mentioned. I only read six books from my list for Emily’s TBR challenge this year — library books have been my downfall — but all the books I didn’t get to from my list are still things I want to read, so I’m just carrying the challenge over to 2011. Also, I’d like 2011 to be the year that I finish Proust – I’ve had the last volume sitting on my shelf, but after finishing The Captive and The Fugitive this year, I wanted a break. I’m ready for more Proustian deliciousness, though. Other than that, I don’t have any particular reading goals for the new year, just a hope for lots of reading pleasure!

    Looking at your 2007 acquisitions list, the only one I’ve read is To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I really thought was fun – it was perfect summer reading for me this July!

    • Teresa says:

      I am still afraid of Proust. One of these years, but not anytime soon :)

      To Say Nothing of the Dog has been on my list for ages. I’m excited about finally reading. It looks wonderful.

  27. cbjames says:

    Thanks for helping get the word out about the TBR Dare.

    Since posting it my own TBR shelf has gotten smaller. It’s made me pay much more attention to it. This year, I’m putting the 3 year purge off until April 1 when the TBR Dare ends. I figure the more variety I have to choose from the more likely I am to make it to April 1.

    As for ARC’s arriving during the TBR Dare and disqualifying you….I say everyone should modify the rules to suit themselves first of all. It’s all about having fun. But in my mind as long as you are expecting the books to arrive as of Jan. 1, they count as morally and ethically ‘present’ on your TBR shelf.

    That’s how I’ll be dealing with the fact that I’m on the wait list at my local library for several books that I’ve been itching to get my hands on for months. I’m sure I’ll get my turn in January or Februrary.

    But they are on my holds list now, which is spiritually the same as being on my TBR shelf.


    • Teresa says:

      Glad to hear I’m still following the rules of the dare ;) I was kind of thinking that books I’ve already asked for is the equivalent of on the TBR pile. And I have no plans to “cheat” and request/order/reserve a whole slew of books, as tempting as that may be. Surely I can find something to read from the 200+ books already in the house/on the way.

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