As December approaches, my mind is turning toward finishing out the year and my plans for next year. I don’t like to set a lot of formal goals for my reading, especially not ones guided by numbers. My main goal, always, is to enjoy my reading, and anything beyond that starts to feel like work.
Last year, my only non-negotiable, must-do goal was to read or discard all the books I’ve had for longer than 4 years. That worked out beautifully, so I intend to do the same next year. There are 21 books that I’ve had on my shelves since 2008, so I’ll be reading or discarding all of those for sure. That should be easy enough (although I’m already looking at my 2009 and 2010 lists with fear and trepidation). I can completely relate to this line from Junot Diaz (from The New Yorker‘s Tumblr):
Eventually everything I have gets read. But naturally I buy more than I can read, so there is always at least a hundred-book margin between what I own and what I’ve read. What’s cool is that I’ve caught up a couple of times, and this year I intend to catch up again. But then I’ll buy too much and the race starts again.
I despair of ever getting caught up, but it is fun to try. I have a couple of ideas for making it easier (and more fun) next year.
C.B. James’s TBR Double Dare is a great way to work on getting caught up. Last year, I made it all the way to April 1 and didn’t miss those new books at all (OK, maybe a little, but I got over it). I almost decided against joining this year because I get exercise by walking to the library, but then I realized that January to April is not prime walking weather anyway, so I wouldn’t go so very much. I plan to read exclusively from my shelves (which includes my embarrassingly large e-reader shelf) between January 1 and April 1. I will have to make exceptions for book group books, a few library books I already have on hold, and a few new books I’ve already requested through Netgalley.
Another idea I have in mind is limiting the number of new releases that I read next year. Book blogging has made me more aware of new titles and given me immediate access to free copies of many of them. It’s also encouraged me to branch out and try books and authors I never would have heard of otherwise. It’s great; it really is. However, when I look back at the 2011 releases I’ve read this year, plenty of them were quite good, but only a few truly knocked my socks off. I don’t particularly regret many of those reads, but they also didn’t make my reading life all that much richer. I read them because they were there, and they were perfectly fine, but I feel that in reading these books, I neglected so many classics, so many older titles by favorite authors, and so many older (and often dead) writers that I’ve been meaning to try to ages.
So next year, I plan to limit myself to 24 titles released in 2012. That’s two a month, which really shouldn’t feel like a deprivation, but I think it’s enough of a limit to force me to think about each and every review copy I accept and every new “hot” book I put on hold at the library. I know right now that I’ll need to leave space for The Wind Through the Keyhole, Stephen King’s new Dark Tower book, as well as Laurie King’s new Mary Russell adventure. I already have seven 2012 releases on request at Netgalley (although I might not read all of those), so that leaves 15 slots. It’s doable, but enough to make me think more carefully about whether I have to read every new book that comes along. If a book is good, it’ll still be good a year from now.
If anyone else is interested in joining me in this, I could turn it into a challenge. It would be casual, with each person setting his or her own limit.
As for the rest of 2011, I’d really like to clear the decks of review copies I picked up at BEA and a few others that have come my way. It’s pretty telling that I’ve had these books for months and very few of them are calling out to me. I don’t like having review copies hanging around for more than six months, and a few of these are approaching that date. I don’t make promises to read all my review copies, but I do always make a good faith effort, and I’d like to make that effort on these before the end of the year. So the rest of 2011 might be heavy on the new releases, but most of them are ones I haven’t seen written about extensively, so I’m hoping no one will be sick of them by the time I post.
So what are your plans for the rest of the year? Any resolutions you’re on the brink of fulfilling (or giving up on)? Have you started giving much thought to next year?