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Reading: a look back and a look ahead

by Carly-Ann

When books are as big a part of your life as they are mine, the new year brings with it a temptation to talk a lot about the ones that made the year that’s just come to a close special and the ones that you hope will bring some joy in the coming months. As far as a look back goes, who am I to resist? Here’s my post on Instagram. (Who are these people who have ONE favourite book for the year? I couldn’t narrow it down any further than 12 fiction titles, 2 memoirs and one non-fiction.)

I finished up reading exactly 100 books in 2020. That’s 48 hour more than I had planned on reading, but I’m not complaining about it. I made one modification to my reading habits at the start of the year and that was to avoid reading anything too fluffy. My thinking was that there are so many really great books in the world, many of which I will likely never get to read, so I didn’t want to spend my time on a story that was the literary equivalent of cotton candy. By and large, I met that goal. Not everything I read was super intellectual and there were times that I craved something light, but I mostly avoided anything too ridiculous. (I doubt I’ll ever stop contemplating some Stephanie Plum absurdity, but if I’m honest, there isn’t much differentiating one book from the next.)

I have a few goals for 2021 reading and as I wrote an Instagram post to detail them, I realized that it is much more of a blog post than something that can be limited to a caption.

To begin with, my reading goal. At first, I had scaled it back to the same as last year: 52 books. When I started to document that, it felt a little soft so I upped it to 78 books, the equivalent of 1.5 books per week. I’m really going to try to stick to that, but I will detail that further in my 21 for 2021 post that I’ll probably post that tomorrow. Or later this week. Or sometime in the future.

Next up, I want to lean into spending the time I do on reading with meaningful and worthy materials. This is more of what I’ve described above related to avoiding anything too fluffy, but it’s also:

  1. Accepting that I am really not into young adult fiction and I need to stop trying to be
  2. Recognizing that I don’t have to continue reading/finish something that I’m not into
  3. Refusing to read a book just because I feel like I should (friends/Oprah/everyone likes it or someone says it’s integral to a topic I enjoy)

In saying all of this, I may come across as an uptight and pretentious reader, but I’m not. Some of my favourite books in 2020 (Temporary, Little Eyes, Sad Janet) and ever (Where’d You Go Bernadette) are imaginative and quirky. I like what I like and for the most part it is not historical and it is not happily ever after, but it is smart and sharp and complex and probably a little bit depressing. I’m determined to stick as close to that as possible in the future.

I’m committing to take part in the Unread Shelf Project this year. I’ve become much better at letting go of books in the last several years, but there are still a bunch on my shelves now and for several years already that I should either read or get rid of. This project includes a monthly check-in as well as bonus challenges. January’s challenge is to read “a book with high expectations.” I chose two: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and Reproduction by Ian Williams. A Tale for the Time Being has received some very high praise and was a finalist for the Booker Prize in 2013 and Reproduction won the Giller Prize in 2019.

Another reading project I’m joining in on is the True North Reading Challenge that can be found here. It’s a twelve category challenge (“published in 2021” & “book with a one word title” are a couple of examples) with one simple rule: the authours must all be Canadian.

I’m leery of challenges that are too strict because I can quickly lose patience with something that didn’t give me a lot of freedom in what I am doing, but I think both of those will work well. I’m particularly looking forward to reducing the number of books I own. I’d love to have a library made up exclusively of books I cherish.

Finally, I’m working on a decision related to where I record what I read. I’ve been doing double duty with both Goodreads and StoryGraph for the last six months or so. Both have their advantages, but neither are as functional as I would like. My Book Pledge came on my radar yesterday and I signed up there as well, but I can already see that it’s a little clunky for my liking. Since I don’t want to enter everything three times, I will need to choose one, preferably sooner than later, although, I’m not ruling out opting for a good, old-fashioned notebook and pen instead.

Have you made any reading related goals for 2021? If so, please share! Where do you record your reading records?

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1 comment

Evey January 14, 2021 - 8:23 pm

I cannot believe you read so much in 2020. That is amazing. I always make reading goals and I never reach them. Mostly because the best time of day for my reading is night but by tbe time the girls are in bed and I have 5 mins to put my feet up if I try to read I cannot keep my eyes open. Lol. I would love to not make a books read goal per say this year but a time goal. 30 mins a day, 60 mins a day that type of thing.

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