I know that there are people out there who groan about a new year and new goals, resolutions, me. You do you, babe, and when I do me, a new year is a glorious thing. I’ve always partly attributed that to my birthday (December 30th) being so close to the start of the calendar new year, sort of like a double dose of literal new beginnings. It’s also quite possible that I just like new things and change so much that it appeals to my enneagram 7 wing that often likes to take centre stage.
I like to start thinking about my goals early and I have a few ways of categorizing them. I usually like to pick a one-word or short phrase theme for the year ahead, something to guide my decisions and intentions throughout that time. Two of my most meaningful selections have been nourish and stay true. I’m currently struggling with choosing a word for 2023 because I know the theme I want to implement, but it’s hard to boil it down to just one or a couple or words. It’s a big concept, yes, but I also want my word to be cute. Don’t hate.
Over the last several years – six or seven, maybe? – I’ve done a list of random things that I want to accomplish in the coming year a la 19 for 2019, 20 for 2020, 21 for 2021, you get the drift.. These are sometimes big (run a half marathon), sometimes small (get new glasses) aims for the year ahead. The last couple of years, it’s been tough to find and maintain motivation, but I really feel like we are gaining momentum in getting back to a bit more normal, but also improved. Normal +. Things are starting to feel more doable and accessible, we can see people freely again and go places, do things. With that comes possibility. There have been years when I have done really well in accomplishing many of these goals, crossing a lot of things off my list. There are other years when that has not been the case. The other day, I found the only trace of my 22 for 2022 list and discovered it was only actually an eighteen point list and that the last three were pretty emotionally charged ideas that were not actually goals you could ever cross off a list. This year’s list is in progress. Stay tuned.
Finally, I usually have one or two bigger goals. Sometimes they land as points on my list, sometimes they stand alone, over and above those ideas. This year, two reading related goals took form and became very prominent for me and the true intention of this post was to set them free and make them public. They’ve long been in the works and all my bookstagram besties have been my sounding board for at least one of them. Telling everyone now makes them more official and me more accountable (in theory – I am a rebel in Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework.)
This is a huge undertaking that mildly terrifies me. The seed was planted for me back in August when I sat in awe of the fact that I had just had a Zoom call with Elana Rabinovitch, the Executive Director of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, when she had invited me to attend the gala award ceremony in November. This was one in a series of really great opportunities that arose for me this year and I started to recognize that the common denominator in all those things was Canadian literature. I wanted to explore a way to give back and when I did, a few things came to mind: read books by Canadian authours, from Canadian publishers, bought from Canadian independent bookstores, and then talk about them. Everywhere.
One thing I’ve learned this year is that getting the word out about new books is a part of the industry that has changed dramatically. I’ve spoken to authours who struggle with the daunting and time-consuming task of promoting their books and I spoke to a publishing professional who bowled me over with the phrase “the decline of review culture.” It took that conversation to really open my eyes to the challenges that exist in the book world due to fewer book reviews being written and read. If you want to read more about this, here’s a good place to start: The Decline of the Book Review by Steven Mintz.
Book reviews, in short, are part of the “attentional economy,“ which, as the Nobel Prize–winning economist Herbert Simon observed, means that the biggest challenge facing the culture industry is to find ways to grab the attention of those consumers who are overwhelmed with competing distractions.
My growing awareness of this has made me feel that it’s more important than ever to do what I can for a community that I love. Through my “bookstagram” account, I have discovered so many more incredible Canadian publishers than I ever knew who are putting out books by very talented Canadian authours.
A few notes:
- I am allowing myself some books by authours from other countries. As I discussed this with others, the idea of a percentage of books by non-Canadian authours came up often, but I’m not one who wants to bring math or more tracking (see below) into reading. I landed on the number five. Five books by some of my favourite authours who will be publishing in 2023. Of the five, three are already spoken for (Brandon Taylor, Christie Tate & Joshilyn Jackson) so that leaves only two open spots remaining.
- I have a large backlog of Can Lit to rely on as I embark on this so I’d like to focus on reading books from my shelves first before heading out to shop for more. I may also rely on my library for borrowing and on libro.fm for audiobooks.
- If I’ve started any book by any authour in 2022 it can be completed in 2023.
More sharing, fewer stats
I’m into reading, yes, and I love tracking what I’ve read, but reading as a competitive sport is a real turn-off for me. Often, people will say to me, “I can’t read as much as you do!” and this is when I remind them that it isn’t a contest. Reading is its own reward and I live firmly in a place that says that whether you read one book or 200 books in a year makes no difference. It’s very possible that the person who reads one and cherishes every word or turn of phrase has a better reading experience than the person who speeds through many more just to update their Goodreads goal. I saw someone say earlier this year that they’d met their reading goal for the year so they no longer had to “worry about it.” I mean, some may disagree, but I will unapologetically say that if your reading brings you worry or stress, you’re really, really doing it wrong!
I’m currently in a kind of limbo when it comes to how I use online tracking. I don’t particularly like Goodreads or StoryGraph and, after using both in parallel for a while, I resignedly just went back to Goodreads. It’s easier, it’s reliable and my friends are there. I’ve waffled on whether I think writing reviews there is meaningful and have opted to mostly stay away from rating any of my reads. I so rarely take a recommendation from there that it’s hard for me to imagine that others do. To my above point about books needing more promotional support, I know I probably should share more details there, but I am also so bad at maintaining a rating system. I feel like you get 2-3 stars just for writing a book and I get stuck between whether a book was good and whether I liked it. (These aren’t always the same thing.) I’m a work in progress. Find me on Goodreads or StoryGraph and we’ll see what happens. One thing I do know is that I will continue to forgo any numbers based reading challenge.
For 2023, I’d like to move the majority of my reading stats offline while still finding the time and energy to share my (almost) all-Canadian reading experience – which no number can reflect – in as many places as I can.
I’m looking forward to 2023. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve started to notice things and people loosening up and I’m big into that (provided that we’re doing it thoughtfully, respectfully and safely.) Even in spite of its challenges, 2022 has been an exciting year for me especially in the world of reading and books. I’d like to keep that going next year and see what else the literary world has in store for me.
To you, dear reader, I wish wild adventures, edge-of-your-seat thrills, swoony romance or whatever your heart desires between the pages of a book. If you read two hundred books or just one tiny short story, collect hard cover or stick strictly to audio, you are a reader and I am always here to remind you of that.