Around this time, many of us start thinking about new year’s resolutions. According to About.com, some of the most common resolutions include hitting the gym, spending more time with family and quitting bad habits. I’m all for setting goals and optimism, but am I the only one who finds some of these resolutions a little clichéd?
I can’t count how many years I’ve said I’m going to “drink more water” or “actually use my gym membership” or – the one that currently haunts me – “write the GMAT exam”. Like most people, by February my new year’s resolutions have become good intentions that dropped off… completely.
In late 2010, right after I started the Unputdownable Book Club, I decided to set more realistic resolutions for myself. (Actually, let’s call them “annual goals” to avoid the stigma attached to “new year’s resolutions”, okay?)
Among these attainable annual goals was my 2011 reading challenge. I had recently graduated from university and was getting back into “reading for pleasure”, but I wanted to up the ante, so-to-speak. I decided to challenge myself to read more – at least two books per month, or 24 books in a year (presumably one would be our book club pick, the other a novel of my choice).
To track my progress, I joined Goodreads in October 2010 (the best website for book lovers). I went through ups and downs. Some months I would read three books, and others I would read one or none. It was harder than I thought it would be. Despite my best efforts (which included reading the shortest books I could find all through November and December), by the end of 2011 I’d come up short. I’d only read 19 books, not 24.
So, for 2012, I decided to change my reading challenge a bit. I have a bad habit of buying books faster than I read them, so I was accumulating unread books. I chose 12 specific books – some I’d owned for years – and decided my annual goal would be to read every last one of them. I’m proud to report that by November 2012, I had completed this challenge! Here are those books:
- The Birth House – Ami McKay
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
- Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
- A Spot of Bother – Mark Haddon
- The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough
- The Shack – Paul Young
- The Postmistress – Sarah Blake
- For One More Day – Mitch Albom
- The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
- The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
- The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
- One Day – David Nicholls
Obviously this goal worked really well for me. And the interesting part? So far this year, I’ve read 26 books. That’s seven more than last year, and I still have a month to go!
Right now I am working on finalizing my 2013 reading challenge, which will be the same as last year’s – 12 specific books. Here’s the working list:
- The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
- Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
- The Edible Woman – Margaret Atwood
- Me Before You – JoJo Moyes
- The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
- Fall on Your Knees – Ann-Marie MacDonald
- Room – Emma Donoghue
- Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
- The Whole Truth – Kit Pearson
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt
- The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton
I feel like this list is good a mix of classics, Canadian authors and “books with buzz”. I might still make some last-minute tweaks, but we’ll see. I still can’t believe I haven’t read Little Women or To Kill a Mockingbird!
The trick with annual goals is to stick with it. You have to be fully committed and do regular check-ins. Over the next year, I’ll periodically blog about my progress.
Are you planning a reading challenge for 2013? If not, should you? Are there books you’ve been dying to read, or maybe you just want to read more? Comment below and tell me your plans!