How to Set the Right New Year’s Reading Resolution

As 2012 comes to a close, you’re likely one of the many bibliophiles who didn’t quite manage to achieve that book goal you set for yourself at the start of last year. The time got away from you and, before you knew it, you were only a modest 30 books deep as December rolled around. But before you begin drawing your battle lines for this coming year, complete with a failproof pre-planned list of books or even a weekly page goal, I demand that you read Read You Bastard‘s article on the subject: Am I Above Book Challenges?

In short, RYB makes a compelling case for why book challenges or reading resolutions are just going to make you hate your hobby. You’re effectively making work of your leisure time, which defeats the purpose and makes you feel like a failure if you don’t properly utilize your hobby time to reach a goal that only you will ever truly care about.

My biggest issue with the reading resolution, however, is that it encourages you to read easy books or short books. Anyone with a 100-book challenge for the year is hardly going to try to slog through Moby-Dick. Prior to the 20th Century, books were one of the main forms of entertainment. You could kick back with a book for hours and have time to pore over the intricacies and layers. That’s not to say that people only read amazing books back in the day — there was, and has always been, plenty of garbage. But the main point is that if you’re setting a book goal, you’re probably going to read more garbage than you will quality as it’s far, far easier to leaf through a Chuck Palahniuk book than it is to tackle a Russian novel — but the latter is more likely to be much more rewarding.

If you really want to set a reading resolution for this year, make it a time one. Everyone can carve out at least half an hour to read in the day, whether it be during a commute or right before bed. Otherwise, I’ll see you next year.

7 thoughts on “How to Set the Right New Year’s Reading Resolution

  1. I agree with your suggestion about setting a daily reading time; shut off your iPhone, grab your kindle, and read for x hours a day. Makes sense.

    But I do agree with sedatedtabloidreader… you do need to strike a balance. You say that reading a Russian novel is “more likely to be much more rewarding” than a Chuck Palahniuk novel, but if you spend weeks and weeks reading for hours at a time, desperately trying to finish War and Peace, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll have hated the experience and be burned out by reading.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, Timothy Zahn’s newest e-novella about Lando Calrissian is calling.

  2. I think you have to strike a balance.

    There’s no point reading just for the sake of it, but trying to slog it through a needlessly dense novel (Dostoevsky would have written far less were he not paid by the word!) can kill the soul just as easily and ruin what is potentially to be gotten out of it.

    But it is also about finding writers you love. I would much rather read a stack of Bukowski than one of Burroughs short cut and paste monstrosities.

    Novellas are also criminally under-rated, not least because they can serve as a priceless introduction to authors and ideas in their own right without being over-whelming.

    And no, I didn’t reach my book total for the year! 🙂

    • I’m not advocating that people slog through long novels for the sake of it. I’m more saying that anyone with a 100-book goal wouldn’t try to tackle a 1000-page novel at all.

      Novellas are underrated, and I imagine a lot of people doing book goals might overlook them because it might be considered “cheating.” So what you wind up with is a pile of 300-page books that are somewhat similar, and yet you still don’t reach your goal because you’ve bored yourself.

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