How I Read

In 2008, I read almost exclusively books from the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die list. I read a lot of important books. I also didn’t enjoy myself very much.

When I began blogging, I read books to fulfill challenges, books recommended by other bloggers, and, as I got on a few publishing and book tour lists, galleys.

This past year, I read whatever I wanted, when I wanted.

Those are three very different ways to read. I probably read more translations and classics the year of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list than any other year – I’m not sure I’ve ever been more well-read, in terms of what society and the canon consider to be important reads. But that list can’t sustain me. I need fun; I crave it.  I need balance between the important because someone else said so and the important because I said so.

I also didn’t read a lot of recent releases. Receiving galleys of books not even published yet really made me feel up-to-date with what is being published now. I read books that ended up on year-end lists! This year I’ve hardly read any. As nice as it was to feel like my reading was current, I didn’t like feeling like I was reading on someone else’s schedule.

This year, for the most part, I read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and in a lot of ways it was pure bliss. I bought a lot of books and read them immediately – when was the last time I did that? Instead of letting them sit on my shelf waiting for “the perfect moment,” that moment was the day or week they landed in my mailbox. But I found that I only read one translation, not nearly enough books by people of color, or books set in different places around the world.

This is a long way of introducing how I want to read things in 2014. I really only have one goal for next year: I want to learn things. I want to practice things. I want to get things right. There’s not really a wrong way to read, but this year I want to find that sweet spot between new releases, difficult, important reads, and books that I want to read. I want to read more books by women and I want to read more translations and I want to be a lot more well-informed when it comes to what is showing up on year-end lists.

I want to write down at least one quote from every book I read. I used to start out every review this way and I miss having a record of the piece of the book I loved the very most. I want to read more purposefully, but at the same time, not feel trapped by my purpose.

I don’t want to set myself up for failure. I don’t want to say I’m going to read one translation a month or read 30 books from around the world. I just want to be aware of what I want, of the kind of reading year I want to have. I want to keep up with the themed reading months. Comics in February, gardening in March, horror and thrillers in October, Nonfiction November. Those months were amazing and focusing so closely on one topic made me feel like I was really learning something about a genre or a topic or a form. I’m not sure what my themed months will be, but I know I’m already looking forward to them.

2014 is going to be the year of learning, the year of practice makes perfect, the year of balance. Or at least the year of trying for all three.

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22 thoughts on “How I Read

  1. I’ve realized how nice that balance can be over the last month, as the books I committed to reading started to dwindle and I was able to pick freely off my shelf. As I started to mix in new galleys from next year, I’ve found such a great sweet spot that I’m hoping I can keep through the next year. I really love the idea of working toward learning and think that keeping track of theme months – without being bogged down by them – is a great place to start.

  2. Balance is good. Lately I’ve started doing more blog tours, because those reviews are scheduled, and I discovered that if I didn’t have a scheduled post at least once a month, then it was a lot easier for me to neglect my blog when life gets busy. Having a little bit of pressure helps, even if it’s frustrating too. 🙂

  3. This is such as awesome post – you have me thinking about what I want my reading year to be like. This year I cut out reading what other bloggers recommended and mid-way through the year, I was happily surprised that I was gravitating towards mysteries. I did find though that I can’t read all the types of books I wanted – short story collections & dystopian books took a back seat, so next year, I want to read more of those.

  4. Good luck with your goals! I read whatever I wanted in 2013, too, and I really missed out on the new releases. Normally I have read a few of them but not this year! I want to revamp my reading in 2014, too, but I also want to pay attention to my books all ready on my shelf.

  5. This is a lovely post. I love the idea of themed reading months, although I’m not sure how I can make that work for me, since I do want to find a way to balance in galleys and stuff (which won’t often fit to a theme). I’ve been starting to think a bit about what I want my reading to be like in 2014. I was sort of miserable about keeping track of goals this year, but I think it’s because I set too many to start with. I’m leaning towards making 2014 the Year of My TBR, but I haven’t entirely decided what that means yet.

  6. Great post. I think we can all learn better ways to read. This past year I think i read too many books. I’m going to slow down now and read what I want, when I want. I hope this will stave off burn out. Good luck.

  7. Wow. This is how I want 2014 to be for me. I love reading to learn new things. It makes me feel like I’m being my best self. I hope next year turns out exactly the way you want it to.

  8. “Those months were amazing and focusing so closely on one topic made me feel like I was really learning something about a genre or a topic or a form.” YES. I love this too. I hope your 2014 reading is everything you hope for and more, dear Lu ❤

  9. I never thought to make a resolution about writing down quotes from every book, but that’s an excellent idea for a resolution. I started review posts with quotes for a while too and I liked it a lot. It makes it less easy for books to slip past and be forgotten.

  10. I love the idea of writing down a quote from every book you read – I don’t remember enough about most of the books I read to report anything 6 months later! And that’s a travesty.

  11. Great post! I tried tackling the 1001 Books list awhile back and felt the same way: I read a few “clunkers” (in my opinion) but felt like I had an obligation to continue along reading them so I could check them off the list. This year I decided that my reading goal was just going to be a number, no particular genres or publication dates or themes, and I liked it a lot better!

    I really love the idea of keeping quotes written down. I feel strange doing that about nonfiction books but even those have a specific line that I’d like to share later on.

  12. Great post! Balance is something I’ve started to struggle with as I reach the point where I’m more often approved for ARCs. I’d also love to have a more relaxed 2014 where I do some keeping up with the latest, some reading the classics, and some reading whatever I please. I hope your 2014 is as awesome as your plan sounds 🙂

  13. Very good post Lu! I like to have a balance of random reading & more focused ‘seminar style’ themes too. I think of it as unofficial grad school. 🙂

  14. Very interesting and thoughful post! I love reading for pleasure, but the are books that I’m glad I “force” myself to read because I learn something from them.

  15. It’s interesting how the way you read has changed throughout the years. I’ve just read whatever I wanted to read in the past, and this year’s the first time where I’m starting to read recommended books and books for challenges, like you did when you started blogging… and it’s harder to balance what I want to read and what I should read than I thought it would be. I really like your one quote per book idea, and I’m looking forward to seeing those in your future reviews! 😉

  16. I love this post because it mirrors so much my own struggle to have a balance between the fun stuff/what I want to read and important stuffwhat I think I should read. I started following and reading your blog precisely because of the great variety in your reading, and I look forward to continuing to follow you in 2014! (Also, love the one quote per book idea!)

  17. There are a number of quotes in this wonderful post that I would pull out to encourage some of my students who struggle with reading. I also love the Idea of writing down a quote from each book I read.

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