It’s a familiar story. On New Year’s Day, we put together a long list of resolutions: things we plan to accomplish or improve over the next twelve months.
By February, because we’re human and stuff happens, most of us (your humble scribe included) will have abandoned that list.
A lot of readers declare that they’re going to read X number of books in the new year, or work their way through their TBR (to be read) pile, or check out some of the classics. And quite a few readers end up kicking themselves if they don’t meet those goals.
We all love reading, don’t we? So why can it be so hard to accomplish any reading-related resolutions at New Year’s, or at any other time of the year?
I think a lot of us fall into the trap of looking at our TBR pile as being like that pile of laundry that needs to be folded and put away, or the boxes of junk in the garage or attic that we need to sort through. The TBR pile becomes another chore on a long list of things that we need to do, and the longer it sits, the more it nags at us in the back of our minds.
Additionally, I think that for a lot of us readers, setting specific reading goals feels too much like being back in elementary school doing book reports, or back in high school trying to Cliffs’ Notes our way through that one heavyweight classic for English class. In other words, trying to keep up with our reading feels too much like doing homework.
Reading in your spare time should be fun and enjoyable. It shouldn’t feel like a chore; you probably have enough actual chores on your plate as it is.
Here are a few tips and pieces of advice to help you keep on top of your reading resolutions for 2024 and beyond.
- If a book doesn’t sing to you, there is no shame in a DNF (did not finish). It doesn’t matter if it’s on the New York Times Bestseller List, or if it made the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, or if it’s the book that your book club is raving about. Just put the book aside and move on to a book that does sing to you.
- Read what you love and potentially stray outside of your genre to test new tropes and sub-genres
- If your favorite genres and authors are the ones that the critics and your fellow book club members turn their noses up at, ignore the naysayers. Read your favorites without shame or guilt. You like cozy mysteries? Cozy away. You’re fond of recent historical mysteries set in the world of Jane Austen? Be as Austen-tacious as you like!
- Audiobooks are reading! There is no better feeling than picking out an audiobook, sliding on your headphones, and getting lost in a story while competition other tasks. Especially for those with busy schedules or long routes home from work, audiobooks are a must if you want to diversify your reading journey
- Get yourself some nice book swag. You know what I’m talking about: every bookstore has at least one shelf that’s full of fancy bookmarks, little clip-on reading lights, stick-on bookplates, and book journals.
- Speaking of book journals: For many readers, journals are a good way of keeping track of what books they like to read, or read once and didn’t like. And a lot of journals have note sections where you can write about how much you wanted to give that one really annoying character a slap upside the head. The thing about book journals, however, is that a lot of them have blanks to put in WHEN you read it. If a lot of time passes in between entries, if you’re like me, you may start kicking yourself for not regularly updating the journal. My advice: Ignore the date section if you need to.
- Set aside a designated spot where you can curl up and read, if you wish, and see that it has a comfortable chair and maybe an end table. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top or expensive: just a space that works for you, and fits within your budget and living space. If your favorite spot to read happens to be someplace public, like a local coffee shop, the park, the library, or public transportation, that’s fine too.
- Get a group of supportive and like-minded friends together to compare notes on what everyone’s reading. You might get some good ideas on books to check out next, or someone might like to check out one of your favorite books for themselves.
- The one-chapter-per-day approach is something we always recommend for those book lovers who have wild schedules and priorities they need to take care of throughout the day. Don’t stress about the ‘amount’ of books you’re reading. Rather focus on the act of reading itself. One chapter a day may not seem like a lot, but it goes a long way toward building a consistent reading habit
Don’t beat up on yourself if you fall behind on your reading. Again, we’re all human, and life gets in the way sometimes. Books are shelf stable (so to speak!). They don’t go bad; they’ll just bide their time until you’re ready to pick them up.
Have a happy new year of reading!
What to Read Next
Erin Roll is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. Her favorite genres to read are mystery, science fiction, and fantasy, and her TBR pile is likely to be visible on Google Maps. Before becoming an editor, Erin worked as a journalist and photographer, and she has won far too many awards from the New Jersey Press Association. Erin lives at the top floor of a haunted house in Montclair, NJ. She enjoys reading (of course), writing, hiking, kayaking, music, and video games.