I’m not a New Year’s resolutions person. Most of the hard-and-fast “resolutions “ I’ve made in the past have been broken before January is out (I suspect I am not alone in this). Hard-and-fast rules, especially for my leisure time, don’t work for me; it’s hard for me to stick with them and I feel like a failure when I inevitably break them. Instead I try to focus on principles that I want to guide my actions over the coming year and try to abide by them.
When it comes to my reading life in 2017 I’ll be sticking to some of my standbys (reading diversely, reading mostly women, and completing the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge), but I’ll also be trying something new: embracing big books and disregarding “my number.”
A few yeas ago, once I finished grad school and managed to get myself gainfully employed, I suddenly realized I actually had time to read! For fun! I started out small, just reading whatever I wanted whenever I had the chance. Then I realized I could finish a book a week. Then I realized I could read more. I joined Goodreads and set myself a reading challenge. I began to closely monitor the number of books I read. Things started to get … competitive.
In 2015 I rounded out the year with an intensely-irritating 79 books, and vowed that in 2016, I’d make it at least to 80. This, of course, is nowhere near as many books as many of my fellow Rioters (or many other voracious readers) read in a year, but this never bothered me. My competitiveness has never really been outwardly-focused; I don’t care too much about doing better than Person X or Y. In addition to blogging, I have a full-time job that requires a total of 1.5 hours of daily commuting, personal writing projects, and a passion for television almost as strong as my love of books. I also have a partner, friends, family, and all the usual home maintenance. I am also, in all honesty, not a particularly fast reader. I know there are definite limitations on how much time I can devote to reading. It’s competition with myself that can (and did) get out of control.
I don’t regret (almost) any of the books I read last year. I broadened my reading horizons and enjoyed some truly fantastic stories. What I do regret, though, is that to a certain extent I let my race to the finish line dictate the books I read. For every few great books I read, there was another I passed on because I thought it might take longer to finish and thus slow me down in the race against myself. I have always loved a thick, juicy read — long books, dense plots, dizzying and sometimes complicated prose, but I avoided those more and more as last year progressed. I found myself turning away from longer articles or fics because they wouldn’t “count” for my number. I enjoyed reading but in the back of my head it was also a little like a test, of both speed and endurance.
This year I am saying goodbye to all that. This year, I’m going to stop worrying about my number. I’m going to embrace big books. I’m not going to only read big books, but I’m not going to shy away from them either. This year, I’m going to stop competing against myself.