Tips and Tricks for Doing a Reading Year-in-Review

Every year, in the week between Christmas and New Years, I throw myself a Reading Year-in-Review Party. It's one of my most beloved reading rituals. Every morning, I get in my cozy clothes, make a pot of tea, and snuggle up with my spreadsheets for a few hours. It's become a seasonal ritual I cherish and a bridge between one year and the next. It's geeky and wonderful and super intense.

Everyone, no matter what kind of reader you are, can benefit from a ritual like this. You don't have to spend a whole week doing it. It can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. I guarantee that the act of setting aside some time — an hour, an evening, a week — to reflect on your reading will change your reading life for the better. If you've never done it before, you might be surprised by how fun and powerful it can be. Read on for some tips, tricks, and suggestions for throwing your own reading year-in-review party!

Pick a Time and Place — And Make it Fun!

I know not everyone has the luxury of taking a whole week off from work, and I also know that a reading year-in-review does not have to be a week long! The time and place don't matter as long as it feels exciting and meaningful to you. You could set aside the last day of December, the day after Christmas, the second Saturday of the month. Take yourself to the library or your favorite coffee shop! The thing that has worked best for me is treating my annual reading review as an event. It's not just a nebulous thing I'm doing throughout the month but an activity with start and end times. This makes it feel special but also less overwhelming.

Assess Your Goals

I split my reading review into two main sections: assessing this year's reading and planning next year's. I set reading goals every year, and while I continually check in on them throughout the year, I really delve into the stats during my annual review. This isn't an opportunity to determine whether my reading was successful or not. It's about gathering information and getting curious. Did I accomplish any of my reading goals? If not, why not? If yes, was it satisfying? What surprised me? What was easy and fun about the year's reading, and what was hard? I ask as many questions as I can.

What's so fun for me about this process — and what makes it useful — is that it isn't a rote ticking of boxes. It's reflecting deeply on my reading, using both the stats on my spreadsheet and my own knowledge of what my reading felt like. Say I set a goal to read 20 books in translation, and I only read 5. Instead of simply noting I didn't accomplish this goal and transferring it over to the new year, I dig into it. Was it because I got super excited about some other kind of book? Was it because I was really depressed and spent three months rereading romances? Was it because I didn't have the budget to buy books and my library didn't have the ones I was most excited about?

Figuring out why I did or didn't meet a goal helps me determine if that goal is serving me, if I should try it again, ditch it, or change it. When I take the time to think critically about my reading habits and my goals, I always learn something new. It makes me a better (and happier) reader.

Look Forward & Get Excited

Once you've taken stock of your reading goals for the year, you can look ahead to the next year. This is my favorite part! I set up my new reading spreadsheet, I make new lists, I set new goals, I join new reading challenges. There are a million different ways you can do all of these things, of course, but however you do it, I think looking ahead is as important as looking back. If you're like me, thinking about all the books you want to read is a pleasure in itself. Most book lovers I know delight in book-related activities like this: adding to our TBRs, placing library holds, pouring through recommendations we've saved from friends, etc. A lot of the time, all these things get in the way of reading. But during my annual review, they're the main event.

Incorporate a Physical/Tactile Element

Last fall, I cataloged all my books, and it taught me a lot. Now, I have a complicated shelving system that works perfectly for me. One of the things this new system has led to is a massive reshelving event in December. Throughout the year, I put all the books I've read on a single shelf in my bedroom. At the end of the year, I sort them all. Some get shelved into their permanent homes. Some get donated to Little Free Libraries. Some I send off to friends. Some go on my shelf of beloveds.

There's something very satisfying about the physicalness of this task. It's a small way to reset for the new year. It feels refreshing and exciting. I'm making space — literally — for a whole new year of reading. My shelving/shorting system might not work for you, but if you're also someone who enjoys tactile projects, it's a lot of fun to incorporate one into your year in review. It can be as simple as going through your shelves and picking out some books to give away or as complicated as reorganizing your whole library.

Clear Out Your TBR!

My TBR is endless, and if you're the kind of reader who's excited about doing a reading year in review, it's likely that yours is, too. A few years ago, I started doing a TBR overhaul as part of my reading review. Friends, it's changed my life. I have many TBR lists: saved Instagram posts, a Goodreads to-read shelf, various folders of audiobooks on different audiobook apps, Bookshop wishlists, favorites lists on my library system's website. Every year in December, I go through all of these lists. I clear out all my saved Instagram posts, transferring the books there, depending on how I plan to read them, to my other TBR lists. I look through all my saved audiobooks and delete the ones I'm no longer interested in reading. Basically, I clean house.

The point isn't to reduce my TBR (impossible) but to start the new year with a TBR list I'm genuinely excited about. It's just another way to get revved up for a new year of books.

Do Your Year in Review in Community (Whatever That Means to You)

A few years ago, someone I follow on Bookstagram introduced me to what I'll call the Numbers Game, for lack of a better word. You put up a question box in your stories and ask your followers to pick a number in a range representing how many books you read that year (e.g., 1-97). Then, for each number picked, you share a little bit about the book it corresponds to. I've been doing this every December for a few years now, and it's such a joy. It's so fun to randomly revisit what I read. Plus, it feels communal and festive.

If you're part of a book club, you could devote December's meeting to reflecting on the year's reading. You could team up with a friend to do a tandem year-in-review or make it a family tradition. Last year, I started talking about my reading spreadsheet with a Bookstagram friend, and we ended up sharing our spreadsheets and tweaking them slightly based on each other's ideas and systems. There are so many ways to share your year in review with others.

If you're looking for more tips and tricks for doing a reading review and setting goals, check out Kelly Jensen's awesome piece on how to audit your reading life. You also might be interested in reading resolutions you'll actually keep, the joys of setting lifelong reading goals, and ideas for bookish New Year's resolutions.