Why I'm Not Doing a Reading Resolution This Year
Usually on the last week of December I’m trying to decide what the next year’s reading resolution is going to be. I’ve set one every year since 2014, but this year I realized something: I’ve pretty much failed EVERY SINGLE ONE.
Last year I said I wanted to read more classics again since I’d all but given up on them after being an English major and being forced to read them for so long. Namely, I wanted to read Anna Karenina and although I did end up reading 101 books last year, that was the one I never seemed to get around to. Since I never felt in the mood to read Anna Karenina, I figured I should at least aim for a high numerical goal, which is how I got to 101 books.
The year before that my resolution was to not buy any new books in order to incentivize me to read the books I already owned. I lasted 3.5 months and was miserable! Sure, I used the library for the books I wanted but couldn’t buy, but even the most well-funded library has holes in its collection and if you’re the 134th person on the holds list, it’s safe to say you may not get the book for several months, if not a year. Plus, libraries cater to what the majority of people want, so they're not always the best at keeping indie press titles in stock. During this time, I kept a list of books I wanted and eventually gave into my temptation.
The years before that I set numerical goals—I wanted to read more books than I did the year before. That's how I went from reading 35 books to 48, then 60, then 77, to now 101. That was a goal I was able to keep, for the most part, but I realized that setting high numerical goals incentivizes you to read shorter books. While I’m a believer in brevity, since less is often more, but I don’t want to tell myself I can’t read a doorstopper because it’ll throw me off my reading resolution track. Or, I don’t want to read a doorstopper of a book then feel like I have to compensate with a bunch of poetry and comics to get myself back on schedule.
So for this year I was struggling to come up with a reading resolution, but there’s one thing I realized by thinking about the previous years’ resolutions: sometimes having resolutions helps you, but sometimes they stress you out and hold you back.
My reading resolutions have sometimes been helpful because they've encouraged me to push my limits and prioritize my reading in ways that I didn't do or wasn't able to do until I was out of college. In addition to reading more books, they've challenged me to explore new genres and diversify my bookshelves with more women and people of color.
But sometimes they've also held me back. Not buying books was not only demoralizing, it also meant I didn't support the authors whose work I valued and I spent more time thinking about what books I wanted rather than reading what I already had. And sometimes my reading resolutions caused me to ignore certain genres and books of a certain length because I was more worried about my goal than I was actually reading what I wanted.
And the beautiful thing about not being in school anymore is that no one is telling me what to read. So once I realized the reading resolutions I set weren't always in service of my larger goals and love of literature, it seemed silly to impose arbitrary rules on myself.
When it comes right down to it, I think the most important thing reading resolutions have done for me is that they've forced me to build habits that have helped my reading life. Like the fact that I now always read two books at once (one print and one audio) and once I finish one, I know exactly what I'm going to read next. Just that alone has helped me work so much more reading into my day.
Nowadays, I don't really need a resolution to make myself read. I can trust myself to read on my own because it doesn't feel like a chore––it's just a part of my day that I greatly enjoy.
Because of that, I'm taking a year off from reading resolutions. I'm just going to read whatever strikes my fancy, regardless of length or how many books I end up reading at the end of the year. I'm not saying I'll never do another reading resolution again, because I do think they're helpful if you set goals in alignment with where you want your reading life to go, but I'm going to pass on one for this year.
However, I'm curious what your reading goals are! Let me know in the comments below.