Reading Goals

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2015 was the first year I made any real concerted effort to track my reading habits. After having torched my Goodreads account a few years ago, I confess I came crawling back because I simply could not let go of the shelving function, flawed as it was. (Goodreads, I wish I could quit you!)

Kelly and I gave our Recommended Reads in last week’s podcast episode and looking back at my year in reading, I was slightly appalled by how, well, homogeneous my list looked. In the episode, Kelly and I did touch on how our reading tastes have shifted (and possibly calcified) as we have aged, how working in publishing has changed how much of a fair shot we give new books (spoiler: not as much as we used to), what genres and categories we prefer, etc.

Being incredibly specific with what you like to read helps you in a publishing career because it helps you understand niches in an already-incredibly specialized market, but now that I am two years past having worked the editorial desk, I wonder if that mentality hasn’t taken a slight toll on my reading habits. As a young child I was a voracious reader, voracious and indiscriminate. I read anything and everything. Not just books: I read short stories in the Highlights magazine, the Sunday funnies, articles in Time, those slim National Geographic nonfiction paperbacks about whales, etc.

But as I grew older, my reading tastes narrowed. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing; knowing what you like to read and why is an incredibly useful thing in both publishing and writing. However, while my number of books read is incredibly high, the number of genres, authors of color, LGBTQIA+ authors, disabled authors, etc. is not. I have read 1.5 nonfiction books this year (not including a collection of personal essays, which was a reread). The vast majority of the authors on my list are white. While I am a supporter of diverse voices in fiction, I have done a terrible job of putting my money where my mouth is.

Book Riot and the New York Public Library both have a 2016 Read Harder Challenge. I like the idea of challenging myself to read harder, and not just harder—to read broader. Next year I am going to challenge myself to read outside my comfort zone, and to better support marginalized voices. Author and blogger Dahlia Adler has several lists of recommendations that I think are a great place for me to start:

  1. #OwnVoices in Neurodiversity and Disability
  2. 2016-2017 YAs by Authors of Color
  3. Jewish MG/NA/YA Authors
  4. LGBTQIAP+ Books By and About People who Identify as LGBTQIAP+
  5. A list of Authors of Color and white LGBTQIA+, Authors compiled by Fizzle Reads!

What about you? Do any of you have reading goals? Do you track your reading? If so, what metrics do you track? Let us know in the comments!

17 Responses to Reading Goals

  1. David Dec 18 2015 at 8:11 am #

    I have tracked my reading habits for many years. It is a good way to determine not only how many books one reads each year, but trends in one’s reading habits.

    Having said that, I will not be participating in the 2016 Read Harder Challenge. I pick books to read based upon reviews, recommendations, the author, and yes, even the title or the cover art.

    I am not going to read a book simply because the author is Jewish, black, or their sexual orientation, nor will I exclude reading a book for those reasons.

    I will not read a book simply because it is over 500 pages or under 100 pages. I read what appeals to me, regardless of length or who or what the author is.

    • JJ
      JJ Dec 18 2015 at 8:29 am #

      No one is saying you should read anything if you don’t want to read said book. However, I am going to make a concerted effort to read outside my comfort zone, which unfortunately happens to include mostly straight white authors.

  2. David Dec 18 2015 at 8:39 am #

    I have never had a comfort or “uncomfortable” zone when it comes to reading. I do not care if the author is white, black, Hispanic, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, gay or straight. A good book is a good book and I will read them all regardless of the age, race, gender or religion of the author.

    What I find interesting about tracking the books I read is the habits I get into when reading. I will read several non-fiction books in a row, then perhaps several collection of short stories, then several novels, etc. I find it interesting to look back at the end of the year and see what I read and how many books I have read during the year.

    I have a goal of reading 40 to 50 books per year. Some years I achieve my goal, other years I do not. Amazon is my best friend and the Fed-Ex lady says I preserve her job security with all the deliveries to my home. Glad to know I am helping grow the economy (LOL).

    • JJ
      JJ Dec 18 2015 at 8:48 am #

      I do not care about the author’s background either, but there are authors out there who write in genres and categories I gravitate toward (YA fantasy) that are not white, straight, etc. I have not made a greater effort to seek them out, and that is what I am trying to correct in 2016.

      I don’t have a number of books to read, although I would like to hit 100 books read. I am so close this year!

  3. Kelly
    Kelly Dec 18 2015 at 8:41 am #

    I had similar thoughts about the stark sameness of my own reading this past year after we recorded that podcast episode. I’m committed to doing Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge in 2016 and love the categories you’ve singled out here as well, and will likely fold them in to my own goals. I’m excited to both push beyond my comfort genres and also find new, diverse voices to read within those comfort genres.

  4. Mark Holtzen Dec 18 2015 at 9:15 am #

    Love your honest posts, JJ. My college age neighbor was just saying she’s trying to read more women of color authors as she’s a woman of color. She found she was reading only white dudes.

    I don’t track my reads well. I put things on Goodreads when I think of it, but we read so many children’s books in the house (from the library and our strong collection of indie bookstores in Seattle) that I don’t record many of them. I do like the idea of searching lists for perspectives I don’t consciously seek out. It seems a responsible thing to do, like being aware of the limits of your social circles. When is more empathy a bad thing?

    I read “An Unnecessary Woman” by Rabih Alameddine a couple months ago. That’s a good example of a Powell’s Books rec list influencing my reading. It was beautiful with amazing voice and gave me a perspective I hadn’t experienced. Also, “Gracefully Grayson” was an engaging middle grade read about a boy who yearns to wear dresses and be his true self. (though I realize the first is about a middle eastern woman written by a male author, and the other by a female author about a boy)

    These books, as well as your post, inspire me to look outside my comfort reads more often. Thanks for the lists and thoughts to do so further.

    • JJ
      JJ Dec 18 2015 at 9:56 am #

      Tracking reads is definitely hard! Part of the reason I didn’t track mine until this year was because I was lazy about it. 🙂

      And I agree that more empathy is a good thing. Good luck with your reading goals!

  5. Amanda Dec 18 2015 at 9:50 am #

    I came back to books this year after several years of a forced hiatus (working waaaay too much). I wanted to devour all the things! But the Goodreads year in review made me notice the same thing – earlier this year I was trying to be broad, but now it’s December, and I’ve read mostly YA Fantasy by white authors….I think 2 nonfiction books? (And that was before May). This is a great post, I want to do the same thing next year now that my reading muscles feel revived! 🙂

    • JJ
      JJ Dec 18 2015 at 9:57 am #

      I’ve also noticed a dearth of nonfiction books read this year, which is really sad because I really enjoy nonfiction! Good luck with your reading goals!

  6. Carrie Dec 18 2015 at 10:08 am #

    I track my reading on both GoodReads and LibraryThing (I had a LibraryThing account years before the GoodReads, but I like seeing what my friends are reading too), and I look back at the end of the year to see what sort of things I’ve read. This year I started tracking what I read by authors of color, because after reading a lot about the lack of diversity in publishing, I really noticed how very white my reading was. Keeping track has really helped me to diversify my reading and introduced me to new authors that I now love!

    One thing that I like about the Read Harder challenge is that it breaks me out of my genre ruts – I never would have read a book of poetry this year if it hadn’t been on the list for example, and I don’t think I’ve read a horror book (one of next year’s tasks) since a Stephen King book in high school! I find it fun to expand my horizons. I read a lot (hoping to make it to 100 books this year – at 97 now), so there is plenty of space in my reading to both read my tried and true favorite types of books and try something new.

    • JJ
      JJ Dec 18 2015 at 10:11 am #

      I agree about having these challenges break you out of reading ruts. I’m in one right now, so I look forward to 2016!

      I am ALSO trying to reach 100 books this year. I’m counting on Christmas break for interrupted reading time. 😉

  7. Alexa S. Dec 18 2015 at 11:11 am #

    I’ve got to admit, I’m slightly obsessive about keeping track of my reading! It started in 2011 when I first joined Goodreads, and I haven’t stopped since. While initially it was merely the number of books/pages I focused on, I’m now working on trying to make sure I read a broader range of things. For 2016, I’m still doing the Goodreads reading challenge, but I’m also doing a fantasy reading challenge (that I’m hosting!) and the Popsugar reading challenge. Plus, I have some personal goals (read more classics!) that I’d like to meet too 😉

    • JJ
      JJ Dec 18 2015 at 11:13 am #

      Ooh, a fantasy reading challenge! (Fantasy is my jam.) Good luck with that, and with meeting your reading goals!

  8. Mona AlvaradoFrazier Dec 18 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    When I read Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge I thought I might join, but the categories (for me) were too confining. I have participated in the GoodReads challenges for four years now. Tracking my reading is important because I want to make sure I’m not spending more time on mindless T.V or scrolling my phone.

    For several years, I’ve sought out writers of color and enjoy exploring different cultures, languages and settings. I read more from writers of color than not.

    I don’t buy books based solely on a writer’s ethnicity but if the book is from a writer of color I will give it a second look. The quality of the writing and how it resonates with me is important in the purchasing.

  9. K Dec 21 2015 at 11:41 am #

    My reading pattern is so sad. I only got through 7 books this year and one of them is a Harry Potter book I’ve already read in high school. I tried reading more books with non white main characters since I’m an Asian woman but even that didn’t get me to finish them. I’m not saying that they were bad books nor that books with white characters were better. I’m just getting so fed up with books that are written in a certain way.

  10. David Dec 21 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    This was a down year for me as well. I only read about 12 books this year. I just finished Tenth of December by George Saunders. Several of the stories were pretty deep and I re-read them two or three times.

    I have one more book I hope to finish before the end of the year. I read most of two books for school, but I don’t count those since we did not read all of the chapters.

    One was a collection of Raymond Carver stories (Library of America edition) which was fantastic. We spent a quarter studying nothing but Carver stories. It was great. The other book was a craft book on flash non-fiction.

    I hope to do better next year.

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