Life is busy. Between work and family and friends, we all have countless commitments that are scrambling to suck up all of our free time. If we aren’t careful, reading time gets broken up and given away to other tasks. Before you know it, one day you stop and think Wow! When was the last time I sat down and read a book? If you’re a big reader like I am, this is a sad thought and one that I’ve had in the past when life has gotten too hectic. Setting a reading goal each year helps keep me from finding myself in this place. Since it is January, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some tips for setting such a goal.
Tips for setting a reading goal:
- Figure out what you want to accomplish. There are a lot of reasons to set a reading goal each year. Whether you simply want to read more than you have in the past or if you have more specific goal in mind, think about what you want to accomplish with your goal. It could be something as simple as “I will read one novel every month” or as complex as “I will read 5 novels from authors I’ve never read before, 5 novels by women, and 5 novels from authors from outside of the US.”
- You goal doesn’t have to include a set number of books you want to read. Many people have no clue how many books they read over the course of the year and they have desire to track it. That is fine. Having a goal to read more short fiction or to try an author you’ve never read before is just as constructive as having a goal with a set number attached.
- Your reading goal can help you expand your horizons. There is a big push right now to read more diverse books. I am all for this, setting a personal goal to read more fiction by writers outside of the US. It’s a good way to explore the world around us, and I’ve fallen in love with several writers’ work who I may never have experienced if I hadn’t been consciously looking for non-US authors.
- But it doesn’t have to. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t want to go consciously looking for books or writers that are different from what they already read. There are people who are looking for one specific type of book. That is what they like to read and they don’t want to move out of that zone. And you know what? That’s okay. Your reading goal is personal. It should reflect what you want to get out of your year of reading. Setting a goal that is going to zap the fun out of reading or that will make the selection process beyond uncomfortable for you will only cause you to stop reading, and that is not the point of setting a goal.
- Keep your goal realistic and have a stretch goal. When you set goals for yourself you want to set it at a level that will push you to do more than you’re currently doing, but that is also obtainable. What is obtainable is different for everyone. If you are hard pressed for time and don’t have much to spare on reading, then it’s possible that 12 books for the year is a good goal for you. But if you are a voracious reader and consistently read 100+ books a year, setting your goal at 12 is silly. My personal goal each year is to read 80 books. This is a realistic goal for me, but one that isn’t easy obtained. Most years, when I tally up the books I’ve read, my total falls somewhere between 70 and 80. That’s why I set my goal at 80, to push myself to read just a little bit more than I would typically. On top of having a main goal, it’s always a good idea to give yourself a stretch goal to work towards if you hit your first goal early in the year. My stretch goal is 100 books. I’ve only ever hit that once, but man, did it ever feel good.
- Your goal can be financially based. I have a book buying problem. I buy WAY more books than I could ever read and my house looks a little like a very disorganized library. Actually, my older daughter’s friends treat my house like a disorganized library, borrowing books constantly. I love this about my house, and moments spent browsing bookstores finding new treasures to bring home are among some of my favorites, but there are times when I look around my house and think about all the money I would have saved if I hadn’t bought some of the countless books I haven’t had the chance to read yet. When those thoughts strike, that’s when I set a goal to read the books I already own, rather than going out and buying more. It’s a grand goal – MIGHTY in its good intentions! – but, sadly, this is often the easiest reading goal for me to break.
- Set smaller reading goals to go alongside your main goal. My main reading goal is always focused on the total number of books I read each year, but alongside this, I also set smaller goals having to do with what types of books I’d like to read. (I already mentioned my goal to read more writers from outside the US.) These small goals can be anything and can sometimes be very specific, but all of them help me read a wider variety of books. Some smaller goals that I’ve had in the past include: read more short fiction, discover a new small press, use the local library more, try audiobooks, buy a subscription to a fiction magazine.
- Not reaching your goal is not a failure. You’ll notice that I’ve stayed away from the word resolution in this post. I don’t like resolutions. Resolutions are meant to be broken. People make them and break them on a yearly basis. Goals are meant to be monitored and realigned. If something isn’t working for you, you can change it and keep going. There is no failure. If you keep your goals realistic, even if you don’t hit your goal, you should be close. That’s fantastic! Start the new year pumped to try again! If you’re way off, then maybe your goal wasn’t as realistic as you thought it was and it’s time to realign it and keep going.
The point of setting a reading goal is to make sure that you make reading a priority and don’t let it get brushed aside in the chaos of day to day life. Because it is important. Just like exercise is good for your body, reading is good for your brain. It can reduce stress and make you a happier person. If you set a goal that doesn’t work for you, then it will end up being discouraging and could possibly make you read less than you were before you set a goal. Have fun with it. Set smaller goals that keep you excited. And discover whole new worlds within the pages of a book!
If you goal is to read more short fiction, why not pick up a copy of Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1, which I co-edited with Jason Sizemore. Covering the first six years of Apex Magazine, Best of Apex Magazine collects together the award winning/nominated stories, those selected as Story of the Year by our readers, and personal favorites chosen by Jason and I. With stories by Ursula Vernon, Ken Liu, Rich Larson, Rachel Swirsky, and more, this anthology brings you science fiction, fantasy, and horror that is strange, beautiful, shocking, and surreal. They are stories that made me cry and the ones that made me smile, and I think they could do the same for you.
Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel, The Weight of Chains, was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015.
Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing.
She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter.