I love a resolution. A goal. A dream board I can sink my teeth into. This passion for planning makes the beginning of the year feel like its own kind of holiday. I set aside a sacred afternoon, pull out my colored pens, and fill in a crisp new passion planner with visions for the time ahead.
(Perhaps appropriately for this year, my planner has not arrived and I’m totally fine and absolutely not bothered or anxious by that at all.)
This year, I’m trying to be better about setting goals that are more fluid and flexible, celebratory rather than self-critical, and that attempt to honor both self-care and self-improvement simultaneously. Inevitability, a reading resolution always makes its way onto my list, but while the last five years I’ve set a hard number for myself to hit, this year I’m thinking about things a little differently.
Last year was both my best and one of my hardest reading years.
Best, in terms of numbers. I read more last year than I ever have. It was the first year I have ever hit, let alone exceeded, my reading goal for the year, and while I always try to think of it more as a guideline rather than a hard set number, I found this number still influencing what I choose to pick up — especially later in the year.
This year was also one of my hardest reading years because … 2020. With the stress of the unknown mounting throughout last year, I found it incredibly difficult, and even overwhelming at moments, to sit down and focus on a full storyline. Certain months I avoided fiction, I avoided nonfiction, I avoided anything that felt too emotional or heavy. Which meant I spent a lot of time reading YA, comics, and graphic novels in 2020, or just not reading at all. And as December dawned and I began thinking about 2021, I found myself asking why I was setting a reading goal at all. Was it for me or was it because everyone within the online book community set one? Was it actually helping me feel fulfilled as reader or was it spurring me to pick up books I knew I could read more quickly?
It didn’t take long to make a decision, and this year I’ve decided I don’t even want to join the number race at all.
For 2021, my broad reading goal is to continue delving into the unread books on my bookshelf — starting with the ones that have yellow, orange, or blue on the cover — and continuing not to buy new books for myself. I can’t tell if it’s having cover colors in the goal that’s making it feel fun, or the generalness that makes it feel breathable, but I’m already finding myself enjoying the change of pace.
What spurred this goal was noticing the pressure I’d started putting on myself last year to read and read quickly. I think in part this has been working in the social media space for so long, but I often feel like I’m sprinting from book to book to capture them all. To present them all online. All the new releases, all the prize winners, all the ones being fawned over by BookTubers — there is often a pressure to pick up books when they’re first hot in order to be a part of the conversation. But in this race-like behavior, it’s becoming more and more evident how much this mindset is hindering us as readers. For me personally, this has meant that I’m always reading with the next book in mind instead of enjoying, and taking the time to engage with the story in front of me. It’s also meant that I’ve shied away from bigger, denser, often more fulfilling books, in order for ones I can get through quickly.
Over the past two years, I have had pretty firm “no book buying” ban in an attempt to work through all the unread books in my home. And yet, thanks to very generous gifts for my birthdays and packages from publishers I’ve been working, I’ve somehow increased the number of unread books to, give or take, 120 …
Due to how many books I have around, and often the goal number I set during the year, I’ve placed focus on the destination rather than the activity of reading itself. What I’ll read next to reach the golden 50 rather than the pleasure of sinking into a chapter of an outrageously long book and letting it takeover every thought.
So many of the unread books on my shelves are obscure and older. Their conversations have well since passed in the New York Times, or they never had their moment in the mainstream sunlight at all. And this year, I’d really like to spend quality time with them and remember what excited me about their summaries and covers in the first place. I sound a bit like a workaholic father having a moment of reckoning and coming home to reconnect with his family, don’t I? Well don’t you worry my book children, 2021 is our year of having all the time in the world together.
To start this year I am currently spending time with writer John Berendt learning about Venetian culture, history, and the Fenice fire of 1996 in “The City of Falling Angels.” I love it, it somehow feels even more delightful to pick it up years later and read it in a different decade. I’m so curious about how it’s put together as a book, but also learning about the heartbeat of this city I’m now determined to visit. And I’m doing it all at my own pace.
So if I may offer a tiny piece of advice, make your resolutions for you. The resolutions and goals on social media or that are popular amongst others might not be the right fit for you, and that’s more than okay. Let your resolutions bring you joy and speak to your happiness because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
So here’s to making resolutions that fit just right, that bring us home to ourselves, or to no resolutions at all. Whatever your pace may be, it’s exactly the right pace for you, and how delicious is it to honor ourselves during a time when that’s just so difficult to do?
Happy 2021 dear reader, here’s hoping it’s one for the books — in a good way.
PS. If you’re looking to follow along with the books I do read throughout the year, I share them on my Instagram account GirlsGotThoughts.