This is a post I wrote about a year ago, but I think these six reading goal ideas stand the test of time. I’m excited about wrapping up my 50 books for 2016 and starting in on some really exciting things for 2017! If you want to read this post as it was published in 2016, click here. Other than that, the only information I’ve changed is the introduction and the dates.
Often times people ask me how I decide which books to read, or how I go about picking the books for my annual goal. Well, that’s a complicated question with a long answer that I’d love to discuss with you over coffee some time. But if you’re looking ahead to 2017 and hoping to add “read more” to your list of resolutions, I thought I’d share six types of reading goal that might be helpful. Some of them might not work for you, but hopefully one of them will. By this time next year, who knows what you might have read! I’ve also included some sample goals in italics so you can see what each of these would look like on paper.
Goal #1: Set a number of books you’d like to read.
There are several ways to accomplish this. You could just pick an arbitrary number. I’d like to read fifteen books in 2017. In 2017 I will read five new books. That works perfectly fine. Or, you could set a number based on the months of the year. Aim to read twelve new books. That gives you four weeks to focus on each book as you read. Maybe you’re ambitious and you’d like to read two or three books a month. That will really get your total number up!
I chose fifty books a few years ago because it averages out to about a book a week. That seems crazy sometimes, but it works out pretty well and gives me space to reread old favorites while still feeling like I’ve read plenty of new books by the end of the year. In short, pick whatever number works best for you.
Goal #2: Read Archaeologically
This is a concept I came across in Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. She selects an author she would like to learn more about and begins reading their most recent work. Then she works her way backwards in time to their earliest pieces. This would work really well if you are interested in poetry or classic novels. It’s neat to see how someone’s writing style and subject matter change over time. Plus, by the end of the year you will have read all of the books written by a certain author, which is a huge accomplishment. This type of goal also gives some cohesion to your year. Instead of reading twenty randomly selected books, you have a purpose and a reason for moving from book to book. In 2017 I will read all of Walt Whitman’s poetry. In 2017 I will read all of Tim Keller’s books.
Goal #3: Read Fat
Usually our New Year’s Resolutions never include the word “fat,” but this time, it works! This is another concept I borrowed from Twyla Tharp. She discusses how she researches a topic by “reading fat.” In other words, she chooses a topic she would like to learn more about, and then she reads everything she can on that topic. From magazine articles to scholarly texts to novels, this is a great goal to set if you want to know more about a certain topic. In 2017 I will read everything I can about William Shakespeare. In 2017 I will learn as much as possible about the city of Venice.
Goal #4: Don’t Just Read Books
This might seem counterintuitive, but there are a lot of reading options out there besides books. Maybe your goal is to read a certain section of the Newspaper every day, or maybe you want to make it through all of those magazines that just pile up. Setting a reading goal doesn’t have to be about Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky. There are lots of great blogs, web magazines, and news articles out there to be read. That counts! In 2017 I will read the Politics section of the New York Times each day. In 2017 I will read the Wall Street Journal once a week. In 2017 I will read every issue of People Magazine with Kate Middleton on the cover.
Goal #5: Challenge Yourself
In 2017, try taking something big or scary and splitting it up into little chunks. This is a great way to challenge yourself in a manageable way. You don’t have to read all of Crime and Punishment at one time, and nobody expects you to muscle through Les Miserables in a week! It is always good to read something that challenges you in new ways. Is there a book you’ve always wanted to read, but never did? What about those books collecting dust in the attic? Maybe you only skimmed The Great Gatsby in high school and you’re ready to tackle it head on. In 2017 I will read one chapter of War and Peace each night until I finish the book. In 2017 I will read five books that were written before 1900. Challenging yourself to read things you wouldn’t normally read is a great way of stimulating your brain and opening yourself up to new ideas.
Goal #6: Consider Your Options
Just like you don’t have to set a goal of reading only novels or plays, make sure you consider your options when it comes to reading materials. Kindle e-books and audiobooks are also a great way to digest a good story. If you travel for work or have a long commute, audiobooks might be a great way to still read. And this goal goes hand in hand with the others. Maybe you want to listen archeologically, or listen to a challenging book written a long time ago. That’s a worthy goal, too! In 2017 I will listen to one new audiobook each month. In 2017 I will finally read all of the books I’ve downloaded to my Kindle but haven’t actually started.
Whatever your goal is—whether it’s one of these six, none of these six, or some strange combination of them, make it your own! Don’t feel like you have to read all of Tolstoy’s books in 365 days. If you’re not excited about your goal, chances are you won’t accomplish it. Whatever you decide, I’d love to hear about it! Make your ultimate goal to read more in 2017. And check back this week when I share some really cool, FREE printables to help you meet your 2017 goal!