I've always considered myself a great reader and with three kids under 10, I spend a lot of my reading time with them. So while I feel like my picture book consumption is great, I know my own personal reading has slipped lately.
At the start of 2019, I set a goal to read 52 books for the year. I use Goodreads to track my reading and I had been averaging 30-40 a year previously. Fifty-two felt ambitious, but I started the year with a two-month-old who spent hours sleeping in my arms and I needed something to do (besides watching Family Feud reruns) during all those long hours.
Today marks the last day of 2019 and I'm proud to say I met my goal--and then some. I actually hit 52 in early summer and then decided to go for 100 (I ended with 102 books read this year). Along the way, I learned a few things worth sharing. So if you've made a resolution to make 2020 your best reading year yet, take note:
1. The Kindle app helped me increase my reading time. I've always been a "real" book devotee, but I read way more on my Kindle this year. It's much easier to turn pages on a Kindle while rocking a baby than in a "real" book. By using the Kindle app, I was able to sneak in reading time when I wouldn't normally read--like while standing in line at the grocery store, while waiting for my kids to get out of school or while waiting in a doctor's office.
2. Speaking of increased reading time, this year I changed my perspective on reading time. In the past, I've always saved my reading time for the end of the day. I was too busy to read any other time. But this year, I was much more open to reading all day long. Reading a few pages before jumping out of bed, getting in a chapter while I ate my lunch or even reading at the park while the kids played all helped me increase my overall reading time.
3. Libby makes virtual library runs very, very convenient. Before 2019, I never took advantage of my library's virtual Overdrive system, but this year I dove in head first. My favorite library is 30 minutes away and it's just not realistic to get there to swap books as often as I might like. Luckily with Libby, I can check out books any time of the day or night. I also like that Libby offers an option to read within the app (convenient when I have more than one book going at once) and allows me to check out audiobooks that I can listen to directly on my phone.
4. Speaking of audiobooks, I tried them for the first time this year. We've listened to family titles in the past, but this is the first time I did some of my reading this way. Overall, I'm not a fan. It's harder for me to focus on the overall story and narrators definitely make or break books in my opinion. I did have a few that I enjoyed though and I'm definitely willing to keep trying more in the future.
5. Reading more than one book at a time helped me keep going. Usually, I only read one book at a time, but this year, I was open to having multiple books going at a time. I thought it might be confusing, but it wasn't and I liked seeing connections between everything that I was reading. Typically, at any given time, I had two real books going (one just for me and a middle grade that I read out loud with the family) as well as a Kindle title. Sometimes I added an audio book to the mix as well. It was motivating because I saw that I was finishing titles faster than before and if I ever needed a break with one book, I could always turn to something else to keep going.
6. I quit reading several books. I did not keep track of the books I didn't finish, but there were many--some just weren't for me and some weren't just for me right now. Either way, I felt no guilt in quitting any of them--even the ones that I was more than halfway through. I've learned that there are a lot of really good books out there--more than I'll ever have time to read so I'm not going to feel bad about stopping any book that just doesn't connect with me. I know something even better is waiting in the wings.
7. Finding a good source for recommendations is vital. This year I discovered the podcast WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT? I've been a faithful listener ever since. I like the format. Each episode the host Anne Bogel interviews readers and finds out three books they love, one book they don't and what they're currently reading. Then she recommends three new titles for them to try. I like that the show acknowledges that a really good book to one person might be a least favorite to someone else and that I was able to pick up on books I'd like based on other readers' similar likes. I'd say one third to one half of the books I read this year came from titles mentioned on this podcast. (And adding new titles to my To Be Read (TBR) pile encouraged me to read more and more.)
8. Reading across genres kept me from getting bored. If I read the same style of book too often, I get burned out and need a break. In the past, this might have led me to a reading hiatus, but this year, I just turned to different genres and never got bored once. This year I read mostly literary fiction, but I also read a variety of nonfiction, quite a few memoirs, a biography and some good mysteries.
9. Having a goal and making it public will keep you accountable. Just like any resolution, stating it publicly will keep you motivated. My year got off to a rocky start when I just couldn't get going on anything at the start of the year. I abandoned two books before finally finishing one nearly two weeks in, but having a public goal gave me persistence that I might not normally have. It also helped me to break the big goal into smaller chunks. When I started the year with a goal of 52 books, I just told myself to finish one book each week rather than worrying about all 52 at once. When I switched goals mid-year, I also just switched my mindset: "It's only two books a week" to help me stay the course. If I ever felt like I was falling behind, I'd give myself mini goals--like reading 25% of a book each day and things never felt unattainable.
10. Your life will change in ways you don't expect. I've always loved reading, but I've also always loved television. This year I watched less TV than before (a natural consequence of devoting more of my time to reading) and I honestly don't miss it much. There's nothing on TV I find as interesting or compelling as a good book. As a writer, I've noticed I'm writing more too--all this reading is inspiring my own work. Whenever you make a life change, it really is a whole life change.
2019 was my best reading year yet. For 2020, my goal is another 100 books though I'd like to include some longer ones this year. I avoided any sweeping epics (which I normally love) this year for fear they'd set me off pace, but in 2020, I'm challenging myself to read for quantity and quality.