Me Versus My Reading Goals: 2019-2020

piles of abandoned historical papers.ralf

Photo credit: Ralf Steinberger via Flickr

You’re probably sick of blog posts about reflecting on goals met in the past year and on new year’s resolutions, but tough potatoes, here’s another one. I find it really useful to write these things out and post them publicly, to keep myself accountable. So this is more for me than for you, and if you actually read the whole post, why, that’s true blog-friendship right there. ❤

Last year at about this time, I wrote two posts about my reading goals: one focused on reading more books than I acquired and thus reducing the chaos of my to-be-read bookcase, and one focused on how many and what types of books to prioritize reading.

How did I do? Well…. okay, mostly.

(1) I succeeded at my Goodreads goal for number of books read.

I met my Goodreads goal, even though I read fewer books than the previous year. That was fine with me, though, because it did its job – reminding me that reading is a priority that I give myself credit for – while still giving me the flexibility to do other things, like writing and watching movies (which are also good for learning about storytelling, folks!). So I’m setting my GR goal for 2020 at 52 books: one per week.

(2) I improved my TBR situation, but not by much.

Hey, at least it didn’t get worse! To summarize my progress:

2017    Goodreads goal: 30. Read: 35. Acquired: 52. TBR reduction: -17
2018    Goodreads goal: 40. Read: 60. Acquired: 62. TBR reduction: -2
2019    Goodreads goal: 50. Read: 54*. Acquired: 44. TBR reduction: +4

* including 6 re-reads, not from the TBR stacks

So the current TBR situation stands at -15. You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to purchase 15 fewer books than you read. Apparently it is. Still, I’m going to try.

(3) I did better at my some of my other reading priorities than others.

According to my blog post last January, my reading priorities for last year were: comp books, fantasy classics, finishing series that I’d started, the latest greatest in SFF, diverse authors and especially more female writers, writing craft and resource, and short story collections and magazines. I also prioritized buying and reviewing books by new writers I know and also by people I would meet at cons.

I read more fantasy than last year (76% v. 60% of fiction books), and although I didn’t keep track of how recent those books were, I believe more of them were either comps or classics than in previous years. I  increased the proportion of female v. male authors too (57% v 41%), but I actually did worse on other aspects of diversity such as race and sexual orientation (although I’ll admit I didn’t go back and research each writer to verify whether they are white and straight).

Almost half the books I read last year (25) I bought because they were written by friends of mine or because they were featured guests and/or award nominees at cons I was attending and I hoped to meet them (and often did). Those award-nominated books also helped me beef up my comps, or at least have a better idea about the books that everyone else is talking about in my field. However, this strategy was a problem in terms of paring down my to-be-read pile, because I had to purchase all those books this year.

Most of the books I read were fiction (81%), and more of the remainder were writing craft rather than resource books. That’s similar to the ratio from 2018 and that works for me.

I did succeed in cataloging my books (hooray!) and identified series that were partially started, but I didn’t finish any of those series. I don’t know how many short story collections I read in earlier years, but they made up 21% of the fiction I read this year, so that sounds pretty good – and it doesn’t even count all the short stories I read in magazines I’ve subscribed to.

(4) Priorities for 2020

Here’s a crazy idea: I’m going to keep the same priorities! I want to focus a little more strongly on what I didn’t do as well on last year: specifically, more diversity, more direct comps, and finishing up some old series. Unfortunately that last priority conflicts with the one about reducing the TBR pile, because it involves re-reading books not in the TBR to get to that last one or two. But okay, I’ll just have to restrain my purchasing impulses.

Stop laughing!

What about you?

Do you set reading goals each year? Let me know what you have planned for 2020, and how well you did on your priorities in 2019. And no matter what your plans are…

Happy reading!


15 thoughts on “Me Versus My Reading Goals: 2019-2020

  1. Joy, I love your reflection on your past year of reading. Ha, only book-lovers can understand why this is such an interesting read, reading about another’s reading goals. While you didn’t hit each target, you did amazingly well. Yea, you!
    My goals for last year were simple. First, try and read more. I hit about 30 books. (Though I complained to another friend that with that total I feel I’m bordering on illiteracy.) I do track this in an Excel sheet, interesting to see the months I nailed it, (Mar, finished 5 books) and busier months (Aug, Sept & Oct, only 1 each month.)
    Other goals from last year: don’t read too many series at once, focus and finish. Did okay there. Read more science fiction! Happy with my accomplishment on that, 2/3 of my reading was in that genre, the other 1/3 in various other categories. Failed completely on revisiting previous favorites.
    For next year, again, try and push it. But also, I need to watch my selection process. I see that I keep hopping over some old residents of the TBR bookcase. Again, maybe try and make every 4th or 5th book an older previously read book? We’ll see. There is so much new to enjoy… I do love movies and my PC gaming… but I’m retired as of last year, so no excuse, I do have time. I think that while I pruned my magazine reading, I need to additionally tone down my internet surfing. I keep finding interesting news items that I want to follow up on…, but I need to be more selective. Lastly, I see some “collections” by themes of books that I would like to tackle. While I don’t have an interest at this time of writing, I do have a small collection of “writing” books that I picked up to better help me understand the craft of this hobby that I love so much. (Including “Writing Monsters” that I just purchased after having it brought to my attention by one of your earlier posts.) So maybe I won’t get through them all, but if I can get these and others into my reading queue for the year, I’ll be happy.
    Well, no matter. I’m sure next year I’ll have hit some of my targets and missed others. But it’s fine as long as I’m reading. What a wonderful year this will be, “we can do it!” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for such a great comment, Louis! And yes, I agree that only fellow book-lovers would be interested in such things.

      I know what you mean about feeling like 30 books is not very many. Wow, there are people out there who read 100 books OR MORE every year! Where do they find the time? And how on earth do they even process and remember all those stories? I first started the Goodreads challenge in 2016, when I started to get serious about writing and thus about reading (2016 is not reflected above, because I wasn’t keeping track of any of the other aspects yet). I guessed at the time that I’d only read maybe 10 books in the prior year, so I set my goal at 20. And read 23! At the time, that was a huge improvement. Since then, I’ve more than doubled what I can comfortably read per year, and I think I’m stopping here: 50-60 or so is a good range for me. I have no interest in trying to squeeze 2 books in every week. (Although check back after I’m retired…) The other issue is that I have several super long and/or difficult books I’d like to read, and I don’t want to feel pressure that I’m falling behind. This isn’t some game where quantity should be prioritized over quality.

      I’m curious: why is one of your goals to read more science fiction? My goal for reading more fantasy is because that’s the genre I write in — and I often have to restrain myself from reading SF to accomplish it, lol!

      I also find myself repeatedly hopping over the same older residents of my TBR shelves. I’m considering sitting down and making some tough decisions about whether I’m ever really going to read some of those books, and if not, take them off that shelf and give them away. At the same time, there are TONS of books on my already-read shelves that I would love to go back an reread. My current idea is to use that as an incentive for reading down my TBR pile: if I can read X number of books without buying more, I “get to” read an older book as a prize. 🙂 Again, something only fellow book-lovers would understand!

      Good luck on your reading goals this year. I look forward to seeing more of your reviews on Goodreads!


    • Thanks for getting all the way to the end! I figure that the vast majority of my posts are super short, so I can afford a long one once in a while to average it all out. Do you have any specific reading targets you’re thinking of?


      • First off, to finish Patrick Rothfuss Fears of a Wise Man… I’m about 3/4 through. But the book is too bulky for reading in bed. And I understand the fourth book of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards will be out this summer. I might go back to some of the series I enjoyed. Jay Kristoff comes to mind. And whatever grabs me. In Non-fiction I’m reading Stephen Shennan’s First Farmers of Europe, and I have a backlog of papers from Academia to read regarding substrates of the Basque and Celtic languages, which is research for a future book.
        I tend not to plan and set targets. Reading is a compulsion, but I’m selective with what I’ll read. So… many are bought, but not all are completed. If these were all physical books my BNF shelve would be groaning 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Those sound like good reads to look forward to! I have a Patrick Rothfuss in my TBR shelves too. Despite you not feeling like a planner, I’d say you seem to have more planned out than most people do. Of course, “most people” won’t read even as many books as you just mentioned in an entire year. Have fun with the research on Basque and Celtic languages!


  2. I’ve read to the end. My own reading list evolves during the year, based on such issues as what I’m teaching. So I have a number of books on early modern European witch hunts in my pile right now. But so is a new fantasy novel by Tim Powers. And two history books I got as Christmas gifts. And at least one fellow academic’s book on order. And . . .

    Now, if I could only be as definite on writing goals, vague as my reading goals are!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading Brian – and commenting, too! My specific reading list evolves over the course of the year, too. Thinking through my main priorities is mostly a strategy for reining in my impulse to buy whatever book I just noticed or read a recommendation for — which is how I wind up buying a big pile of new books when I already had 150 perfectly good books in my to-read pile.

      I also like to mix it up, the way that you describe: fiction of one type mixed in with fiction of other genres, mixed in with resource books, with an occasional nonfiction book completely unrelated to writing or world building. Helps keep it fresh, like cleaning the palette between courses. Plus I read a lot of short stories and novelettes through the magazines I buy (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, Clarksworld, sometimes others).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Once I started keeping track, I was pretty amazed at how badly I was doing. I figure this is like weighing myself regularly when I’m trying to lose weight: keeping track of progress (or failure) helps keep me on track.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh lawsy, Joy! You kill me. I suppose I could check my read vs to be read vs bought vs already in-house but I fear all the books I read, I bought. Though I have started buying Kindles because, dammit, they don’t take up shelf space and I can fool myself into believing I didn’t purchase any books because… can you see them? Noooo…
    Last year’s Good Reads goal was not met but I beta read 5 books which can’t count, so that blows. Unless I can figure out a way to make them count!
    Anyhoo… this was an enjoyable read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading, Dale! Yeah, keeping track like this isn’t for everyone.. I just happen to loooove me some good spreadsheet action. Great excuse to not do anything of real value for a half hour — um, I mean, great way to keep track of my progress toward my goals!

      Beta reading and critiquing take a *lot* of time, I know. Whew! I feel like they should count somehow, too. (Note that the numbers I quoted here include a couple books I didn’t register on Goodreads, so you can “count” whatever you want to for your own purposes, I figure.)

      I have stopped buying e-books for, ironically, the same reason. I gave away my e-reader because I thought my dad would get more use out of it, and I don’t enjoy reading long stories on my computer after spending the whole *rest* of the day at the computer. Which leaves me with: out of sight, out of mind. So even though e-books are inexpensive, I get literally zero value for them because I never read them. 😦 But you’re right, they aren’t taking up prime real estate on my bookshelves!


    • I worked my way up to this over time — I would have been in awe of me five years ago, too. Although to be honest, I’m already slipping behind. I have a big pile of books from 2019 that I haven’t reviewed yet (bad me!) and so far in 2020 I’ve only finished reading one book in 17 days. I have to step up my game!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Me Versus Audiobooks | Tales from Eneana

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