Reading Month by Month: Getting More From the Reading Year

This year I confronted this unfortunate truth: I (and many other avid readers) will never have all the time I need to read every book I want. Not only does that mean I won’t get to adventure in every fiction that appeals to me, it also means I won’t get to read up on every subject that holds my fascination.

High school and college stomped out all of my recreational reading during 2005 – 2013. When I finally got a chance to choose my own material, I froze. Major analysis paralysis! (I even bought and read only half of So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid – it wasn’t helping stave off my misery.)

I had to look at the core issues of my problem:

  1. I wanted to read widely in both fiction and non-fiction.
  2. I wanted to support new authors, as well as learn from skilled, proven masters.
  3. I wanted to read for fun! However I did it, I didn’t want it to become a chore.
  4. I wanted to read socially, but have an out from reading every single recommendation I received.

I’m a little too organized for some people, but I’m okay with that. Outlining this stuff helped me reach my eventual solution: a reading calendar.

Here’s how mine works – each month of the year is dedicated to fiction or non-fiction. They alternate. January begins the year with non-fiction.

Each month is then given a genre (if fiction), or topic (if non-fiction). October of 2015 (fiction) was Ghost Stories. November (non-fiction) was American History. December (fiction) was seasonal stories, giving me a strong start into to 2016.

I decided not to predetermine each month’s genre or topic, so instead it’s whatever has caught my interest as the month comes closer.

Some are seasonally themed, like October and Ghost Stories because I like them and reading is a fun way to enhance the festive mood. Others are just whatever’s caught my fancy. In April, I picked Mysteries for the genre. No particular reason. I just took a shine to mysteries during March and decided I wanted to read some.

I had to get a bit creative as I went through. October’s fiction genre, Supernatural, is riddled with romance and I wanted to focus more on the monsters and the adventure of a good story. The July books were focused on Mental Health, but mainly on autobiographies of people who have the more common conditions people struggle with, like anxiety and depression.

Here’s how 2016 has shaped up:

 

 

I’ve cataloged the titles under each theme, so if any of these themes interest you, check out my Goodreads profile to see each shelf: A.R. Beckert on Goodreads.

Life, as we know, is busy. I can’t read all day, though I would be very happy to re-learn that habit from when I was younger. This just means I can’t get through a dozen books a month. Instead, I select three. I never want to be without a title and waste precious time browsing. So, at the end of the month, I select three (or four if I absolutely can’t narrow it down) books for the next month and add more if I get through the first three.

I haven’t been wholly successful with all of my goals, though I feel very good about what I have done.

Having such a structure gives me room to catalog recommendations rather than feel forced to drop everything for a title someone shares. Limits are healthy.

Also, and this may not be popular among other writers, I gave myself permission to put down any book that doesn’t hold my attention or that I don’t feel compelled to finish if it bleeds into the next month. Sorry, books. I consider that part of the journey.

Of course, everyone is different and our needs change at different times.

After the success of this year, I’m putting together a few new reading goals for 2017. With the help of a fresh tracking system and these new avenues to pursue, my shelf is going to grow in several new directions. More to come on that in January.

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