I hit my goal to read 70 books in 2017 last month while I was traveling. There’s nothing like a good audiobook an a long flight to boost your reading list productivity. Click here if you want to check out what I read in 2017.
And now it’s time to think about 2018.
Usually I just pick a number and try to hit. I range between 60 and 80, depending on what my writing schedule is for the year. In 2017 I read over 70 books and wrote two as well, so for 2018 I thought I’d make my challenge go beyond just a number.
I got the idea after looking at my 2017 reading and realized how many of my books – print and audio – came from libraries. So I broke it down:
23% from library
12% bought at book festivals or directly from author
11% bought from independent bookstores
45% were ARCs
In 2018 I want to accomplish a few things. I want to up my library usage to at least 30% of my list, and I’d like to make a third of my list books that I already own – I have a TBR that have books I bought 15 years ago on it. I want at least ten of the books I’ve read to have been written before 1900, and I want to read five books not originally written in English.
This is just a sampling of what I’m doing. Below are some ideas for anyone who wants to break out of reading only bestsellers.
1) Read diversely Read POC authors for sure. Read books that have been translated from their original language. Read books not set in your country. Here are are some great lists to get you started, as well as some recs from me.
2) Read short stories Honestly, there are some fantastic anthologies out there, and some great collections from authors you should know, but might not have heard of if you don’t wander outside of novels often. I suggest HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES by Carmen Maria Machado, HEARTBREAKER by Maryse Meijer, KNOCKEMSTIFF by Donald Ray Pollock, and SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, edited by George R.R. Martin.
3) Read non-fiction Nearly 25% of my list from 2017 was non-fic, and while a lot of it was for research purposes for novels, I truly enjoy reading non-fiction. Suggestions below! ASYLUM ON THE HILL is about the asylum in Athens, Ohio, where A MADNESS SO DISCREET is set.
4) Listen to audiobooks I’ve always argued that I can read faster than the narrator (which is typically true), but now that you can adjust the speed of the reading on a digital download, audiobooks have become useful to me.
5) Give lit mags a try You can discover knew voices and get a dash of poetry, art, or an essay. Two publications that fit my taste and never let me down are The Indiana Review and The Missouri Review.
6) Read some essays Yeah, I’m serious. It might sound like the last thing in the world you want to do, but give me the benefit of the doubt. Essays are like short stories for non-fiction, and I became a fan in college. It’s called a reading challenge, right? So challenge yourself. Suggestions below.
7) Read about writing Truly. It can be lovely to have the experience of feeling the intensity of belonging, even when you’re entirely alone. The suggestions below can help you improve your craft, or are just good for a read that lets you know that somebody else gets it.
8) Read something that will screw with you The best books are the ones that you can’t get out of your head, the ones that you talk over with friends and argue about with strangers. The ones where you’re not quite sure what actually happened…
9) Choose a cover art theme Not for your entire list, for sure. But say you only want to read books that are written for adults that have dogs on the cover…
(Here’s a fun one. Find fiction written for adults that has a CAT on the cover and is NOT a mystery).
10) Read something you’ve been meaning to read I have books on my TBR that are over 15 years old, books that have been literally mouldering away waiting on me to pick them up. Find yours. Read them. That’s what they’re for. Here are two of mine:
11) Find your Great Unread I mean that author that you have never heard of, and most other people haven’t either. But they’re really, really good. Mine is someone you’re going to hear me talk about a lot this year. Dawn Powell grew up ten miles away from me, and ended up being friends with people like Tolstoy. She was mildly famous in her time, but largely forgotten now. I only know about her because I finally walked up to the moldy historical marker in front of the local library and read it. In 2017 I read seven novels – thousands of pages – by Dawn Powell, and can tell you that she mastered the unlikable character that keeps you reading, regardless.