I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but recently I’ve seen a lot of reading-based annual goals that got me thinking. I really like the idea, but haven’t been able to find a list I would be happy sticking to. I was basically picking and choosing items from several lists to get around goals that I didn’t feel applied to me or where I wanted to go as a reader.
So I decided to design my own reading challenge for 2017 based on my own skills and weaknesses as a reader. For instance, I’m a huge fiction enthusiast, but I have a hard time breaking out of the fiction bubble. So one thing I want to do better in 2017? Nonfiction. It’s an area for improvement and it’s time I do something about it.
Here are the challenges I’m setting for myself in 2017. I hope they inspire you to read more this year. If these challenges line up with your goals, if you disagree, or if you have a recommendation or advice for a new goal or a book to fit one of these goals, I would love to hear it.
PLEASE NOTE, this list may appear daunting because I’ve attached minimums to each goal. But I’ve designed it in such a way that these goals can work with each other if need be. For example, Maurice by E.M. Forster is a classic with an LGBTQ focus, so if I wanted to I could count it toward two different goals on this list. I’ve set a goal of reading 40 books in 2017 on Goodreads and there’s no reason I can’t meet these goals while still aiming for that number of books in the calendar year. If I do better, awesome. But no pressure.
1. Read at least 10 nonfiction books
I’m generally anti-resolution, but every year I promise myself I’ll read more nonfiction and meet with wildly varied results. This year I’m putting a minimum on it and creating some accountability.
2. Read at least 5 books by an author born outside of North America or Europe
I don’t expect this one to be too difficult to hit, especially considering I can lump it in with my nonfiction challenge. But this is a category that has been easy for me to hit in the past, so in one sense it’s a gimme but I’m raising the difficulty by putting a minimum of 5.
3. Read at least 5 classics
This one will be a bit of a stretch, considering that most of what I read is contemporary fiction, but I always want to read more classics so it’s about time I challenge myself. That’s what this is about. As an added bonus, it will help me clean out my TBR shelf, which I’ll get to later.
4. Read at least 5 books set in locations other than North America or Europe
This works in tandem with goal number 2. If the list of books is the same for both goals, I’m okay with it. This goal only exists to prevent me from taking an easy way out and including an author who was born in another country, immigrated, and now writes fiction set here in North America. Ideally, I’ll use both spaces independently–because an immigrant would have a very different perspective, and if diverse viewpoints are the goal then they should be included.
5. Read at least 5 LGBTQ books
This is another one that I don’t expect to be too difficult. As a gay man, I’m always curious about LGBTQ literature and how it evolves over time.
6. Read at least 5 plays
Similar to my challenge to read more nonfiction, this is a reminder to explore the different ways of telling a story.
7. Reread (and reconsider) an old favorite
Sometimes your opinion of books changes as you age (remember my series in which I reread the Harry Potter books?). This is a challenge to pick a book I’ve long cherished and see if it holds up now that I’m a married dude in his mid-thirties.
8. Reread (and reconsider) something you previously didn’t like
You guessed it: it’s goal number 7, but in reverse.
9. Read at least five story collections
10. Read at least one book by a Nobel Laureate
11. Read at least 5 books I’ve owned but not read for over 2 years
Every reader knows that managing a TBR pile could be a full time job. With all the books we have, there just isn’t time to get to all of them. So this is a challenge to dig into my reserves and finally get to some books I’ve been hoping to have time for for too long. There are 8 books in the featured image for this story alone that I’ve owned for longer than two years.
12. Read at least 1 biography
Note: not an autobiography or memoir. When I do read nonfiction, it tends to be of the memoir variety. This is a reminder to try something different. Get out of that comfort zone.
13. Read at least 2 nonfiction books that are not based on a person or persons
Leave that comfort zone behind. So many good nonfiction books are about concepts or about history. Find at least two of them.
14. Read at least 1 essay collection
Seriously, goodbye comfort zone
15. Apply the Bechdel Test to each fiction book read
We know movies tend to devalue female characters, but how many books do the same thing? Find out which books are guilty and start a conversation about it.
I had other ideas but decided to keep my goal list at 15. I almost added a goal about reading at least 1 book over 400 pages long, but decided against it for two reasons. First, looking back at the last three years, I’ve always read at least one book over 400 pages–so it will probably happen organically anyway. Second, I don’t necessarily believe that page counts say anything about the quality of a book. What I really want to do in 2017 is explore different forms of reading to become a more well-rounded reader. That’s more important to me right now.
Good luck and good reading in 2017! Got your own set of goals? I’d love to hear about them.