goals

The first thing I saw on social media this morning was…no, wait, that’s not true. It wasn’t actually the first thing I saw, or even among the first 20-30 things I saw, but it was the first thing that caught me by surprise. The first thing that made me go “wait…what?” It was a question in a forum for readers. Two questions, really.

What are your reading goals and targets for the New Year? Do they include different genres?

That pretty much stopped me dead. People have reading goals and targets? What does that even mean? And what’s the difference between a reading goal and a reading target? What does genre have to do with it?

The responses to those questions helped clarify them, but some of them still left me confused. Here are a few sample responses. “I plan to read 100 books this year, with at least 5 hard scifi, 5 fantasy, 5 YA, and 5 historical fiction.” “I intend to read the entire Richard Bolitho British Navy novels by Alexander Kent.” “I’m going to reread the novels that were my favorites as a teen.” “This years book list challenge is set; I’ve already finished 2 books today that I started yesterday.” ” In 2021 I read 88 books; this year I want to get 100.”

I can understand folks wanting to read favorite childhood novels. That makes sense to me. I do that occasionally. Just a few weeks ago I re-read The Prisoner of Zenda. I can also understand wanting to read a certain series of books–or at least start to read them. But what if you discover you don’t enjoy them? Or what if you enjoy the first couple, but them find the rest repetitive? If you’ve publicly committed to reading the entire series, do you keep reading…or do you stop?

And yeah, I understand the value of reading a variety of genres, They all have something to offer. But I do NOT understand the intention to read X number of books in a given time frame. I don’t understand that at all. What’s the point? What’s the purpose? Why does the number of books you read matter? It makes no sense to me.

The cat naps; I read. Simple goal, simple plan.

I guess I’m just a disorganized, unstructured reader. I read a book, then when I’m done, I buy another book and read it. I DO have a Google Keep list of books called ‘Books I Might Want to Consider Reading‘ which, now I think of it, is a shamefully wishy-washy title for a list. It probably doesn’t really qualify as a list; it’s just notes on books folks have recommended or books I’ve heard about. Sometimes I’ll consult it before buying a new book, but I’m just as likely to rummage through the online bookstore and buy whatever strikes my fancy at that moment. I don’t have anything remotely like a plan for what I’m going to read next. It depends on…hell, I don’t even know what it depends on.

Every four or five years (or three years or six years) I decide to re-read one of Dorothy Dunnett’s historical novel series. Does that count as a plan? I’m still two novels away from finishing The Expanse series. Or maybe it’s three novels; I’m not sure how many novels are in the series. Eight? Nine? I’m sure I’ll buy and read those novels at some point–but I haven’t yet and I’m not sure when I will. Does that count as a plan? Maybe it’s a goal?

What is a plan, really? It’s just a roadmap pointing toward a goal. But if you don’t have a goal–and I don’t–then what use is a plan? Or maybe I DO have a goal. Just a very simple, easily attainable goal. To read another book when I’ve finished the one I’m reading now. My plan, then, would be to buy another book. Piece of cake.

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I wrote this yesterday morning, then got distracted. I had a point to make, but I’ve forgotten what it was. I’m pretty sure it was clever, though.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in a comfortable chair reading, a blanket on my lap, and the cat on the blanket. When the sun came through the transom, the cat got off my lap and laid in the sun. Every so often I looked up from my tablet and saw that the sunny spot and the cat had moved. It occurred to me that my reading goals and plans were similar to the cat’s napping goals and plans. Her goal is to nap in a sunny spot. When that sunny spot moves, she moves with it. My goal is to finish one book and start another.

The cat is content with her goal and plan; I’m content with mine. But I rather doubt my plan and goal will impress the other members of that reader forum.

10 thoughts on “goals

  1. Funny you should write this today. Last night I was watching a YT video of a woman who does art, but she also loves to read and last night she was showing us her plan for 2022 books. Lists and lists of titles and authors. She too want’s to read 100 books. Sometimes she will read a book in a day. She has a 4 year old. How can she read a book in a day?

    Anyway, there seems to be a whole big group of people out there on BookTube who like to show their bullet journals especially created for reading goals and targets met. All artistically coloured, with bits of washy tape and pictures printed and cut out rather like a scrap book. They review the books sometimes or just say if they liked them or not and how long it took them to read. They talk about various reading challenges they are taking part in (I don’t need to be challenged to read. I worked it out around 4.5 years of age). It strikes me as odd. They spend so long blogging or vlogging about books and making their journals look like works of art that I wonder when they can ever find time to read.

    I have a reading goal rather like yours Greg. Read a book. Then choose and read another. If I get a bit bored with one or fancy a sudden burst of a different genre then I’ll have 2 on the go. I read physical and electronic books. I listen to some but I prefer to read.

    That seems to be about all there is to it. But others have different ideas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s been pointed out to me that there ARE legit reasons for some reading plans. For example, folks whose job (or hobby, which is also legit) involves writing about books may want to insure they cover a variety of genres. So a reading plan that reminds them to read, say, a scifi novel by a queer writer makes sense.

      That said, I still don’t understand the “I will read X number of books this year” approach. At some level that suggests books are fungible–that they are all indistinguishable from each other, that there’s no real difference between reading a 90 page romance novella and an 850 page historical novel. They’re both books, after all.

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  2. I had a simple goal last year: read 66 books (because I was 66). I did. A few of them were picture books, but mostly they were fiction (among those various mysteries) and some nonfiction thrown in. I do believe I read more with such a goal, and since I enjoy reading, it’s nice to have a little shove–to pick up a book instead of doing something time-frittery.

    This year my goal is to read 12 big books–over 500 pages. Because I don’t get around to the big books when I’m going for numbers. I have just started The Warmth of Other Suns. I’m enjoying the leisurely pace. I’m sure I’ll read more than 12, but that’s a doable goal. And in the case of big books, I have given myself permission to abandon after the first 100 pages if it hasn’t grabbed me. No sense suffering.

    As for what Sue said about journaling about reading, I agree: I’d rather spend the time picking up a new book than fashioning some “creation” out of the experience, though I do appreciate others’ artistry. My nod to having finished a book is to post a “book report” on my blog. It helps me remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do believe I read more with such a goal

      So having a reading goal of X number of books is something like a self-improvement technique? Having a goal encourages you to read more than you might on your own? Like wearing a Fitbit to remind/encourage you to walk more? Have I got that right?

      That notion never occurred to me.

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  3. I too have the same system, with a list of books I’ve heard of in my “notes.” The only real difference is I often have a book going and an audio book going, for the car. I like listening to books when the author reads, (like Michelle Obama or Rachel Maddow) or if there is a lot of a foreign language present, as in American Dirt, or Born a Crime.

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    • I’ve never listened to an audio book. Probably because I don’t have a commute or spend much time in a car. I like the idea, though.

      Years ago I kept company with a woman and we’d read P.G. Wodehouse aloud to each other. We’d take turns–me one night, her the next. A short story, or if we were reading one of the novels, a chapter or two a night. It was lovely.

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  4. Hmmm….who wants the pressure. I find that very odd. I am relatively old (interpret as you like) I still work full time (technically self employed…but my name is on a big sign and I should show up now and then) I am active, socially and athletically….I enjoy cooking at home….I travel…I spend a lot of time on photography. I love to read….I read for 30-40 minutes in bed at night before falling asleep. Why would anyone make it a chore?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some professional reading IS a chore. Back when I still had some thought of being an academic, I set aside time to read academic journals–which was necessary, but lawdy, that shit is DRY. In fact, I realized I had no real interest in being an academic when the chair of my department ‘caught’ me reading a novel. Not a novel that might be of some minor benefit in my field, but an old science fiction novel. The Day of the Triffids. He was quietly horrified. I was not asked to interview for a tenure track position.

      Dodged that bullet.

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  5. For some weird reason, I do enjoy setting a number goal for the year, maybe because it’s like running. I just want to see how far I can go. Still, I’m a slow reader, and in 2021 I read 13 books, lol. I hope to change that, and that’s exactly why numbers are important for me. So that I’ll be more aware of the time I’m spending each day (can I spend this time on Netflix on reading?). Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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