It's time to admit that I need to cut back on certain things if I want to make room for others. That includes even good things I love, like reading.
So this year, I'm focusing less on the number of books I finish and more on reading deeply. I've noticed an uncomfortable habit of grabbing short or "fluffy" books that I might not have read otherwise just to try to catch up on my reading challenge. That's not a good use of my time, and it's not helping me round out my life in other areas.
Here are the types of "deep reading" I'll be focusing on this year. (This list contains affiliate links.)
Books that make me think
According to the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading personality quiz, I'm an Explorer. One of my main reading motivations is to explore worlds, points of view, and experiences that are outside of my own bubble. Books that pull me outside of my life, not necessarily in an escapist way but in a way that makes me reexamine the way I see the world, allow my reading life to feed the rest of me in a healthy way.
The kicker is that I might not always like these books. I'll disagree with an author's point in nonfiction or the theme or character choices in fiction. That's okay, though! I go into books like this with the expectation that I'll broaden my horizons, so I'm not too disappointed if they don't make my Favorites list.
Books I read in 2017 that made me think:
Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins (an example of a book I gave only two stars on Goodreads)
The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Books with outstanding writing
Another reading quiz, this one from O magazine, tells me that I'm an Aesthete, someone who values strong writing above all else. This is 100% true. I'll forgive minor character flaws, plot problems, and pacing issues if the writing is stellar. On the other hand, I've rated bestsellers as one star because I didn't care about the gripping plot; I was too distracted by writing that reminded me of 5th-grade English class.
This category tends to land me in literary fiction, but I'd like to branch out and find books in other genres (and even nonfiction!) that make an impact with the quality of writing.
Books I read in 2017 that have stellar writing:
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Books that teach me something specific
I have an embarrassing attachment to both the self-help and business/marketing genres. The problem is that these books are often too vague to actually make an impact on my life. I'll pick one up just because it's a buzzy new release without stopping to think about how it will actually help me right now.
This year, I'll focus on books that meet at least two of these three criteria:
1. Will this book help me solve a specific business problem that I'm facing right now?
2. Will this book help me solve a specific personal problem that I'm facing right now?
3. Will this book deepen my knowledge of a topic I'm genuinely interested in right now?
My hope is that by limiting self-help books to specifics rather than picking up whatever's new and bestselling, I'll be able to actually put that knowledge to good use in my life.
Books I read in 2017 that taught me something specific:
The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Books that will help me write a novel
I had to take a deep breath before putting this on the list. It seems like a bad time to start writing a novel, with a third baby on the way in spring, but I've got an idea that won't leave me alone and I'm taking a big step later this month to see where it leads.
Reading books while writing a book can be tricky. You need to absorb good writing and inspiration by "osmosis" from other writers, but you also don't want your unique ideas and voice to get lost because you're emulating what you're reading. I'm not totally sure what this category will look like for 2018, but I think the fiction will include classics from the '20s (Fitzgerald, Wharton, etc.), and the nonfiction will be a stack of books on writing that have been languishing on my TBR list for too long.
What are your reading goals for 2018? Are you changing your habits this year?
P.S. Are we friends on Goodreads yet? Come find me there! I set my challenge goal for 35 books this year, which feels doable but won't allow me to slack and stop reading entirely.