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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Assessment of 2016 Reading Resolutions and My 2017 Reading Resolutions

As I promised after yesterday’s Call to Action, today I am answering the call today with a full assessment of my 2016 reading resolutions and a statement of what I plan to make a priority in 2017.

But before I get started, here is the link to the full post with my 2016 reading resolutions. Below I will only repost the resolution before assessing how I did.  If you want to see the details as to why I made these resolutions you will need to click through. Also, that post from last January also includes a link to my larger post about why we all need to make reading resolutions.

Let’s begin back in January of 2016...
"I resolve to read heavily in the speculative fiction genres paying more attention to the appeal of the story than to its specific genre classification."
Okay here I did great, but it was because I had to as part of the ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study. Those of us in charge resolved to make this big change in how we read and led the genre study, and after a year, I think it is going very well.  You can see for yourself with this link to my posts on those meetings, which also include the links to our notes and assignments. Although this genre study continues into 2017, I do not need to make it a reading resolution for this year because now, it is just part of how I do. Seriously though, that is one of the great outcomes of creating reading resolutions. Because I declared I would do this, I now do it for every book I read. I have taught myself to look beyond genre and focus on appeal first and foremost. This is a wonderful outcome and an argument for the power of resolutions.
 "I resolve to read more self published authors."
This one is a mixed bag of results. I have read more self published authors, yes. And I have been more aware of them. And, I have posted about self published authors in libraries more.  But, I would say my effort was not 100% on this front. And, more importantly, I have not gleaned any more insight into the overall issue of how to include self published authors in libraries. I have, however, talked to some librarians who try very hard to identify the better self published authors in their library’s most popular genres. These individuals are doing a great job, but it is labor intensive and difficult. It is only for those with a passion for it. I think the only solution to the self published authors and libraries issue is for someone to create a library review service that is ONLY for self published titles and not one that is just part of a larger review journal. However, I am not volunteering to be the person who starts this. Any takers out there?
 "I resolve to do the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge."
This one is also a mixed bag. I started to do this and then realized that most of the books I was reading already fit into a challenge, so I lost a bit of interest. It wasn’t serving its purpose of forcing me to “read harder." And the ones I knew were more out there for me personally, I felt were better replaced by other more obscure reading goals that better served my needs to "read harder.” So, in the end I found that for me, these challenges are less about completing them and more about using them as a guide to keep me honest and always striving to read something that is new to me. I originally made this a resolution because I was afraid that by not working in a library that I would NOT read as broadly as I could without help. Thankfully, that was not the case, and as you will see below, I have revamped this resolution based on what I learned in 2016 for 2017.

Along with this specific assessment based on what I said I would do and what I actually did, I also went through my notes on everything I did read this year and I noticed there were a few gaping holes in my reading.

  • I hardly read any nonfiction last year. I think this is a direct result of the fact that I increased the number of books I reviewed and those were almost exclusively horror fiction leaving less time for nonfiction
  • I didn’t listen to as many audio books as I normally do. This one is clearly a result of my getting used to being a full time work from home person. I tended to listen to more podcasts and music because I could work with those on. I enjoy audio books and they allow me to read many more books, so I need to fix this one for sure.
  • I did not hit every major genre this year. Romance, Western, and Adventure in particular barely registered with me this year. This is also a result of 2016 being the first year I was not working at a library at all.  I was able to speed read multiple books in every genre when I worked at the library. I was always conscious of what I wasn’t reading because all the books were right in front of me---all the time. I could easily fix that by grabbing a few off the shelf and speed reading them. 

So that’s my full personal assessment.  Now to turn this assessment into my 2017 plan.

Becky’s 2017 Reading Resolutions:

Taking what I learned this year, I will continue to use the pre-created 2017 reading challenges from Book Riot and Squad Goals as a guideline when I am looking for something to read or use in a book discussion, with a strong focus on backlist titles.

Although I did not complete the Read Harder Challenge, I did keep the print out in a visible space all year long and used it to find new titles to read. It helped me to think outside my normal box when choosing my fun reads. In general I tend to read fairly diversely and widely, but that is from years of practice. Still things get missed. Looking specifically at the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for 2017, some of the things that are listed I know I will do already, such as reading books by micro presses which I do for horror all of the time, but other things like reading a translated poetry collection, I would not have thought of. Which leads me to my second reading resolution.....

I will actively create a better balance between my HAVE to reads and my WANT to Reads, including not forgetting my love of audiobooks and nonfiction.

This was the first year where I was a horror reviewer, and almost exclusively only a horror reviewer, for Booklist. As the library world’s horror expert, I take my job very seriously. I hardly say no to reviewing horror titles because I know that for many of them, if I don’t say yes, they might not get reviewed. I also know from years of experience that if I don’t write these reviews, you will have fewer horror titles on your shelves. I feel a lot of pressure to make sure you know about as many horror books as possible, yet, I am only one person. On the other hand, this pressure is all self imposed. I need to remember that I do plenty and that in general, whether or not I review or read every horror book it is not a life or death issue.

Although looking back I did read plenty of books for fun this year, I also need to listen to the internal voice telling me that not enough were just because I wanted to. Some of this may also be tied to the fact that I listened to fewer audio books and read less nonfiction, two areas I greatly enjoy.

I need to put my personal enjoyment of reading back into the forefront of my personal and professional life or I will burn out and be no good to anyone.

And my final reading resolution....

I will spend more physical time at my local library, browsing the shelves, looking at the return carts and grabbing piles of books in genres I am less apt to read-- and record at least three appeal words about some of them on Goodreads.

Whether or not I stay there and speed read them, or bring them home to do so, I am clearly missing out on the titles I encountered by being at the library all of the time, especially the backlist ones. Also, with all of my horror and speculative fiction assignments [ARRT genre study is 2 years] for 2017, and considering I am making a resolution to read more of what I “want" to read, I am going to need a push to read in my less favorite - but still very worthy--genres. I think instead of resolving to read, for example, a romance, a western, and an adventure novel this year, I will better serve myself with this resolution to browse the physical library more [with an eye to those titles]. And, most importantly, the second part of that resolution, I will record appeal terms for the titles I spend the most time with so I can use the information to help readers.

Okay so that’s my 2017 plan. I feel like it is ambitious but doable. I also see the trend in all three resolutions toward me putting myself first.  After a full year focused on building my training business and on how I could help all of you, I definitely ignored myself at times. The good news is that my intense focus has allowed RA for All, the business to boom--but more on that tomorrow. The bad news is if I stay at this pace, it will also die out soon. Toward the end of 2016 I was literally having day dreams about what my life would be like if I just stopped working all together. Don’t worry, it quickly turned into a nightmare. But just the fact that I had those day dreams at all really made me think long and hard about my professional life.  You saw one of the outcomes of this assessment already when the blog went dark for 10 days with no content at all. That silence was a huge change for me. Expect more of those small breaks in 2017. But I will have more about this tomorrow when I will have my assessment of how my year in training all of you went in 2016 and list my professional goals for 2017.

I hope this post inspires you to look at your own 2016 year in reading with more self aware eyes-- not critical and judgmental eyes, but honest and helpful ones. I loved this experience of truly asking myself what I needed to accomplish this year that I failed at doing last year. I know this exercise will help me be a happier and more productive reader in 2017. And both of those things mean I will be better at providing RA service in general.

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