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Monday, January 7, 2019

Reading Resolutions 2019: Part 1-- Assess How You Did in 2018

RA for All is back from vacation and it is time for all of us to attack 2019 head on with a whole new year of reading and helping patrons.

But before any of us run headlong into 2019, we all need to take a step back and assess our personal reading during 2018. Did you make any reading resolutions? If so, now is the time to assess how you did.

It is extremely important to look back at the year that was BEFORE you plan for the year to come, otherwise you are simply making plans in a vacuum, which helps no one. I will demonstrate why this is necessary for you today by using myself as your example.

Before I go back and assess myself based on my personal resolutions, I also want to remind all of you who did NOT make reading or professional resolutions last year, that you are NOT off the hook for assessing yourself. Everyone can take a look back at their year in reading. And here are a few ways to do so:

  • If you keep track of your reading on Goodreads, they created a personal year in books report for you. Click here to read about how to access it from their blog. Even if you made reading resolutions and you also kept track of your reading on Goodreads, this is something you need to look at. Seeing everything you read in one report is very helpful, as I will demonstrate further below.
  • If you did a reading challenge instead of making reading resolutions, sit down and really look at your tracking data for the challenge. How did you do? Also, assess the challenge itself. Was it useful? Did you accomplish what you wanted from doing it? Really think about it as a tool not just if you "finish it" or not. Would you do another reading challenge this year?
  • If you did neither of these, I hope you had a way to keep track of what you read in general. If you did, take some time to look at the entire year and think about what you read, how you kept track of the feel of those books, where you had deficiencies or gaps, where were your strengths, etc... Spend some time analyzing what you read.
  • It is important to assess what you "read about" too. Staying up to date in the genres and the trends is important. You do not have to have read every book you wanted to in order to have gained information from them. Think about how you did on this front too. How are you staying in shape to help all readers?
Finally, before I get to myself, I want to make my annual plea to NOT make resolutions about the number of books you will read in a year. Many people set goals based on a number and in my experience this is never a good idea. It makes most people anxious and leads to choosing books based on how quickly you can finish them. It is quality not quantity. Sometimes a book that takes you a month to finish will help you more [whether professionally or personally because it nourished your soul] than 5 that you could have rushed through in that same time frame. 

Do what you want, of course, but that is my professional opinion on this issue.

Now on to my assessment of myself.  First, here is the link to my Reading Resolutions post from the beginning of 2018. That post will have much more detail on why I made those resolutions [with many of the reasons stemming directly form my assessment of my 2017 resolutions], but briefly, here are the general resolutions I made in that post:
  • 2018 Resolution: I will read more romance and bestselling authors with who I am not familiar.
  • 2018 Resolution: I will continue to build on the progress of my new non-paid blog review strategy.
  • 2018 Resolution: The backlist is the librarians' best friend, and I need to keep reading older titles at a higher rate
  • 2018 Resolution: Time for some transitions
Now, here is my assessment of how I did broken into 3 categories-- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I used both the resolutions and the other assessment steps I mentioned above to come to these conclusions.

Also, before we get to the introspective personal judgement part, it is important to note that this entire process should be a positive, self reflective experience. We are doing this to better ourselves. There is no failure here. No one will achieve 100% of their resolutions ever, but if we are too scared to confront where we have not lived up to our own expectations, we will never improve. Failures are just a great place to begin next year's resolutions.

Enough pep talking. Let's do this. Here is my attempt to lead by example for all of you.

The Good:
  • On the resolution front my new strategy for keeping up with my non-paid blog reviews worked great. I allowed myself to be more informal on Goodreads and then post round-up updates on the blog of lots of books at once. Because of this, I was very good about inputting info right away in Goodreads and then a few times a year I fleshed them out a bit more and then posted links on the blog. This allowed me to never be too far behind and everything was still searchable on the blog. It relieve a lot of pressure from me and allowed me to recapture the joy of articulating the appeal of the books I read.
  • Also on the resolutions front I made a huge step forward in the "time for some transitions" as I made a more formal commitment to my work for the Horror Writers Association by running for and winning the election for the HWA Executive Board. I am now the Secretary and while it is a little scary, I am very excited for this huge step in a different direction of my career. I also worked with Library Journal to be in a more official capacity on their horror work writing a cover story feature article and being part of the "Best Books" jury for the genre. And I have committed myself to running the Summer Scares program. These are transitions I thought about at length and this year was the best time to give them a try. I can always step back in a few years if this is not where I want to continuing moving professionally.
  • In terms of a general assessment of my reading, after making a conscious effort in 2017 to be more diverse in my own reading, I was happy to see that in 2018, without making that conscious effort my rate of reading "own voices" titles and books in translation was quite high. Way over the 33% goal I set for myself.
The Bad:
  • As great as my rate of diverse titles was, looking back at my reading I was sad to see that my rate of reading graphic novels and fantasy was way lower than normal. I am not quite sure why exactly though. There were some very good books in those areas that I meant to read, but did not. This is a trend I hope does not continue. I fear that with so much more on my "have to read" pile, some of my personal favorites are going to be left out. On the bright side though, I did read about a lot of GNs and fantasy this year and I know a lot about the books that did come out even if I did not read them. I have also suggested these titles at the same rate to others.
  • Even for me, I read a lot of horror this year, and I worry it may be at the expense of my other reading/work. This one is a direct result of the second bullet in "The Good." If I am going to be more officially involved in the professional horror world, this may become a reality. This is a result of one of my successes that I have to really think about. It could become a liability in my more general work. For now, I am keeping an eye on it and being conscious of this shift. This is also a great example of why doing an honest assessment is so important. I can celebrate "The Good," but I need to weigh what that achievement does elsewhere in my life.
The Ugly:
  • I failed on resolution number 1. There is no sugar coating that one. I only read 2 romances last year and even worse, I read ZERO perennial bestselling authors with whom I was unfamiliar. I did however do better in reading about romance and bestsellers this year. I am more informed on these genres than I have been in past years, yes, but I also resolved to actually read more in these areas, and that I did not do.
  • But probably my worst failure, the one I didn't even realize I failed at until I looked at my full list of all of the books I read this year, and the one that upsets me the most personally is my resolution to keep reading backlist titles at a higher rate. Oh dear reader of this blog, a blog that champions the power of the backlist, to you I apologize greatly because well, I read nothing older than a 2017 pub date in all of 2018. I have never not read at least 3 backlist titles [from at least 2-5 years ago]...ever. Sigh. This one I will have to improve upon.
So that is my personal assessment of how I did. As you can see, it is a lot easier to assess yourself if you make some official resolutions, but it is not impossible ion you did not make resolutions at the start of 2018. It is also easier to make next year's resolutions after you assess the year that just passed. 

But that is for tomorrow's post.

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