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Monday, January 8, 2018

Call to Action: Before You Make Reading Resolutions for 2018, Assess Your 2017 Reading

[Editors note: After a refreshing “family first” winter break, RA for All is back to a regular schedule.]

I am all for making reading resolutions. I make them every year. But, making reading resolutions is only part of what makes the process worthwhile. You need to go back and asses how you did on the goals you made at the start of last year before you go ahead and make resolutions for the coming year.

Contrary to what you may assume, assessing past resolutions is not all about making yourself feel bad about what you did not get to, rather it is about spending the time to see what you did read, thinking about why, and seeing how it matched your prediction for the year. Then, you can use this information to improve your resolutions for the next year. Sometimes, we learn more when we “fail” than when we succeed.

Also, and this is just a general statement and completely just my personal opinion, but I do not see much value is setting a “goal” to read a certain number of books. First, it is so arbitrary. Second, it really doesn’t matter how many books you “read” in a year. More does not make you better at your job just like fewer does not make you worse. Third, how do we measure “read” books? I speed read plenty of books that I often do not record on Goodreads as officially read [as long as they are in NoveList I know I can get the info I need], but I know a lot about these books, maybe even more than some people know about books they have read cover to cover. That counts for a lot in our jobs. And finally, fourth, all it does is stress people out and make them worry about a number instead of focusing about the feel of the book and who it would be a good suggestion for-- you know the purpose of us reading them in the first place.

So, even if you have already proclaimed reading resolutions for 2018, I am calling you to action. Please spend some time this week going back to your 2017 resolutions. Assess what you read. Applaud your triumphs. Acknowledge, contemplate, and explain where you fell short of your goals [and why]. Then either make your 2018 goals OR go back and revise them.

Below I will get the ball rolling with my 2017 reading resolutions post here [which also happens to include my 2016 assessment]. That post not only has the resolutions you will see below in bold, but also, a larger narrative about the reasoning behind each.

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.
Okay, the reason I wanted to do this was to one, read outside of my comfort zone, two, read more diversely, and three, to get back to more reading more backlist titles. Looking back on my reading I unfortunately got a lot more busy reviewing new titles for Booklist and Indie Picks, so I was required to read many new titles. However, when I didn’t HAVE to read something, I did go out of my way to do all three things- read out of my comfort zone, looked for a diverse option, and sought out backlist options. And I did like having the premade reading challenges to help me find something to read when I was looking for an idea. I helped me to not just defer to my go-to preferences. I read outside my comfort zone and found some great reads, some, like River of Teeth, ended up among my favorites of the year.
  • 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.
I did try to create a better balance here, but again, I was assigned more books to read for reviews this year than ever before. But, when I did have time to read books for fun, I did seek out nonfiction and audio because of this resolution. I even combined the two frequently. I was saddened in 2016 that I read so few nonfiction, but this year, I got back to making sure I made time for both. I am very glad about that. And although I had fewer want to read titles than ever before, I did carve out time between have to reads to make sure I got a few want to reads in there. I didnt let the deadlines and assigned reading overwhelm me or keep me from getting enjoyment out of my reading. It seems weird that I had to resolve to do that, but I really did need that as the impetus. I would literally schedule myself time to read a book or two between assigned reading. If I had kept working myself like I did on 2016, I would have quit reviewing; it was getting that bad. Instead, I made this resolution and actually was able to fit in more books that I had to read and that I wanted to read. The mindset and the planning made all of the difference. I am in one of the best places I have ever been in mentally in regards to this resolution.

I also took some time out to assess one aspect of this feeling a few weeks ago when I wrote up this post on how I was able to manage my TBR anxiety. I have heard back from dozens of people who said that this post really helped them too. 
  • 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.
I am at my local library at least once a week, but this year I made an effort to do more than place holds and pick them up. I wanted to get back to using the library like a patron, not an expert. I browsed the shelves, especially our “Lucky Day” collection which has the most popular [at our library] titles available for 1 week checkout [in all ages levels and formats all in one location]. I made sure to also go upstairs to the adult department and look at the displays and stacks for ideas, often bringing home a stack of books. However, while I did spend time with many of these books I did not put appeal terms about them on Goodreads. 

But here is what this resolution did make me do which I think is even better and is also an example of why doing these assessments on the resolutions you think you failed at is so valuable-- I completely revised the way I write reviews for this blog. 

In 2017, as I mentioned above, I wrote more official reviews for publications than ever before. It meant I was less inspired to write reviews of the books I read for fun, but I knew I had to get something down about them. So....I moved to using Goodreads as the place where I would record less formal comments about those books making sure to always have my “Three Words” and readalikes in these less formal reviews. Then I would periodically have a post directing you to those updated reviews. This allowed me to keep these titles searchable on the blog without having to write up something formal. The result, I had much less trouble keeping up with reviews and I had more content to help all of you help readers.

Finally, my overall assessment of my 2017 reading resolutions themselves is that I made them way too general last year. While I read more widely overall which was my ultimate goal, to be fair, I usually read more widely. 2016 was a aberration due to it being my first full year as my own boss and my 2017 resolutions reflect the assessment of my reading in 2016. So I think in 2018, I will go back to being more specific.

I will be using today's post as well as a few other observations which I made here in my post about my favorite reads of the year to help build my 2018 reading resolutions. I will post those tomorrow.

Now it’s your turn. Get to work on assessing your 2017 reading resolutions even if you have already made your 2018 ones. As I have demonstrated, it really helps you to understand your reading, the choices of titles you made, and it can even help you feel better about yourself-- not worse.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.

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