Happy New Year!
Last time I mentioned my intention to devise some new, more mindful, reading goals for the New Year. I feel the need to push myself more in my literary endeavors and expose myself to some new, talented voices. But more than anything else, I think I need to take a step or two out of my comfort zone.
As I said last time, though I have read a great deal this last year, about ninety percent of those books have been suspense novels written by white American men. Interesting and enjoyable, but not terribly challenging.
I settled—after some reflection—on three principles to guide the design of my new reading goals. First of these is that I still need to focus a large amount of my effort in the genre I prefer to work in, which is generally, suspense fiction. It is what I am trying to do, so I need to read a lot in that genre. If you’re trying to perfect your watercolor painting techniques, you need to spend most of your time at the museum with watercolors, right?
Speaking of museums and the masters, the second principle is that I need to read more “classic” literature. By this, I mean works and authors that are generally regarded as very good for one reason or another. Just like the paintings at the museum, they are masters. In order to improve, one must expose oneself and experience the works of those who are better than you.
The third principle is that I need to read more works by authors who are not white American men. Again, this this is part of an effort to broaden my world view and experience. It is another small step out of my comfort zone.
With these principles in mind, the rest of the design process comes down to setting numbers. How much and how many?
Thanks to Goodreads.com, who challenged me and then kept track of the numbers, I know I read fifty-three books last year. So I have a benchmark. However, most of those fifty-three books were of the suspense/mystery genre I prefer. Not necessarily the most challenging. If I pick more challenging books to read next year, the numbers will tick down as quality overcomes quality.
So, now that you understand the thinking behind the plan, here are my reading goals for 2016.
Total books: I intend to read a total of forty-eight books. That works out to one a week, with four weeks to spare. (Even a dedicated reader/writer like myself needs some time off occasionally).
Of the forty-eight books, twenty-four (one half) will probably be in my chosen genre, somewhere on the suspense spectrum. One quarter of the book (twelve) will be classics; one quarter (again twelve) will be novels written by—for want of a better term—ethnic minorities, such as Afro-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and so on. For my purposes, I am choosing to concentrate on African-American and Native-American this year, because I want to. So I will read six books from each group.
Broken down into monthly segments, the plan will go like this: I will read two novels in my genre, one classic, and one book written by a Native-American. (I already have the first two picked out). In July (if all goes according to plan) I will read two in my genre, one classic, and one book each month by an African-American author.
Specifically, in January, 2016, I plan to read The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday (Native American), The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (classic novel), and then probably two thrillers by Greg Iles. I will also most probably read poetry, short fiction, and various nonfiction articles throughout January and the months to follow. I always do. My plan is only in regard to my book length readings.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether I have the discipline to carry this plan out. But that is why I call it a matter of goals, not a New Year’s resolution.
But it is my plan.
Do you have one?