New Year, New Reading Resolutions

I know I said it yesterday (and thank you all for your lovely responses, I won’t respond individually as I would just be saying ‘and to you and yours’ a lot) but I shall say it again now as I scheduled the last one in advance, Happy New Year! I hope that you have all had wonderful festive season and had a wonderful start to the new year. I like a new year, in my mind it is like a new notebook with pristine empty pages ahead of you, you can put a full stop on the year before, thinking fondly of its highs and happily forgetting its lows and start again. It is also a time where you look at what you hope for in the year ahead and of course those New Year’s resolutions. My initial plan was not to have any and just see what the year brought me, however that can lead to laziness and so rather than having resolutions I am going to have guidelines instead. My personal ones are staying personal but here are the ones I have for reading, all two of them – though they are quite wide reaching ones.

First and foremost the year 2013 will be about reading by whim, on the whole. I have to add the ‘on the whole’ for books I need to read for work, not being a judge on this year’s Green Carnation Prize will free a huge amount of my reading year (roughly the time it takes to read 50-60 books, then eleven again, then six again), and books that I will be reading for The Readers Book Club. Other than that I want it to be a year of seeing where my whimsical reading takes me. I might have a big author, modern classic or genre binge, I might only read short books (unlikely as I have started Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Miserables’), I might read some long or short listed books from prizes… and I might not. I am rather excited about this. I have been pondering for some time if I know the real reader I am yet, and maybe we never do, I am hoping this random year of reading will make all that clearer. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, who knows, either way that is my main plan.

This does mean, bar the aforementioned podcast one, I have decided that it is also a year of no book groups. I did want to go back to Manchester once a month to see Lucy and the lovely troop, I also planned on joining one in Liverpool but really with wanting to read by whim and the fact that I will be commuting a lot to Derbyshire and back for Gran I just think that for now at least I need to be a teeny weeny bit selfish on this score. I will miss the banter, the laughter and the excitement of reading someone else random book choices, but I fancy the idea of books leading me to other books or a random review leading me some new, older of forgotten treat. The same applies to challenges, bar my personal Persephone Project and the last three reads for Classically Challenged, I will not be joining in any challenges or reading projects this year. (Nor will I have a countdown on GoodReads to how many books I said I would read, pressure proved too much this year!) I might miss out, I might not. I just want to get back to the ground routes of books and reading.

This will probably affect the blog, which I have been looking at again over Christmas. I am still pondering my blogging resolutions and was going to post about them today too but it is reading like a rant at the moment and needs a little more time, tweaking and its own separate post probably. But back to reading though for now…

My second sort of reading guideline/resolution is that I want to ruthlessly start all over again. I am very much of a mind that you can never have too many books, yet I do. That might sound mad but let me explain. I have lots of lovely books, but I have too many in the TBR that I feel a little bit ‘meh’ about, and some that I actually feel rather guilty about for varying reasons.

Oh the ‘meh’ books! These are those books that on the whole I have gone and bought on a whim and saved for a rainy day… three or four years ago. These books have not been read in all that time, not their fault much more mine and I think I really need to have a word with myself about if they ever will and if in fact maybe they should have new homes. There are also a fair few books I started once upon a time and have never finished, I feel slight guilt about these and need to let them, and the guilt, go. These could also fall into the guilty books along with some unsolicited books I have lingering in the TBR too.

Don’t get me wrong, I have found some utter gems through unsolicited books that have arrived and I still welcome them and the joy their arrival in the post brings, yet if one is obviously not my cup of tea I find I keep it, again for a rainy day, and feel guilty about just passing it on, be it to a family member or the local independent book shop or library. Libraries are definitely playing more of a pivotal role in my reading this year, as the more I use it hopefully the less ‘meh’ books will end up in TBR limbo. I can simply return them to the library shelves rather than having them sitting on mine making me feel guilty. Guilt isn’t just aimed at the books bought on a whim or sent unsolicited, it can also be those books I really wanted, asked for, then just didn’t get round to initially because the mood wasn’t right. That said when the mood comes back, and this happened with ‘My Policeman’ by Bethan Jones last year, you can find its one of your favourite books of the year as you expected it might be in the first place. Hang on this is straying into blogging territory not reading…

The guilt isn’t just for the books I have that I don’t think I will really ever read, it’s also for the ones that have been languishing, possibly forgotten about, or I have been put off reading because of the books above. Books both old and new I have been desperate to read and then have not for whatever reason. This to me is the positive guilt, I believe there is such a thing, that has brought the realisation I need to toughen up, so this week an epic cull is starting so that my TBR gets more attention than my shelf of ‘just in’ books or ones that jump straight to the bedside table. It’s time for some tough love, both for me and the books and I think I will feel so much better and more whimsical after. Don’t you?

So those are my two rather rambling resolutions/guidelines. What do you think? Have you any advice on the culling or the resolutions themselves? What about your good self? Have you made any reading, or indeed blogging, resolutions or guidelines this year?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

33 responses to “New Year, New Reading Resolutions

  1. I think this might have inspired me to do exactly the same thing, Simon – I have precisely the same issues with my TBR, and maybe 2013 is the year to get back to what it’s actually all about – reading is pleasure or it’s nothing. Happy New Year.

    • Phew. You’ve made me feel better Shelley. I was slightly worried this post was coming across grumpy and bolshy and that’s not how it’s meant. I just need to toughen up with my own reading and my out of control TBR!

  2. gaskella

    For the past two years I’ve joined in CB James’s TBR dare – to read nothing you don’t already own from Jan 1 to Mar 31st … It didn’t stop me from going on to read 44 books published in 2012 last year though, so this year I hope to continue to attack the TBR more after Mar 31st, as culling it is still so difficult.

  3. David

    That was a great post, Simon. I understand exactly where you’re coming from with the tbr mountain and needing to let some of them go (along with the guilt), no matter how good your intentions were in acquiring them in the first place. Last year one of my resolutions was to read more older books whereas in 2011 I think all but 2 of the books I read were published in that year. In the main I succeeded with at least one ‘older’ book read in even the months between, say, March and September when most new books are published, and January and December being almost entirely ‘old’ books. Some of these I bought and then read, but a lot of them came from the backs of my shelves where they had been sitting for years (13 years in one case!) and the great joy in this was that some of them were among my favourite reads of the year – to think: these wonderful stories and characters had been patiently waiting for me all this time. My first read of 2013 (which I struggled to pick, nothing I thought I wanted to read seemed right ) ended up being one I just plucked at random from the shelves – couldn’t remember buying it, didn’t know what it was about – but so far I’m enjoying it enormously. The downside of that of course is that now I’m even more reluctant to get rid of anything, just in case it is a hidden gem. ‘Tis a quandary!

    The second resolution I made last year (and I wrote them in a comment to your resolutions post a year ago so that I had them in black and white somewhere, witnessed) was to read more short stories, spurred on by reading Sarah Hall’s collection and realising it was the first book of short fiction I’d read since 2007. I think I said I was aiming for one collection per month, which I thought sounded achievable. I ended up reading 41 collections and discovering a real appreciation and love for the form – that half hour or so before breakfast when I sit and quietly read a short story has become my favourite time of day.

    So this year I’m going to keep up the short story reading and if possible read even more older books and clear the tbr backlog at least a tiny bit. I’m also keen to try and read some classics this year – not necessarily Dickens and Hardy and what-have-you though perhaps those too, or maybe just modern classics: two of my favourite books of 2012 were Australian modern classics published in 1955 and 1965 respectively and they were fresher and more readable and better written than many new books I read, so more of that please!

    And I want to try and let go of this stupid notion that I somehow HAVE to read something because it’s new out and everyone (on blogs or whatever) is talking about it or because it’s bloomin’ “Booker-eligible”. Yes, half the new books I read last year were great and I’m so glad I read them – as usual discovering several writers along the way whom I want to read more of – but the other half of them were, in the scheme of things, pretty forgettable: my life wouldn’t have been any the poorer for not reading them. I don’t know how I’ll go about this, discerning which are worth my time and which to pass over (maybe wait for you and others to review them first!), but I look at the pile of as-yet-unread books I bought last year and think: ‘didn’t really need that one’, ‘won’t read that one’. Prize lists have a lot to answer for in this respect. Goodness knows why I let them sway me as I haven’t agreed with a prize longlist in years! but still I go out and buy books like ‘Narcopolis’ and ‘Umbrella’ and ‘Communion Town’ none of which have I read, and none of which appeal to me in the slightest.

    So I like a lot your resolution of reading by whim. Letting go of all the various pressures (most manufactured in our own heads I’m sure) and just going where the fancy takes us – I love the sound of that.

    (Oh, and it looks like my resolution to waffle less has gone to pot already!)

    • Oh goodness David… how am I expected to respond to these hahahaha. I mean really? Hee hee.

      I did laugh at you picking a random forgotten book and loving it and now feeling dubious about letting any others go… but I think sometimes we just have to don’t we? I have been procrastinating starting a proper clear out! I will start this afternoon, soon as I have been to the shops…

      Oh and… start a blooming blog!

  4. It seems many people’s new year resolutions (including mine) involve cleaning up the tbr. My goal is to read at least 10 books out of the pile, but I hope to finish even more since I’ve vowed to get rid of any books in the actual pile that remain unread at the end of the year.

    • I think it is a New Year thing, seems the perfect time to start really. I couldn’t vow to get rid of any I don’t read by the end of the year, I add too many to mine too often haha. Regular culls are better though.

  5. Simon, I think it’s a great idea to read purely based on whim. I try to do that too, but end up more often reading based on library due dates. The books that I own are often the ones that have to wait. For example, I’ve had Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal for over a year… still unread. My resolution is to read it before the end of this month. I’ve also resolved to read two other of my own books that keep getting pushed aside: Mr Allbones’ Ferrets by Fiona Farrell and Sussex Drive by Linda Svendsen. The whim part of the equation is when I will fit them in between other reading… the many books requested from my public library’s collection.

    • You see I press the renew button too much Lindy, though actually if they get to the due date and I haven’t read them maybe I didn’t want them as much as I thought, and I would rather have that than books languishing lacklustre in the TBR as I have at the moment.

  6. I’ve resolved not to buy any new books between now and 2oth Feb (my birthday is 21st Feb so I’ll want to indulge that day) so I can attack my to be read pile and my library books.
    Also I want to read some writers I feel I should have read but haven’t – I posted about them here:
    Already started with Dickens, so I’m feeling good.
    But yeah, I totally understand your resolutions, and reading on whim is so much fun, especially when you go to the library and wander around to see what takes your fancy.

    • I like that idea Alice, though I have just gone shopping so I would have failed hahaha. Good idea though. And thank you for the link, I have saved it so can catch up on it in due course, am horribly behind with blogs.

  7. I have a library of more than 3000 books and as a collector I have gotten more into collecting them rather than reading them and getting library books to read. Well this is the year I read my own books. Will only take one or two library books at a time, if that from the list I have of books to look for. I have wonderful books in my home. I just need to read them! Good luck. I commiserate fully.

    • There is nothing wrong with collecting, I think mine has been hoarding more than collecting and I think I have made some bad culling choices in the past which I will talk about in the future maybe. So culling isn’t always for the best.

  8. Sharkell

    Last year I resolved to read at least every second book from my tbr pile (which I have to admit grew during the year) as I was doing what Pam does and reading library books in preference to my own books. I swayed a little from time to time but have just checked back and found that I read 41 books from my tbr compared to 92 total books for the year. So I didn’t quite make it but I was close enough. I don’t have a list of priorities to read in my tbr but simply pick whatever takes my fancy at the time. I had found some duds and some gems. I fully support your idea of reading whatever takes your fancy and I look forward to hearing about the gems that you find and the not so good ones as well. Good luck!

    • That is really good going though, better than I imagine I did – I daren’t look and see how many of my TBR I read last year for the fear it would be so bad!

      I am so excited about whim reading it is untrue.

  9. It’s so comforting to know that there are so many of us out there who are drowning in their own TBR. I love your two resolutions, Simon. I also plan to do a ruthless assessment of my TBR, break up with the ones that I know I will never read (It’s not you, dear books, its me!!) and finally commit to the stack that remains. I know I’ll always feel the urge to buy more but if I can keep up a regime (1 new book for every 2 I read from the shelf?) I ought to be able to get ahead of the tide.
    Happy new year!

    • It is good to know there are other people feeling the way we feel. We all love books so it isn’t moaning, just empathising, very therapeutic hahaha.

      I like the idea of ‘its not you dear books, its me’ I am going to have that in my head as I cull away shortly!

      Happy New Year to you, we must meet up this year!

  10. Reassuring to see another supporter of our public library system in the UK when it seems to be under seige at the moment via budget cuts. I would use it far more if they spent more on the kind of books I want to read rather than on ghost written biographies of C list celebs.

  11. mine just read as I like ,same as ever no totals and aims really ,all the best stu

  12. I think my lack of guilt at my TBR is the reason it’s so huge. Of course there are some books that i keep thinking must read that soon but never do. I know a lot of bloggers are resolving to do a similar thing this year. For me, accepting review books widens what I would read naturally. There are so many books I wouldn’t have gone near if I wasn’t reviewing so I’m not giving up yet but then I also don’t feel under any obligation to read them. I get to them when I get to them, that is my motto. I even sent a bunch off to guest reviewers last year which worked out well.

    Good luck with your whimsical reading!

    • Thank you Ellie, am very excited about it.

      I think guilt free TBRs are the way forward, and I have actually had some lovely emails with publishers about books and reviews and blogs which has made me feel sooooo much better. I think its the ‘meh’ books that bother me, why are they there, why cant I let go? That said I am trying so hopefully that will sort me out. I agree with you about review books making your try new things, but its always new not really the older books and I think lots of older books are getting forgotten.

  13. Pingback: Blogging & Blogging Resolutions 2013 | Savidge Reads

  14. Although we’ll all miss your company at the book club I couldn’t sympathise with your whimmy resolutions more 🙂 I do, and always have read by whim (bar the MBC now of course) and I am very firm about holding onto it and not letting anything else get in the way. (Luckily my work has nothing to do with books so I can afford to!) There is NOTHING more exciting than reading whatever the hell you like and I can’t wait to see what you discover – and see you floating around in the blogosphere a bit more under your new, more relaxed vibe ;-D

  15. They sound like good resolutions. I am moving the other way. Since starting blogging I have primarily continued to read on a whim and not join challenges or readalongs and I think this is the year where I want to join in more and get more involved. Time allowing, of course.

    Hope your reading resolutions allow you to continue enjoying your reading.

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