Daughter reading

Stack Overflow: 2020 Reading Resolutions

Books Columns Stack Overflow
Daughter reading
I envy the flexibility of little kids, who can read in any position imaginable. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The start of a new year is a chance to reflect on the past year and ruminate on our hopes for the year to come. Sure, it’s an arbitrary point in time based on our understanding of our planet’s position in space, but it’s a convenient point to pause. Today, some of the GeekDads and GeekMoms share our reading resolutions: what we’re planning to read in 2020.

I’ll note that we did have some discussion, and some writers prefer not to make resolutions or set reading goals at all: for some, things like the Goodreads challenges make it feel too much like a competition, “like we should feel guilty for not meeting reading goals.” Others find that having a quota or daily requirement makes reading feel too much like work. My own hope is that setting reading goals isn’t intended to shame others or make yourself feel guilty (though admittedly that can happen), but to provide myself with some reminders that there are books I wanted to read. For me, it’s a nudge, like a reminder to eat some fruits and veggies and not just cookies and candy.

So, let’s take a look at what’s on our lists!

Jonathan H. Liu

I am, as always, looking for ways to cull the stacks of books that are threatening to shove me out of my office space entirely. Last year I was hoping to get to more books written by authors I’ve enjoyed before—some of these are books in the same series, and others are just new standalone books. I still have a few of those left, like Exile From Eden by Andrew Smith (a sequel to Grasshopper Jungle), two more books in Joe Ide’s IQ series, and a couple books by Cixin Liu (author of The Three-Body Problem series). I’ve also got some series on my shelf that I just never got around to, and I figure I should dip into them to see if I like them, or if it’s time to weed them from my collection: the Illuminae trilogy by Jamie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Jim Kelly wrote about the first book back in 2015), the Seeker trilogy by Arwen Elys Dayton, and the Otherworld series by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller. I really didn’t read as many middle grade novels or young adult novels in 2019, and those stacks are also growing, so I’m hoping to pick a few of those to read as well.

Although it’s not specifically about reading, I hope to make a big enough dent in my stacks (both by reading and weeding) to be able to reach my bookshelves without having to move stacks of boxes out of the way. And while I don’t know how realistic it is for me, I envy the way my six-year-old (pictured at the top of the post) reads books: voraciously and indiscriminately (whether new to her or old and familiar), in any position anywhere!

Dakster Sullivan

My reading challenge this year is more of a goal than a challenge. I find challenges to be stressful and sometimes they involve reading books I just don’t enjoy. I understand needing to stretch your reading wings, but I prefer to keep to what I enjoy. Last year, my goal was to read all of Jane Austen’s novels but I failed miserably because I didn’t anticipate how hard they would be to get through. This year, I set a goal to read a book once every two weeks or once a month depending on how busy I am (and how big the book is). I set this goal mainly to remind myself to stay off social media and other electronic entertainment. I include manga, trade comics, and regular novels in this goal. It should make for a fun year.

Greg Howley

Having largely failed in my 2019 reading resolution, my 2020 resolution is the same as last year: to find as many new books as possible that I’ll really enjoy.

In 2019, I failed in part because so much of what I did was re-reading, which makes it kind of difficult to find new books. In 2020, however, Jim Butcher is releasing Peace Talks, the 16th book of The Dresden Files, and Cory Doctorow is releasing Attack Surface, the third sequel in the Little Brother series. Thus I expect to have at least two genuinely satisfying books before the end of the year.

Patricia Vollmer's Book Stack
A smattering of Patricia’s “half read” books that she’s vowing to complete in 2020. The good news? She’s already finished Prisoners of Geography and is making very good progress on finishing The Innovators. Photo credit: Patricia Vollmer

Patricia Vollmer

I’m bringing a rather unusual reading resolution this year. I have a stack of “half read” books that I have resolved to complete this year. By my count, I have about 12 books, presented as a combination of physical, Audible, and Kindle versions. As of this writing, I’ve already finished the first one that needed to be completed, Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography, which I had featured in a Between the Bookends in 2018, but can’t remember which month. I’m now working my way through The Innovators, by Walter Issacson. This book is a fantastic glimpse into the minds of computer science, from Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace of the 19th century to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of today. Other books that are in progress include A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, on Audible, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, on the Kindle.

This didn’t stop me from picking up some new books to work on this year. On her “to read” list is Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Issacson, World In My Eyes: The Autobiography by Richard Blade, and The Flight Girls: A Novel by Noelle Salazar.

I’m hoping to spend more time reading than last year. Due to a combination of factors, including my reading vision deteriorating into needing glasses for the first time, my reading wasn’t as fruitful as it had been in years past.

Rebecca Angel reading

Rebecca Angel

2019 was a satisfying reading year for me, but I know I can have an even better one for 2020. I logged 50 books on GoodReads and plan on keeping the same challenge for 2020. I don’t see a need to increase how many books I read, but which ones will be different.

Starting this past fall, I have said, “No, thank you” to publishers asking me to review books or sending them to me without request. Although I really, really enjoy reading the latest books out there, I know I will feel more satisfied getting through the pile of books I already have, sitting dejectedly in my basement. These include books gifted to me from friends and family over the years, which had fallen to second-place status against the pressure of reviewing new books in a timely manner for GeekMom. They are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, multiple genres, some from the previous years, others from the previous decades. A few in the stack: The Age of Myth, A Wizard of Earthsea, Freak the Mighty, Digging to America, The Underground Railroad, How Music Works, Spook, The First Scientist, The Adventures of Henry David Thoreau, and The Four Agreements.

“You really need to make a spreadsheet for this and publish it.” This was a suggestion from my hubby watching me continue to tally up female speaking characters in each book I read in 2019 on little scraps of paper. I will continue to keep track of every fiction book I read and do plan on making a spreadsheet to collect the data in hopes of publishing it for an ongoing project so a bigger picture can be seen, or people can use my list to find books with more equal gender representation. I am passionate about bringing attention to the abominably low percentage of females who are allowed to speak in stories, and I see this being my goal for 2020 and beyond.

handwritten notes about characters
Tracking characters in my reading. Photo: Rebecca Angel

I already have an idea for 2021, which is to read sequels and finish series I have started in the past. We shall see…

Keep up with me on GoodReads, Between the Bookends, Instagram, and my personal posts on GeekMom about books. Looking forward to a great year ahead of reading!

Robin Brooks

Similar to Rebecca, my main focus is going to be to try to read through my backlog rather than chase new 2020 titles. I’m still going to continue my Word Wednesday column, which will showcase new non-fiction, but I have piles of books that need reading at home, and it’s time to try to get through them.

All too often in 2019, I found myself reading review copies of books that I wasn’t really enjoying, feeling I should continue out of obligation to the author and publisher. I didn’t stop buying books, because as I’m sure any book lover will understand, at the moment of purchase, in the shop, I’m sure I’ll find time to read the latest amazing book I’ve discovered.

I’m also (mostly) giving up buying books on Amazon. After reading The Warehouse last year, I’ve made the personal decision not to support that type of trading setup. I live in a small town that currently has a bricks and mortar bookshop, and I’d like it to stay that way. I love seeing books piled up and love to browse, and I particularly love seeing titles chosen by the countless highly knowledgeable booksellers out there. I’ve been buying their recommendations for years; 2020 is the year I’m going to read some of them!

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