Hope you’re enjoying that fresh scent of “new year” while it lasts. It smells like new opportunities, a fresh stack of books, with just a hint of excessive optimism that you always hope will linger a bit longer. You know what that means: it’s time for our annual reading resolutions!
Today, we’re sharing our hopes and dreams for 2021—at least when it comes to our reading habits. Here are the books we’re looking forward to, or the ones we’ve been meaning to read for a while but just haven’t made the time. Here are the ways we hope books will shape the world around us, or the way we understand it. May 2021 be full of good books for you!
(In case you missed it, we reflected on our 2020 resolutions last week.)
Jonathan H. Liu
When my first two kids were younger, my wife and I spent a lot of time reading to them out loud, from the board books and picture books to longer chapter books. It got to be a challenge to keep up when the two of them didn’t necessarily want the same book for bedtime, or when my wife and I were each reading a different book to them together—sometimes our bedtime routine took a long time to complete. And then, at some point, without ever making a conscious decision about it, we fell out of the habit. My youngest came along quite a bit later, and while we still did our share of reading picture books to her and my wife has continued to read some novels here and there, I never established that habit with her myself—in part because she picked up reading so quickly on her own and in part because, well, now I’ve got three kids and life just got busier. But this year I did manage to read a couple of books to her that my older kids had enjoyed previously: we read Buckle & Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot, a delightfully silly story that I wrote about way back in 2015, and we’re currently halfway through the first book of The Ministry of SUITs series—it’s one that my kids and I all read independently a few years ago. It’s been a lot of fun curling up in the big chair with her and hearing her react to the stories, and so one of my resolutions this year is to do a little more of that, and introduce her to some of the books that were her older sisters’ favorites when they were her age.
I didn’t manage to complete my 2020 resolution to clear out enough books so that I can actually walk to my bookshelves without stepping over boxes of books on the floor, so I’m keeping that one. I’m figuring that publishers won’t be ramping up on shipping out physical copies of books right away, so maybe I still have a little time to dig myself out from this overflow. My stretch goal is to make enough room to put a comfy chair in my office, so that I can actually grab a book off the shelf and then—imagine that!—sit down and read it. (Currently I’ve got a little floor cushion and I just grab a bit of floor space, but it’s not really the same thing.)
I have a few books that I started reading in 2020 that I want to finish: I’ve enjoyed (if “enjoy” is the right word to use in this case) the Dystopia Triptych by John Joseph Adams so far, and am about halfway through each of the three books. Each volume is a collection of short stories that take place before, during, and after the fall, and each author has chosen a different dystopia to write about, so I’ve been reading all three books at once, following the story arc by one author before moving to the next. While it may seem odd to immerse myself in dystopian fiction in a year like the one we’ve just had, I found that it helped me think critically about various trends by taking them to their extremes. Plus, the last volume holds promises of rebirth, new beginnings, and a way out of the mess we’re in.
I’ve also just started reading The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book by Kate Milford, set in the world of Nagspeake. It comes out in February, but I got an advance proof of it. It’s like Milford’s version of The Canterbury Tales, with a bunch of guests stuck in an inn because of the floods who pass the time by sharing stories. It promises to be creepy and beautiful and full of surprising secrets. And, while I’m at it, I may read the Nagspeake books to my 7-year-old, too. My older girls have read them all and love them, but she’s just dipped her toes in Greenglass House so far and I think would really enjoy them, and it would give me a fun opportunity to re-read them.
I just managed to make my Goodreads goal for 2020, though it came down to the wire, so I think I’ll probably keep the same goal this year—but I’m also looking around for something to use other than Goodreads, as I continue to try extracting myself from the Amazon ecosystem, a little bit at a time.
This past year, 2020 proved to me that I could set a reading goal and keep to it. It was the first year I set a goal for a number of books to read, and I even put it up on GoodReads: 20 books for 2020. I made it with a month to spare, and I ended up finishing out the year with 21 books of varying lengths and genres. These included a few history graphic novels, including the whole March series and George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy; women’s history, in the form of The Ladies of Seneca Falls and She Votes; two books by Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park, having already read Northanger Abbey in 2019; and some mindless fun type books. Plus: two books by Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive and The Midnight Library, the latter of which won GoodReads’ fiction book of the year prize. Well deserved.
So, for 2021, it’s kind of a no-brainer to set a goal of 21 books. I’m already well into my first book for 2021 (yet another Jane Austen book: Pride and Prejudice this time), and still have several specific books I’d meant to read in 2020 that I didn’t get to: most specifically, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series. I also plan to tackle the remaining two Jane Austen books, Emma and Persuasion (with Rory in our two-person book club); finish reading one of my grandfather’s books, The Adventure of Learning in College, which is more about learning and less about college; and maybe, you know, read some books that have been languishing on my bookshelves for years, decades in some cases. I’m strongly drawn to nonfiction books, but enjoy reading fiction more, so it’s a constant tug of war between the two.
My main resolution for 2021 is to attempt to carve out more quiet time for reading. My reading in 2020 was broken and disjointed and I think my general satisfaction levels suffered for it. In the short term, this is looking tricky. I foresee the children being at home a lot more during the opening months of the year due to increased COVID-19 restrictions.
I shall also aim to keep buying books from brick-and-mortar bookstores. Their importance to the community has never been greater, and I hope to do more to shout out the praises of authors whose books I enjoy during the year. (I’m keeping this resolution nebulous so that I have more chance of claiming I was successful!)
As ever, another reading aim is to get through the backlog of books I’ve been buying. Again, like 2020, I’m going to try to keep the number of books received from publishers down to a minimum, and follow my own discoveries and read more of the books that I’ve paid money for rather than drowning in the flow of review books that might come my way.
Towards the end of 2020, I took part in a reread of Watership Down, a book I’ve read a couple of times in my life, but not for at least 25 years. It was organized by author Tim Leach, on Twitter (if you haven’t read any of Tim’s books, track them down, they’re great). He rereads it every year, and this year invited others along. I’d forgotten what a wonderful book it was. This got me thinking about what other books I might like to reread; The Lord of the Rings being an obvious contender.
In an entirely unrelated conversation, I introduced somebody to Vimes’ boot theory of economics, which started me thinking about Terry Pratchett. I read most of Pratchett’s books as a callow youth and this theory completely passed me by at the time; I’ve encountered it later via the internet. What else did I miss? The seeds of an idea were sown, so in 2021, I hope to start rereading Pratchett, and all being well share my experiences here on GeekDad. What form this will take, and how well it will go remains to be seen, but as I write, caught by the languid days between Christmas and New Year, it seems like an expedition worth setting out on.
This year I plan to read 21 in 21 (I’m actually hoping to aim higher than 21 but I want to read thicker books this year so I lowered the number a little). Maybe I’ll actually put a dent in my unread books on my bookshelf. I have a one-hit-wonder goal of reading a new genre so I’ll be exploring something new. Having anxiety and depression though will limit me to anything with a happy ending. Just like in 2020, I’m going to use the Bookly app as well as my Happy Planner to keep track of all that I read.
I only have two reading resolutions for this year: continue my Female Speaking Characters Project (for more information visit me on GoodReads), and whittle down my non-fiction bookshelf.
Last year I made progress on getting through my to-read pile, but most were novels. Novels are faster than non-fiction, and I had so many books! Yet, all the non-fiction titles on my shelf are ones I am interested in. Books like:
- The Adventures of Henry David Thoreau by Michael Sims
- Spook by Mary Roach
- Creative Minds by Howard Gardner
- The First Scientist by Rovelli
- Cravings by Mary DeTurris Poust
- How Music Works by John Powell and more.
To help me accomplish this task, I am lowering my GoodReads goal to 36 books. While my two book clubs will still give me plenty of novel reading material, I want time to read through my non-fiction. I have trouble not meeting my own standards, so if I lower them purposely, then I can slow down.
This will not just give me permission to tackle more difficult non-fiction subjects but ease the pace of my novel reading as well. I want to leisurely turn the pages of deeper books, linger and reread golden sentences, take a few days to process all I learned before jumping into the next world. I want to savor the written word this year.
I have so many reading resolutions this year that I think one of them needs to be, keep track of all my reading resolutions!
First, challenges. As I have for the last several years, I will once again be participating in the PopSugar Reading Challenge which always has interesting and varied prompts. This year I’m also adding the Flourish & Blotts “Magic in the Pages” Challenge, and the 52 Book Club’s 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. Finally, I even created my own reading challenge on my bookish Instagram: @readnerdywithme. The #XFilesReadingChallengeS1 has 24 prompts, one for each episode of the X-Files’ first season.
Away from challenges, I’m also hoping to participate in more readathons. The first two on my radar are #Winterween which is hosted by Gabby Reads and Olivia Reads a Latte and runs this week, and also the Supernatural-themed #Waywardathon hosted by @waywardreading which runs all through February.
Finally, I have a few other miscellaneous goals. These include reading at least 161 books (this seemingly arbitrary figure will push my total number of “read” books on GoodReads 10 a neat 1000, but obviously re-reads won’t count), reading more from my ever-increasing physical TBR, reading more diverse authors, and picking up more classics. I’m also looking forward to trying to read aloud more with my son – a habit that slipped away recently – and supporting and helping promote the Booktubers who helped save my sanity in 2020. On that note, I’d like to end by recommending a few channels that you might like to visit and watch.
How about you? What (or how) do you hope to read this year?