When I talked (briefly and vaguely) about my 2019 goals, there were only 2 things I was sure about at the beginning of the year:
- that I was setting my Goodreads goal to 100 books. This felt like a comfortable reading goal for 2019, and I think it’ll be a good fit again in 2020. It will be the first year since I started the Goodreads yearly challenge that I won’t be upping my goal, but I’m aiming to have a longer average page count in 2020 so it’ll still be a fun stretch.
- that I was not going to participate in any other yearly reading challenges. I kept that conviction all through 2019, and I didn’t miss trying to cram in all the prompts. Once again for 2020, I am not planning to participate in any group/formal challenges.
So what am I planning to read in 2020? I have one main goal: to find 5-star reads.
I had sort of a dismal reading year in 2019; there were some 5-stars, but they felt few and far between. There were a lot more 2-stars (my lowest rating) than I’ve ever used before this year. And on the whole, I just wasn’t enjoying what I was reading as much as I usually do. I can think of two things that probably had a negative effect on my 2019 reading:
- Book prizes. I read the longlist for the Women’s Prize in 2019, which included some really great titles, but sadly my favorites were the titles I’d read before the longlist announcement, which made reading the rest of the list feel underwhelming. I also read most of the Booker Prize longlist (2 titles left!), even though I wasn’t enthused about many of the nominees. Unfortunately, I found more disappointments than gems there, so that reading experience was largely a downer as well. Because these didn’t go well, the Women’s Prize is now the ONLY longlist I’m planning to read in 2020; any other longlists I sample will be sampled only. Probably. It’s hard to plan for longlists before actually seeing the lists.
- Curiosity. Instead of reaching for books that I expected to love, I did a lot of reaching for topics/authors/titles that I was simply curious about in 2019. This isn’t a bad habit, nor one I intend to drop entirely, but I think that it did lead me to reading quite a few 3-stars that I expected to be 3-stars, which was not helping. Instead of reaching for the books with bits and pieces I know I’ll appreciate even if I don’t love the read as a whole, I want to spend the next year reaching for things that I do think I’ll love wholeheartedly, to put some of the fun back in my reading life.
With this goal in mind, I’ve assembled some lists. My last three posts have been: anticipated 2020 releases, books I’m sad I skipped in 2019, and a 20 in ’20 set of backlist books from my own shelves. All three of these lists are full of books that I think could be 5-star reads for me (or close), so I want to prioritize reading from those three lists in 2020. Since I don’t want reading to feel in any way like a chore in 2020, I’m not setting a hard goal of reading all 60+ books that feature on those lists. I do want to complete as many of the titles as I can though, because I would like to return to all three lists at the end of 2020 and see whether I was right about expecting to enjoy those books!
A few more specific goals:
Early in 2019, I decided that I wanted to read more short stories. I did read a lot more short stories than usual in 2019, but not how I’d expected: with the individually bound Faber Stories rather than with regular collections. Though it worked for 2019 and I appreciated the experience, I do want to focus on switching away from the Faber Stories and reading some proper short story collections in 2020. I’m setting the goal at 8 (or more) collections. I have several great contenders on my shelves, including at least two that are included in my lists of 5-star hopefuls.
I also set an early 2019 goal of reading one thing each month from an “unfinished project,” meaning a long-unfinished book on my currently reading shelf, a series I’d started but never finished, a backlist work by an author I’ve loved, etc. I gave this up entirely by March. Since I don’t want to read things I feel *obligated* toward next year, I’m not ready to pick this goal back up as it was, but I am going to keep working through Stephen King’s backlist in 2020, which is one of my biggest unfinished projects. I don’t really expect most of my King reads to be 5-star experiences, but I’ve been making decent progress through King’s oeuvre in 2019 and I don’t want to lose momentum, so I’m hoping to read at least 8 more of his books in 2020.
Another goal of mine for 2020 is to continue reading past prize winners. Even though the 2019 prizes didn’t go so well for me, I am interested in literary prizes and have found some real gems among the books that have been highlighted by prize committees. In 2019 I participated in some very helpful buddy reads of past Women’s Prize winners, which I hope will continue in 2020. I also would like to catch up with a few of the past Booker prize winners, National Book Award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, etc. I don’t think that these are all necessarily going to be 5-stars for me, so I’m going to keep this goal vague and see what happens. (That didn’t work at all with my goal to read more comics and graphic novels in 2019, but hopefully it will go better in this case.)
Now for blogging. 2019 went pretty well for me, other than the month between Oct/Nov when I was just too busy to be online and fell behind, which couldn’t be helped. So I’m planning to keep a lot of things the same, with a few exceptions:
- I want to work on writing shorter reviews. I’ve always worried that I’m alienating people by writing more than anyone wants to read, but in the end I’m setting this goal because I really need to spend less time reviewing everything I read in excruciating detail and more time working on my novel. There will definitely be circumstances when I’ll need more space to share all of my thoughts, but I really want to work on streamlining for a more manageable length this year.
- Top of the TBR is coming back! I really liked this post series I started in 2019, which lets me talk about books beyond what I’m currently reading. I only dropped this toward the end of the year because I was too busy trying to catch up on reviews and wrap-ups, so 2020 is definitely going to see a return of this series, probably every other week.
- I want to start a Spotlight series in 2020, where every month I’ll do a focus-post on a different genre. It’ll be a space to give and to find recommendations, to look at where genres overlap and what’s specific to each, to talk about genre staples and new/upcoming releases. This isn’t to say I’m an expert on any of these genres; I read widely, and will share some of my experiences with each genre, but what I’m really hoping for is to start a conversation that celebrates each genre, and generates plenty of recommendations for readers with any level of familiarity. I’m still sketching out how I want to go about this, but I do have a schedule in mind (and yes, I know that several of these categories are larger genre umbrellas; this is just what fits my reading life, and I intend to unpack them further in each monthly post):
- Jan – science fiction
- Feb – romance
- Mar – historical fiction
- Apr – fantasy
- May – literary fiction
- Jun – mystery
- Jul – thriller/suspense
- Aug – translated fiction
- Sep – YA
- Oct – horror
- Nov – nonfiction
- Dec – classics
- I’m changing up my TBR system for 2020. My 2019 TBRs were supposed to encourage me to buy fewer books, and to read what I buy in a timely fashion, but I failed dramatically on both accounts so am moving on to another strategy. For 2020 I will set a 5-book TBR every month, which will include THE 5 books I feel like I *need* to read within the month, for whatever reason (buddy reads, borrowed/library books, needed for a post, etc). This should be a manageable number that’ll help keep me on track with my goals and also give me some room for whims. I think I’ll also be including any new releases on my radar for that month at the bottom of each TBR, in case anyone else is interested even if I’m not going to get to them within the month!
- This isn’t going to affect anyone but me, but I need to write it down: I’m setting a 5-book per month goal limit on new book purchases. It’ll help that I’m aiming to spend my book money on more new releases than backlist books this year, which is a more expensive habit and will hopefully give me pause; I want to limit my spending and acquiring, as well as work through that list of 2020 releases I’ve got my eye on!
I think that’s all of the changes I’ve been thinking about making, so I’ll wrap it up now. In sum, I’m hoping for a fun reading year full of 4- and 5-star reads, and some Stephen King. I’m hoping my blogging will be a bit more *inspired* and a bit less time-consuming. We’ll see whether any of this happens as planned!
Do you have a reading goal in mind for 2020?
The Literary Elephant