Do you create an annual reading list?

Ugh. I only read 20 books last year. 

Yes, yes, I know. That’s probably more than a lot of people. But for me, that’s not a lot. For some reason, I didn’t feel as motivated to read. To me, reading regularly is essential if I’m going to be a writer. And I had several “to-read” lists– broken down by genre and type– so I didn’t have a lack of books I wanted to get to. Also, I love to read. 

But last year, I wasn’t feeling the love. And I couldn’t understand why.

I figured it out. This epiphany happened when one of my coworkers told me about his movie watching list he made for 2023. He had already kept me and my other coworkers apprised of his movie watching progress throughout 2022. He had completed watching all the movies on his list and excitedly made his 2023 list.

This made me realize something: I should do this for my reading.

The annual list idea made me realize I felt overwhelmed with all the books I wanted to read. I mean, I had twenty or so to-read lists. Right? 

But having so many books to get to smothered my motivation to read. I didn’t know where to start. So I decided to take my coworker’s annual movie list idea and apply it to my reading.

It reminds me of that playground study I’ve read about. The kids without a fence surrounding the playground felt overwhelmed because they didn’t know the boundaries. So they just stayed huddled up in the center. Having a fence around the playground freed them up to let loose. They felt unburdened by knowing where they could go. Same with having an annual list. I can just focus on these books for this year and enjoy them. 

How I made my annual reading list

First, I asked myself how many books can I realistically read in one year? For me, it’s around 40 average. For my cousin, it’s around 100. But that’s not realistic for me. So, I decided to stay right around 40.

At first, I thought 50 would be a nice, round number. And I can read 50 books a year. I’ve done it. But that’s just a little too ambitious for me. I don’t want to feel rushed. So I lowered my goal to a much more attainable 40.

Secondly, I drew from all my various to-read lists. I add to these lists whenever I hear about a book that sounds interesting. But having so many lists was killing my motivation to read. I will never get to read every book on these lists. So each year, I will pick one to three from each. 

Don’t get me wrong. In my opinion, breaking down to-read lists by genre and type is a good idea. But tackling only one or two at a time is more realistic. I get a variety that way. But to be honest, about half of my 2023 reading list is science fiction and fantasy. However, I wanted to include other types of reading as well: non-fiction, poetry, drama, etc. Having an annual list helps me cover all my bases.

Has it worked?

An astounding yes. So far, I’ve read 15 novels. It’s all psychological; knowing I can just focus on and enjoy the book I’m reading (or listening to) at hand has changed my perspective on reading. For the most part, recreational reading should be fun. Knowing I’m going to knock out a chunk of the books I’ve been meaning to read excites me.

I know that sounds nerdy, but reading is important to me.

Some more tips for making your list:

Leave room for several “alternates.” If you end up not wanting to read a book on your annual list, you can let it go and pick one of your alternates.

By keeping the number of books you definitely want to read low, you can finish your list early, before the end of the year. Then, you can spend the rest of the year reading spontaneously.

I include audio books on my list. I pick a title I want to read, and whether it’s print or audio doesn’t matter to me. It’s your choice whether or not you consider audiobooks actual reading.

I’ve already started my list for next year. If I finish reading my 40 books early this year, I can start on that list. Or I can just pick some random books on my various to-read lists.

Just have fun reading.

Photo by Robin McPherson:

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