Thursday, May 1, 2008

Reading Resolutions

At the end of every year, I set "reading resolutions" for the upcoming year. I choose my resolutions by looking back over my reading for the last year and asking myself what I wished I had read more of. One December, for example, I noticed that most of the books I read that year were by women, so my reading resolution for the next year was to read more books by men than by women. It was an interesting year, and I learned that, in the aggregate, men and women do tend to write a bit differently.

This past December, in reflecting on my reading in 2007, I noticed that I'd read almost exclusively American and British contemporary fiction (plus all six of Jane Austen's novels)—not exactly well-balanced. In order to address this imbalance, my reading resolutions for 2008 focus on reading more broadly. Specifically, I've resolved to read in 2008: 12 classics (including 1 Shakespeare play), 12 books in translation, 12 non-fiction books, 4 short story collections, 1 poetry collection, and 4 books that are considered experimental for some reason. So far, I'm making good progress towards these resolutions.

For those of you without reading resolutions, you might consider making a few half-year resolutions (June-December 2008). Some resolutions I've considered in the past include:
  • Read more books by men than women (or the opposite)
  • Read one book published in each decade since 1750
  • Read one book written in each continent
  • Read a certain number of books in translation
  • Read a certain number of books of poetry/plays/short stories/classics/non-fiction/fiction/experimental fiction (whatever you don't generally read but would like to read more of)
  • Read a certain number of books about a particular, specific subject you've always been interested in
  • Read all the major prize winners during the year (Man Booker Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, Orange Prize, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award)
  • Join a book club (on-line or in person) and read every selection
My reading resolutions over the years have encouraged me to read outside my comfort zone, have broadened my reading interests, and have made me a more well-rounded and well-informed reader.

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