Every year about this time, the Dude and I start chatting it up about our reading goals for the upcoming year. We yap about the elements from the previous year’s aims that didn’t work, and then begin sorting out what our reading goals will be for next year. Meanwhile we’re both scrambling to finish a handful of short books to try to hit our yet-unmet reading goals for the current year.
This seems to bother the Dude, as he feels it’s cheating. Not me. I read whatever is on deck throughout the year (usually with a monster or two in the mix) and flying through short books at the end of the year means I get a few extra reads under my belt. I consider that a win.
But Why Set Reading Goals?
The Dude and I both love to read, and we would read a good bit without setting any aims. But we set reading goals because, like any aims, it aligns our action with our biggest desires.
Without stated aims, I’ll grab-read anything that snags my attention. This is a fine way to select books (it keeps the doldrums at bay and keeps reading exciting), but if I want to challenge my mind and grow as a person, I’m going to have to push a little. Goals help me do just that.
Types of Reading Goals
I like to play around with the types of reading goals I set. It keeps it interesting and helps me make notable progress in a specific direction. When I meet those goals, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.
Here are a few types of reading goals:
- Quantity – “I’m going to read 5 books this year”
- Genre – “I’m going to read 5 biographies this year”
- Subject – “I’m going to read 5 books about ancient trees this year”
- Author – “I’m going to read 5 books by Jane Austen this year”
- Title – “I’m going to read these 5 books this year: [name them]“
- Combination – “I’m going to read 10 books this year, including 3 dystopian novels and 3 books about the Roman Empire”
There are infinite ways to do this and make it fun. For example, I’m thinking of including a subset in my goals for next year (I nearly always do a combination of the above) of books-to-read-and-then-watch-their-film-adaptations. I won’t see an adapted film until I’ve read the book (if I think I want to read the book, that is), and I happen to have many such backlogged books on my to-read list. So this might make a great aim for next year.
Extra Considerations for Reading Goals
My reading goals really do change each year. Sometimes they’re super vague and easy (like when I haven’t been reading much and want to rekindle my love of it), and sometimes they are fairly specific and relatively challenging.
Having done this for a number of years, here are three things I’ve learned to consider when setting reading goals:
- Your current reading habits. If you only completed one book last year, don’t aim for twenty. Start with what feels accessible from where you are right now. It’s much easier to read more when you’re already in the habit of reading (and enjoying it).
- Your life aims. As you set reading goals, think about the person you want to become. Do you want to be more informed about something? Read a few books on that topic, starting with an Idiot’s Guide or for Dummies title if the subject is relatively new to you. Want to discover how you can get more involved in the world? Read a few books on world issues that interest you. Want to grow in a skill like financial management or your creative expression? Include those, too.
- What it will take for you to stay on track. What unique challenges do you face when it comes to reading? Finishing? Thinking about what you read? Remembering your goals? Take a few minutes to think about what things keep you from reading as much as you’d like and then brainstorm ways to combat them. You might consider reading with a group or friend, finding someone to help you keep on track with your goals in general, and/or regularly reviewing your annual aims to remind you what you’ve set out to do. I do several of these, in addition to keeping track of my progress on Goodreads.
I suspect many people need a little extra push to read as much, or as widely, as they’d like. If that’s you, why not take a few minutes this week and set some reading aims for next year? I’ll be busy doing the same.
Do you already set annual reading goals? Do you regularly meet them? What books do you have on deck for next year?