Every year since 2005, I have made a New Year’s resolution to read 50 books. I had read or heard somewhere that Stephen King read that many books each year, and so I resolved to do the same. The idea intrigued me: the resolution seemed appropriately ambitious, and yet doable.
That first year, I achieved the goal, coming in at exactly 50. Knowing me, I was probably racing to finish that fiftieth book on New Year’s Eve, ignoring any people and festivities around me in true introvert style! I also somehow achieved the goal in 2009 and 2010.
The other years have been less stellar for me in the number-of-books department. My worst performance was in 2012, during which I read a grand total of 22 books. Even though Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust and The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson were among those 22, I still consider it a dismal performance.
I am able to report all this because I have kept a book list since 2005 in a little notebook. I keep it simple. When I finish a book, I record the date of completion, the title, and the author. I also keep a running tally of whether it was the first, second, third, or etc. book I read that year.
And that’s it! I don’t muck up the little notebook with thoughts, critiques, star ratings, or anything like that. It’s just the barest of records and a tally. That makes it easy for me to commit to.
What’s hard to commit to is the reading itself—and, unfortunately, it has become harder due to ever-present modern distractions. If you, like me, have made a book resolution, perhaps some book solutions are in order. Here are a few things I do to keep the pages turning throughout the days, weeks, and months:
Phone restriction is key for me. I would turn it off entirely, but I like to have it on hand so I can look up words and cultural and historical references. So I restrict the times of day during which it makes distracting notification sounds. I also have an app that prevents me from being able to access social media, except for a small window of time in the morning. That way, I am forced to leave Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Meetup alone for most of the day.
Like many book lovers, I keep a big stack of to-read books by my bed. That way, I always have something to look forward to, and there’s never a long gap during which I wonder what to read next. This also allows me to choose something easy or difficult, classic or modern, as the mood strikes me. There’s nothing worse than trying to muscle through a book that you’re just not in the mood for!
When I was a kid, I used to be able to read lying down before bedtime. Nowadays, that’s a recipe for falling asleep. If falling asleep is the goal, I’m all for reading lying down in the evening! If, however, reading is the goal? Well, I personally need to sit up in the evening if I want to actually get pages turned.
Making an ambitious book resolution and recording my efforts helps me stay motivated. Reading books makes me much happier and healthier than clicking around aimlessly on the Internet or doing something similarly unproductive and mindless; so I know that keeping myself motivated to read is a good thing for me. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that number of books read is not necessarily the best determiner of quality (does it count if I read 50 picture books?), but it’s an easy goal to quantify, and it works for me.
Silent Book Club meetings—I can’t fail to mention!—are a great way to combine reading and sociality in ways that enhance both. Attending meetings helps keep me motivated and committed to reading, and it’s also tons of fun.
Of course, everyone is different, and I wouldn’t expect all of these book solutions to work for everyone. What book solutions work for you? Share your tips on this Facebook thread or drop me a line. I’ll feature some of your book solutions in a future post—because, hey, learning from one another through the power of words is what we book lovers do best.
Happy reading in 2019, everyone!
Liza Achilles is a writer and Silent Book Club organizer in Rockville, Maryland. She blogs about seeking wisdom through books and elsewhere at lizaachilles.com.