TTT, or Top Ten Tuesday, is a blog series created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish. Stop by their blog if you want to participate or follow along!
Today I am sitting in my favourite cafe drinking my first coffee of the year and inaugurating my brand new planner, so what better day for sharing my bookish resolutions? I try not to view New Year's resolutions as strict expectations, but rather general motivations to better myself. Last year I didn't set any real resolutions and I got along just fine. This year my resolutions are simply expressions of how I'd like to work on improving my reading and blogging life, not because there's anything wrong with the state of things but because it's always good to strive for betterment. Ok, enough philosophising.
My Top Ten Bookish Resolutions for 2016
I've officially set myself the goal of reading 100 books this year. You can follow my progress on Goodreads: My 2016 Reading Challenge I didn't keep track of my reading last year (other than to mark books as read on GR), but I think I managed to keep to my 50 book average. Taking on the challenge to read 100 books is certainly a daunting task, but I think it will make a lot of difference in my life. I want to be fully immersed in words and stories this year, to feel myself engulfed by literature of all kinds. To accomplish this goal I am going to need to shake up my usual reading routine, which is to read before bed during the week and maybe a few hours on the weekend. I'm hoping to find extra moments throughout the day to dip in and out of stories this year, to steal a few pages at lunch or when I need a break from work. When I was younger I used to wake up and immediately pick up a book, literally waking up with a different story every day. These days I reach for my phone but maybe that will be changing soon.
This is something I've been denial about for a long time. I'm trained as a critical reader, spent years honing my skills through my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees studying English literature. When it comes to analysis for my work I am a very close reader, making painstakingly detailed notes. I would never want to read for pleasure the way I read for work, but I do want to give my reading more attention, to appreciate the language and the innerworkings of the text. At book club every month I am always one of the most vocal readers in the group - I thrive on the in-depth discussions we have at our meetings, getting into the nitty-gritty of what worked or didn't work in a story. But one of the reasons I don't post full-blown book reviews more frequently on this blog is that I find it hard to go into that much detailed analysis on my own. I'm not sure if I want to start taking notes or jotting down my reaction immediately after finishing a book, but I do want to give my reading a bit more attention. I'll still always read as an escape and as entertainment, but sometimes I think it would be really refreshing to practice a more active reading process.
This one is quite important to me for personal reasons. I'm very excited to be taking part in the 2016 Diverse Reads Book Challenge hosted by Mishma of Chasing Faerytales and Shelley of Read. Sleep. Repeat. This challenge should be a really great way to really focus on reading diversely - there are 4 themes throughout the year and so if I can keep up with it I'll hopefully have read at least 1 book for each theme. The themes are: Ethnic Diversity running January - March, LGBTQIA + Diversity running April - June, Religious Diversity running July - September, and Mental & physical health/disabilities running October - December. I will be sharing my journey of reading diversely here on the blog and so you can look out for some great posts on the topic coming soon. If you're interested in joining the Diverse Reads challenge, you can learn more and sign up here!
I've not written much about feelings on shame and guilt in my reading life, but it's something I experience a fair amount of. My book shame and guilt comes in many forms: worry about whether I read enough; feat that people will judge what I'm reading; anxiety over how behind I am on reviewing books that I've read; feeling bad when I pick up a new book before finishing the one I'm currently reading; embarrassment over how many books I own that I haven't read yet; stress over reading for fun when I have reading to do for work; the list goes on and on. Basically my anxiety seeps into every nook and cranny of my life, including my reading. This year I'm hoping to focus on what I love about reading and to just be kinder to myself in general. I can read whatever I like, however I like, whenever I like, wherever I like, for any reason I like.
You don't even want to know how many books I have stacked around my bed, all recent purchases and all waiting to be read. Two new ones were added to the piles just today. And that's only the unread books in my bedroom. My proper shelves downstairs are at least 50% unread books. I just spoke about not feeling guilty/shameful about my reading habits so I won't berate myself for this, but it's something I want to work on. I have accepted the fact that I love collecting books and I don't think that's anything to be ashamed of (I've written a bit more about this on the blog before, see my post on To TBR or Not To TBR). Still, I would like to read more of the books I already own if only because there are just so many great ones one my shelf to choose from. Right now, I'm looking at gorgeous hardcover editions of Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, Fates and Guries by Lauren Groff, and Purity by Jonathan Franzen - all of which I dearly want to read, but have yet to get around to (or have started but not finished yet). I'm not going to set myself any particular number for this goal, but I'm definitely going to work on it.
I don't think I read a single debut novel last year, but I am determined to make more of an effort in 2016. Debut novels, especially those without the biggest marketing budget behind them, benefit so much from getting attention from book blogs. The reality of the publishing business means that most new titles are mid-list - the big names, the ones you see talked about everywhere, are at the top of the list and get the most attention from the publishing marketers, leaving the mid-list titles to fight harder for attention. Of course every book must stand on its own merit, but I like to look out for the underdogs. I'm planning to recommend one newly released debut novel every month. This year is all about new voices and new stories.
Coming off a 6 week blog hiatus this one is really big for me - I love every moment I spend blogging and I'm so happy to be back to daily posting. I'd really like to do more than just put up a post ever day, though. I want to read more other blogs and comment more, on other blogs and replying to comments here. I'm hoping to participate in more Twitter book-talks as well as group/community blog features. Time for a personal confession: I can be quite reserved, a bit of a loner especially as I've always been the type to avoid most joining-in activities - no clubs in high school or university, no sports teams, no school reunions or alumnae events, etc. I know the Internet is usually where people like me, i.e. weird loner types, usually congregate. As a teenager I only ever 'joined in' online - posting on Harry Potter forums and the My Pants forum when that was still a thing in Nerdfighteria - but as I got older I became less active in online socialising (mainly because I gained more of an offline social life - I was such a nerd as a teen! And a proper one, when it was really uncool to be nerdy). Now, I've become more shy online and I definitely want to work on it this year.
This is a bit self-explanatory. I aim to post at least 2 reviews each month, but usually I bend the rules so that one of those reviews is a shorter, more casual Before Blogging review. This year I'd love to post two proper reviews a month of recent reads, plus a Before Blogging review, a Featured Debut review, and 1-2 Recommended Reads as well. I know a lot of blogs are moving away from reviewing as it can get stressful to always be reading to review. I definitely understand that feeling and I'm going to do my best to avoid it. I usually put off writing reviews because it seems like a lot of work to give a full, formal analysis of a book. Obviously I'm always going to strive to give a helpful overview of my thoughts and opinions about every book I review, but I'm going to be a bit more flexible in my writing/analysis. I still find writing reviews to be great fun, though, so I'm excited to write more even if they aren't impressively thoughtful essays probing the deepest questions of the book.
This is related to my resolution to be more active in the blogging community. I've had great success making friends through my FYA book club, so I'm really looking forward to finding some more friends through blogging. From what I can tell from Twitter and blogs, so many of the other bloggers and readers in the online YA book community are all lovely people. We all love books, often the same ones, so of course we should all be friends. I'm hoping to go to BEA this year, too, so hopefully I will meet some bloggers IRL (where I'm a bit more comfortable at this point in my life). Let's be friends! I may be nerdy and weird, but I don't bite.
What is my first love, you ask? Well, technically it's probably my third or fourth love depending on how you order my biggest obsessions from my formative years (horses, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings), but I consider it my first love as a serious reader, that is since I decided to devote all of my time and attention to literature. And of course it's the works of William Shakespeare. Last year I read 4 of Shakespeare's plays - King Lear, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and Julius Caesar. And I know that's better than most, but there was a time when I was reading Shakespeare constantly. I'd love to read one of his plays each month, as it really only takes up a single afternoon this is very achievable in theory. Of course, my reading life has a way distracting me from such noble goals as this.