Reading Plans for the New Year

The new year brings its own set of challenges, and for me one is always tackling my goal to read more. Given my job description, “reading more” refers to submissions, comp titles, and books purely for pleasure, and part of the challenge there is finding a good balance between keeping up with work and also discovering what wonderful books have already been let loose on the world.

Last year my personal reading fell a bit short. I had lofty ambitions and got off to an excellent start, but by the end of the year my travel schedule, submission pile, and mood over the turn the country was taking had all joined forces to make it difficult to get really absorbed by a good book. Still, I read a fair number of titles, so I’m not too disappointed with my efforts. Among my favorite reads for the year was Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. I read it early and it remained strongly in my mind throughout the year, even if I didn’t always follow all of its good advice. I’m thinking this is an excellent time for a reread, in fact.

My reading goals for this year are very similar to the ones from last year: Read more works by authors of color, read more works in translation. I’m aiming for 60 titles, which I didn’t quite hit last year, and we’ll see what happens. I kicked off the year with poetry — milk and honey by Rupi Kaur, which I loved — but right now I’ve got my nose back into the submissions pile.

Do you have reading goals for 2017? Anything in particular you’d love to pick up? Maybe a big book you’ve been saving for when things calmed down post-holidays? I’d love to hear what you’re all excited to read.

3 thoughts on “Reading Plans for the New Year

  1. Thank you for this post, I was just thinking I would love to discuss some of the many plans I have for books and the reading goals I’ve accomplished and continue to pursue with someone. Yesterday @JimMcCarthy528, an agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary asked his followers what we read during Christmas break. I read many so I chimed in titles which included Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson, Googles by Ezra Jack Keats, and currently the Sellout by Paul Beatty.
    Of late, I’ve noticed I’m learning to read all over again as I’ve decided to truly pursue publication of my own work in the past several years. Reading as a writer becomes more pragmatic less pleasurable. Don’t get me wrong a month has never ever in my life, gone by, without me reading a minimum of three books. I was a English Literature teacher for over fifteen years and I have loved reading my entire life. I’ve always been a ferocious reader, devouring books overnight. I’m sure you get that. But I do think writers take on a different relationship with books as they develop as writers. So I’m learning more and more to expand myself as a reader. Particularly focusing on reading outside my favorite genres, reading more about the craft of writing and reading more award winning or trending titles. This is not always easy. Some books simply suck or make me cringe but there is learning even in those. I wrote all this to say, yeah your 60 book goal is doable for me also. So Game On!
    And here are some of my hot titles/authors that I’m looking forward to reading and why.
    Stephen King because I just finished On Writing and I am ten feet taller as a writer because of that book. I learned so much including that I love his work. I only thought of him as Mr. Horror/Scary guy and I don’t do those at all but who knew Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, Stand By Me, Misery are books he wrote. Wow plan to go through the entire collection for the secret sauce. 🙂
    Grace Lin because Linda Sue Park, Laurence Yep, Allen Say, and Amy Tan are some of my favorite authors and I own many of their books and I just discovered Grace is award winning. Basically I don’t subscribe to the notion that being Black means we have a lock on diversity, we too need to embrace diverse writers just as we want to be embraced. My affinity to Asian writers means I’m excited about reading Grace’s work.
    Margaret Atwood, because I read a short story by her for the first time a few months back, and although I can not remember the title it still haunts me. Meticulously crafted with a concise attention to detail that made me hungry for more. Yeah she’s got a secret sauce too.
    Coretta Scott King because she’s Mama King of course. She has a new autobiography out in January, My Life, My Love, My Legacy, and I LOVE autobiographies/memoirs. They are truth and the best representation of a person’s life and experiences and they fill my bookshelves. Not to mention I have had a lifelong dream to win a CSK Literary Award. Can. Not. Wait.
    Nikki Finney because the first words I ever wrote phrased a poem and I want to continue to grow as a poet at heart even if I never am published as one. Poetry has been given a bad rap (no pun intended) and I need ammo to help change that. But that’s a whole other post.
    Jason Reynolds because I believe he will fill the void in YA left when Walter Dean Myers passed away. WDM was a mentor of mine and a beloved author of my very at risk, young male readers of color. His work continues to draw in my two sons and although he was prolific and once told me “his work will continue to be published well after his death.” His death does leave a void, but thank God Jason Reynolds seems to be well suited to fill it and I’m excited about his work ethic and accomplishments. Secret sauce alert!
    I devour work that speaks to my culture and showcases all the wonders and complexities of my community therefore I’m extremely excited to read more by Jesmyn Ward, Peggy Kern, Ibo Zoboi, Renee Watson, Beverly Jenkins, and the incomparable Jacqueline Woodson. Always, Always, Always.
    Finally, I continue to read almost daily to my 11 and 13 year old son and I do book journals with my NY 23 yo daughter. Here’s the thing, I typically don’t pick those titles because they do so I’m excited about what they have in store for our reading in this year as well.
    Ok this turned into a blog post for me so I’m going to clean it up a bit and do just that; post it on my blog Hopefully we can continue to share all the wonders of our reading adventures throughout the year.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your great list of titles/authors! Some real gems there. I totally agree with your take on Jason Reynolds — he’s got a bright future ahead of him. And yes, it’s very interesting when you stop reading purely as a reader and start thinking like a writer. Many authors complain about how long it takes them to find their way through that very critical phase to be able to step back and simply enjoy a good book again, but it’s also very much worth the change in approach. Your own writing will improve so much as a result. All the best to you with both your writing and reading ambitions.

  2. Yes! I always have the goal to “read more,” or, since 2015, specifically to read more spec fic by WoC. For this year, my more specific goal is to read more short stories. I always have them piled up in my Instapaper, so this year I want to actually read more quality shorts.

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