The New Year in Reading

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Now that 2013 is truly behind us, with its numerous end-of-year book lists, we can get down to the important stuff — Most Anticipated: The Great 2014 Book Preview. Every year, The Millions publishes this list at the start of the year and again at roughly the halfway point, giving a round up of anticipated titles — primarily literary fiction, with a few nonfiction volumes thrown in — set to be published in the next six-to-eight months. I look forward to and dread the arrival of this list in equal measures.

It’s no secret around here that I never feel like I have enough time to read. In part that’s a hazard of the job; much of my reading time is devoted to client manuscripts and submissions, which aren’t quite the same thing as curling up with a published novel. But the truth is I would wish for more reading time no matter what I did for a living. I just love books and there will never be sufficient hours in my day, days in my lifetime, for me to read all the books that interest me. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, however.

I like to have a plan. I’m the sort of bookworm who has always kept track of what she reads. That used to mean a fresh sheet of notebook paper tucked into the front of my diary every January, where I’d keep a running list of the titles and authors of the books I read, along with the date I finished reading them. At the end of the year I’d examine the list (generally stretched to a second, and sometimes third, sheet of paper) to see if I’d read more books than the previous year, and what sorts of books I read the most. Then I’d set a goal for the next year that generally went along the lines of “read more books, and read more good books.”

Then I got older and the reading list shifted to an Excel spreadsheet. (Yes, I realize I’m a geek.) The new format allowed me room to rate the books, and also track number of pages — which became a balm of sorts in the first years I worked as a literary agent when I felt terrible at the drop in the number of non-work books I was reading; at least I could comfort myself that they were long books. My reading goals also shifted away from quantities, since I rarely have control over how much time I can devote to personal reading, and more toward titles. Now at the start of the year I will look at the new books scheduled to come out and pick a couple that I really want to read. Those get prioritized and I plan around them. Generally they’re something by a favorite author, or something that’s gotten an unusual amount of buzz that has me curious.

I don’t make up my reading plan just from The Millions‘ list, obviously, since I read more broadly than their focus would allow. I scour websites and publisher catalogs for genre and young adult titles, as well. Last year was difficult because my list of want-to-reads was extremely long; it felt like a really strong year for good books, whatever else the industry might be doing. This year, I’ll admit I’m a little relieved that I’ve only got a few titles tugging at me so far. Because, unsurprisingly, I have a backlog of books from previous years I really want to read.

How about you? Do you plan ahead at all when it comes to your year’s reading? Are there a couple of authors you anticipate months in advance? Or do you just play it by ear, let your mood sway you, see what friends recommend?