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?


8 thoughts on “The New Year in Reading

  1. I play it by ear and see what’s recommended. Sometimes I stumble across an interesting read through browsing other sites. But, just like you, my reading time is really limited… sigh.

  2. I too keep a ‘log’ of every book I’ve read and I also have a ever-growing ‘to read list’ which is a compilation of ‘must reads’ according to friends and bloggers like The Luminaries and The Flamethrowers which I see you have;-) I also enjoying perusing author websites for their recommendations – it’s a great way of discovering not only what book ‘changed their lives’ but some long forgotten gems.

    1. I think that’s one of my favorite things about book blogs — the ones that don’t limit themselves to discussing new releases, but also give older titles a chance to be discovered by readers who missed them the first time around.

  3. Certain favorite authors like Lisa Unger, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson and Marcus Sakey are always on my radar, as are author friends with upcoming books. That alone creates a looong TBR list. But then I also look for upcoming books lists to make sure I’m not missing anything/anyone. And I add books based on recommendations. Long story short, I am not the least bit organized in my approach to reading, but I completely relate to there being not enough time to read as much as I would like to!

    1. I hear you, especially on the author friends with books coming out. I know way too many of you people… 😉

  4. One of the hardest side effects of writing is not having enough time for reading. I used to be the book club nazi, ready to throw someone out of our group on their ear if they didn’t read the book pick for the last 3 months. Now I’m that guy…girl. With reading writing craft books, research, and critique partner submissions, I’m lucky if I get to read the books I choose.
    I keep track of the books I read on Goodreads, btw.

  5. I plan ahead but then something will catch my eye, or a recommendation will come by via email, twitter or word of mouth or my dad will bring me a book (always a nice treat – i have an awesome dad) or an author I know will publish something new, or a new author I discover has a back list I want to explore. And its all been worse since I discovered ebooks. It’s just so easy to get another book. My TBR pile is huge, I may never get through what I have in it now. Ah, but such is life. I guess I’ll push through. Great post

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