Reading goals can be tricky. Whilst they serve as that additional push to sit down and actually read, something we all wish we made more time for, they can easily cause us to slip into quantity over quality. We read simply to add another book to our list, rather than to appreciate that book. We turn books into numbers when they’re really all about words.
That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have reading goals for 2023, or that they should never involve numbers, but that we should consider what we’re counting. Reading thirty short books might make it a ‘successful’ year, but will you gain everything you want from it? Will you grow as a reader?
Instead, here are nine potential reading goals for 2023 that focus on the quality of your choices rather than the quantity, and that aim to help you rediscover your love for the written word.
I am guilty of bingeing on the same authors. When I like a book, I want to consume everything related to that book, inhale every word ever typed by that author. 2021 was the year I dived into Taylor Jenkins-Reid entire bibliography, and I filled months of 2020 with Marian Keyes. But whilst there is nothing wrong with favouring certain authors, a great reading challenge for 2023 could be diversifying your reading list. Challenge yourself to read a book by one new author each month. Someone you have never heard of before, or a name you keep seeing on lists. By the end of 2023, you’ll have introduced yourself to 12 new authors. Perhaps try authors with differing perspectives than your own such as POC authors or LGBTQ+.
Tip: Looking for a real challenge? Try two new authors per month, or focus only on indie authors!
As a writer, I use reading for both pleasure and research, and I think it is beneficial to dip into different genres. It’s essential to try every dish on the menu, as you never know what you’ll like. Maybe you won’t be converted to a new genre, but you might find specific plots, characters or trends enjoyable. I aim to try a bit of everything each year, including young adult, thriller, literary fiction, sci-fi, classics and many more genres. This year, challenge yourself to tick off every genre, reading at least one of each. Here’s an example of genres you could add to your list*:
You can choose which genres you want to dive into and make your own list, or only select four of them and require two books per genre! You might discover a genre you never gave a chance to before, or at least pick up some great conversation starters!
I do not believe that non-fiction is better for you than fiction, just like I don’t believe there is a better genre to read. Reading is about preference and whatever you hope to get out of it. There is nothing wrong with reading for pleasure, as fiction has so many benefits. But, I do aim to read more non-fiction each year, as that’s something I struggle with.
There are so many incredible non-fiction books on my shelf that I haven’t opened yet. There is so much I’d like to learn and read about, but when push comes to shove, I’ll always open a fiction book instead. Fiction feels like a break in a way that non-fiction doesn’t, and I can always excuse it as research for writing.
Part of my reading goal is to read a certain number of non-fiction novels. This is kind of cheating, as it is a goal based on quantity, but also one to encourage me to finally open those non-fiction books. So consider doing the same for whichever you read less.
If you’re not a writer, you probably underestimate how critical reviews can be - just like comments on articles! Not only do they show your favourite writer that you enjoyed their book, but they also help other readers to find the book. If you’re reading on an e-reader, you probably have the option to rate a book at the end, and I genuinely recommend doing it. But aside from that, I also review every book I read on Goodreads. Someone took a lot of time writing this novel, and I think I can spare two minutes to highlight my thoughts on the book.
But reviews aren’t just beneficial for the author and future readers; they’re also good for you as a reader. Reviewing books forces you to stop and think about what you just read. Instead of just rushing through books as something to tick off a list, you’re taking the time to ponder the book. What did you enjoy? What surprised you? What would’ve made you like the book more? Who would like this book? Question books so that you get the most out of them, so you consider your own tastes more and learn from everything you read.
Why not task yourself with writing a review for each book you read in 2023?
Tip: Reviews don’t need to be chunky paragraphs! I aim for a minimum of three sentences.
I read an article by Emma Ryan where she pledged to not purchase any new books in 2023 and instead only read books she already has. I loved this idea! I think many bookworms are guilty of buying more books than we can read. I also often buy books I want to read, but they can be slightly more mentally tasking, so I then opt to reread a guilty pleasure instead.
Whilst I won’t be putting the same ban on my book purchasing, as admirable as I think it is, I do like the challenge of finishing all my To Be Read books in 2023! So instead, I might task myself with only buying a certain number of books or only buying second-hand books.
Tip: It’s not buying books if you borrow them from a friend or library!
I am not looking to judge people for where they purchase, as it isn’t fair to place all responsibility on the consumer. But I know many people aim to be less reliant on major corporations like Amazon. We often use them for their ease - such as during a pandemic that closed all stores!
So if you’re one of these people, then consider making where you purchase one of your goals. You could go all-in and refuse to buy books from major corporations. Or you could aim to buy at least 50% of your books from local bookstores. Whatever you decide, it’s the thought that counts, and the commitment to your principles. You could also aim to buy a certain number of your books second hand, or do book swaps with friends!
Tip: If you’re looking to purchase indie books not available in local stores, check out if your library can buy a copy or go straight to the author’s website. This will give them a bigger earning than they would’ve had from Amazon!
Whenever someone struggles to find a gift for me, I always suggest they buy me a book. But I don’t want them to get me a book off my own reading list. Instead, I want them to buy a book that they really enjoyed. This is a great way to spice up your reading list and discover books you had never heard of before. It also brings you closer to a person, as sharing a loved book can be an intimate act; they’re trusting you not to disparage something they enjoyed. It gives you plenty to discuss and debate once you’re done!
So start the precedent and make 2023 the year you give books as gifts. It gives you another chance to support authors and bookstores, whilst also giving a quality gift to someone.
Tip: Consider whether the person would like a personal message on the first pages of the book. It can be a great way to personalise the gift and explain why you chose this book for them, but consider that it isn’t for everyone!
Looking for a new way to spice up your reading? Then make 2023 the year you join a book club! Book clubs are a great way to discover new books and get the most out of a novel. They’re perfect for people who struggle to find the time to read, as they force you to carve out that time. They also allow you to see a book from different perspectives.
For example, when my friends and I read the same book for our book club, we saw one character very differently. I immediately considered him creepy and pushy, whilst they found him to be romantic and devoted, all from the same pages!
A book club is also a great way to fit in social contact, especially with people you can’t see often. My friends and I started a book club during the pandemic to give our weeks some structure and give us an excuse to drink wine and chat - as if we even needed one.
Tip: Book clubs can be done online as well, over Zoom or another video communication app.
If you’ve been looking to expand your language skills or get back to that language you used to know so well, make that a part of your reading goals. They say the best way to learn a language fluently is to live in a place where you have to speak it, but sometimes that isn’t possible or enough.
My spoken Dutch is fluent, although with a strong English accent, but my written Dutch has always let me down. So I’m aiming to read two books in Dutch this year. I’ll reread books I know in English, so that I have a general sense of what is going on and what to expect. This will help expand my vocabulary and get me more comfortable with long Dutch text.
If you’re less experienced with the language, go for a children’s book! For example, I have a copy of Le Petite Prince simply for practising my French. Or consider trying an audiobook in that language, merely to have you surrounded by it for a bit more time.
It can be about how many books you read, but it can also be about so much more. I aim to read sixty in 2023, after reading fifty-five last year. But that isn’t the whole story. I also aim to read two books in Dutch. I want to read five non-fiction books, as I only managed five last year. I want to read at least one new author each month. And as always, I want to push myself out of my reading nook and try different genres. I’ll keep giving books as gifts, as I love sharing this passion with others.
Reading is more than a checklist; reading is a chance to escape, to better yourself from the comfort of your armchair. Make your 2023 reading goals reflect this, and focus on what you prioritise within the books you read. Don’t be too influenced by what everyone is doing or whether they’re reading more books than you, as what matters is your tastes and what you want to get out of reading.
What are your 2023 reading goals?
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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