As we swing into another year, we’re bound to see a slew of articles and advertisements exhorting us to make New Year’s resolutions. Eat less! Exercise more! Be better informed! Become more politically active! Create more! Be louder/faster/funnier! Whew! All this self-improvement is exhausting. Let’s pause for a moment to make sure you know that the public library, just like Mr. Rogers, likes you just the way you are. And then, starting from a place of self-acceptance, may I suggest that if you choose to make a resolution for the coming year, you make it a reading resolution.
There are a lot of directions from which to approach such a challenge. You could keep it simple and just set a number of books you’d like to read this year. The nice thing about this approach is that a stretch goal for number of books read is entirely adjustable based on your current habits. If you have a lot of demands on your time but would like to carve out more of it for reading, set a modest goal. Maybe you’ll exceed your expectations. If you already gobble up books like a precocious 11-year-old, you could set a high number and see if you can hit it. The book-centered social networking site Goodreads has a tool you can use that helps you count up to your goal as you note each title you read.
Then there’s the kind of reading resolution that pushes you to read more broadly, like Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. It challenges participants to read 24 books that expand their worldview by providing suggestions that prompt readers to explore genres, sources of writing, and voices they might not have encountered before. Somewhat inspired by BookRiot’s challenge, JCLS is offering its own 2022 Reading Challenge, which will be available at several participating branches. We’ve pared it down to 12 categories with the same goal of introducing readers to something new and broadening horizons. Personally, I like this kind of goal best because, as a librarian, I believe deeply in the power of stories to build empathy, something the world can always use more of. Also, there’s so much potential to discover new favorites!
This is about making a choice that works well for you, though, so alternatively you could resolve to read more deeply. Will this be the year you read everything written by a beloved author, even Mansfield Park, which features Jane Austen’s most boring heroine? Will you finally get through J.R.R. Tolkien’s lengthy, academic prequel The Silmarillion and ascend to a new plane of existence? Is now the time to dive into a genre you’ve only dabbled in thus far? Perhaps it’s time to choose a topic you want to know more about and really devote yourself to it. It is a new year. Anything is possible for the deep reader.
Another approach is to read nostalgically this year. Maybe what you need is some comfort reading! You could resolve to revisit your old favorites. Re-read the books that made you a reader in the first place: the picture books that remind you of home; the children’s novels that you read over and over when you were 10; the old friends who saw you through adolescence, young adulthood, relationship ups and downs, changes of all sorts. Which books are still on your shelf after a cross-country move, that you can’t quite bring yourself to get rid of? Which books do you wish you hadn’t given away? Some might disappoint, or not hold up over the years, but others might be like stepping back in time and revisiting where you’ve been—who you’ve been, even. On second thought, maybe this is actually my favorite category. It’s a nice combination of comfort and contemplation.
There are so many more directions from which to approach this! There’s reading books that start with each letter of the alphabet, reading those classics you always meant to read, reading books that have been made into movies, reading your way around the world, reading works in translation, reading from awards lists, reading books you already own, and on and on.
Whichever resolution you make, reading or otherwise, please remember the most important thing when it comes to any kind of goal setting is to be kind to yourself. Your value is not based on whether you stick to a diet or how many books you read in a year. But hey, if you do make a reading resolution, stop into the library and tell us all about it. We’d love to cheer you on!