Reading Goals 2017

Jan 12, 2017


I've been brainstorming, compiling, adding, deleting, and narrowing down my reading goals for 2017 for awhile now. It's hard to find the perfect balance. Last year, I felt pretty good about my content-specific goals, but my numbers goal, as I've already mentioned, was stressful. I want to be pushed but not panicked, stretched but not stressed. Is that too much to ask?

Taking those feelings into account, I'm setting a similar number of content goals, but lowering my numbers goal to 48. Given my reading habits during the last five years, that number might seem so low that it shouldn't even be a "goal." Of course I'm going to read 48 books! The last time I read fewer than 48 books in a year was before I had kids. But I think I'm setting it low this year because I don't want the numbers to be my focus (but the Type A part of me still loves seeing that little tracker tick off the books, so I have to set some sort of goal). I'm also interested to see if I take a more relaxed approach to the numbers if I'll only squeak by with the bare minimum because I'm not as focused or if I'll surpass it by a lot. (Suzanne and I talked a little about the pros and cons of setting a numbers goal in Episode 3 of The Book Blab, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this conundrum.)

Anyway, while I'm not sure how I'm feeling about a numbers goal this year, I'm very excited about my content-specific goals. These goals always help me tackle genres I've been avoiding, read books that I've been wanting to read for forever, and just generally help give some direction and structure to my reading life. I always consider just participating in a pre-made challenge (Anne Bogel has two excellent challenges to choose from this year), but I always go back to just setting my own goals because I want to stretch myself while still reading the things that are actually important and interesting to me. So without further ado, I present you with my reading goals for 2017:

1. Read two books about childbirth
I think the reason behind this goal is fairly obvious (hello, baby!). I just really find birth stories incredibly motivating and inspiring, and so one of the best ways for me to prepare for the birth of our new baby is by reading about the births of other babies. I already have two books picked out for this goal: Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent and The Gift of Giving Life by Felice Austin, but I'm definitely up for other suggestions if you have one that you love. This goal does have a bit of a time constraint on it (beyond the general year deadline). I'm due April 24th, and as much as I love reading about birth, I don't think it's going to be as helpful if I wait until after the baby comes.

2. Read three books with Maxwell and three books with Aaron
One of my favorite goals from last year was reading some of the same books as Aaron (not to him--he would read on his own, and I would do the same). Not only did it strengthen our relationship (because shared books really do make you feel more connected), but it also helped me explore some books for that age group that I might not have otherwise and gave me some great titles to recommend. This year, I'm adding Maxwell to the mix, and I can already tell you it's going to be a much different experience. Aaron was basically on board with any book I threw at him, and consequently, I did all of the choosing. Max is not going to be such an easy sell. In fact, it will probably end up being him who does the choosing and me who does the following--which might mean I'm in for some . . . interesting . . . books.

3. Read Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott and The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Sometimes I prefer a more general goal to give me greater flexibility, but sometimes there are certain books I'm set on reading, and I know it won't happen without a goal. Such is the case with this goal. Last year, I read Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott, and a couple of you told me, "Eight Cousins is good, but Rose in Bloom is better." Recognizing that I have a dismal track record for reading sequels in a timely manner, I really want to get to Rose in Bloom before I forget all of the characters from Eight Cousins. Hence the goal. And The Blue Castle? It's there because every year I think I'm going to make time to read it, and I'm tired of letting other books get in the way.

4. Read a book about slow, conscientious living
I'm a homebody at heart. My favorite days are usually quiet, unscheduled, and filled with cozy activities like reading or knitting. I've been embracing that part of myself more this winter, and consequently have been really interested in reading books such as The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell, Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner, or Breaking Busy by Ali Worthington. I might save this goal for the fall, so there's plenty of time for you to add your own recommendations for books on this subject if you're so inclined.

5. Start a new mystery series and read another mystery by Agatha Christie
I actually enjoy mysteries quite a bit, but I don't read them too often (in 2016, I think I read a whopping zero, which shows the kind of priority I put on them). However, sometimes they're the perfect little reset when reading has begun to feel tedious. I've had my eye on a couple of series that I want to try (the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny or the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series by Anne Perry). Also, every year I think, I want to read something else by Agatha Christie because the two mysteries of hers that I have read were so well-crafted and intriguing, so I'm finally going to read another one this year. This goal, as you can probably tell, is purely for fun. I love fun goals.

6. Read Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson throughout the year
I was really excited about this goal when I thought it up a couple months ago and put it on my "tentative 2017 goals" list. Anne Bogel has called Home Comforts the "best book you've never heard of on housekeeping," and I feel like I'm always searching for the best way to keep my house clean and my sanity in check, so it seemed like something I had to read. But in the interim, my enthusiasm waned a bit (possibly related to the behemoth 900-page size of this book--how could anyone have that much to say on keeping house?!). However, I already purchased it for my kindle, and I think I will feel a bit of guilt if I don't follow through with it. I am anticipating this book being a part of all of 2017.

7. Read a parenting book
It sounds like I'm being all nice and vague with this goal, but really I'm not. The only book I have in mind, and really the only one I want to read, is The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax. You can try to persuade me to something else, but I'm pretty much set on it. I've heard such good things about it (including from my own mother), and Boys Adrift, an earlier book by Leonard Sax, is one of my favorite parenting books of all time, and this seems like a good follow-up.

8. Read two Young Adult books
This goal was prompted by Mike's cousin (who also happens to be one of my best friends) who happened to say a couple of weeks ago, "I notice that you have a lot of children's literature and adult books on your blog, but you don't seem to read very much YA." It was an accurate observation. And it's actually a problem because people will ask me for YA recommendations, and it's like this gaping hole in my literary repertoire. It's not that I haven't read any YA, but out of the ones I have read, there are very few I actually feel like recommending. I like the idea of YA, but the books always leave me feeling annoyed and depressed: the content often shocks me while at the same time feeling so immature (maybe I just don't like teenagers?). So I have a (perhaps impossible) request for all of you, my dear readers: Please recommend your favorite young adult books. But here's the catch: I'm looking for clean, well-written, realistic fiction--not fantasy or fairy tales. Why? Because most of the YA books I already recommend are fantasy (they tend to be quite a bit cleaner), but I actually prefer realistic fiction--I just can't find any that I like. It's a tall order, I know, but please tell me it's out there.

9. Read the 2017 Newbery winner
I have no idea what this book will be, but I'll find out on January 23rd. On the slight chance that I've actually read the winner, I'll read one of the honors instead.

10. Read Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley
This one is directly tied to one of my personal goals and also my theme for 2017, which I'll hopefully share more about in a later post. But basically, I adore Marjorie Hinckley and am so inspired by her life and words. I can't wait to read and highlight and make notes in this book and, most of all, apply what I learn.

I have so many more books I want to read this year, and so there's a part of me that wants to keep adding more goals (I had to delete so many other possibilities!). But I've set these yearly reading goals enough to know that I will be stretching and challenging myself as is. Looking back over these new goals makes me excited, and I think I've settled on the ones that are truly important (or truly fun) for me. Plus, I want to still leave time for myself to read on a whim. Reading for me is all about structure, flexibility, and balance, and hopefully I've achieved that with these goals.

What reading goals have you made for yourself this year? And, equally important, what books should I read to fulfill my goals?

31 comments:

  1. Hi Amy, I'm delurking because I can't ever pass up the opportunity to recommend YA. If you want some clean, realistic romances (a la Edenbrooke without the fabulous Regency setting), try anything by Kasie West (my favorite is The Distance Between Us with P.S. I Like You a close second). Another favorite is The Winner's Curse series by Marie Rutkoski, which is non-magical fantasy (odd genre, right?) set in a fantasy world based off ancient Rome. It's not as clean, sadly, but the more adult content is not detailed. Hope you can find some YA to love this year, even if it isn't one of these!

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    1. I need to come up with posts that will make you delurke more often! :-) I love meeting blog readers!

      I'm so excited to check out your recommendations. It sounds like Kasie West's books might be perfect. And the other one sounds great, too (I think I'm more put off by mature content when the characters are all in high school, leading pretty normal, average lives).

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  2. a few YA suggestions:

    The Running Dream, by Wendelin VanDraanen is excellent and very clean. It is set in the present day.

    The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson is also excellent, but it's science fiction. Not sure if that goes against your rules. It's the first in a trilogy, but I have only read the first because I think it stands alone just fine.

    A Spy in the House, by YS Lee is a historical fiction mystery set in Victorian England. It's the first in a 3 or 4 book series. There is romance but it remains chaste.

    I really love your goal posts. My reading goals are often very different, but the posts always help me focus in on things I might be missing out on.

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    1. Yay, some great YA recommendations! I think I put The Adoration of Jenna Fox on my to-read list a long time ago, but the other two are new to me and sound even more like what I'm looking for. Thanks so much!

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  3. Impressive as usual! I don't see the rest of the Ferrante books on here but as I near the end I'm not sure these are for you....though they are some of the best and favorite books I've ever read. In all your spare time can you please publish a list of all the books Aaron is reading right now? haha, just kidding, but only a little. I depend on you to find books that Leif will like!

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    1. The Ferrante books are definitely still on my list, and I hope I can get to them before I forget all the characters...although I'm definitely interested to hear about why they might not be for me. I trust your opinion.

      And I'm happy to share what Aaron's been reading, although it probably won't be a very long list since not all of them are really worth recommending, if you know what I mean. He just finished The Castle in the Attic and said it was a "7."

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  4. Reading goals are always a balance for me, too. Enough to stretch, but not so restrictive that it becomes a chore.

    Some YA I have really liked:
    The Musician's Daughter, by Susanne Dunlap (historical fiction/mystery)
    A Death-Struck Year, by Makiia Lucier (historical--Spanish influenza on the West coast)
    Paper Daughter, by Jeanette Ingold (alternating modern/historical)
    Hoot or Chomp by Carl Hiassen
    Pretty much anything by Gary D. Schmidt or Roland Smith.

    Good luck! I'll be interested to see what you choose!

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    1. Thanks for the recs! I like Gary Schmidt too, but I usually classify him as more middle grade rather than YA. You'll have to let me know if there are specific books of his that you feel fit into the YA category.

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  5. If you end up liking The Blue Castle you should definitely read Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. I often get the too mixed up in my head. The Blue Castle is more feminist (in a totally 19th century way), but both are about young woman setting old into the world.

    I really should give the Inspector Gamache series another try. Anne Bogel clearly says that the series doesn't hit it's stride until the third or fourth book, but even knowing that, the second book was so mediocre that I just couldn't scratch up the enthusiasm to continue. My fiendish reading pace of the past few months has slowed recently, so I think I have the patience now to go back and try again.

    For YA - have you read the Flavia de Luce series? They're so delightful and especially good on audio. Ten Miles Past Normal was a YA romance that I didn't roll my eyes at - probably the only one. And my favorite is Code Name Verity, but I'm assuming you've already read that one. I don't know if I Capture the Castle is considered YA, but that's another favorite.

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    1. Hannah Coulter is sitting on my to-read list already, so if I like The Blue Castle, I will definitely give it a try!

      I forgot that Anne Bogel said the Inspector Gamache series gets better as it goes along...that makes me think maybe I shouldn't even start it since I have a difficult time committing to series as is.

      Yes, I've read (listened) to the first two Flavia de Luce books, and you're right--they are delightful on audio. For some reason, I've always categorized them as adult even though they have a young protagonist, but I think they definitely work as YA. Definitely going to look into Ten Miles Past Normal. I've read Code Name Verity and liked it. And I haven't read I Capture the Castle, but I've always thought of it as YA, so that's another good choice. Thanks!

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  6. but both are about young woman setting old into the world. - so many typos. That should have said both are about young women setting out into the world.

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  7. I love reading your book goals each year! I enjoy how personal your goals are.

    I'll be posting mine soon. I think I started putting down ideas in June, but I'm just now finalizing them. Weird for me.

    I hope to get to another Agatha Christie novel this year, too. I haven't read any of the Miss Marple series, so I plan to try one of those.

    I have no YA recommendations. I'd want the same kind of YA book you would, so I'll be waiting to see what you choose.

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    1. I can't wait to see what your reading goals are for 2017. You're always so ambitious!

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  8. I second Code Name Verity! Takes place during WWII and I couldn't put it down. I'm not sure why it's considered YA though. There's also a sequel, but I don't know much about it. I'm also not a big fan of YA, but my daughters are getting older so I think I should start reading it more. Anne Bogel recommends Tell Me Three Things, and while I haven't started it yet, it's on my list for this month.

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    1. I've read Code Name Verity, and I really liked it. My book club chose it for our discussion in November this year (we plan out the entire year in advance), and I'll probably reread it for that since it's been a few years since I read it.

      Let me know if you like Tell Me Three Things!

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  9. Okay these might not work in YA genre but I'll just throw them out there anyway. :) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness completely blew my away. Yes it does have some fantasy in it with the monster but the story centered around a boy who's dealing with his mother's terminal illness felt so real. And it's worth reading because of the amazing illustrations.

    Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt is probably on borderline middle grade and YA but it's one of my favorite books. This is also one worth reading instead of the audio because there is an Audubon painting for each chapter that goes along with the story. If you liked his Wednesday Wars, you'll love this one.

    I'm excited to hear which books you pick up!

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    1. A Monster Calls is definitely on my list this year. I was actually planning on reading it even before all the movie hype brought it to everyone's attention.

      And I've had Okay for Now checked out from the library at least twice and STILL haven't read it. Thanks for giving it another push!

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  10. I love reading but have never done reading goals. But, I look forward to reading your reading goals post every year (and your recap after). Thanks for publishing this!

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  11. Cybils lists are great places to look for specific genres of kids books. I thought the 2012 YA list was particularly strong. Last year my favorite was Dumplin', but I don't remember how much swearing and sex was involved (they don't bother me, so I don't register them strongly).

    Eighteen years ago my favorite book on labor and giving birth was Active Birth by Janet Balaskas. It really helped me prepare for the two labors I had, and I liked the idea that you had some ability to steer in a process that wasn't really under control. I made it through both without anesthesia, but a lot of that is just that I'm a huge needle-phobe. Really huge.

    This year I devoured a light hearted mystery series by Carola Dunn, set in the 1920's Britain, where the detective is a young woman who makes her living by writing after her father and fiance die in WWI. So there's a lot of period slang and history in terms of what her expectations are, and they are really soundly decent and moral. I read them in a scattered order. Definitely lighter than the Penny or Perry books.

    I think Sax is a good choice for a parenting book, but if you want one that is more hand-on as well as philosophical, Blessings of a Skinned Knee is a good one, and it talks about the importance of responsibility and letting kids fall down sometimes and what they learn from that.

    I enjoyed the Housekeeping book, and it made a few changes in how I do things that have lasted through the years, although I suspect nothing could make me into a good housekeeper!

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    1. I agree with you about the Cybils lists being a great place for recommendations...I just always love a personal recommendation, too, so I'll look into Dumplin'.

      Thanks for the birth book recommendation. I also have a needle phobia and haven't had any pain relief with any of my labors so far. That said, I'm strongly considering an epidural this time...but I'm not sure if I can get past my fear of that long needle!

      That mystery series sounds delightful. Will definitely check it out.

      Even if I don't get to that parenting book this year, I'll put it on my to-read list for the future.

      That's what I'm worried about for myself with the housekeeping book . . . :-)

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  12. Wait, you haven't read The Gift of Giving Life yet? Can't wait to hear your thoughts on it. Some of the early stuff is a bit... well, maybe not strictly doctrine, but the rest of it is so good, plus SO MANY birth stories. It's fabulous.

    Great goals, as always. I'll enjoy hearing how they all work out for you.

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    1. I know! It's good I'm having a fifth child so I can finally read it. ;-)

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  13. Amy,
    re 5 - I'm a huge mystery series fan and Anne Perry is my absolute favourite for ages, but I discovered Louise Perry a couple of years ago and she's a close second.
    Oh and re Anne Perry I'd choose Thomas Pitt over Monk but only by a fraction.

    Just hear of the Erin Loechner book it sounds intriguing.

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    1. Glad to hear that you love Anne Perry!

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  14. I really, really love this list and I'm so happy to see you lowering your numbers goal. I think my blood pressure went up a bit as I read about your Upholder plans to make your 2016 goal happen even though it seemed crazy and unrealistic. My reaction also made me think maybe I'm more of a Questioner than I originally thought?!

    The Blue Castle has been on my to-read list for at least a decade - we should read it together! I also am so intrigued by the housekeeping book. I think I'd like to have a hard copy for reference, but it would probably be a good one to read through over a year or two as well. So many times I wonder if I'm "doing it right" when it comes to household chores. I read a good portion of the generous kindle preview of The Gift of Giving Life and if I'm honest, I mostly skipped around to find the birth stories. I can never get enough of those! I also really want to read The Collapse of Parenting.

    Your list made me sit down and create a more purposeful plan for my reading this year and I'm really excited about it. My new kindle is changing my life!

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    1. Haha, sorry about that! :-) I've actually been wanting to discuss another personality distinction with you that I heard about the other day: process vs. project people. I'm pretty sure we're opposites.

      Yes, definitely join in on The Blue Castle! I love having someone to discuss with after!

      I think a hard copy of the housekeeping book would be nice, but I was drawn to the kindle because I couldn't imagine reading such a massive book in bed!

      I can't wait to hear about YOUR 2017 reading plans!

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  15. My goal this year is to read more and be online less! So far it's working. :-) I also have a few textbooks I'm studying, for fun. I'm loving that so far!

    You might like The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth . Not exactly a story, but useful. I had one epidural (my first birth). I really just felt like it complicated the delivery. (Internal fetal monitor, no feeling in my legs, catheter afterward.) Recovery is much better without it-although, with my last kiddo, I really just wanted someone to knock me out and cut me open. Looking back, I'm glad no one did. 😉

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  16. This booklist might give you some ideas for YA Realistic Fiction. I really liked Better Off Friends, Wanderlost, and Everything Everything. From what I remember they are all pretty clean. I also like anything by Sarah Dessen and Jennifer E. Smith. Another great one I've read recently is Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch.

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    1. And it might be helpful to give you the link! :)
      http://www.provolibrary.com/teen-booklists?sid=2921&site=1

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  17. I loved The Blue Castle! My YA recommendation is The Outsiders.

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