Every year I hear of people making new year’s resolutions about wanting to read more books. To do so, a random number is set as the goal for how many books they must read before the end of the year. Whether this is one book a week or even one book for the whole year, something about having to read an exact number of books in a given time frame just doesn’t sit right with me.
Take a look at my English Literature degree: some weeks I have to read a painful four full-length novels. Rather than really enjoying and engaging properly with what I am reading, I find myself skimming most of the books in a desperate attempt to finish them on time. The knowledge of the number of books I still have left to read that week and the amount of pages left until the end of my current book are both figures constantly haunting me as I try to focus on the words on the page. I have no doubt that setting a certain number of books to read as a resolution must create a similar experience. Reading becomes more like a chore. There is less reading for pleasure and more reading because it is a thing you think you have to do.
Perhaps reading resolutions should focus more on the quality of what we are reading, instead of the quantity
With a resolution demanding a set number of books to read, I think people are likely to just read things already familiar to them or even easier books that can be read in a short amount of time, rather than to spend time trying to find something new. Perhaps reading resolutions should focus more on the quality of what we are reading, instead of the quantity.
I do not mean for ‘quality’ to suggest a snobby reading list of only the classics or mainstream popular works that everyone has heard of. Rather, we should read books that open our eyes to different perspectives and opinions, unlock fresh, untouched cultures or worlds and draw us away from what we usually find ourselves reading.
There are so many translations of worldwide books out there nowadays, both physically and electronically, so accessing and understanding different and new cultures through literature has never been easier. A brilliant list to consult is Ann Morgan’s ‘A Year of Reading the World’ that compiles a book from every nation. I have only read a few from the list myself, but Ismail Kadare’s Broken April is particularly memorable.
Approaches to reading resolutions through lists like Ann Morgan’s, rather than a numeric approach, will certainly be more rewarding
The story is based around an ancient set of Albanian laws called the Kanun, that requires vengeance from the males of a family if a member is killed. The feuds between families last until all the males in one are gone, since there is no one left capable of revenge. What surprised me the most was learning that these laws, even though they seem outdated, are still followed in the present day by certain people. Approaches to reading resolutions through lists like Ann Morgan’s, rather than a numeric approach, will certainly be more rewarding.
This year, Penguin have also scrapped quantity for quality – on their website listing four reading challenges, they state how “it’s all about having an exciting reading life – not just how many books you read!” Such a quote certainly encapsulates my reasoning to avoid new year’s resolutions that focus on reading a set number of books.
In essence, new year’s resolutions are concerned with improving our lives – I think we can only truly gain something from reading when it is done without time constraints, otherwise the experience of immersion can be completely lost.