2018: the Year of Naked Reading begins

“If you really want to be a good presenter, you need to practice speaking naked.”

Reactions in the room varied. A few people laughed nervously. Others shuffled in their seats. Some people looked at each other with that ‘did I hear that right??’ look. They were not quite saying it out loud but clearly more than one member of my team thought I’d gone crazy. I wanted them to stand in front of a room of people and deliver a presentation while not wearing any clothes????

Not what I meant at all. By speaking naked what I meant was they needed to know how to address a group without the aid of Powerpoint slides. They were a crutch upon which people (and not just my team members) relied on far too often.

What does this all have to do with reading you are by now no doubt pondering.


Sleeping Venus by Giorgione, c. 1510 CreativeCommons Licence via Wikipedia

By reading naked I do not mean lying about on my chaise longue or languishing in a sheltered bower as if I were in a Rubens painting.

Nope. I mean reading without the aid of reading lists, prompts and challenges.

Let me rewind a little to explain.

A few weeks ago, as is traditional at this time of the year, I began to think about my 2018 reading goals. What did I want to accomplish in the next 12 months?

I had lots of ideas of my own initially.

One goal could be to finish my Classics Club list. Another to read x number of novels by authors in countries other than UK and USA. Or how about reading x number of novels in translation.

There was equally no shortage of ideas coming through on my reader feed. HeavenAli’s #ReadingMuriel2018 readalong of Muriel Spark was enticing.  Simon from Stuckinabook had an even bigger challenge to offer with his Century of Reading project. No doubt about it that the Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey would give me a much needed nudge to read all the non-fiction books languishing on my bookshelves. And then later in the year there would be 20BooksofSummer, Reading Ireland Month; Japanese Lit Challenge, German Lit month etc etc etc.

But I kept pontificating. Changing my mind. Deciding on a goal one day and then scrubbing it out the next. I offloaded on my nearest and dearest expecting/hoping for sympathy. Not one jot came my way. Instead I got a challenge: why was it so critical for me to have a goal at all? Hadn’t I left all that behind me when I stopped working? Who would care anyway?

It took a few days for that little seed to germinate. But germinate and grow it did. Maybe I could take a gap year from goals and challenges and targets?. Could 2018 be a year of free wheeling reading; reading whatever I felt like at that particular moment?

The more I thought about it the more I warmed to the idea. Since I started blogging I’ve had projects and targets and challenges to guide my reading – and very few of them were accomplished successfully. Some people thrive on goals and objectives and do brilliantly at keeping to resolutions. In most areas of my life these work well for me too. But when it comes to reading I’m a dud. Fact is, I’ve realised, that I enjoy making lists of books to read but the minute the list is finalised, I go off the idea of reading the books I’ve chosen. A list makes me feel hemmed in somewhat.

I am therefore declaring 2018 to be the Year of Naked Reading.

I will keep the ongoing projects I’ve been working on for a few years now like the Booker Prize Project (there is no way I am abandoning that right at the last moment) or my World Literature project. I’m also going to start a new one – the Year of my Life reading project initiated by Cafe Society. But I won’t use those projects to drive my reading.  Nor When I am ready for the next book I’ll just look around the book shelves and pick out what takes my fancy. With some 220 plus books I own but haven’t read, I will have plenty of choice. I’m going to try and restrain myself so I don’t purchase zillions of new books but won’t be setting any targets or imposing numeric constraints.

So here’s to the beginning of a rudderless, free wheeling 2018.

Anyone care to join me??

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on January 3, 2018, in Book Reviews, Naked Reading 2018 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 65 Comments.

  1. I appreciate your thinking about reading without specific plans. The idea of “naked reading” sounds a bit intimidating but also an important thing to do sometimes. For me, I get overwhelmed by all the possibilities, so challenges give me a way to prioritize, as does the library (when it’s my turn on the wait list, that’s when I read something). This year I’m also experimenting with some book clubs, which will also drive my reading. So that’s probably way too much structure and I’ll need a break. Enjoy your naked reading and I look forward to hearing how it goes!

    • If challenges work for you then there is absolutely nothing wrong with embarking on them. I’m not ruling them out for ever – i just feel like some breathing space this year. I do have a little structure since I also belong to a book club which means at least 10 books I know will be on my reading list.

  2. Great post! I have been definitely reading naked before I started blogging, when I was in high school. Those were wonderful times, and I really wish I can have that mindset when I’m reading right now. Of course I can never entirely not think about the numbers and statistics when I’m reading right now, especially with book blogs and Goodreads. Best of luck for 2018! 🙂
    (PS: my blog was Tea and Paperbacks, and now I’ve changed to this domain!)

    • I purposefully didn’t create a Goodreads challenge this year so I wouldn’t feel any pressure. What do you think is really holding you back from re-igniting that high school delight?

  3. Ha! Well as the one, hugely difficult challenge I imposed on myself backfired spectacularly, I have to be careful about the challenges. MY Reading The Twentieth was strict for myself – sequential, and with 5 categories for each year. I foundered in 1900 with Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, the non-fiction. Im clearly the kind of person who succumbs to impossible fantasies. I am tempted by some of the challenges, but it really needs to find accord with what I’m wanting to read. That’s the plan, anyway!

    • 5 categories per year was certainly a stretch goal…

      • I know, and I regret it. It might well be I manage one book a year at this rate. I do occasionally pick up Freud and sigh – much of it is written in German and French which he assumes all his readers will understand, and is not translated in my Kindle version! How to make a reader feel really incompetent –

  4. I’ve been free wheeling it for years and I highly endorse your 2018 approach! Though reclining in a sheltered bower like a Rubens painting might not be so bad as long as it is warm and one can be secure that no one is spying 🙂

  5. I created a challenge for myself so that I could feel more organized. When I have no ideas or plans, I feel very lost and succumb to anxiety, possibly depression, and actually stop reading. The only challenge from someone else that I’ve followed is the 20 Books of Summer, and as many of us have mentioned, we’re not going to do that this year.

    • Woops, I’m on my husband’s computer and wasn’t logged in. That was me above, Karen! Also, I wanted to ask you, when did you retire and what do you like to do now?

      • I retired officially Dec 31 2016 but because of all the surgery I needed last year it didn’t really feel like retirement. I also had to put on the backburner all the plans I had. I’m getting back on track now…. I spend a lot of time on genealogy research (i’m doing my own family tree plus a One Name Study on the surname Heenan worldwide).i go the gym and also go out walking with a few people from the village. I’m into baking now also. Once a week I volunteer at an after school English homework club for youngsters. I’ve been trying to volunteer with a few organisations as part of their business board/board of trustees but it’s so hard to get even a response from some of them. I won’t give up though…..I’m thinking about volunteering to be a reading coach at a local prison. Not sure about that yet… So life is suddenly rather busy 🙂

    • Hi Melanie. Challenges and targets work for some people undoubtedly and if they do for you, then why not use them? There’s nothing wrong at all in having something to aim for and you’ve clearly seen they do help you. I might go back to a challenge or two in a year’s time but I felt I needed a breather this year

  6. I completely agree with this Karen. Very early in my blogging career I decided challenges were not for me, and I’ve kept to that. Of course I do the AWW challenge but that’s because. I read them anyhow, and I set my “goal” there way under want I read each year.

    I have other implied goals, like reduce my TBR but don’t actively work to them. My reading is driven a bit by review copies though, and that’s a bit of an issue I try to manage.

    • i’ve also pulled back from requesting review copies from Netgalley this year to give myself breathing space. I think there is a difference between a ‘challenge’ or a ‘goal’ because to be effective they really need to have specific measures and timescales. Whereas I think you can have a general direction you want to follow and not to have to worry about such things. Reducing the TBR or reading more in translation for example would fall into the heading of general direction for me. I still have those in mind but without the pressure of having to get them ‘done’

      • Yes, I thinkngeneral direction is the way, unless as you say you really want specific goals with definable measures.

        I don’t touch netgalley, though am in the system, I got one book early on but didn’t read it. My review copies come as print (mostly) directly from Australian (mostly) publishers, and mostly I manage the flow. But sometimes I say yes to books which would not be top priority for me… This is what I try to manage.

  7. after years of reading challenges trends, it seems yours is getting really common. which is reflected in my own choice. I’m only working on my classics and my TBR challenge, for books I have meant to read for ever, and I try to be very picky at accepting review copies, to let room for whatever hits my fancy when I browse the shelves of my library. Hammy reading year to you!

  8. In other words : the best reading plan is to have no plan.
    Happy Naked Reading!

    (I agree with you on that. Personnally I have enough lists, targets, KPIs and deadlines at work. Reading should be fun)

    • Love that little mantra Emma. Yep I had enough of those targets when I was working. Now I am retired why give myself grief by imposing them on myself??

  9. Happy naked reading 😀

  10. Great idea. Looking forward to hearing how this unfolds. Glad to hear you’re not abandoning the Bookers!

  11. I tend to read mostly what I want, with a few exceptions, and to work on my own projects. And I like to read along with an event if the whim takes me but I don’t worry if I can’t fit something in. So I think your idea sounds wonderful! It’ll be interesting to see how it goes. Enjoy!

  12. Fascinating post which resonates deeply with me. I have joined a few “challenges”, ones which I would be doing anyway such as reading through the Bible or reading short stories. But, I do not like “being told what to do”; like a little child I rebel at too much direction. So, I will free read with you, especially as I retire in June.

  13. Since becoming a blogger there have been a couple years when I didn’t take on challenges and it was a relief (I admit, I went overboard a couple years)! This year I actually want to step up efforts on my Classics Club list which has languished the last few years. I’ve signed up for two other challenges — Roof Beam Reader’s #TBR2018RBR to help me finally get to the reading of 12 books I own and having been wanting to read, and the Australian Woman Writers Challenge — in recent years I’ve sign up to read 4 books for this one, which is “challenge lite” by book blogger standards, but it exposes me to some great reads that normally wouldn’t cross my path here in the States (the big exception being Jane Harper’s The Dry which was everywhere in 2017). I look forward to seeing what you read during this Year of Naked Reading!

  14. Sounds good to me. I did no projects in 2017 apart from 20 Books of Summer where I basically list some books in my TBR and then talk about them with more people, and I did Australian reading month because I fancied an Australian book. I have started my Murdoch re-reading challenge and am just going to do that, 20 Books and a readalong of Jerusalem by Alan Moore with my husband. Apart from that, just working through the TBR and any review books that come my way. Have fun!

  15. I am all for free reading. I belong to a few book clubs but in general read classics and old books that are not the focus of readalongs. I have read all of Muriel Spark–a sign I am getting old? I have volunteered to run a two-month Virgil club (I am a former Latin teacher). Can you guess how popular that will be! I do very much admire your blog and like your Booker project. There are many I have not read.

    Sent from my iPad


  16. Good for you.  Thanks for such a meaningful post.  I will join you.  But I am not sure I can just walk away from the free-for-reviewing books that I get and have to get read before they take them back in 30 or 60 days.  Maybe I will just cut back on them.  Marilyn

  17. piningforthewest

    That’s what I do most of the time as I like to read whatever fits in with my mood. I’m very slowly reading through the James Tait Memorial Prize books, but I’ll never get to the end of that. I’ll look in on the Muriel Spark challenge as she was Scottish and I like to read a lot of Scottish authors. I’ve had to compile another Classics Club list as I completed the first one, but I would be reading the classics anyway.

  18. I was a naked reader last year but I found it lonely. I know, weird. Not many of my friends here in Tasmania read much. So no one to talk to. My book club was a bit of a dud so I quit. So this year I have set some goals because I enjoy sharing my reading and books with others. I am usually hopeless at following through but I am determined to at least get further into the year with these. What is the saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? Haha, we’ll see.

    • You’ve identified some very sound reasons for wanting to join in with challenges. I may find I also miss the social side but there are plenty of short activities I could do if that were to happen

    • Interesting comment Pam. I find my blogging social enough without challenges. The only challenge I actively do is the AWW one, but I think it’s a bit different as a challenge. It certainly doesn’t garner much social aspect, but then I don’t make a big thing of it on my blog. Memes do it more I’ve noticed, like Six degrees, but that can be a two-edged sword because you can get a lot of “action” from readers with whom you have little in common. It’s fun as a result but not necessarily meaningful, of that makes sense.

  19. Sounds good! I do set myself reading goals, but secretly – don’t tell anyone – I couldn’t actually care less whether I achieve them or not! So I guess that means I’m kinda secretly naked. 😉 I’ve more or less stopped participating in other people’s challenges though, because when I sign up for one of them, I do feel pressured to stick with it. But my own challenges really just reflect what I would be reading anyway – they just give me a way to link different reading strands, if that makes any sense. So I hope you enjoy your free-wheeling adventure – I’ll be interested to see if you find it leads to you reading different stuff than you otherwise would have… 🙂

  20. I think a year of free wheeling sounds like a good idea. I partly did that in 2017, though I joined in with a few things like the #1968club etc. This year I am back to challenges but I think a rest from challenges is a good idea every now and again.

  21. This is how I read all the time, and I heartily advocate it! Hooray for naked reading.

  22. I’m a Naked Reader too! I don’t really like participating in challenges because it puts pressure on me and I’ve got enough pressure at work already, I want to do what I want in my free time ;-). You’ve made a great decision, have fun reading, I’m sure you’ll like not having a to do/read list 🙂

    • I do from time to time see posts or hear podcasts where people seem to be stressed because they are behind with their reading. Sad isn’t it because no-one is making us do this – its a self imposed pressure – and yet reading is meant to be pleasurable

  23. *snap!* We are of like mind on this one:)
    Reading by whim, that’s me:)

  24. I’m with you, here, Karen. I’ve had to read so many books I would have preferred not to for work that goals and challenges aren’t something I subscribe to. Enjoy your liberation!

  25. Happy new year! Enjoy your year of free reading 🙂

  26. I’ll be very interested to hear how you find reading ‘nakedly’, particularly if you’re used to having goals to shape your reading. It could be freeing, or not. That’s what makes it so interesting 🙂 A while ago I decided to read less and I’ve enjoyed reading a lot more as a result. It’s become less about achieving something, and much more about enjoying something. Sure there are a gazillion books I’ll never read, but that’s true whether I read to a plan or not or whether I read 10 books a week or 1. There are still gazillions out there, all meritorious in their own way, which I’ll never set eyes on. Initially I was keen to absorb more of what I read, and reduce my book hoarding tendencies, but aside from those things I’ve experienced some quite surprising outcomes which have rippled out into my wider life. It’s not all been good, but it has been revealing. Now I plan to only buy a book when I immediately intend to read it, no more buying for the future, and I think removing any kind of plans or goals can help towards that as plans so easily morph into actions (in my experience) which often morph into regret! Something you wrote on that point resonated very strongly with me “Fact is, I’ve realised, that I enjoy making lists of books to read but the minute the list is finalised, I go off the idea of reading the books I’ve chosen.” and I feel the same, too, about books I’ve acquired. Sometimes I look at my shelves and wonder why I bought some of the books I did. I’m perhaps not quite as committed a reader as I was when I had plans and goals and targets, and maybe not so much of a diverse one either, but my relationship with reading is considerably better and I enjoy it for itself – not for blogging about or discussing or sharing in any way – much more again. Which is why I became a reader in the first place: for the joy of it.

    Good luck with your new challenge (if it’s right to call it that). I look forward to hearing how it changes -or doesn’t – your reading experience.

  27. Apart from books I’ve agreed to review (which by default are also books I would choose to read anyway) I tend to steer clear of challenges. I do tend to find some of them a bit prescriptive, and what looks like a good idea at the time, just becomes too challenging and takes some of the fun away from book selection. Enjoy your year of naked reading and be sure to let us know whether it really was liberating.

  28. I do know what you mean about the difficulty of sticking to those resolutions but if I allowed myself to totally freewheel I would probably read nothing but crime fiction and although there are some excellent writers in the field it doesn’t challenge me to think as deeply as some works from other genres do. That is why I’ve tried giving myself what I’m calling a monthly blueprint for this year that includes a wider range of categories than I was managing at the back end of 2017. It still allows for some comfort reading but will encourage me to explore a little more widely than has recently been the case.

  29. Yup – completely with you there! I’m intending another year of planning to have no plans, and it works much better for me to be able to read where the whim takes me. I respond *really* badly to feeling I *have* to read a book, I’ve discovered and so hurrah for reading what you want without any plan at all! 🙂

  30. I did free-wheeling reading in December and it was liberating and fun. I understand your decision. I look forward to noting what you read! Not buying books is so hard for me, but I do try to use the library and be patient while on waiting lists. Also, two of my libraries have eBook services and I use those too. But I will still make lists because somehow reading lists make me feel rich! I have however accepted that I will never read all the books I already own and I will never read all the books I want to read. I accepted that the other day with sadness-:(

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