2020: Why It’s Time For New Directions

The year is barely a week old and I’m already feeling I’m in catch up mode. I meant to share my 2020 plans well before now but it’s taken me until today to work out what exactly I want to focus on this year.

I’ve spent the last few days soul searching as well as reflecting on my experience over the last few years when I set specific goals for reading and blogging. And I’ve come to a few conclusions which are going to influence what I do this year.

The End of Challenges

The biggest decision is to stop doing reading challenges that involve making lists of titles to read. I love the process of creating the list but as soon as that’s done, and it’s time to actually read those chosen books, my interest in them completely fades away. Having a list to work through takes away the element of freedom.

Instead of being able to choose a book at random from my ‘owned but unread’ shelves or delve into something that caught my eye in the library, I’m ‘having’ to read one of the titles on my list. Just so that I can make some inroads into that challenge.

It’s why I’ve never completed a #20booksofsummer project. Even reducing the number to 15 this year didn’t work (though I came close). It’s also why it’s taken me longer than the target 5 years to get through the Classics Challenge and why, unbelievably, my Booker Prize project is unfinished seven years after it began.

Away With Lists

Lists are clearly not my thing. Neither are challenges that require me to read specific categories of books or numbers of books within a specified time period. Some of those I’ve been undertaking in recent years, like the Booker Prize project have been entirely self imposed. So I have only myself to blame for that!

There’s nothing wrong with the challenges themselves. Plenty of other bloggers and readers find them enjoyable and rewarding and, amazingly, have the ability to cope with several at the same time. It’s not the challenge that’s the issue; it’s me.

2020 will therefore be a year without challenges. I’ll finish the ones I’ve already started – I’ve come so far with most of them that it would be silly to stop now – but I won’t go looking for anything new. I want a year of relaxed, stress-free reading.

I’ve Started So I’ll Finish

Booker Prize Project: One more title to go and then I’ll have read (or attempted to read) every winner from 1969 to 2015. That’s 50 winners in total. Once I’ve read How Late It Was How Late by James Kelman, I’ll be done. I don’t regret having spent time with the Booker Prize but my interest in it as a literary prize has seriously waned in the last few years so I won’t be committing myself to reading any of the post 2015 winners.

Classics Club challenge: I embarked on this in November 2012. According to the ‘rules’ I was supposed to have read 50 books from my list by November 2017. Well, it’s now more than 2 years later and I still have three titles yet to go. I’m using the latest Classics Club spin to give me a nudge towards the finishing line. I still have books on my original list that I haven’t read. I might get to them over time or I might not.

World of Literature Project: Another self-imposed challenge to read books by authors from 50 different countries within 5 years. I’m two years over the target date with 9 countries still to go. No reason why I shouldn’t find those remaining countries before the year is over. I’m not abandoning my interest in reading translated fiction and fiction from around the world – just taking away the pressure of specific goals.

New Directions

The one aspect of challenges I do enjoy is the camaraderie and feeling of connection to other bloggers. I don’t want to lose that – the social element of blogging is by far the thing that keeps me going. Without it, blogging would be just a form of vanity publishing.

Instead of year long or multi year challenges I’m going to switch my focus to small events; the kind that last just for a week or a few months.. There are countless numbers of these around so I’m going to have to be selective otherwise I’ll end up in the same rabbit hole I’ve been in before via challenges.

I’ll be joining events if and only if they take my fancy and I can do them without a reading list in sight.

Reading Events On the Horizon

There are already a few events that are calling to me.

Japan Literature Challenge, hosted by dolcebellezza is now in its 13th incarnation. It involves just reading books by Japanese authors between January and end of March. It’s a good opportunity to revisit some of the authors whose books I already own.

Paula at Book Jotter will be hosting the Wales Readathon throughout March. This will be the second year for the event and of course I have to support anything which promotes literature from my home country.

Unfortunately that readathon coincides with Reading Ireland Month hosted by Cathy at 746books so I might have to limit myself to just one book from Ireland. I’ll at least feel that I’ll have joined in the buzz. That’s what is so great about these short events – you can just dip in like this without any obligations to do much more.

Finally, in April, Simon and Karen will be hosting the 1920 reading club; a week long celebration of fiction, non-fiction, poetry published 100 years ago.

And that’s more than enough for me to be getting on with. What happens after April I’ll decide further down the road.

Will You Be Joining Me? Have you made any plans yet for 2020? Do they include challenges or do you prefer more free-form reading? Do post a comment below to let me know.

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 8, 2020, in Reading plans and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 56 Comments.

  1. Looks like the longer we book blog the more we tend to follow the simpler route. Looking forward to share books along the way, for instance for the Japanese Literature challenge

  2. I stopped…well, to be honest, never really did well…on reading challenges. Last year I read my lowest number of books in a year in at least the five years, but I read what I wanted and I read quality books. I abandoned a lot too and I’m fine with that. I don’t need to waste time on books that aren’t “doing it for me.”

    I do participate in a few reading events once or twice year, usually 24in48 Readathon and Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon being the two main ones. I like to feel connected too. Unfortunately, a lot of book bloggers have gone by the wayside or are only on Instagram anymore.

    That said, I’m glad that I’m still connected with you and that you’re still here blogging. Even though we don’t share the same tastes in reading, I do think that we share similar philosophies on reading. I think that’s why I enjoy your blog, plus it’s nice to get a perspective from “across the pond.”

  3. Did my comment not take? It looks that way…abbreviated version is I’m so glad you’re joining in the Japanese Literature Challenge 13 this year! Looking forward to your thoights on Colorless Tzukuru Tazaki, which I remember being quite fond of.

  4. I hear you on the “obligatory” reading of lists once they are formed! The minute I feel I have) to do sonething, is the minute I lose mich of my incentive. So, I am all the more pleased to hear you will join in the Japanese Literature l Challenge 13! Thank you for your participation, which I eagerly anticipate, and I look) forward to your thoughts on Colorless Tzukuru Tazaki.

    • It wasn’t that difficult for me to decide to join your challenge – I’ve loved the Japanese fiction I’ve read so far plus I can participate without having to make any of the dreaded lists 🙂

  5. I’m all for stress-free reading. I don’t get involved in challenges either but rather go where my mood for reading takes me. I’d like to read 60 books a year so that is pretty modest in the blogging world. I hope you enjoy your reading more this year and go wherever it takes you. Best wishes in 2020!

    • that’s about the same number as I read in a year too. There are indeed plenty of people in the blogosphere who read far more than that – when I first started the blog I used to get quite alarmed when I saw people reading 100+books a year and wondering how I would ever catch up. I’m far more relaxed about that now, I could read more if I wanted to but that would mean giving up some other activities and I’m not ready to do that

  6. A good call. I like 20books but I cheat and just list books on my TBR or from Virago / Persephone that I would read anyway. I was hoping to do Wales but I don’t THINK I have any on the TBR, although I do have Ireland and Australia so will do those months. I really enjoyed non-fiction November for seeing it on blogs I already knew and getting to find some new ones to read and people to engage with on mine, so will do that again. I have practically given up on my Century of Books (I’m at about 69) as I can never find anything I want to read for my remaining blank years! So I’ll continue to do that “organically” and see when I finish.

    Well done on the Bookers, by the way. I loved How Late so I hope you like it, too.

    • I was also using my TBR for the 20books challenge but still failed to complete. Maybe that also tells me it’s time for another cull since if I really wanted to read other books more than those on the TBR then I can easily lose some from the latter.

  7. You may be a few years behind on some of your challenges, but I think you’ve done so well! Those were huge reading goals!

    • When I embarked on them I knew they were ambitious but still thought they were doable. I could have done them much more quickly if I had put more effort in and read those books instead of getting distracted by other things.

  8. I made that call a few years ago not to do any challenges anymore. I’m still chipping away at my Classic Club’s list but that’s it really.

    The only Booker winner I’m remotely excited about post-2015 is Lincoln in the Bardo, but that may just be because of all the wonderful things I’ve heard about the audio book. I did read The Testaments, but that’s because I’ll read anything by Atwood.

    • I have copies of all the post 2015 winners but haven’t felt excited enough about them to read those instead of other books. I’ll get to them sometime I suppose.

  9. I’m with you on the reading challenges etc. My reading has slowed the last few years, I’ve used Challenges in an attempt to get my act together (spoiler: it didnt!). so this year I’ve picked a random number on goodreads, and I’m going with that.

    I already dont make “lists” as that feels like homework, which instantly puts me off reading a book that I have chosen. duh!

  10. I rarely do challenges, enough of a challenge for me to read what I’ve bought. My plan for this year is simply to read more than last year – I’ll be happy with that x

    • I know you’ve had some slumps in your reading, for understandable reasons so just trying to read more than last year is probably enough of a goal to go on with

  11. So close to being done with the three project, especially the Booker Prize one! Will you be relieved or bereft when they are all complete?

    • Hm now that’s a good question. I won’t be bereft, that’s for sure – I have plenty of other reading to occupy me. But to say I am relieved would suggest that I found it a burden – I didn’t really otherwise I would have given up long ago. I’ll just say I’m glad I did the projects but also glad that they are coming to an end soon

  12. I think it’s a good thing to know what works for you and what doesn’t. I do think a lot of the appeal of 20 Books, is the creation of the list and after that it can sometimes feel like homework! I do hope you can read something for Ireland month, but understand if it doesn’t work out. Happy reading for the year!

    • Thanks Cathy, it was a tough decision not to do 20Books this year because I’ve enjoyed taking part in previous years and I think its a fabulous idea. Can’t we just have a challenge for people who like making lists but not reading them???

  13. I’m saying ‘hear, hear’ to most of the comments above – I don’t enjoy challenges, and I love your term ‘free form reading’. Oh yes: absolutely! I love being part of the bookish blogging community and I also have plans to lay waste to the TBR shelf this year. Above all, I intend to enjoy reading at my own pace, and in whichever direction the literary winds blow me.

  14. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    I’m with you on challenges – I love “lurking” other reviewer’s choices and posts about them, but I don’t really love doing them myself. Same reason I’ve never joined a proper book club! 😅 It’s great being able to pick for yourself and read where the wind takes you. Enjoy your new direction in 2020! ❤️

    • I do belong to one book club – used to be two but that was far too much. Even now I have decided that I will try to read the selected book but if I don’t care for it, I won’t push myself to read it. Hence why on Sunday I’ll be going along to the meeting not having read more than 50 pages…..

  15. I think you’re entirely sensible and I tend to do exactly the same – make wonderful lists and never stick to them! I too will be going with manageable challenges if they fit, and if they don’t I shan’t worry. I think this is the way forward. Glad you plan to join us in 1920 though! 😀

    • I missed the last club – I discovered too late that I didn’t have anything suitable in my TBR and the library proved hopeless. This year I can plan better

  16. Sounds like a good decision, Karen. It’s too easy for blogging to turn into a slog rather than stimulating enjoyment, and I absolutely agree about the social side of it all.

  17. I haven’t made any plans as I realised long ago that I never stick to them. This year I am doing just one challenge – the Calendar of Crime because this involves reading crime fiction (which I do anyway) and then seeing if the books fit into any of the categories in the challenge.

    I do love making lists, but what I’ve found out is that not only does my interest fade in reading books on the lists, but if I do read them I don’t want to write about them, which
    totally defeats my reason for having a blog.

    So this year I shall read what I want when I want and write about them – or not. My time is my own and as FictionFan says setting targets etc can put us in danger of making our hobby like work, so anything that detracts from my enjoyment of reading and time for reading is out.

    • Love that philosophy Margaret of reading what you want when you want.
      Interesting idea to do a challenge in retrospect – I toyed with that for Miss Darcy’s challenge which I had initially signed up for because it just gives categories rather than specific books. But I’ve even backed away from that at least for this year – we’ll see how I feel at the end of the year and whether my challenge free zone is a success

  18. piningforthewest

    I don’t do many challenges but I love the Classics Club and they’re all books that I have at home and intend to get around to sometime. I’ll do the 1920 Club too, but this year I want to concentrate on reading my own books as I’m buying them faster than I can read them. Making lists for challenges takes time away from reading. But like you I do enjoy the company of like minded people, and I’ve found so many great reads that I may not have found if it hadn’t been for the bookish community.

    • I hadn’t thought about the fact that making lists takes away reading time but you’re right. If i have to make a list I start with my spreadsheet where I have recorded all the books I already own – but then I have to find the book on the shelf and read the blurb to decide whether it belongs on the list. That does take time, especially since I get distracted by all the other books.

  19. Totally understand! I participate in the easy ones that mostly fit in easily with what I’m already reading!

  20. I completely agree with you on all this. Myself, I’ve never participated in a reading challenge of the type you describe. I do try to give myself a Translated Fiction Month or an All-Female Authors Month from time to time (and I’m planning a Stonkers Month sometime soon to clear a few of the big fat books from my shelves that I buy and then don’t read), but these are just for moi and I don’t regard them as “challenges” in any shape or form.

    As soon as I try to assign myself a prescribed reading list I discover the very last thing in the world I want to do is read any of the books on it . . .

  21. Me too, I think we could form a little club of our own, Retirees from Challenges:)

    • That’s one retirees club I will happily join. Have you ever done challenges or was that something that never interested you?

      • I joined multiple challenges when I first started making virtual friends on the internet. That was part of the problem, I joined so many that all my reading was focussed on the challenges, making me feel pressured, and also not leaving me the opportunity to read at whim. When I looked at what I was getting out of it, I realised that for most of them it was only the mild satisfaction of completing it, and not anything else.
        So now I just have a couple of low level challenges which are not really challenges at all. I read from 1001 Books, because the intrinsic value of that is that I am introduced to books and authors I didn’t know, and I Read the Nobels, for the same reason.
        I join a few memes like #WIT (Women in Translation) and #Non Fiction November but most of my reading is happily haphazard:)

        • In similar vein I embarked on challenges when I was new to blogging and Twitter. It’s a bit like the first year at university – you spend the first few months busily making friends everywhere and the remainder of the year weaning yourself away because you’ve realised you don’t like that person very much after all.

  22. I am glad I am not the only one experiencing these struggles. I am also doing some evaluating for my blog. This past year has been a huge struggle and I don’t think I met any of my goals. I agree that the challenges put more pressure on us and like you, as soon as I create them, I don’t want to read any of them. I do love the social atmosphere that the blog provides and talking with other bloggers so I really want to keep that up. Here’s to meeting our goals for the new year! 🙂

    • You’re not alone at all! I think there is a point when you have been blogging/Tweeting for a while where you naturally take a pause and wonder whether you’re happy with what’s been going on. It’s just part of the process of ‘maturing’ I suppose.

  23. I’m OK with self-imposed challenges because I make sure they cover books I want to read anyway, but I’ve more or less stopped joining in with other challenges. I do think we sometimes are in danger of making our loved hobby feel a bit like work by setting targets and goals and so on, but I’ve finally developed the ability to enjoy failure… 😉 Enjoy your reading whichever challenges you decide to join!

  24. Many thanks indeed for the mention, Karen. I’m delighted you’ll be participating in the 2020 Wales Readathon.

  25. Kudos to you for doing what’s best to enjoy your reading. I only participate in challenges that fit my goals so I always enjoy them. Otherwise, I’d be in the same proverbial boat.

  26. I loved this. I too love making the lists but never finish them. As soon as I write it down I lose interest. Too much like high school. I will aim to read more books this year and get off social media. I love the blogging community and being social. I will pick books off my TBR shelves with the card game I wrote about but it won’t be to any schedule. I’ll read what I want between card picks. I do want to get my TBR down though. I do look forward to what you choose as many of your picks hold my interest. All the best!

    • I remember your post describing the card system. It reminded me of the Book Jar approach which was very popular a few years ago. I gave it a go – spent quite a few hours putting all my books onto little strips of paper. Then the first day came when I was to pick from the jar. I wasn’t in the mood for the book I chose so I put it back in the jar. An experiment that didn’t last very long!!!m . You are probably far more disciplined than I am…

      • No I’m not. I loved writing the strips of paper and putting them in the jar, but like you, didn’t like what I drew out. I’d forgotten that exercise and your comment made me laugh out loud.

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