A Year of Reading Intentions and Directions But Definitely No Plans

A new year begins and my news feed is chock-a-block with blog posts about reading challenges, goals and plans.

I’ve held back until now, frankly because I’ve been in a bit of a dither about my own intentions for 2022. Do I go for a year completely devoid of any specific plans, more or less just reading what takes my fancy? Or do I commit to some reading projects/plans?

It’s the same question I come up against every year! You’d think I would know the answer after nine (soon to be 10) years of blogging.

Best Laid Plans Go Awry

I’ve had some years where I made plans on a grand scale to read classics and books from around the world. committing myself to everything from Japan Literature Challenge and #20booksofsummer to projects to tackle the TBR Mountain or read series like The Chronicles of Barchester and the Rougon-Macquet cycle. Other years I said to hell with reading goals, I’m going to have a year off.

Last year I decided I would take the path of simplicity: no targets for reducing the TBR or reading X number of books and no involvement in challenges which required me to read a specific list of books. I would complete my World Of Literature Project, using the European Reading Challenge 2021 as the spur, (it was called a challenge but is actually a very casual event ) hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader. And I would join events that enabled me to connect with other bloggers but curtail my natural enthusiasm to join in every reading event announced.

Like all of my plans, these didn’t go exactly as intended. There were many successes. Fortunately no mega failures.

I didn’t complete the World of Literature project though I did read books from six more countries putting me just two countries short of the goal of 50.

I did nine reading projects not six: Japan Literature Challenge, #ReadIndies month, Dewithon 2021, #1936 club, Reading Ireland Month 2021, #20booksofsummer, Novellas in November, Australia Reading Month and Non Fiction November. In fact there were only two months in the year when I wasn’t doing a reading project.

Somewhere along the line I added to the complexity by devising my own project #21in21 to read more of the books that were lying neglected on the shelves. It worked far better than anticipated with 30 books read that I’d bought before 2021.

To Plan or Not to Plan Dilemma

Sounds like a pretty good year doesn’t it? So what’s the problem you might be wondering.

It’s this.

I love the idea of having a framework to guide my reading through the year. I love the spirit of comradeship that ensues I can connect my reading with what other bloggers are reading and posting about. I love the satisfaction of ticking off accomplishments.

But I don’t love the pressure of challenges and goals. Nor do I enjoy the feeling that I’m reading certain books just because they fit with the theme of a reading event or a personal project.

This is the dilemma that’s been driving my crazy the last couple of weeks.

The Way Ahead

The outcome of all my deliberation and cogitation is this: I’m not making any plans or setting any goals for 2022. Those words just make reading sound like work rather than a pleasure. I am in awe of the number of challenges and projects some bloggers take on simultaneously. If they can accomplish them without feeling pressured, then good luck to them. They’re not for me.

Instead of plans I’m going to base on reading on overall directions and themes:

  • reading more classics
  • exploring literature from around the world
  • enjoying the books I already own instead of chasing new titles
  • showcasing authors from Wales

That doesn’t mean I’m calling time on reading projects entirely. I’ll still participate but only when they dovetail with my interests and I have already have suitable books. So you can expect to see me pop up in Irish Reading Month, Dewithon (assuming Paula hosts it again this year) and Australia Reading Month. But Non Fiction November and #20booksofsummer will have to take a back seat this year.

That should be more than enough to keep me busy. Now do tell me what is in store for you in 2022? More of the same or are you changing directions?

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

39 thoughts on “A Year of Reading Intentions and Directions But Definitely No Plans

  • January 19, 2022 at 7:26 pm
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    Wow, you’ve echoed my thoughts exactly! Some years I’ve joined tons of challenges and done well and others, not so well. When I’ve only joined a few challenges it doesn’t seem to go well. So what to do? Do you find that you read more books when you’ve joined challenges but you just don’t enjoy the process as much, or do you seem to read just as many books whether you’re joining challenges or not? I always feel that challenges spur me on and I don’t resent having to read certain books or have certain books scheduled, but I don’t seem to be able to keep up and then I feel badly about it. So this year once again, I’m going to participate in my two favourites and leave the others (hopefully). But I’m sure I’ll be tempted by something else during the year. All the best with your reading for 2022, the winds blow where they may!!

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    • January 19, 2022 at 8:16 pm
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      Do I read more because I’ve joined challenges? Good question Cleo and I’ve had to think hard about the answer. I think the total number of books read in a particular year didn’t change just because I was doing a challenge – I can only read so many books after all. I just fell further and further behind with the challenges. The Classics Club one for example is supposed to be 50 books over 5 years but I took 8 years. The only thing that stops me getting too stressed about it is that I remind myself there are no consequences if I miss the goal. It’s not like a promotion or a salary increase is dependent on my hitting the goal! Keeping to two of your favourites is a good way to approach it – if you like doing them, then keep going and if you don’t reach that self-imposed goal, well so what. It’s whether you enjoyed the experience that matters

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  • January 15, 2022 at 3:22 pm
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    Lol! I can relate, Karen. I never make new year’s resolutions any more because they always seem to weigh me down and I end up feeling like a failure when I break them.
    I’m not a book blogger but I am in awe at the reading accomplishments and challenges that have been showcased in my inbox during December and January.
    I must say, you’re view of 2022 feels much less stressful, Karen. I’m looking forward to reading your posts throughout the year ahead.

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    • January 15, 2022 at 6:17 pm
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      Well that’s the idea Kim, to have a year without pressure. I know I will join in with some events because it’s just in my nature to get enthusiastic about new ideas and opportunities. But I know if I plan too far ahead I will get frustrated that I’m not making progress or not enjoying the experience. Like you I see all these other readers making extensive plans and my jaw drops!

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  • January 11, 2022 at 10:39 pm
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    I never make any plans, only a few guidelines such as reading more translated literature. It’s so easy for targets and goals to take the fun out of reading. Also, I’m too much of a mood reader, so it wouldn’t work anyway. Good luck with your approach for 2022!

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    • January 12, 2022 at 9:09 am
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      I like the description of guidelines – I’ve called my version “directions” and “intentions” but guidelines sounds even more relaxed

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  • January 8, 2022 at 10:41 pm
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    I sense that many book bloggers (including myself) are going this way — it’s almost as if the stresses of the last year or so have made us realise we need to reserve are energy to stay sane,safe and well — but staying sane does include reading books! I’ve long regarded ‘challenges’ as prompts more than targets but many your own ‘intentions’ mirror mine. So congrats on your new approach and well may it succeed!

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    • January 12, 2022 at 9:18 am
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      The pandemic has been a wake up call for so many people, causing them to re-think what they used to consider priorities. I’ve seen so many bloggers this year say they are not in the mood for specific goals. Yet, just to show how different we all are, there are plenty of other bloggers who are signing up for more challenges than ever before – as if in the absence of structure in one part of their lives (working from home etc) they seek it elsewhere in reading projects.

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  • January 8, 2022 at 5:01 pm
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    A good approach. I’m doing my usual thing of only doing challenges if I can do them from my TBR. I find 20 Books of Summer helps me to clear print books from it, and in Nonfiction November I love the connections. I’ll do Reading Ireland, Dewithon and AusReading Month only if I have a book for them anyway. I’m doing my own Larry McMurtry challenge this year, no pressure for anyone to do it with me but I’ll be glad if they do – my usual way of doing a challenge. And my own TBR challenge, which helps me get things less piled up, hopefully. Happy reading!

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:03 pm
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      I was delighted with the progress I made on my TBR project last year so plan to repeat that. Not sure if I will change my “rules” and count only books bought before 2020

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  • January 8, 2022 at 2:35 pm
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    I love joining in challenges – but unless they’re ones I’m running, I join in in an if I have time, unplanned, no pressure way! In that way, I joined in so many last year, very few where I picked books in advance.

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:04 pm
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      Taking part on the hoof as it were does sound like a sensible approach Annabel

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  • January 8, 2022 at 2:28 pm
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    This sounds like an excellent idea. I cheer from the sidelines of challenges and am happy to contribute comments but setting goals would feel too much like work. Each of us has to choose what suits us best and enjoy it. Looking forward to seeing where this year takes you, Karen.

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:05 pm
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      Exactly so – it does feel like I’m back in work and having to draw up very specific goals and plans for the year

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  • January 8, 2022 at 2:07 pm
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    Good approach! Since I’m part of some book clubs I find that I need to have some structure. Especially when it comes to tackling my personal shelves. My latest count has 114 unread books, mainly because I bought so many in 2022. So I have some challenges to help me choose what to read.

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:06 pm
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      If challenges help you then I’m glad. Some people respond so well to having a structure. It’s going to be interesting to see whether my unstructured approach will work of if I will miss the challenges

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  • January 8, 2022 at 1:17 pm
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    Absolutely – I applaud you. I always get swept up in the excitement of planning and making piles of books, and overlook how my awkward reading mojo will say “Nope, you actually don’t want to read that right now”. I have already abandoned tentative commitments and am happily reading what I fancy. I like the idea of having intentions and directions – that’s a good one – but apart from the few reading events I’m co-hosting, and an attempt to read more from Mount TBR, I shall try to keep things simple!

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:07 pm
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      I’m having a giggle at the fact that just days after you posted about tentative plans, they’ve already been abandoned 🙂

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  • January 8, 2022 at 12:00 pm
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    You are doing exactly what I do every year, Karen. I set no specific goals and I can’t remember when I have. I have overall rules of thumb:
    to read more of the TBR,
    to read more non-Aussie books while maintaining an overall Aussie focus,
    to read more First Nations books,
    to read more older books,
    to get the review books under control (which has been a problem over the last terrible two years)

    I’ll join some reading weeks/projects that fit with my interests, like Novellas and Nonfiction which unfortunately BOTH in November, (but mostly I don’t do those thoroughly) plus of course Bill’s AWW and Lisa’s ILW. I have absolutely no desire to have pressure on my reading. I’d love to do Cathy’s 20 books of summer (winter), for example, but I never have because even that feels like pressure.

    So, I applaud you and say, go for it. Follow your nose and enjoy your reading year.

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:09 pm
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      November is SO crowded. I felt guilty last year when I couldn’t get fully engaged in some of those events but I have to stop and remind myself that I am reading for pleasure……

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    • January 9, 2022 at 11:31 am
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      Sounds like a good plan. I haven’t been in the mood for a big reading project the last couple of years. Though I do understand wanting to have some shape to the year ahead, and it is satisfying to tick them off. I will join in with the usual challenges I enjoy, but I’m definitely not making big plans this year.

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      • January 12, 2022 at 9:14 am
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        Absolutely Ali, there is this sense of accomplishment when you can see you are making progress. The reverse though is that you end p feeling down if you don’t make progress.

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  • January 8, 2022 at 10:23 am
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    I admire you for being able to do four challenges. My only goal is to read at least one book a week which I can share in my blog. I do try to read the Women’s Prize and Booker nominated ones. Working from home has completely diminished my commute, which also means I no longer have some two hours a day spent reading on the train. Your blog amongst others provided me with great tips. Thanks for that!

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:10 pm
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      So glad you picked up some tips from my meandering thoughts Liliane. I have a few friends who have said the lack of commute time has seriously impacted their reading so you are certainly not alone. Your goal sounds a very sensible one in the circumstances

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  • January 8, 2022 at 9:41 am
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    I’m definitely in the ‘no plans’ camp. I don’t like the pressure of goals, but I do welcome the serendipitous recommendations of fellow bloggers, and the nicely turned out book jacket that winks at me from the library shelves. Still, I’m glad that others do have them. It puts lots of good ideas into my horribly long TBR bank. Good luck with you mix of plans and no plans!

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    • January 8, 2022 at 10:11 pm
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      I have this lovely image now of you going into the library and being faced with all those books giving you the ‘come hither’ wink 🙂

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  • January 8, 2022 at 9:32 am
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    I like your themes and directions idea. Should work. Will be interested to see results next year. But, whatever, elses, please enjoy your reading.

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  • January 8, 2022 at 6:32 am
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    Simple works! I only set a Goodreads goal and I don’t worry too much about achieving it. The only other thing that I like to do is over the Christmas period I try to read a few books from my TBR list which have accumulated on my kindle over the year. This is because much of my other reading is review requests from authors.

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  • January 8, 2022 at 5:33 am
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    I hear ya! No plans for me this year… just want to read more from my shelves and will join in various events as and when I feel like it and if I have time, energy etc.

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  • January 8, 2022 at 2:02 am
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    well, it does sounds like plans to me, and good ones to really enjoy your year!

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  • January 8, 2022 at 1:38 am
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    I think you are on the right track. I’m going to free flow through the year and see where my reading takes me outside of one monthly committed read for book group. 🐧☕

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  • January 8, 2022 at 12:53 am
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    I do have some challenges I want to do, but I haven’t been hugely successful with challenges in the last few years so I mainly see them as guidelines, and I sometimes go off course. I like your ideas, especially more classics, more literature around the world and reading from my already owned books as much as possible. Mostly I just want to not stress about blogging and enjoy it. I like what Winstondad says: get 100 reviews done this year. That would make me very happy.

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  • January 7, 2022 at 10:48 pm
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    I agree! The last 2 years have been challenging enough without adding book challenges! I’m an incorrigible mood reader so your non-plan plan works for me!

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  • January 7, 2022 at 10:41 pm
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    I think your plans and my plans are very similar, but then I very rarely do challenges (or memes). Catching up with Classics is always a good idea. And like you I try to highlight books from ‘home’, in my case Western Australia. I host one Week (this year Australian Women Writers 1960-1989) and I have one Project – to read 12 African American and Indigenous writers from North America, an area in which I am sadly deficient.
    We tell ourselves, reading is not meant to be work, but do we listen?

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  • January 7, 2022 at 10:40 pm
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    I like the idea of plans but never real follow them
    Main aim this year is just do 100 reviews as just missed out by a few books last two years

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  • January 7, 2022 at 10:35 pm
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    I’m pretty much the same, Karen. I’ll make my mind what to do as it comes along…

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  • January 7, 2022 at 10:17 pm
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    This approach seems to be reflected in many of us planning our reading year. I too have decided although I will stick with my goodreads record of reading and especially with my German, for me translated, books, but just to slow down. Every time a challenge or readalong appears I do not have to join 😅. A rough plan, however, includes just reading some of the myriad of books I have bought over the last two years. I think with lockdowns and fear of being a Covid victim we are all escaping and for me it meant to keep buying books. I follow your columns with interest, thanks for all your content.

    Reply

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