Setting Reading Goals

DEBORAH CROMBIE: A blog I follow (Modern Mrs Darcy--highly recommended if you haven't discovered it!) recently suggested ways to get more reading into your lifeall great ideas! But it wasnt just more reading, it was ways to help you reach 100 books a year, or whatever your yearly reading goal might be. There were also a lot of tips for keeping track of your reading, from using Goodreads to Excel spreadsheets.

All this made me realize that I have NEVER set a yearly reading goal! At least not since elementary school summer reading challengers! Since then, I have I am always reading. There is not a day when I dont get in at least a few pages of at least one book--reading feels as necessary to me as breathing. But Ive never been very good at keeping track of what I read. My few attempts at keeping a book journal have failed miserably. I have no idea how many books I read in a year. Out of curiosity, I added up what Ive read halfway through February--nine books, if I count the one that is fifty pages from being finished (Bernadine Evaristo's GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER, which I have loved!) and that is partly because I was reading through a series. That number will not, I fear, get me to 100 books a year!

I can see some advantages, however, to having a BOOK PLAN, an organized reading agenda. I imagine I would read more non-fiction (despite my good intentions, most of my non-fiction reading ends up being research material), more important books (those big literary novels I seldom get around to), perhaps more classics.

But as authors, we have so much required reading, books by friends, books for blurbs, books by authors with whom we are sharing events (I have four on my nightstand for the upcoming Virginia Festival of Books at the end of March,) that it sounds daunting to set more fixed parameters. (I have discovered, however, that I read more when I read on my Kindle. As much as I love paper books, I read faster on the digital page, and I carry the Kindle with me literally everywhere.)

What about you, REDS? Do you set goals? Do you keep track of what you read, and if so, how?

HALLIE EPHRON: Im up to the top with required reading, too. I just finished a book I might never have read but for the fact that Im sharing an event with the author, Christopher Bollen, at Porter Square Books this Wednesday evening. The book is A BEAUTIFUL CRIME and its about a pair of grifters, set in Venice...starts out noir and ends up a love story. It blew me away with the writing and with the surprising twists and turns in the story. *Literary* thriller, writ large.

Im also reading an advance copy of Wendy Coris Staubs riveting forthcoming thriller, THE BUTCHERS DAUGHTER. Cant wait to get back to it, in fact.

Whenever I do an event at a bookstore I ask what their customers are reading (and loving) and I try to pick up a copy of the book most enthused about. Thats how I ended up with THE NICKEL BOYS. My daughter saw it sitting in my office, waiting to be read, and nicked it waiting for it to come back.

Reading goals? I wouldnt know what to do with them. Maybe when I retire

RHYS BOWEN: I have a TO BE READ pile on my night stand but thats about as close as I come to a reading goal. My big hurdle, like Debs and Hallie, is required reading. A long string of books to blurb and then research materials for what I plan to write next. I do enjoy non fiction especially travel literature and biographies. Right now I am writing about Venice in the nineteen thirties so Im working my way through Donna Leon to remind me of the feel of Venice. I find myself saying oh yes. I know that bar/ book shop. Very satisfying.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Goals? HA! My goal is to be able to sit in a chair (or wherever) and read without any conscience pangs that I ought to be doing something else. But while on vacation last week (sigh) I managed to read three books I was asked to read--and whoa, what a joy! True fun to read THE SWAP by Robyn Harding and THE WIFE STALKER by Liv Constantine (both perfect beach books--someone traveling with me said at one point: Whoa, Hank, you havent budged in an hour!) and the debut WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG (trust me, you heard it here first)--as well as getting the fun of starting Michael Sears already-stellar-after-six-chapters TOWER OF BABEL. And bugging my editor for the new Rachel Howzell Hall. Oh, and Jennifer HIlliers LIttle Secrets. WOW.

And yes, the nightstand tower is as close as Im getting to a goal. Oh, after Mary HIggins Clarks death, I realized I had never read WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN, which I admit, I devoured in one sitting.

SO. Goals. Not by number at least. I dont keep track of what I read...I have too many lists already!

LUCY BURDETTE: I dont have goals either, though like the rest of you I read every day. I have stacks instead. After working on the computer all day, I really want to read what I want to read to relax. I would hate for it to feel like another job, or something to feel guilty about. So Id balk at having a list of required reading. I keep a rough list on Goodreads and Bookbub, but its by no means complete!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: In the past two weeks, Ive done ZERO reading, which may be a world record. Even when I had newborns, I used to keep books of short stories in the bathroom to get a five-minute fix. The reason for my drought? I am a full 15 days into the H1N1 virus, and its kicking me right when I tend to read - in the evening.

Thanks to having gotten the vaccine, I have half a day when I feel capable of doing things. I write, I walk the dog (if necessary), I perform a few feeble acts of huswifery. (A few. Seriously, dont come over unless you really like dust bunnies.) But my fever starts to rise by 4pm, and I get more and more achy and tired. Ive been heading up to bed by 8-9pm, but even the THOUGHT of reading is exhausting. A couple nights ago, I had Alexa play Maine Classical, and I was too tired to listen to music.

What was the question? I think you all know the answer. Even with the help of the magnificent Celia Wakefield, Professional Organizer, reading goals are a bridge too far for me.

DEBS: Oh, no, Julia!!! Please take care of yourself! We are all sending you healing thoughts--and if we were closer we'd tackle your dust bunnies!

READERS, we're batting for zero here. Help us out! Who sets reading goals, and how? And please share any tips for getting in more words in a day!