A few years ago, I started using Goodreads to record what I was reading.
I started every year with good intentions to read more but would find myself coming unstuck amidst my busy life and then end the year without making it to my goal.
In 2017, I decided it really was time. I set myself a realistic goal of 26 books, thinking that I could probably manage a book every two weeks.
When I'd read 26 books and it was still only April, I realised that I was probably going to have to push my target up. First, I went for 52 and then this became 70 by the end of the year. Here I give you some tips that I learned over the last year and some that I'm bringing into play for 2018.
1. Listen to audiobooks
This was a really big one for me. Way back when I started using it on the recommendation of a friend, we agreed that audiobooks could be counted, as you had consumed the actual book, but we wouldn't count dramatisations. This rather scuppered me in 2016, when I listened to about 40 dramatisations of Poirot stories. For the first half of 2017, I was driving an hour each way to work every day. Had I been commuting by train, I would have read a book, but as I was in the car, I listened.
41 of my 70 books were audiobooks. I use Audible because I like the guarantee of unabridged, high-quality audio, but there are lots of free audiobooks out there too.
I tend to find narrators and series that I like and listen to more of them. If you find a narrator that you just can't get on with, I would recommend avoiding that audiobook and abandoning it or reading it as a physical book. If you don't like the narration you will find it difficult to follow the story. I also find that I can't listen to certain genres as audiobooks. Mystery stories and autobiographies work best for me.
2. Read a wide variety of books
I read poetry books, short stories, novels and autobiographies in 2017. This variety kept me reading, but it also meant that I read some shorter books that could be completed in an afternoon.
3. Don't be afraid to abandon books
As I came towards the end of the year, there were several books on my 'currently reading' shelf on Goodreads that I had all but abandoned. I took them off my shelf. I might return to them at some point, but it felt so much better to just let them go instead of having them cluttering up my mind with their unread-ness.
4. Find an author or series that you love
I mentioned this briefly above, but it really helps you to read a lot. I read every single one of the Agatha Raisin books in 2017, and I loved every minute of it. That's 28 books!
5. Don't be afraid to re-read books that you know you will love
I re-read (or listened) to all of the His Dark Materials series in 2017 ready for the release of The Book of Dust, which I am reading now. I also listened to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, just because I felt like it.
6. Count the incidental books
This is a bit of a specific one, but for the first half of 2017, I was an English teacher. When it came near to the end of the year and I thought I might not reach 70, I suddenly realised that I hadn't counted any of the books that I had read for my classes. I'm sure lots of people read things for work and might not notice that it's contributed to their overall reading, so count it up!
7. Abandon book snobbery and peer pressure
It's very easy to get caught up in what is and isn't literature, and want to be seen reading what everyone else on Instagram is. Abandon this mindset as quickly as possible. Read what you feel like. I read some high literature and some fluffy romance in 2017 and, for the most part, I loved it all. If everyone is reading something it doesn't mean you have to like it. Go with your flow.
8. Carve out reading time
This can be a real challenge, but it's worth it, and before long reading will seem like an essential part of your day, not just a goal. I tend to read a little bit with breakfast in the morning and at least a few pages before bed at night. But I also allow myself full reading sessions of a couple of hours several times a week. Something I have really struggled with in the past is feeling like I should be doing other productive things instead of reading. I've really had to work to push this thought away, but now I'm firmly convinced that, as a writer, reading is basically part of my job. It's also a huge contributor to maintaining good mental health, for me, and so I make it a priority.
And now for some of the ways that I am going to reach 100 books in 2018:
1. Clear the unread shelf
I'll be taking part in #unreadshelfproject2018, clearing the decks of my physical shelves as well as my Kindle. I've found 39 unread books, so that's plenty to be getting on with. My first priority is all of the books that I have borrowed from people, which I keep on a special shelf. As I don't have any unread audiobooks, these will be my forays into new things that I have chosen this year.
2. Use the library more
Once the unread books are cleared, I want to start using the library more to explore books that I might not buy or usually choose. I have a library card but I don't use it anywhere near enough.
3. Join or start a book club
It's absolutely ludicrous that I am not in a face-to-face book club, considering the amount of reading that I do. This changes this year! I'll also be reviving the Toasting Books Club for online read-a-longs.
What are your reading goals for 2018? Have you got any tips? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram!