The Year I Read Whatever I Want

If Lynn weren’t my middle name, I’m pretty sure it would be “Competitive.” For the most part, I’m completely unable to do things halfway — and once I’ve signed my name to something, you’d better believe I’ll come through. I’m not one to commit to a project without a clear intention of finishing, and that’s why it pains me to say . . .

I’m dropping out of all my reading challenges.

Yes, friends, the pressure has officially gotten to me. After years (years!) of trying to wrap up certain bookish competitions, I’m wiping the slate clean. Gone is my goal of reading 100 books in a year (I’m at 83 — and more on that in the future). I’ve said adios to reading more young adult, chick lit or historical fiction . . . just because. In a post from January, Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog called 2010 her “year of reading deliberately,” and I’m pretty much in love with that phrase. That’s what 2011 will be for me.

That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy seeing others complete challenges — or value them myself! In trying to complete reading challenges since I started blogging in 2008, I’ve had tons of fun reading new authors and setting goals for myself. I like goals — I enjoy goals — but I’ve decided I need a break. I need to relax and not be so . . . intense about my reading schedule. I need to allow myself to start a large book if I want to, never fearing that I won’t be “reading enough” and filling a book quota if it takes me a week or two to complete one novel rather than my standard two or three days.

As I’ve said: I’m super competitive. Once I start something, I want to win, darn it! I want to vanquish — and conquer! I’m a sore loser and, occasionally, a bad sport. And I know myself well enough to understand that in order to recover a modicum of my sanity, I need to make 2011 The Year I Read Whatever I Want.

I’m not going to stop accepting review copies, taking suggestions or welcoming new books into my home; I’m humbled and grateful for those sent for my consideration. But what I am going to do is strike more of a balance between reading what I want — books I’ve chosen — and those sent for review. I’m going to work steadfastly to clear some space in my super-tall bookcase, which is now at capacity once again. I’m going to grab novels that strike my fancy and buy a book at a bookstore Just Because. I’m not going to check a thousand and one reviews of it first, then weigh the pros and cons of making an “investment” in a paperback.

I’m just going to buy the darn book.

Or, you know, borrow it. That’s something else I’d love to do more of in 2011: visit my local library, which can be a treasure trove of both lesser-known and new books. I want to wantonly choose a novel and finish it whenever I feel like it (without accruing library fines, of course).

In short, I want to read Whatever I Want.

How about you — are you making any reading goals for 2011? Planning to participate any challenges that might make me re-think my whole “OMG No Challenges!” thing? Are you going to Read Whatever You Want, too?


35 thoughts on “The Year I Read Whatever I Want

  1. Good for you, Meg! I love the phrase ‘reading deliberately’ too 🙂

    Unfortunately, my 2011 reading goal won’t be able to start until June because that’s when I’ll finish at law school and then I’ll have more time (well, slightly more time!) to read whatever I want! Swapping textbooks for novels is my goal – I can’t wait!

  2. Yay Meg! As I prepare to write my reflections on a year of reading deliberately (spoiler: it was awesome, and it’s the only way I’ll ever read now), I’m so happy to see you picking it up. I loved more books—and loved books more—this past year, and I know it’s because of the “reading deliberately” thing. Welcome to the fun.

  3. I think you and I would get along swimmingly. I am the same way…overachiever, win at all costs, etc. It KILLS me that I am leaving one of my challenges unfinished this year. But alas, my husband had a mini-meltdown last night regarding my corner of the bedroom, and all those books. So. No challenges. No ARCs (unless I think I might die without the book). I took James’ TBR Dare…to only read my TBR from January through April. From there on, if I am tempted by a book, I will NOT turn away because I have to read something else. I will do what I want! Hallelujah. High five.

  4. AMEN. I quit all my challenges in the middle of the year and I just feel so much better! I still maintain my own small goals, that aren’t really goals so much as things to be conscious of, (like read more GLBT books or books by People of Color or books published outside the US or reading more books I own), but other than that it’s the SeeFood diet. And it makes me so happy!

  5. I never even put forth the effort to join the reading challenges because I’d fail miserably, unless the challenge is to read half of 12 books and then reread 7 books I’ve already read. LOL.

    A writing challenge, I can do. I can write and halfway watch a TV show, or pop in a chapter during downtime at work. I can’t read and do ANYTHING else. I’m a multi tasker so taking the time to actually read IS a challenge that I plan to push in 2011.

    I’m sure it’ll be a great year full of books you’d never read had you not taken this journey… though I always read whatever I want, I still check the reviews for it. I never want to waste time or money on a book.

  6. My only goal right now is to finish reading the new books I’ve bought and haven’t gotten around to read yet-BEFORE buying new books. But once that’s done, it’s time to start making my way down the list of books I’ve been meaning to read.

  7. I love this idea! In a nerdy way, it’s very liberating. I am only partaking in one challenge for 2011 and for me, that’s what works. Too many challenges definitely make me grumpy, b/c I am so competitive as well. I look forward to reading your reviews in 2011! Happy Holidays. 🙂

  8. Go for it! I was just having a discussion about how I spent years being told what to read in school and, only recently, have I got into a groove where I am reading what I want, when I want, and learning the way I want to learn. It has actually brought back the joy of reading and learning, which got lost for a while. I hope you have a wonderful year reading what you want.
    Side note: My middle name is Lynn too 🙂

  9. What a great way to spend in 2011! I’m new to the book blog world, so I think it might do me good to sign up for some challenges. I will only sign up for challenges that meet my interests and fit into my own reading goals. However I understand the purpose behind “reading deliberately” and it sounds fantastic. Have a great year of reading deliberately!

  10. I plan on doing the same thing this coming year. I don’t think I’m going to sign up for any challenges, probably not even a holiday challenge. I’m already getting burnt out this year, because I’ve gotten 4 really excited books from Goodreads and Librarything that I want to dive into. I have two shelves of my bookshelf packed with books I wanted to read at some point, I liked them enough that I bought them. I also want to start taking better advantage of the e-library at my local library and spend some QT with my Nook. Here’s to reading what we want in 2011!

  11. You know, I like this idea, Meg. I have a few arc reviews scheduled for the first few months of 2011 but I’ve taken a giant step back from accepting review books. I’d say by May I’ll be right there with you – reading deliberately 🙂

  12. Your book reviews have started a list for me of books I would really love to read. My goal is to read some of your suggestions as well go through a stack I have accumulated here on my shelf!
    You may want to check out Andy Andrews The Noticer, The Traveler’s Gift, and The Heart Mender…I think you would enjoy them! Merry Christmas!!

  13. I’m always torn on the challenges. I think I might join a few, the ya debut author challenge, audiobook challenge, buy a book, and historical fiction. This is my normal reading fare anyway, so it shouldn’t be too challenging. I really don’t pay much attention to the challenges during the year. If a book fits a challenge, great! If not, I don’t really worry about it. I guess I don’t take the “challenge” part of the challenges too seriously.

    One thing I will be doing is eeping a list of what I read this year. I think that’ll be fun for me.

  14. Like you, I am deliberately choosing not to take part in any challenges next year, but I did that this year too and read less than ever. So I am challenging myself to read more, but it’s a personal thing not driven by reading “certain” books.

    Good luck with your goals of no goals for next year!

  15. I love this! I’ve recently come to the conclusion that there is so much pressure in my professional life, that I shouldn’t have pressure and suffering in things that I love to do most. And reading is near the very top of that list.

  16. My only reading goal for 2011 is to NOT have a reading goal. 😉

    I joined a bunch of challenges my first year of blogging but I never really got through any of them (the only one I had mild success with was The Story Siren’s YA/MG debut challenge). I would start to feel like I was only reading one certain type of book and then my interest in completing the challenges would just wither away. I’ve learned since then to not force myself to read something and sometimes just let my mood dictate what I buy from stores or get from the library. It’s great to be part of challenges and have bookish goals but when reading starts to feel like a chore rather than fun, then you know something is wrong.

    Anyways, I hope your year of “reading deliberately” (I love that phrase!) is fun and will introduce you to some lovely books 🙂

  17. I pretty much read what I like although I have joined one challenge for 2011. It’s an easy one, What’s In A Name. It’s only six books and I could probably fulfill the challenge by choosing from my overflowing shelves of books I bought from library sales. That’s a challenge in itself. Joining more than that one would set me up for failure, and I hate to fail.

  18. awesome post! that’s going to be my plan for the new year too. i’m going to try to spend the last few weeks of 2010 clearing my slate so i can start new and fresh and read whatever i want. school is way too tough for me to have book goals too so i think i’ll enjoy the next year picking up whatever book fits my mood for the day.

  19. I feel the same as you. When I first joined reading challenges, they were fun and I didn’t stress out about finishing or not. But somewhere along the way, challenges really dictated my reading and I allowed them to take away from the fun of reading. I really want to read to just read in 2011. Not to complete a challenge or read a book bcuz everyone is raving about it. I want to return to reading for pleasure and picking up a book to get lost in the story. I am joining two challenges: eBook Reading Challenge (really want to read more on my Kindle) and What’s in a Name 4 (a challenge I just love). There are others that are tempting, but I’m standing strong. I like “reading deliberately”. I think it pretty much sums up what I’ve been feeling for awhile.

  20. I feel quite like you do in regards to my reading. I have Jan/Feb filled with review books and TLC tours but I’ve left Mar/April free for me. I may do something like that for the year. 1 month review books/1 month just for me. I’m only joining a few challenges and trying really hard not to stress out about too much of anything 😀

    Enjoy your 2011 in books!

  21. Good for you! I’m all for a reading challenge to motivate, but sometimes you just have to read for fun too.

    I am trying to read 30 books before I turn 30 in June. After that… I’ll finish the ones I may not have read, and then I’ll go back to reading what I want to read… with the intention of reading more often.

  22. i’m such an anti-challenge person–too much pressure for my delicate constitution. ha. i haven’t ever joined a challenge and basically read what i like. i do accept review copies (selectively) but don’t review as many books as i should for someone with a blog titled ‘book, line, and sinker’. i’m going to work on that in 2011.


  23. I mostly read just what I want and am sometimes pleasantly surprised by things I read because I should. I’ve never been one to sign up for a reading challenge because 1. I am a flake and 2. I’ve read 135 books so far this year. Without being challenged. THERE IS NO ROOM LEFT IN MY HEAD. Granted much of what I read is children’s or YA, but I really can’t get behind anything that will make me read more. The words will drip out my ears. My reading goals are to actually get enough ahead of my blog reading that I have more time for grown-up books and to get used to the newly lengthened wait time for holds at my library. They used to come quickly but now it can take a month or two to get things even if no one else wants them. It means seriously planning ahead.

    I look forward to hearing about your carefully chosen (or completely impulsively chosen reads).

  24. Good for you! I think it’s really important to read what you enjoy! I am participating in challenges because I still find them fun but I try really hard to read one book that I want to read for every review book that I have to read and that really helps me keep my peace.

  25. Thank you, everyone, for the thoughtful and interesting comments! I’m looking forward to a great reading year with all of you — deliberate or not. 🙂

  26. Hi Meg! It’s funny because I wrote about my reading challenge update just today. I’m not as voracious a reader as you, and yet I do set goals and try very hard to reach them.
    I’m not into themed reading challenges, as I find my personal tastes to be all over the place, and I like to vary my genres a lot!
    I think my goal each year is to read 24 or more books, 100 would never be doable for me. If I’d do less online reading, ahem blogs and fb, I might could hit 50, but not likely to happen.
    Enjoy reading what you want!

  27. Since little Gage has arrived my reading time has taken a big hit and so has my challenge participation. I came to the sad conclusion last week I was only going to finish 1 of the 4 I signed up for. I’m limiting myself to 2 next year because I can’t not have a goal. I’m a bit of an addict that way!

  28. Absolutely totally cool…good for you…it is the very best way to read…have fun…treasure your book…put it down without fear of not meetind a deadline and just read!!! Cheers!!!

  29. The only challenge I’ve entered thus far in my book blogging career was the fall into reading one last year and I gave up, haha. I set a personal reading goal for the year (actually just reminded me that I need to check how I’m doing) and this year I’m planning on doing Story Siren’s Debut Author Challenge (because I’ll most likely read these books anyway). I have become more choosy about which books I accept for review- I want to only accept books I WANT/NEED to read…otherwise, if it doesn’t excite me, I’d rather the publisher or pr firm give the book to a blogger who will appreciate it more and be able to give it a fair review.

  30. Good for you, Meg. I know what you mean–sometimes I set very high goals and then I feel terribly upset with myself when I’m unable to meet them. Here’s to a new, exciting year where we get to do whatever we want–goals or no goals! 🙂

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