A midyear addendum to my reading goals

I’ve developed a routine of setting goals in roughly three categories: quality of life, writing, and reading. At the same time, I returned to meticulously tracking the non-academic reading I do, including raw numbers of books and pages, genres, languages, and author demographics. In general terms, I do pretty well in terms of cultural diversity in my reading, but the practice of recording demographics have revealed exactly how AWFUL I am at reading books by women.

This is not on purpose; to be cliche: some of my favorite authors are women! I am sure that my tendency to track down foreign literature that is translated into English doesn’t help these numbers, but it is a fact that most of what I read is by men. So I’ve made it a particular goal to read more books by women.

Turns out, setting goals and rigorously tracking your progress works! Since first setting to fix this situation, I’ve increased from 2 (6%) to 4 (7.5%) to 8 (13.5%) to 9 (26.5%) so far this year. I am tracking to hit my target for this year and then some, seeing as I am just one book off, but the current pace also has me reflecting on how pathetically low I set this goal even if it represents an improvement over last year. With this in mind, here are my revised goals:

First, I want to start measuring these reading targets in terms of percentage of overall books read, you know, in case my pace slows for whatever reason. For this year, the new minimum bar is 25%, but I would like to raise the percentage to 30-33% or more.

This will mean increasing my already-raised pace, but I think it is doable because, second, every book I start in August will written by a woman. (I may extend this through September, too, if, as I expect, my reading time gets slashed because of coming of the academic school year.)

There are a number of reasons for me to do this, including that it helps cover a clear weakness in my reading habits, but it isn’t an onerous task by any stretch. I am very much looking forward to this to-be-read pile, which includes:

  1. Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher
  2. Royal Assassin – Robin Hobb
  3. The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin
  4. Stalin’s Daughter – Rosemary Sullivan
  5. Always Coming Home – Ursula K. le Guin
  6. Birds of America – Lorrie Moore
  7. The Vegetarian – Han Kang

But first I have to finish Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Way to Paradise.

Some of my favorite things: books

The following is a list of my twenty favorite works of literature. The list is entirely subjective and takes into account how much I enjoyed the book, level of the writing, story, message, and issues dealt with. I also consider there to be a slight tier between 5 and 6.

True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics -Zamyatin

1. The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
3. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
4. Magister Ludi, Hermann Hesse
5. Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

6. The Radetzky March, Joseph Roth
7. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
8. Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell
9. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
11. Dr. Faustus, Thomas Mann
12. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
13. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
14. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
15. Coming Up For Air, George Orwell
16. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
17. Creation, Gore Vidal
18. Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
19. American Gods, Neil Gaimon
20. Down and Out in London and Paris, George Orwell

Others I liked a lot, just not quite as much:

Good Omens, Neil Gaimon, Terry Pratchett
Burmese Days, George Orwell
The Clergyman’s Daughter, George Orwell
Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis
Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre

Obviously this is a list based on personal judgement so it brooks no argument, but are there thoughts on this list or are there other books (perhaps that I have not read) that deserve a look to make the list?