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.

Review 2013, Preview 2014, in list form

Five favorite books I read in 2013

  • Magister Ludi, Herman Hesse
  • To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway
  • Snow, Orhan Pamuk
  • Starmaker, Olaf Stapledon
  • Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

Three news stories I’m following going into this year

  • Civil war in Syria the devolution of the “rebel” forces
  • Ongoing violence and French foreign policy in Africa
  • Unrest in Turkey about Erdogan’s government

Two things that, in 2013, I discovered I no longer cared about

  • The NFL
  • Fantasy football

Four books I am particularly looking forward to reading in 2014

  • The Bad Girl, Mario Vargas Llosa
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  • The Plague, Albert Camus

Seven books I would like to reread in 2014

  • The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  • Catch 22, Joseph Heller
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre
  • Bridge on the River Drina, Ivo Andric/li>
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Four books I once started, but didn’t finish…that I’d like to give another shot

  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco
  • Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Four “resolutions” for 2014

  • Write more, in a variety of places (including here)
  • Cook more often and more adventurously
  • Spend less time dwelling on things beyond my control
  • Smile more often

I did not like 2013; for everything that went right in the year, it seemed that two things went wrong. Flipping the calendar to 2014 is an arbitrary milestone, but I am optimistic about this next chunk of time all the same. Noted above, one goal I have for this year is to write here more frequently, and I have a few topics on the back burner, though the only post I have planned for the near future is to revisit my list of top novels, which could appear as early as next week.