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My 2020 Reading Challenge

Happy New Year! It’s been quite a year, and I haven’t kept up this blog at all, but I’m making a resolution to change that. And what better way to start off than with a post about my 2020 reading challenge?

I read a lot. The picture above is of the books I took on my most recent vacation. I didn’t read all of them that week, but who takes 10 books with them on holiday?? Sometimes, it feels like I read books merely to add to my book count…

I started setting reading goals for myself in 2017, using Goodreads reading challenges to keep track. And every year, I’ve exceeded my goal. (In 2018, I continually upped my goal whenever I exceeded it by too much; I finally gave up after the fourth adjustment.) This year, I wanted to do something different, instead of merely racking up books on my read list. I looked at many different challenges available online, but none of them felt right. Then, yesterday afternoon, it came to me.

Instead of upping the number of books I read, or trying to force myself to read specific themes or categories – neither of which appealed to me – I can LIMIT the number of books I read!

Essentialism

I had already been considering reducing the number of books I read. The idea started during class one day, when the professor asked if anyone had read Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and I started to raise my hand but stopped when I realized: 1) I was the only one who had read it, and 2) I didn’t remember what it was about. (Obviously, I knew it was about finding what was essential to your life and saying no to other things, but I wasn’t sure how in-depth the professor was expecting me to go if I had raised my hand.) With all the nonfiction that I read, what was the point if I don’t remember enough?

Mindfulness is also something I’ve been trying to work on. Sometimes when I’m reading, I’m distracted and can’t remember the last three pages I read. Fiction is definitely easier; I get sucked into the characters and the plot and I can remember the good stories years later. But nonfiction is the important stuff, the concepts and ideas I want to learn and remember. So I needed to find a way to slow down and actually process everything I read. Reducing the number of books I read seemed the way to go.

My 2020 Reading Challenge

I knew my habit was to blow through the reading goals I set on Goodreads, so this year I decided that I would try the reverse. Instead of striving to exceed my goal, my 2020 reading challenge will be to stay under the goal. The number I set for myself is the hard limit. Once I read that number of books, I’m not allowed to read anymore for the rest of the year. (Just the thought of not being able to read, even typing this right now, is giving me mild anxiety.)

Now I had to set a number. Back in class, I was thinking I should read one book per month. That would give me the mindfulness I’m looking for. But 12 books seems too little; I could probably hit my quota by February. Also, I was wondering if I should split fiction from nonfiction, and do separate challenges for those. This is a lot to think about 8 hours before the challenge started.

Ultimately, I decided that I will read no more than 24 books in 2020. This number is low enough that it will force me to be intentional in the books I choose and to slow down in reading each book so I don’t run out of books by August, but high enough that I can minimize my anxiety while still making it challenging. I didn’t set hard rules for fiction versus nonfiction; I was toying with the idea of 12 fiction and 12 nonfiction, but I read disproportionately more nonfiction than fiction. I will keep the 12/12 divide in mind, but it’ll probably end up being closer to 6 fiction/18 nonfiction.

Thoughts

I’m pretty excited about my 2020 reading challenge! (There is still an underlying current of anxiety, but mostly excited.) And since I’m reading so few books this year, I’m going to try to blog about every single one that makes my list! That’ll be a challenge in itself, since I have so many things going on this year, but I want to make it a priority again.

What’s your reading goal for 2020? Comment below with any recommendations for my 24-book limit!

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