52 Books A Year – How To Set Reading Goals

How to set reading goals

I’ve always believed giving up on a book was failing. Like I hadn’t given it a proper chance. Surely it would get better? Surely, I would learn something? If everyone else was raving about it, it must be good. 

But as I wrote about in Everyday Storytellers, I’m slowly learning to stop reading books that don’t keep me awake at night. It’s hard, though. For a stubborn reader like me, to give up on a book and admit defeat, but I’m trying my best because this is what the 52 books I read in 2020 have taught me.

This last year I read 52 books. I thought I’d read more, but then I haven’t included any books I read for Uni, any audiobooks and chances are, I dropped some books off at the library before making a note of what I’d read. But when I see the books stacked up and when I count the pages, I’ve read, it feels like a lot.

The things I’ve loved, Learnt and Read

1.     Read better books. 52 books really aren’t that many. I mean, it’s a lot, but not in the grand scheme of all the books in the whole world. It’s not even half of the unread books I own. The books that sit and stare at me, waiting to be read. When I look at the lists I think, really did I really choose that book over another one? But at the same time, I know we don’t think we are making a choice. We don’t think we are saying no other books. So, I’m making a conscious effort to choose better books, because every time I choose a book, I’m consciously saying no to another.

2.     Spend more time on my shortlisting. Instead of jumping for any book that looks good, I’m going to research and plan a little more, so hopefully I can enjoy more of the books I read.

3.     Stop Reading after chapter 3. Ruthless, I know. I’m going to move on from books rather than force myself to finish them. This is incredibly hard for me to do, which is crazy. But I’m going to stop reading a book if I’m not loving it. There are too many books for me to read in a lifetime, I may as well read the ones I love.

4.     Read two books at once. I’m going to try to read a fiction and a non-fiction book at the same time, so if I don’t feel like heavy reading, I can read fiction, rather than stop reading altogether for a while.

5.     Trust what I love. Interestingly, the books I loved the most, were the books I knew I would love. I could tell from the opening page it was going to be just the right book for me. They were also books I’d added to my Wishlist on Amazon, books I’ve waited a while to read.

What did you learn from the books you read last year?

How to set reading goals

Setting Your Reading Goals for 2021

Sometimes when people talk about reading goals, it makes me want to roll my eyes and tut. Why does everything have to quantified and turned into a target? But then I see how the list of books I’ve read helps me to remember and know what I’ve learnt I realise goals are important and they can help. Having a reading goal also stops me from just scrolling on my phone or watching rubbish on TV in the evenings.

If you are looking to set reading goals:

  • Try to set a specific goal. If you have a generic goal of ‘read more’ you’re going to need a baseline number of where you started and where you want to go. This is where you need to record what you read.
  • Be honest about the books you like. Don’t read a book just because everyone else is. It will slow you down.
  • Try different genres. If you’ve always read fiction, try a memoir. It’s okay to start books and decide you don’t like them, but trying something new might surprise you. This is where the library comes in handy.
  • Tell someone! Sharing your goals can help keep you accountable to them. You could even join a book club or just read a book at the same time as a friend.
  • Think about why you want to read more. If there isn’t a serious motivation behind your goal it can make it harder to achieve. If you want to read more instead of watching TV in the evenings, you can be more relaxed about it, not all goals have to be serious.

For 2021 my goal is to read 52 books again.

I love the excitement of starting a new book a week; it feels like a new beginning. But I’m giving up on books more easily and spending more time researching the books I want to read, instead of getting overwhelmed in the library and picking up the first shiny book I see.

If you need a little helping hand in choosing what to read, I’ve listed my favourite books from last year.

My Top 6 Books From 2020

In no particular order, these are the books I enjoyed the most in 2020. It was actually really easy to choose, which proves why I need to spend more time on my book selection in the future.  

52 Books From 2020*

I can share the list of books I read last year because I started writing it down as another way to document my life. There are lots of other benefits to recording the books you read, including reading more and understanding what you read.

How to set reading goals

This list holds some embarrassing choices, some random selections, but mostly it’s a very eclectic mix of reading material that sums up my old approach to book selection. Moving forward into 2021, I’m going to be very picky. But equally, I’m glad I read all of these books. Not only did they help me get through lockdown, but I learnt things I wouldn’t have known before. No book is ever wasted. You can read more of my book reviews here.

I’d love to hear about the books you’ve read recently, drop me a message on Instagram, or send me an email, [email protected]

  1. Step by Step – Simon Reeve
  2. The Loney Hearts Travel: Thailand – Katy Collins
  3. A Short History of Falling – Joe Hammond
  4. Departures – Anna Hart
  5. On Sheep: Diary of a Swedish Shepherd – Axel Linden
  6. Watermelon – Marian Keyes
  7. The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod
  8. Find a Way – Diana Nyad
  9. Life Lessons From Remarkable Women – Stylist Magazine
  10. Bread & Wine – Shauna Niequist
  11. Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant – Joel Golby
  12. Chasing the Sun – Katy Collins
  13. Start Writing Your Book Today – Morgan Gist MacDonald
  14. The Gringo Trail – Mark Mann
  15. On Fire – John O’Leary
  16. The Versions of Us – Laura Barnnett
  17. The Fear Bubble – Ant Middleton
  18. The Things you can Only See When You Slow Down – Haemin Sunim
  19. How to Write Non-Fiction – Joanna Penn
  20. Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
  21. Untamed – Glennon Doyle
  22. I Love the Bones of You – Christopher Eccleston
  23. The Moth – Catherine Burns
  24. Creating Character Arcs – K.M. Weiland
  25. Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks
  26. Killer Cruise – Dawn Brooks
  27. Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig
  28. Where the Crawdads Sing – Deila Owens
  29. The Doorstep Mile – Alastair Humphreys
  30. My Midsummer Morning – Alastair Humphreys
  31. The Road to Character – David Brooks
  32. Life Lessons – Elisabeth Kulber-Ross & David Kessler
  33. StoryWorthy – Matthew Dicks
  34. Girl Wash Your Face- Rachel Hollis
  35. Author Mindset – Joanna Penn
  36. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
  37. You are a Writer – Jeff Goins
  38. A Manual for Heartbreak – Cathy Rentzenbrink
  39. Memoir Writing – Ryan Van Cleave
  40. Writing a Memoir – Judith Barrington
  41. The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
  42. My wild and Sleepless Nights – Clover Stroud
  43. Old Friend from Far away – Natalie Goldberg
  44. Turning Pro – Steven Pressfield
  45. Productivity for Authors – Joanna Penn
  46. The Other Hand  – Chris Cleave
  47. While You Were Reading – Ali Berg
  48. The  Salt Path – Raynor Winn
  49. The Wild Other – Clover Stroud
  50. Quite – Claudia Winkleman
  51. A Million Little Pieces – James Frey
  52. The Crossroads of Should & Must – Elle Luna
  53. My Friend Fear – Meera Lee Patel

Stories From A Backpack is a place that celebrates the process of documenting our life through stories. You don’t have to see yourself as a writer to want to document your life. You can start to save your memories and share your story today.

Become an Everyday Storyteller by writing about your life. Your story matters and Stories From A Backpack is here to help you live a life worth writing about. Join our monthly newsletter to become an Everyday Storyteller with us. Or buy the book Everyday Storytellers and learn how to turn your memories into stories.


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