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?
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.
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce – You can read a short review of this book as part of my stories from a bookclub #8.
- Find a Way – Diana Nyad – You can ou can read a short review of this book as part of my stories from a bookclub #4.
- The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett – You can ou can read a short review of this book as part of my stories from a bookclub #6.
- The Moth – Catherine Burns – You can ou can read a short review of this book as part of my stories from a bookclub #6.
- Where the Crawdads Sing – Deila Owens – You can read a short review of this book as part of my stories from a bookclub #7.
- Untamed – Glennon Doyle – You can ou can read a short review of this book as part of my stories from a bookclub #6.
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.
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.
- Step by Step – Simon Reeve
- The Loney Hearts Travel: Thailand – Katy Collins
- A Short History of Falling – Joe Hammond
- Departures – Anna Hart
- On Sheep: Diary of a Swedish Shepherd – Axel Linden
- Watermelon – Marian Keyes
- The Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod
- Find a Way – Diana Nyad
- Life Lessons From Remarkable Women – Stylist Magazine
- Bread & Wine – Shauna Niequist
- Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant – Joel Golby
- Chasing the Sun – Katy Collins
- Start Writing Your Book Today – Morgan Gist MacDonald
- The Gringo Trail – Mark Mann
- On Fire – John O’Leary
- The Versions of Us – Laura Barnnett
- The Fear Bubble – Ant Middleton
- The Things you can Only See When You Slow Down – Haemin Sunim
- How to Write Non-Fiction – Joanna Penn
- Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
- Untamed – Glennon Doyle
- I Love the Bones of You – Christopher Eccleston
- The Moth – Catherine Burns
- Creating Character Arcs – K.M. Weiland
- Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks
- Killer Cruise – Dawn Brooks
- Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig
- Where the Crawdads Sing – Deila Owens
- The Doorstep Mile – Alastair Humphreys
- My Midsummer Morning – Alastair Humphreys
- The Road to Character – David Brooks
- Life Lessons – Elisabeth Kulber-Ross & David Kessler
- StoryWorthy – Matthew Dicks
- Girl Wash Your Face- Rachel Hollis
- Author Mindset – Joanna Penn
- When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
- You are a Writer – Jeff Goins
- A Manual for Heartbreak – Cathy Rentzenbrink
- Memoir Writing – Ryan Van Cleave
- Writing a Memoir – Judith Barrington
- The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
- My wild and Sleepless Nights – Clover Stroud
- Old Friend from Far away – Natalie Goldberg
- Turning Pro – Steven Pressfield
- Productivity for Authors – Joanna Penn
- The Other Hand – Chris Cleave
- While You Were Reading – Ali Berg
- The Salt Path – Raynor Winn
- The Wild Other – Clover Stroud
- Quite – Claudia Winkleman
- A Million Little Pieces – James Frey
- The Crossroads of Should & Must – Elle Luna
- My Friend Fear – Meera Lee Patel
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