I casually clicked over to Goodreads the other afternoon, as many readers often do, and got a total shock: the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards had begun. Here’s the thing: I love a good end of year best books lists as much as the next reader. There’s something so exciting about a year’s worth of reading coming to an end. But this year, something about the 2018 competition set me on edge. As I scrolled through the pages worth of books, I realized I hadn’t read…. well, most of them. Maybe a grand total of five? And suddenly I was super stressed about my reading year.
Maybe you can relate. There are so many ways that reading can be stressful these days, in the age of social media comparison, despite the fact that it’s a beloved hobby for so many of us. Whether you’re trying to reach a number goal that now seems woefully out of reach or, like me, you realized that you’ve somehow completely ignored a majority of the year’s most celebrated reads, it’s easy to feel like your reading just doesn’t measure up. But before you give in to the impulse to burden the last two months of the year with a ton of arbitrary bookish goals, check out the list of totally do-able, ultimately stress-free to-dos below. After all, there’s enough to be worried about these days — and reading should definitely not be one of them.
The Best Books of 2018 lists can be annoyingly stressful or totally inspiring, depending on your outlook. Instead of looking at the lists full of books you haven’t read (forcing you to question the legitimacy of the books you did read) think of them instead as an inspirational list of highly regarded reads that you can make a priority. You’ve even got time to pick up one or two before the year is out!
On a related note, maybe those end of year lists made you wonder just why you’ve been neglecting literary fiction or contemporary YA when there are clearly so many amazing books in those genres. Well, now is the perfect time to try one out before the year is over! You don’t have to shift your entire reading habits in four short weeks, but make it a point to get just a little bit out of your comfort zone.
The best way to keep your end of year reading from feeling overwhelming is by limiting your focus. If you’re looking at a list of dozens of books you want to read within the next two months, it will be easy to feel totally freaked out. But by narrowing it down to a set number (perhaps the exact amount you need to reach your yearly goal?) you’ll feel better with each book you check off the list.
If your shelves are filled with books you want to keep, by all means keep them. But if the sight of all those unread books is negatively affecting your reading life? Get rid of them. Go through every book you own and figure out whether you still really want or need to read/keep them. Donate the rest to shelters, schools, second-hand stores, or friends… It’s a great way to end the year with a fresh perspective.
I know, you just got rid of all those books, why would you then bring more books into your home? But no one ever said you had to be a minimalist when it comes to your bookshelves. And letting go of a bunch of book you don’t want to read, in favor of acquiring a brand new stack of books you’re excited about is a great way to end your reading year on a good note. Use your local library if you can’t spend right now.
If you want to help your bookish friends update their shelves, too, skip the store, and the library and just host a book swap party. It’s the perfect excuse to get the extended crew together before the year is up, and everyone will get to offload those unread books and stock up on new ones for yourself. It’s the definition of a win-win… extra win if someone brings baked goods.
There is a whole wide world of bookish websites, blogs, podcasts, social media accounts, YouTube channels, book clubs and so much more that will add a ton of intrigue to your reading life. If you’ve been slacking on these literary extracurriculars, now is the time to take a deep dive and see what appeals to you.
One of the best ways to make a reading year great is by attending a bookish event. These can be author signings, readings, panels, conventions, whatever… but with the autumnal releases season still going strong, you’re sure to find at least one author you love heading out on tour. These events can be super fun and incredibly inspiring… and you’ll meet tons of other people who love books as much as you do!
The end of the year is often the busiest — with the holidays, constant traveling, and the rush of finishing out the work year with all those loose ends tied up. So I’ve often found that the most important (and most productive) goal I’ve ever made for the last two reading months is simply to actually read. Schedule in non-negotiable time to work through that TBR, re-read some seasonal favorites, and just luxuriate in books before the new year. But don’t worry about goals or numbers. Just do it because you love it.