Why I Don’t Do Reading Challenges, and What I’m Reading Now

So, I’ve seen a lot of people on Instagram and Goodreads share the goals they’ve decided to set for their reading for 2021, and these usually include setting a goal for the number of books that they read in a single year. Heck, even my own Goodreads page has a place where I can set a reading goal for 2021, if I so choose.

However…just like last year, I have chosen not to set a goal for a certain number of books, and here’s why:

  • First of all, I usually tend to go for quality over quantity. I’d rather read a dozen good books over the course of a year and really take in what I’m reading than read 100 books and not remember half of what I read or get frustrated over a book that may not be as good as what I hoped for.
  • I’m kind of a slow-paced reader to begin with. Most novels I read for enjoyment take at least a month for me to finish, usually because of the curveballs that life likes to throw at me, and also my energy levels just vary from day to day. This was true when I was caring for my mom, and it’s true now. I enjoy reading very much, but to take the time to sit down and dedicate my mental and physical energy to immersing myself into a book does take a lot. If I really get into a book, then I can finish a book in a matter of days, but it takes a lot of motivation and really investing myself in a book for me to do that. My brain just needs more time to really process what I’m reading. But…when I do come across a novel that I just can’t put down…then I’d say that’s a pretty good novel! I felt it when I was reading Looking for Alaska and The Testaments, both of them very good novels. I’m kind of feeling this with my current read, too, which I’ll talk about shortly.

That doesn’t mean I’m not setting goals for myself, though! I do have some ideas in mind for what I’d like to accomplish this year, they’re just not quantitative (they don’t have a number attached to them). Here are some of the things I’d like to accomplish in my reading at some point this year:

  • I’d like to do a “Summer of Steinbeck” at some point. I have a copy of The Grapes of Wrath from high school that I have attempted to read no less than three different times…and have never finished it. It is the bane of my backlist. The fact that I have never finished it is a source of great annoyance to me. I want to fix that. I may even bump newer physical books back in my reading list (which I usually read in the order I bought them) in order to assure that I read it. I also have a collection of his shorter novels in my e-reader, and I may read at least one (or perhaps all six of them) before taking on Grapes in order for me to really get in the mindset for John Steinbeck’s work.
  • After I complete Dune (which I am currently reading, and I’m about two-thirds of the way through it), I’d like to read at least one science fiction novel. The front runner here is Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Luckily, one of my friends took advantage of some of his recent stimulus money and bought himself the first four books in the Foundation series…so there could be a potential buddy read there. (Basically, a buddy read is like an informal version of a book club; you and at least one other person decide to read the same book at the same time and then you talk about the book. I’ve been in a couple of these buddy reads and that’s how I’ve met some of the Bookstagrammers that I follow. In today’s world of social media and direct messaging and the wonders of technology, this is easier than ever, can be done by either a group DM or a video chat, and you often end up sharing your thoughts on a book with people all over the world.)
  • I also would like to read some more nonfiction this year, too. I have a few books in my e-reader that would work for this; I could return to The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (which I decided to take a hiatus from, but I didn’t designate it a DNF — Did Not Finish — as I intend to eventually return to it). I have another Wolfe book, The Right Stuff, but I’m thinking of saving that one for July…you know, the anniversary month of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and thus “Space Reads Month”. I also have a book about the history of the Congo region (more specifically the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and a book about the French Revolution…so I have options. I’m also considering buying former President Barack Obama’s most recent memoir, A Promised Land, the next time I go to the store. (I know some people will dislike that choice because they might not agree with his politics, but I think everyone can agree that he is a very intelligent and classy man and I’m genuinely interested in reading what he has to say. Anyone who’s seen my Twitter feed knows where I stand on most issues, so it’s not really much of a secret; I just have made a conscious decision to keep my politics separate from this blog.)
  • I also want to read more “classics” this year. I have a bunch on my e-reader and quite a few in my physical collection that I would love to get to. One of the newer books in my physical collection, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, is often considered a classic.

So…what am I reading right now?

At the moment I am reading Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is my first time reading any of her novels, although fellow Bookstagrammers have told me they quite liked her previous bestseller, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This book is about a (fictional) groupie-turned-singer, the titular Daisy Jones, and her relationship with one of the biggest (fictional) bands of the 1970s, The Six. Since most of the novel is set in the 1970s, it’s categorized as historical fiction. I’m only about 100 pages into it (and I took a break from reading it last night), but so far I’m enjoying the narrative device (it’s written as sort of a transcript for something like either a long-form Rolling Stone interview, an episode of Behind the Music, or like a feature-length music documentary — that last one being a favorite film genre of mine) as well as the characters.

Some fellow readers who had read the book recommended that I put on some ‘70s rock music while reading this book, and to be honest…it really helped to set the atmosphere for reading this one! Fleetwood Mac, Harry Nilsson, Led Zeppelin, and Badfinger are some of the artists on my playlist for this novel, and SiriusXM’s “Classic Vinyl” station (which plays exclusively ‘60s and ‘70s rock music) has been a wonderful option as well. My dad listens to SiriusXM in his Jeep and we also have an app on our main TV that can stream the stations. If that’s not an option, I’d recommend either ‘70s Rock or Classic Rock on Pandora and set it to either “Discovery” or “Deep Cuts” mode to expand your station’s playlist.

So…what are your reading goals for 2021? And what are you reading now?