Saturday 9 January 2016

New Year, New Reading Resolutions for 2016

Everyone who reads this blog—die-hard Victorianists, academics, students, writers, and casual readers—is united by a love of reading. So, in these early weeks of 2016 I thought I’d share some possible Reading Resolutions for the year—suggestions of ways to improve, diversify and mix up your reading habits.

The Reader, Harold Knight (c.1910)
Make time to read: Many of us lead busy lives, but there’s no such thing as ‘too busy to read’. If you’re looking to increase the quantity of books you tuck into in 2016 then set aside reading periods, whether that’s substituting a good book for playing Candy Crush on your commute, reading in the bath or having a wind down period before going to sleep each night. More books, a more consistent routine and less screentime has got to be good.

Gamify your reading: Do you do well with lists, numbers and targets? Then set yourself a realistic number of books to read each month in 2016. Reward yourself for meeting your goals with a big tick, a gold star or by buying another book. Warning: you may find yourself ‘cheating’ and choosing shorter reads, but never fear, I have a list of brief Victorian works for you to tuck into!

Experiment with different formats: Inspired to read War and Peace by the BBC’s new drama but worried about the backache? Desperate to read when you have dinner to prepare for the family? Mixing up formats could allow you to fit more reading time into your day and help you to avoid fatigue. There are so many amazing audio books available and lots of the older works I blog about are available for free on LibriVox. And more and more of us have e-readers and tablets so we can read novels in electronic form. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Girl Reading, Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens (1856)
Be part of a community: It’s inspiring to find others who love the same books you do, as I’ve found since joining Twitter and being part of a network of Victorianists there. Read with a friend, join a book group, get on Goodreads, and follow more blogs. Reading doesn’t have to be solitary.

Diversify: Maybe you typically read books published in the last 10 years, maybe everything you read was originally published in English, maybe your bookshelf is stacked with volumes penned by white men. Challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone this year. Even if you have a niche interest area, there are ways to extend what you’re reading. I’m a Victorianist, but in the past year I’ve blogged about ten 21st-century novels as part of my Neo-Victorian Voices series and written about many 19th-century writers from countries other than England. Push the limits and see what exciting new voices you can uncover.

Cheat on your genre: Go even further. Reject your usual preferences entirely. Maybe you’re an academic stuck in one century. Maybe you’ve always maintained that graphic novels aren’t ‘real’ books without ever reading any. Maybe you have a tendency to look down on books that are popular, are allergic to romance or are horrified at the thought of horror. Wouldn’t it be fun for once to mix things up and give something very different a go (especially if the experiment saves you from the hassle of regifting!)?

Reread: Give yourself the time to go back and reread a book that meant something to you—a childhood favourite, a novel someone you once knew loved, that set text in school your teacher made you hate. Give a book a second chance or read it with an older pair of eyes. You might be surprised at what you find.

If you have any other Reading Resolutions for 2016 I’d love to hear about them. Let me know—here, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

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