Monday, December 31, 2018

Reflecting on My 2018 Challenges

6 did I do?

The Re-Read Challenge
Goal: Re-read as many books as I want
Books read:7
Goal achieved? Yes!

I ended up re-reading 7 books this year, none of which were on audio. Audio books were a way I ended up rereading a lot of books, but with my current barely-five-minute commute, I don't have much room for audio books right now.

This was an unusual year for rereads, as none of the "usual suspects" made an appearance this year. No Karen White, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, and L. J. Smith. For the second year in a row now, no Anne Bishop and Sarah J. Maas. These are my standby comfort reads, but 2018 didn't lead me to seek out this kind of comfort read. Or, perhaps the way I approached 2018 had something to do with that. 

Instead, I revisited some old favorites that I hadn't read in years and years, including the Hero's Guide series and Harry Potter. While I wanted the lighthearted humor of the Hero's Guide books in part because I wanted a laugh, I mostly read all of these because they were good books I wanted to revisit again. Refreshing! Last year in my challenge reflection I noted that it was only toward the end of 2017 that I started rereading for re-experiencing an old favorite instead of for comfort and I noted that I wanted to keep that focus in mind this year. I didn't really remember this throughout the year, but it does seem like I followed that desire.

I feel like it's important to remind myself again though, that following what I want not what I think I should do is what is important. Reread for comfort or reread for revisiting, either one is ok.

Goodreads Reading Challenge
Goal: 50 books, then adjusted, and adjusted, up to 86
Books read: 89
Goal achieved? Yes!  

I set a modest goal of 50 books so I didn't feel pressured by quantity and because, I love it when my progress bar says "you're x books ahead!" rather than "you're x books behind." It's much more motivating and makes me feel like I'm totally kicking butt. I figured I might surpass 50 books, but if I didn't, I'd be happy with hitting 50. This worked out well, and I ended up adjusting my goal up and up again. I think I'll start with 50 books again next year, and so if I make that goal then wonderful, but if I surpass it then it's just icing on the cake.

Historical Fiction Challenge
Goal: 15 books
Books read: 44 (18 bio-fic/non-fic)
Goal achieved? Yes! 

I love historical fiction and I wanted to make sure I put some focus on the genre again since it's so easy for time to slip away when it comes to reading (i.e. "has it really been four years since I last read a book in that series??" Sound familiar?).

While I included historical fantasy and historical lite in the list, what I really wanted to make sure I read was biographical historical fiction and non-fiction. Basically, I wanted to learn about history. To that end, I read five non-fiction books, which is less abnormal for me lately but still something I'm impressed with myself for doing, and thirteen biographical historical fiction books.

While I'm counting all of the Marion Chesney books as historical lite, they were surprisingly meaty and painted a very good picture of the time period. I read a reply from the author once where she said something like "although the books are frivolous, the research was grueling" and it shows. I didn't spend any time this year with Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series, which is disappointing, especially considering how many I read last year and how much I enjoyed them, but not terribly disappointing.

For the second year in a row, Marie Antoinette and Cleopatra didn't make an appearance. I spent time revisiting the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses again, but in both cases from a slightly different angle through the eyes of traditionally "side" characters. The Tudors also got far less time than last year, with the only Henry VIII wife book being the non-fiction Anne Boleyn book.

Last year I said I continued to dabble with Henry II/Richard/Eleanor and Stephen/Matilda, but this year I think I can replace the word "dabble" with something firmer, particularly in regard to Henry II and Eleanor who I feel like I finally know. Last year I toe-dipped with the three Edwards (I, II, and III) and I was hoping I'd spend more time with them this year. Unfortunately Edward III didn't get any time from me, but Edward II got two books and, while it's not on my list because I haven't finished it yet, I did spend time reading Thomas B. Costain's Edward I section of his book The Three Edwards. So, hopefully more to come on the Edwards front next year.

Also notable this year was my foray into Henry III through the perspective of his sister (and her husband Simon de Montfort), which is the first time I've managed to finish a Henry III book. Also incredibly, 2018 was the year I finally found a Victoria book I liked. And I finally finished When Christ and His Saints Slept, which I've been trying to finish for years and years. Perhaps 2018's the year when things started in earlier years finally came together.

Keep the Books Off the Shelf Challenge
Goal: Read books I acquired in 2018
Books read: 54 read, 3 DNF = 57 total
Goal achieved? Yes! 

The point of this challenge was so that I wouldn't continually add to my backlog of unread books on my shelves. Yes, it's important to read though the books I already own, but I think it's equally important to read the new books I get so they too don't languish unread for years.

I got a lot of books in 2018, so I knew I wouldn't be able to read most of them this year. And that's ok. I did end up reading 22% though! Last year I ended up reading a little over 19% and even though I got fewer books this year, that's still a win. If I include the books I acquired this year but read in previous years, that gets me up to 25%. And if I add in the ones I acquired and DNF-ed this year (12) that gets me up to 30%. Yay! I enjoy this challenge and I'll sign up for it again in 2019.

Read My Own Books Challenge
Goal: Read books I acquired prior to 2018
Books read: 26 read, 14 DNF'ed, 10 remove = 50 total
Goal achieved? Yes!

I set a rough target of reading or DNF-ing 12 books this year. Working out to roughly one book a month, I figured that was doable. Really, what I want to achieve with this challenge are two things: First, I want to determine whether or not I should continue lugging these books around with me. Second, I want to not let books sit unread for years on my shelves.

Of the 26 books, 14 of them were e-books and 18 of them were books I got in 2017. So, as far as the first reason for this challenge, many of the books I ended up reading don't apply. However, 12 did, and that was my goal! I also ended up reading 9 books that have been on my shelves for between 2 and 6 years, so that's a win for reason number two. When I add in all the books I DNF-ed and removed, that makes this even more of a win. Removing 25 books this year definitely lightened my shelves (and if I move, that's at least 2 less boxes).

All throughout the year I was looking at my 2017-acquired reads as "less good" than those older owned books. But, really, looking at my reason number two for this challenge, those 2017-acquried reads actually represent a win. That's 18 more books that only went unread for a year or less, which is great.

I'm still playing around with how I want to track progress on this, and I think now I may try tracking both percentage of books read and number of books removed that year (I only decided this after I removed the books from 2016 and 2017, so that's why there aren't any removal numbers there). This way if I either increase the percentage or remove books, either way I'm moving toward my goal. The below isn't quite accurate for 2018 because I cleaned up some books that were still showing on those shelves even though I had removed the print copy years ago. This at least gives me a baseline for next year. The * indicates progress in that there was either a change in percentage (for the better) or removal of books.

26% read of books acquired in 2018 (250)
21% read of books acquired in 2017 (360) *
37% read of books acquired in 2016 (368) *
19% read and 4 removed of books acquired in 2015 (113) *
35% read and 1 removed of books acquired in 2014 (80) *
47% read and 2 removed of books acquired in 2013 (58) *
43% read and 6 removed of books acquired in 2012 (77) *
77% read and 6 removed of books acquired in 2010-2011 (146) *
81% read and 0 removed of books acquired in 2008-2009 (36)
87% read and 0 removed of books acquired in 2003-2007 (100)
97% read and 0 removed of books acquired in 2002 and earlier (76)

I still have a lot of books I haven't read, but I think this is going to be a marathon not a sprint. I think I made good progress in 2018 and definitely beat my 2017 progress (which beat my record in 2016). I'll be signing up for this challenge in 2019 and I hope to continue making a dent.

Library Reading Challenge
Goal: Read library books
Books read: 2 read
Goal achieved? ?? 

I'm not sure if this challenge is the right fit for me anymore. I mostly feel the need to keep it around because then every book I read "counts" for a challenge, but do I really need that? I don't know that I do anymore.

I've been enjoying the freedom and lack of stress in reading my own books. I'm also really happy that I've been focusing on my own books instead of library books, which is still so new to me but feels really great. I got out of the habit of going to the library these last few years because my last library was annoying to drive to, annoying to park in, and had annoying hours. Plus, in both this library and my last library I work professionally with the directors, so I always feel like I need to sneak in and hope I'm seen because when I'm in the library getting books for myself the last thing I want to do is talk business.

While a little part of me feels guilty (I should support libraries!) and a little part of me feels apprehensive about letting go of a challenge, I think it's time for me and this challenge to take a break next year. There's always the future.

Reflections and next up

Most of my challenges didn't have a hard number goal, which I like. It allows me to provide focus to my reading without strictly holding myself to an actual number.

I continue to want to read historical fiction and non-fiction, and I love how this challenge helps focus my reading on that. I read even more this year than last year and I hope to read in this ballpark next year, too. 

Last year was the first year I really embraced reading my own books and relaxing my reading rules. I'm happy to say I completely continued that approach this year and I hope to see myself keep this new relaxed approach up next year. I like that these books were a good mix of 2018, 2017, and older books.

I'm also happy I finally let go of books I've been carrying around unread for so long by recognizing that a large part of me didn't actually want to read those books, which is why they were unread for so long. Shedding feelings of obligation, guilt, and "but what if it's The One (when I know it won't be...and if it is, then I can always re-buy it in the future)" was liberating and I feel much better for it.

My hope for 2018 was that I continue reading what I want to, when I want to, and how I want to, and not because I feel the need to adhere to a rule or obligation. Read my own books, appreciating what I have. Recognize and appreciate lessons learned and experiences gained. I'd say that definitely describes 2018, so, success! I hope to continue this approach in 2019.

1 comment:

  1. I have been reading a lot more of my own books in the past couple years as well! It's kind of a necessity because honestly I just don't have the space for them all and I have to keep them in check or they'll take over XD So I haven't been reading many library books either (at least in terms of physical books). I keep trying to unhaul books from my collection but it's so hard, especially when I haven't read them yet! I keep thinking, "but maybe in the future, I'll read this and end up really liking it..." In the meantime, my collection keeps growing, courtesy of Book Outlet's amazing deals (*shakes fist at Book Outlet*).


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