January Reading Check-In 2024: Already Changing My Reading Goals
2023 round up where I regularly read 17 books in a month.
This is a more dramatic portrait than the actual reality, but right now, it feels like I only read one book this month. So far in 2024, I have, in fact, read 9 books (as of January 25th and that's not even counting that one fiction book I've spent all month reading and will hopefully finish before the 31st). The thing is, I read all 9 of these in the week I was at home in January (or at least finished them after reading the majority of it in 2023). Then I downloaded Nathan Hill's extremely long debut novel The Nix on my Kindle and started reading it on the second half of my plane journey to LA to start the new semester. I'm currently only 65% of the way through. This is probably 400 pages of reading, but it is still far behind where I expected to be after my rapid reading through last fall and break.
But, here's the thing. I've probably read the same number of words, if not more, than I usually do in a month. They just haven't been novels or easily quantifiable on a tidy spreadsheet. I've read a massive quantity of articles as I've jumped into the gigantic research project that is my senior thesis trying to get ahead on the research before my other classes kick in. I've also read random chapters from craft books and assorted short stories for my creative writing class. That's most definitely reading, but it doesn't get counted in the same way.
So I've made very slow progress through The Nix as I've been going to bed too late to read before passing out most nights, I've given most of my at home daytime reading over to my research project, and I'm taking fewer on-campus classes so I generally do less waiting around where I tell myself all I can do with the time is read. That 65% I've read of The Nix has been primarily accomplished in 30 minute distracted chunks on the train. I could certainly cut back on my social media time and stop allowing myself to count scrolling on Tumblr as "research" to gain a bit more reading time, but I honestly just don't feel like it. Beyond being online more, I've tried to invest more time into activities like cooking, exercising, and going on long walks outside. Now that I think about it, a lot of the free time I poured into reading my Kindle on my couch has probably been the new scraps of time I've taken for walking.
I think this is partially to do with the fact that I chose to read a very long book (something I have a history of struggling with) during a very busy period of my life. I am a perfectionistic, goal oriented soul, and seeing the progress bar on my Kindle quickly fill encourages me to keep tearing through a book. Just read one more chapter, my brain thinks. But it takes a lot of page turning to even gain 1% in my current read, which just doesn't make the reading experience feel particularly pressing.
I finished two very long books in December with relative ease, but all I had to do during that period was read, so everything flowed faster. I just can't find a sense of urgency in myself or in The Nix itself to finally finish it. I'm trying to set aside more time for it now simply because I'm starting to get an itch to do some Sally Rooney re-reading, and I have ARCs that need reviewed on a specific timeline. But, generally, I've felt comfortable living in The Nix abyss forever, only making occasional check ins.
Note to self: only read long books on holiday. But, besides that mistake, I'm totally fine with my very slow reading progress since the semester has started. I'm a bit burnt out on reading. I sometimes read a book a day over break. That's a lot of other people's words floating around in my head, and as much as I love it, January seems to always be the month that I slow down and digest all that holiday reading and consume less. In 2023, I only read 5 books in January. I'm doing a lot more writing, I have classes, and I have a giant project that's due in April. If reading and I need to take a brief, well intentioned pause, I can live with that.
Also, I'm always a bit slower with my fiction reading than my stats would indicate. When I'm not trying to read 752 page books, I tend to average a book a week, which is only 4 books. The other 13 come from my audiobook habit, which was going strong through 2023. I fell out of love with a lot of the podcasts I was listening to, music just served as a reminder of the mistake of a degree program I was stuck in, and at least listening to audiobooks gave me the dopamine thrill of getting to write down a new book in my spreadsheet every few days. Because I hadn't consumed much nonfiction to that point, there was a massive ocean of content to choose from.
Now things look a little different. I've started and quit 3 different audiobooks this month, and I've found my tolerance for mediocre background noise has gone down. My very important, time consuming research project has sabotaged me in yet another way. It's reminded me of how much I love music and artists and their fandoms. It's brought joy back into my music listening, starting with One Direction giving me a silly serotonin hit and bleeding into reintroducing me to so many of my favorite artists that I just stopped listening to last year. So, for most of January, I've been filling my apartment with music. I think this also goes hand in hand with working on writing more as music is so intwined with my fiction writing process too. I've also been craving more podcasts and YouTube videos and other forms of audio media that I ignored for most of 2023. I even chose to watch a movie the other day. Everything comes and goes in seasons is what I'm learning, and this season just isn't great for my reading goals (or probably this book blog, sorry).
What maybe shocks me most about all these reading revelations is that it doesn't upset me one bit. I don't feel like I'm failing, and I'm not worried about not hitting this year's reading goals. Maybe I should've made it lower. Maybe this is the place where I publicly revise my goal back down to 50 or 45 or something. But reading well over 100 books in 2023 has been oddly freeing when it comes to reading goals madness. I never thought I would or could read that many books in a year as an adult, and I proved that I'm more than able to do so. That's enough. If I want to spend 2024 focused on a wider variety of hobbies and interests and passions, awesome! If I want to read ridiculously long books that take forever, so be it (though I can pretty much promise you that's not where my reading life is heading). If I want to slowly reread books I loved, searching for their tiny nuances, that's perfect. I've already climbed my reading Everest. I don't need anything more.
Honestly, I'm just happy that I've continued to read, even if it's less, as I've gotten busier. I'm not making progress on my spreadsheet, but it's not for a complete lack of trying. I've picked up the book and finished a little more every day. I'm not in a slump. I'm not worried about what I'll read next. I'm a little worried I'll die still reading this one book (can you tell I'm an impatient soul), but I know that the lessons I learned from the epic reading marathon of last year are sticking. I am consistent. I get on the train, and I pull out my book. Anything else I manage is cake.
I heard Jack Edwards mention in his 2023 reading stats recap video recently that he actually wants to read fewer books this year, and I'm ready to co-sign that mission. Do less to do more, perhaps?
More on Reading, Writing, and Me: