The ghost of goals past


It’s 16 hours (local time) to the end of 2016. I had a goal of reading 104 books this year (equivalent of two per week), and as of five minutes ago, I achieved my goal. I was doubtful earlier in the week as I got quite busy and time seemed to compress. I was four books shy of getting there and I just didn’t see how it was going to happen.

I had some short books lined up to make it happen (although that felt like cheating), but in the end it was a clerical oversight earlier in the year that saved the day. For some reason I forgot to log the fact that I had read Richard Ford’s excellent novel Canada. So at the last minute I went from needing to read two books in 1.5 days to only having to read one.  And thankfully, I chose my 104th book well. A gossipy, classical music memoir/bio was just the thing to occupy me on a 5-hour flight. Perhaps A Genius in the Family by Hilary du Pré and Piers du Pré (on which the movie Hilary and Jackie was based) is more than a gossipy, classical music bio, but it was details about performers, pieces, concerts, recordings and such that made it easy for me to fly through the book. Incidentally, I had a similar experience recently with Marilyn Horne’s memoir which was much more gossipy and a super quick read. Another nice thing about those kinds of books is that they contain an endless stream of ideas for one’s Spotify listening.

I toying around with some reading resolutions for 2017, but I haven’t figured out exactly what those might be. Part of me wants to plan something really crazy and part of me wants to plan nothing. More anon.

Here are my 2016 goals as posted on January 4th.

Get back to 100
I think it has been a couple of years now since I made it to a 100 books in a year. Last year was a respectable 81, but 2014 was a measly 63. I need to up my  game. The only way this is going to be possible is if I read really short books watch less TV. And here it is January 4th and I still haven’t finished a book. I am already behind. But let’s make this more interesting. Instead of 100 books, how about the equivalent of two books a week and make it 104 books for the year? Sounds good, 104 it is. Now I am even further behind. ACHIEVED

Come to terms with platform confusion
I keep track of books I read in at least four ways: 1.) A handwritten list in a notebook that I started keeping in 1994; 2.) An Excel spreadsheet; 3.) Goodreads; and 4.) This blog has tabs for books for recent years and then alpha lists by author. This is going to take some thinking. There are redundancies and things that are annoying and time consuming and there are also new possibilities afforded by my conversion to WordPress. Not sure how this will resolve itself, but I have resolved to resolve it. TOTALLY NOT ACHIEVED – I didn’t even think about this much over 2016, let alone try and do something about it. I’m thinking I might get to doing something about early in 2017 given that I am running out of space at the top of my blog to keep adding tabs for each year.

Limit book purchases to newly published books
I bought a LOT of books last year and most of them used. When Simon Savidge was here in September I vowed that my resolution for 2016 would be to only buy books published in 2015 or later. I still want to do this, but I’ve also resolved that I am going to break this resolution whenever I want. This may seem like no resolution at all, but there is a nuance in it that oddly makes sense to me. Besides, NW DC is getting a new used bookstore and I consider it my civic duty to support that venture. NOT ONLY NOT ACHIEVED, BUT A DUMB IDEA – Given that my success rate with new (and expensive) books was about 50%, there is no way that I am going to do this again. I will have more about this particular failure in the coming days.

Spend some time in my library
I’m not talking about the public library, I’m talking about the beautiful room in my house that was completed over a year ago, is chock full of books, but almost never gets used. In fact, I have really only used it to store books. Lucy often curls up on the chair, but due to less than adequate seating and lighting, I haven’t spent one minute (seriously, not one) in there reading. This means I really only read in bed. How have I gone so long without a reading spot? Must make seating and lighting for that room a priority. GREAT STRIDES WERE MADE – We really need additional/different seating in the library for this to be totally successful, but I did increase use of my library in a meaningful way. Not just for reading, but also just to poke around, and even blogging in the library helped me get joy out of using the room. Hopefully the furniture issue will be sorted out in the first quarter of 2017.

Figuring out the ineffable
There is something else I want to achieve in 2016 relative to reading, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. As I sit here thinking about it, I think it may boil down to feeling like I frittered away far too much time that could have been used for reading. There were many times during the year when I wanted to go read and then an hour or more later I would still be futzing around not doing much of anything. So I think carving out longer spans of time to read it definitely part of it. And I think maybe I just need to shut-up and read. SUCCESS-ADJACENT – I can’t say I was totally successful on this count, but I definitely was better about going off and reading a book. I think part of the reason is that John has discovered the joy of Spotify and will spend hours with his headphones on listening to song after song. Because of this, I feel freed up to turn off the TV and go to another part of the house and read. For some reason, I have a hard time being in another part of the house from John. In my twisted control freak mind I think I feel like I need to program his time.

5 thoughts on “The ghost of goals past

  1. Nan December 31, 2016 / 12:19 pm

    I just keep simple book lists on the blog. I put up a ‘collection’ post at the beginning of the year, and I use it to list books read in each month. Then there’s another one for the book facts. These go in my tab under the blog header of ‘book lists 2006 – the present.’ Very easy for me. You can check it out on my blog if it interests you.

    As for tv, there is SO much good tv now, and old good tv I have on dvd, that I spend a fair bit of my evenings watching. Tunnelbear changed my life. Between that and Acorn I can watch loads of British/Australian/New Zealand tv. They have such great shows. And the stories are almost like reading a book for me. And Netflix’ offerings get more and more amazing. I rarely watch movies. I think the talent is in tv now.

    I have no goals. ;<)


  2. BookerTalk January 1, 2017 / 7:18 am

    Don’t we all write goals knowing that there is only a slim chance we will achieve them entirely? (unless you are someone as single focused at Gates or Steve Jobs). But if we only get them done in part we’ll have made progress…. I have a similar issue to yours with multiple lists of books I want to read – trying to rationalise this is boring though. Much more fun to write a review, or comment on other people’s blogs …


  3. Liz Dexter January 2, 2017 / 4:45 am

    Really interesting stuff! I think the buying new books one is a bit odd and am glad you’ve changed your mind on that – but then I really don’t read much modern stuff myself. How could you ignore second hand shops’ older gems? Well, you didn’t, so that’s OK. Happy reading for 2017!


  4. amanda2909blog January 5, 2017 / 12:40 am

    Enjoyed hearing how the goals for 2016 turned out.

    You’ve convinced me to add “As for Me and My House” to my reading list.

    I miss the podcast.


  5. Susan in TX January 8, 2017 / 6:16 pm

    Hey Thomas – easiest fix for your book lists with minimal effort: Change one of your tabs to “Books Read” and then put each year as a subpage under that page. There’s a little box when you set up your pages that says something like “Parent Page” – just change the individual year pages to have the parent “Books Read”
    Not sure if that makes sense the way I typed it, but I have no doubt that you can figure it out much quicker than I can explain it. :)

    I hear you on the new books thing – I read more “new” books last year than I’ve read in the last 5 put together, and it was not my best reading year…


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