A different kind of year

[Update 1/1/19: It turned out to be 126 books for the year!]

Twenty-eighteen was all about reading at least 10 books a month and getting through A Century of Books. At 123 books read, I beat my goal of 120 books for the year, but I did not, repeat, did not, achieve all 100 books required by ACOB. I fell short by three books. Some of you might be thinking that it is only the 26th and that surely I still have time to finish. But, truth be told, I am in the throes of finishing number 123 (which happens to be Storm Tide by Marge Piercy and Ira Wood) which means I actually have four to finish. And I’m enjoying Storm Tide and don’t want to rush it just to get to those other three books in the next five days. Even as I write this, it seems eminently doable, but I think reality will skew otherwise, so I am bowing out of ACOB. It was a lot of fun this time around, but the year is pretty much over and I am going to set it aside to make way for 2019. Clean slate and all that.

And speaking of 2019, I’ve got a fairly radical idea for the year partially inspired by my experience in 2018.  I liked that my aggressive goal for the year kept me focused on reading. But, there were times when I felt the pressure to read rather than enjoy–like I feel right now-so for 2019 I’ve decided not to put that kind of pressure on myself. I know I will start to get competitive with myself or others at some point if I don’t do something kind of drastic. I need to come up with a way to keep myself from being drawn into a reading race. So…

I’m going to limit the number of books I read in 2019

Say what? Yes, rather than set a number to beat, I’m actually going to put a limit on myself this year. Since I turn 50 in August this seemed like a nice round number, but with some of the other stuff I have planned, 50 is probably too high a number. I think I will shoot for a limit of 40 books. A full 83 fewer than I read this year. And yes, this might be the craziest thing I have ever suggested. If I hit number 40 in September am I going to stop reading? No. Don’t be stupid.

No reading in English for the first month and half of the year

I’m spending a week in Milan in February to go to a few operas and to immerse myself in the Italian language. I’ve put in some effort over the past year or so into trying to build on the two years of college Italian I took 30 years ago, but it clearly hasn’t been enough. I still feel hopelessly bad and need to do a lot of prep for that trip. I’m even leaving John at home when I go to Milan so I don’t fall back on speaking English to him. I will have 2 hours a week of class and 2 hours a week of private instruction in January and February, but that won’t be enough. I need to listen to, and read, and speak much, much more Italian before my trip. I don’t want to get there and wish that I had done more prep. So, with the exception of reading a bit in English before I got to sleep at night and English audio books on my commute, I am only going to read in Italian. It will be very time consuming and involve a lot of dictionary use, but it has to be done. I have books and magazines, not to mention websites I can read, so I won’t be short of material. I also need to watch copious amounts of film and TV programming in Italian because I have a really hard time understanding lightening speed Italian when it is spoken. In general, I just need to use all my free brain power for a month and a half for learning Italian to really prep for that trip to Milan.

The remaining 12 Brookner novels

For about six years now I have  been doing a chronological re-read of all of Anita Brookner’s novels and so far I am half way through having re-read 12 of them. One of the things I have been doing is keeping a list of all of the London place names mentioned, but I don’t feel like waiting another six years to finish the project. So this year I think I’m going to read  a Brookner a month. This way by the end of the year I will have completed not just my re-reads, but my London place name gazetteer. I have plans to make vast improvements to the current format of the list/gazetteer and those changes will take a fair amount of time.  My greatly reduced reading pace will certainly free up some time to work on that.

A full shelf of something

Last year in preparation for ACOB, I organized the 736 books in my TBR by the year they were published. Since my un-read books are no longer in alpha order by author, this means each shelf has quite a lot of variety with almost no duplication of authors. For about six months I’ve been thinking about how much fun it would be to just plow my way through an entire shelf. Since they are in chron order it would mean I would be reading a whole shelf of books published around the same time. And since I read so much older fiction, I am kind of drawn to one of the newer shelves like the one in the picture below which consists of 2015 through part of 2017. Then again, I have probably 40 books that I bought this year that I need to add to the shelves, so it may end up being a whole shelf of just 2015. Since the more recent books on my TBR represent book buying binges influenced by bookish friends on social media, it will be interesting to finally see what everyone was talking about…four years ago. No one could ever accuse me of being an early adopter.

Then again maybe nothing

The overall theme of all of this is just not wanting any pressure in 2019 to read anything. So any or all of these ideas for 2019 may not happen. It’s wide open. I’m going to try and keep it that way.

32 thoughts on “A different kind of year

  1. quinn December 26, 2018 / 11:08 am

    I love your projects and adopt some and share w/ friends your projects…lovely projects.
    Happy New Year and thank you for all your sharing…
    yours is my favorite blog by far….rock on


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:16 am

      Well that is nice to hear, thank you. My husband thinks the projects are crazy so he is all for my non-project projects this year.


  2. Gina Thomas December 26, 2018 / 2:01 pm

    What fascinating plans you have, especially the idea of limiting your reading. It makes so much sense to me. Until I started Goodreads I never tallied my number of books read and I want to get away from keeping a tally this year. I’m only going to keep a physical book journal with my thoughts on what I read rather than how much I read.

    I want to thank you, Thomas. After a divorce several years ago I wasn’t reading at all but I did get into podcasts. When I realized how much I was missing my books I sought out podcasts about reading to help get back on track and The Readers quickly became a favorite. I appreciate your time as a cohost-you made me think, made me laugh and helped me remember what a void not reading had created. I just can’t let 2018 end without letting you know you made a difference for this Reader!

    Have a wonderful 2019, Thomas🤓

    Sent from my iPhone



    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:20 am

      Gina, I have kept tabs on my reading for several years now but the Goodreads thing ratcheted up the pressure to a crazy degree. On the 31st I went in to log the four books I read while I was away and it was already asking me for my challenge for 2019 and it was hard to even find my 2018 challenge page. So I am glad to be off that machine for the year. I put in “1” for my 2019 goal. I can’t wait until I finish that first book and see that I achieved my goal for the year.

      How nice of you to share your story. I will miss doing the Readers mostly because it has brought me into contact with so many like-minded people. Happy New Year.


  3. Liz Dexter December 26, 2018 / 4:34 pm

    I tried to limit myself one year. I had this stupid bet with my now-husband, who thought I read too much (yet, I still married him). First year I tried to read 2 books a week, I held out until March, when I got a bad cold and ran through two months’ worth in a week. The next year I didn’t tell him I was doing it and got to the end of June on 52 books then told him I’d done it but I couldn’t continue. It was horrible and I didn’t do anything really worthwhile with the time, I just a) read really fat books, b) watched more TV, c) read more magazines. So we agreed on a truce. But I can see you are doing Valid Things with the time, so should be OK.

    I wonder if you can get Slow Italian News like you can I think French. That might help. Good luck!


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:23 am

      You sound like a much more voracious reader than myself. I am still too drawn to TV and other distractions. I think there is Slow Italian News. That might be a good place to start although I need to get used to rapid Italian news.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liz Dexter January 2, 2019 / 6:50 pm

        Reading and running are my two main hobbies and I can’t do without either of them. I lead a very quiet life though which helps with the reading time.


  4. TravellinPenguin December 26, 2018 / 5:17 pm

    I should do what you are doing with my Spanish. I’m going to Spain, Portugal and Morroco with two friends in May-June. My travel Spanish is ok at times but no way can I do conversation. I’d love to hear more about your Brookner journal of places with examples in a post sometime. Sounds like some obsessive thing I’d love to do. 🤠🐧


  5. Chris Wolak December 26, 2018 / 10:05 pm

    Good for you for focusing on Italian like this. I also intend to read differently in 2019. I used to read one book a week which left time for other projects and interests.


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:27 am

      Yes, I was just thinking this morning about other things I could do without feeling pressured to read.


  6. Karen December 27, 2018 / 9:45 am

    Hi Thomas
    I am turning 50 in August too! My reading goals for 2019 are pretty relaxed. I might try one each from 1819, 1869, 1919, 1969, & 2019. After that it’s whatever I feel like!
    Looking forward to hearing about your Italian travels.


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:32 am

      How funny that our ages/birthdays are so close together.

      The only book I have in my TBR for 1869 is Lorna Doone and I have nothing for 1819. If you can get your hands on Free Air by Sinclair Lewis for 1919, it is definitely worth a go. I think they even have an audio book. It’s a good story and a fascinating peek into a 1919 road trip. I didn’t really enjoy my 1969 pick (Fat City) for ACOB. I have a bunch in my TBR for that year. As I look at it, many look worthy, but none really jump out at me.


  7. Simon T December 27, 2018 / 5:49 pm

    Well done for enjoying ACOB more this time, even if not finishing it! Your restricted reading next year sounds so crazy that it’ll be fun to watch. And I’m super impressed by the Italian resolution.


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:33 am

      It is a little crazy and I am already starting to feel like my life has no structure or meaning.


  8. My Year in 1918 December 28, 2018 / 6:03 am

    I’ve spent this year reading books and the news as if I were living in 1918, so after reading this post I went back and read about your unpleasant experience with 1900-1919 reading. Surprisingly, there’s no overlap with the books I read this year, although I’d read some of the ones on your list before. I’ve had a wonderful time in the period and am sorry you can across so many duds. My favorites include Mary Roberts Rinehart’s hilarious (and short) 1917 bestseller “Bab: A Sub-Deb” and Don Marquis’s equally funny (and short) 1916 book of satirical essays “Hermione and her Little Group of Serious Thinkers.” I didn’t get to the Barbusse, which people back then thought of as THE book about the war. While I didn’t read “Martin Eden,” I did write on my blog about poet George Sterling, known as the Uncrowned King of Bohemia, who was the inspiration for one of the characters. I hadn’t heard of “Patricia Brent, Spinster,” and may try to squeeze it in as my final book of the year.


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:36 am

      Your project is so fascinating (and daunting) to me. If you can make it to Martin Eden you won’t regret it. Particularly because it is so descriptive of its time. Lot’s of insight to be gleaned I think.


  9. BookerTalk December 29, 2018 / 12:37 pm

    I tried a ‘year without a plan’ this year, labelling 2018 as the year of reading naked. It was a reaction to a few years where I felt I was putting too much effort into reading from a predetermined list which took the fun out of the reading experience. But – reading without any kind of a plan is night on impossible I found…….so I like your combination of a relaxed plan


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:37 am

      I am already starting to feel a little at sea so I can understand what you went through.


      • BookerTalk January 4, 2019 / 4:41 am

        It does get better….


  10. Susan in TX December 29, 2018 / 4:19 pm

    I remain impressed with your determination to improve your Italian. Kudos to you for including it in your 2019 reading plans. I’m with Simon – the restricted reading does sound like it will be fun to watch unfold.
    Happy reading!


    • Susan in TX December 30, 2018 / 11:27 am

      Back to add – don’t know if you are/ever were a Nero Wolfe fan, but one of my daughters started watching the Italian version of the TV series this past fall and asked for the series for Christmas – it stars Pietro Sermonti and Andy Luotto. She has thoroughly enjoyed them and reminded me when I was telling her about your reading challenge. Also, if you’ve never seen Life is Beautiful, it is an amazing Italian film (Alberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi.


      • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:39 am

        My challenge is to try and find TV and movies that I can access with Italian subtitles. For learning purposes I find it isn’t all that helpful to me to have English sottotitoli.


  11. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) December 30, 2018 / 7:59 am

    Such fascinating plans! But will you keep to them? Does it matter? I hope that however it works out that you can enjoy your reading. All the best for 2019.


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:40 am

      Being so freeform this year means it will be hard to fail. The only thing I will be upset about is if I don’t really give the Italian the effort it requires. Like waking up on election day wishing you had done more to help.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Linda December 31, 2018 / 10:44 am

    I love your idea to only read in Italian in preparation for your trip, and I wish I had done that a few years ago in preparation for my trip to Russia! I learned Russian in college but it had been a couple of decades and I definitely needed more than the “brushing up” that I did at the time. I hope you have a fantastic trip – it sounds wonderful!


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:41 am

      It will be interesting to see if reading in Italian will move from being a language exercise to being interesting for content.


  13. nerdybookgirl December 31, 2018 / 1:54 pm

    I cannot wait to see how your 2019 reading plays out. I only read 16 books this year. What a pitiful amount, but I am certainly excited to get back into the swing of reading (and blogging).


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:42 am

      Sixteen books during grad school is like six hundred to mere mortals. Have fun this year.


  14. Jeane December 31, 2018 / 5:16 pm

    Sounds like some solid goals. I really admire your plan to read only in Italian for the first part of the year! I think I would find that kind of challenge on myself frustrating. For me, it would be Spanish, and I would start out with some YA or juvenile fiction just to be easy on myself… (not that I’m travelling to a spanish-speaking country soon, but that I have a small grasp on the language already)


    • Thomas January 2, 2019 / 8:43 am

      YA would be a really good idea, but none of the books I bought in Italy in June would fit into that category. I might have to order something.


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