One of the most stressful parts of being a reader and librarian is that I want to feel “on top of everything” when it comes to literature. I want to know what’s coming out, have a good understanding of which books did well in the last few years, and have a full grasp of the classics for my personal growth as a reader. This feels close to impossible lately. I had lists of “must read” classics and then I find that every one of those authors has a back list longer than I imagined. For instance, I was told to read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, and suddenly I find myself deep in Jamaica Inn, The Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and The House on the Strand….and wait…there’s more. That’s just one example of a “modern classic.” But every year there are new books that people are consuming, recommending, and loving. I am thrilled to have so many choices, but also extremely overwhelmed.
I decided to make a sort of selection based on yearly awards for a while. I read Nobel Prize winners, and their back-list (which kept growing), CBC Canada Reads, and the Pulitzer Prize. But then…there’s the British Book Awards, the Women’s Bailey’s Prize, PEN prize, the Irish Book Awards, The Hugo, The Nebula, The Arthur C. Clarke. The next question was, should I just read the winner or the shortlist? For instance, last year in the Women’s Bailey’s Prize Our Glorious Heresies won, but the synopsis that got my attention most was another title from the shortlist: The Portable Veblen. I get extremely overwhelmed and have a fear of missing out. Simultaneously I don’t want to miss out on the core staples of literature when it comes to classics, and modern classics. I feel like I’m sprinting through and reading fast, and then I get ARCs for early review, which leaves me hardly any down time for reflecting on poetry. Last month I received and read more ARCs than I expected and while I did enjoy writing reviews and reading things pre-publication, I didn’t feel like all of them were what I would call substantial. There is also a lot of pressure because I need to be able to articulate a proper review and even if I don’t like it, I owe an explanation as to why not. It may feel presumptuous that I “must” read ARCs but I want to know what to invest in for collection development.
I don’t want to create a TBR list each month because I want there to be room for surprises.
Long story short: I had to set up some rules…or guideline…that can make me feel like I’m on the right path without freaking out.
So here are my monthly reading goals as of now:
Every month I will read:
- One Classic (Western Canon, Russian Lit, and other Global Classics)
- One Modern Classic (post 1950): currently reading The Marriage Plot by Eugenides
- Three to Five ARC Fiction Novels and/or nonfiction for Early Review however they wi
- Two in the Sci-fi and Fantasy category (can include ARCs but preferably printed)
- One-Two books that have come out in the last two years and won or was nominated/shortlisted for a significant award. Currently on my radar and list: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Our Glorious Heresies, The Underground Railroad, The Essex Serpent,
- One Short Story anthology/collection (Can be ARC)
- One Poetry Book (can be ARC)
I think that this guideline will make me feel like I’m on top of new things but keeping up with building my library and knowledge base, as well as being connected to the canon.
If you have had a similar experience and have advice or think I should incorporate something else in the list all recommendations are welcome!