How to grow as a reader

Every year, since 1991, I have set a non-required reading goal. I track the number of books read (an inconsequential measure), and the number of pages read for books that I finish (for me, at least, this is what’s important).

Some books may appear interesting or important but after having commenced reading it is clear that they are not worth the reader’s time. There are various valid reasons for this. I like the adage, “Some books are not for you, and some are not for you now.” I have proven this true several times, and I’m glad I persevered with great books that were at one time or another impenetrable to my mind.

I used to read a variety of fiction and non-fiction, and I have a list of every book I’ve read since 1991. But what about books of poetry? And biography/autobiography? And cartoons? Where do these books fit? There’s clearly a distinction to be made between Husserl, and Bill Bryson, and the cartoon series Calvin & Hobbes.

These days, I read in seven genres/categories in order to ensure that I read important books that I’d not normally encounter, or those I would overlook through prioritising other categories such as literary fiction.

I don’t always reach my annual goal, usually explainable by noting major personal trauma encountered during that year. In 2022, I read 29 books and more than 11,000 pages of non-required reading, while completing my part-time (i.e., most weekends) PhD in systematic theology. On this measure, 2022 was a very good year.

For 2023, my goal is 12,000 pages. Through reading books that are not required for study or employment, I have learned a lot, and have been wonderfully moved and entertained. I like to think, too, that I have grown as a person through my leisurely reading. The books we read help to shape us in many ways, for good or ill. The books we don’t read also have their effect.

In another post, I’ll share my favourite books of the past year.

Image source: India Today

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