How to Create an Annual Reading List

New Year’s Prep: Post 8

I finished my MFA in 2018. I’m pretty excited about that accomplishment, but one side-effect has made me sad.

As a result of being required to read ten books a month for two years, I’ve struggled to read anything at all since my graduation in August. Books are so important to me though, they have been all of my life, and I’m ready to re-embrace them.

Making a reading list for the upcoming year is something I do in the last part of December every year. I have a pretty specific method that starts with a few categories: pleasure reading, writing (this is my job…fill in your work), autodidactic goal (things I want to learn more about this year), classics, and re-reads.

Then I pick a book or two or three in each category. This year I have thirteen books on my list. I’ve never had a year where I read only thirteen books, so I’m sure that I’ll exceed this list. I also might stray from it. For instance, I’ve had Chernow’s book about George Washington on my list for at least three years. And the chances that I’ll actually read the entire Bible this year are slim. That’s okay. This is just a guide. Plans are meant to be bent, right?

Pleasure Reading

I start with novels I really want to read. Pleasure reading. Since I don’t really want to make my list so huge that there’s no room for surprises or reading books that aren’t even published yet, this is generally just a couple of books.

For 2019, my pleasure reading books include Stephen King’s The Outsider and Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire.

Writing Craft

I add at least one writing craft book to my reading list.

This year I want to read Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors by Sarah Stodola and The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork.

My Autodidactic Goals

Every year I add at least one book to my reading list that has to do with my autodidatic goal. As I said the other day, my lifelong learning goal for 2019 is to become more fluent in Spanish.

Part of my plan is to read a book in Spanish this year. I’ve decided on Harry Potter y La Piedra Filosofal. I’ve read the first Harry Potter book three times in English, so I know the story really well. I think that will help me get through it in Spanish — and help me to improve my Spanish skills along the way.

I’ve wanted to start a long-term reading/learning project for a few years and it just hasn’t happened. Now that I’m done with school and have some breathing room, as far as reading goes, I’d like to get started on it in 2019. My goal is to read a biography of every US president. My first pick is Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

I have another learning goal this year of reading the Bible. I decided on The Message, which is a contemporary language translation.


I try to choose two or three classic books to read every year.

I had a lot of fun in 2018 reading Bradbury Stories, a collection of 100 short stories by Ray Bradbury. I thought I’d continue the trend this year with another collection by a single author. Mark Twain this time.

I also want to read John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Joan Didion’s Play it as it Lays.


I read Little Women just about every year. Louisa May Alcott’s book has been my very favorite since I was eight years old. I’m excited this year because my daughter Ruby wants to read it, too.

I really enjoyed Netflix’s Anne with an E series this year, so I have a re-read of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery on my list for 2019. It was a favorite when I was a little girl and I haven’t read it in at least thirty years.

I’m also feeling a pull (like I do every couple of years) to re-read Tabitha King’s One on One. I don’t know what it is about that book, but every now and then, I just have a strong urge to visit the characters.

What’s on your 2019 reading list?

Here’s my secret weapon for sticking with whatever your thing is.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.

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