Reinstating my reading list

Having a book to read at any one time is something that makes me happy and I think makes my life better. I pick up recommendations for what to read from all sorts of places, however I can often find myself feeling unsure about what to read next, and forgetting which books I’m intending to get hold of. The main consequences of this are that firstly I tend to pick up new books at random, mostly based on the recommendation I have had most recently, rather than what I would most like to read next. Secondly, it takes me longer to get through a book, as I don’t have a clear picture of what I will move onto when I have finished it. What has been most helpful for me to solve these problems is to make a list of what I am planning to read, then work through it from the start. It works roughly as follows:

  1. I write down all books that I am planning to read in a Google doc
  2. I order the list, based on factors such as what I am most excited to read next, what I think I will enjoy, and to allow for variation
  3. I start at the beginning
  4. Periodically (once every month or two), I review the list. This involves adding books to it and reordering it, as well as removing what I have read.

The process of using this list to read has been hugely helpful for me. Writing down everything I am planning to read in one place ensures that I don’t forget or lose track of anything. The fact that there is an order to the list means I don’t agonise over what to read at any point, and it ensures that there is variety built into my plan. I would, for instance normally intersperse heavy books with light books (both in intensity and length), and fiction with nonfiction. The biggest benefit to me is probably that I get through books faster as a result of having a list. I enjoy reading, but have always read quite slowly, so I appreciate structures I can put in place to allow me to take in material more quickly.

It might seem like getting through books more quickly would detract from enjoying them. However I find that the faster I can take in a book, the more I actually enjoy it, as it means that I am more engaged with the content, and that I feel a greater sense of continuity when reading it. The causation also goes the other way, as I often find that I read a book much more quickly than usual if I am excited about it. Ensuring that I have an exciting book to move on to afterwards means that I am constantly looking forward to what is next, and gives my reading time a greater sense of purpose than it would otherwise have.

The biggest challenge I have faced in this process is realising quite how much there is to read. It can be daunting to look at a list that’s thirteen items long and worry about whether I will manage to reach some of the titles at the bottom of it, especially considering that this is supposed to be a pleasurable activity in the first place! I think that in this case, the intimidating nature of a big list or reading material is outweighed by the structure and purpose it gives me. It means that rather than wasting the occasional free minute I get, I feel inclined to spend that time reading, which makes me happy. It also means that I can look forward to spending a free afternoon making my way through a book and knowing exactly what I will read.

I called this post ‘Reinstating’ the list for a reason. During a very busy few weeks of my life, I let my list fall by the wayside, as I was not reading a great deal. When I started again I fell into my old habits of choosing books randomly and without a clear idea of what was next. Consciously deciding to write down my reading plan again made me realise how useful this system is to me, and encouraged me to write about it.

For anyone who likes to read (so anyone here) I encourage you to make a list of what you plan to read in the near future! I also like to be given suggestions, so would appreciate anyone getting in touch with recommendations!