Changing My Reading Goals To Be A Better Reader and Human

It’s lunchtime in the middle of the workday and you need a few minutes to disconnect. You could pull up Instagram, scroll the news on your laptop, or pick up a book. Which do you choose? It could depend on whether or not you have reading goals. Let’s chat about my 2023 reading goals and see if I can help you come up with some of your own.

At the end of 2020, I, like many of us, felt the need to make a change for the sake of my mental health. Reading has always been my most beloved hobby and greatest escape from the stressors of reality. And yet, when I needed it most, I was constantly reaching for Instagram or Pinterest or falling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of royal or celebrity news. So, I decided to set myself a reading goal—a reasonable one of 30 books.

At the end of 2021, I had read 52 books. Feeling buoyed by my success, I decided to double my goal for 2022—100 books by the end of the year. At the time of writing this, during the second week of December, I’m at 83 books read, on pace for around 85.

Reflecting on 2022’s reading goals

Looking back on 2022, I’ve noted positives and negatives to setting a numerical reading goal for myself. Before describing what I have in mind for 2023, let’s talk about what I liked and didn’t like about my 100 book goal.

Positive #1: I read a lot—because I had to!

Reading 100 books in a year basically means reading two books a week. For me at least, that’s a challenge! Knowing that I had a goal (and that I had been vocal about it!) meant I was compelled to read even when I didn’t feel like it. And, because I do love reading so much, once I started I was really happy about my choice.

Positive #2: I sought out books I normally wouldn’t.

Particularly toward the end of the year, I found myself searching for books to read—specifically really short books. And because my natural reading tendencies lean toward epic fantasies, that meant exposing myself to things I wouldn’t normally pick up. One of my favorite reads of the year falls into that category! (affiliate link)

Negative #1: I screwed up my sleep schedule.

Because I needed to read a lot, and because I’m a busy person, a lot of my reading happened at night. And the problem that I have with reading at night is that I can’t stop! And so, my bedtime steadily became later and later and now, I’m fighting a terrible stay up late, sleep late cycle.

Negative #2: I read too fast to remember it.

Probably the biggest regret I have about this goal is that I read so many really great books… but I can’t necessarily remember them. I’m naturally a pretty fast reader, but reading to meet a goal seemed to make my retention rate decrease rather drastically. I’ve noticed several times this year that, outside of a few standouts, questions and discussions about what I’ve read have led to more ums than I would like!

After all the benefits of reading aren’t in a number. They’re in the experience.

2023 reading list blank notebook and pen with tea cup

how i’m shaking up my reading goals for 2023

Moving into 2023, I’ve decided that I’m not going to set a numerical goal for myself. Instead I want to build on what was an informal goal that I had for this year—to read more broadly—and also to read deeply.

The thing that disappointed me most in 2022 was realizing that I wasn’t remembering what I read. The thing that inspired me most was reading books beyond my norm. And so, I decided to combine those two realizations into my goal for next year.

Before I share specifics, allow me to clarify the numbers you’re about to read. I’m not setting a numerical goal in the sense that I won’t be aiming to read an overall total number of books by the end of the year. But you will see numbers below and those are based on what I feel was my comfortable reading pace in 2021. I had no problem reading 30-50 books, so I based 2023’s goals based on those numbers.

My reading goals for 2023

Alright, let’s get to it! My reading goals for 2023 are…

  • Read 3 memoirs or biographies
  • Read 3 non-fiction books that convey a perspective different than my own
  • Read 3 fiction books with main characters who have a different outlook or perspective than my own
  • Read 3 historical non-fiction works
  • Read 3 books that will positively influence my career/business
  • Read 3 books with a spiritual, mental, or emotional focus
  • Read 3 works from the Harvard Classics list

With all that in mind, my numerical goal works out to (technically) be 21 books without overlap. But again, the number isn’t the point. In fact, I don’t consider any of these goals to be mutually exclusive. One of the memoirs could also be a non-fiction work from a different perspective. A book from the Harvard Classics may also positively influence my business or have a spiritual focus. I’m not trying to limit how much I read from each category, but I want to have the space to read deeply.

my hopes for next year’s reading goals

Okay, so what am I hoping for from next year?

On the whole, I want to spend 2023 learning. I want to gain from the perspectives of people different from me and learn what I can do to be a more actively empathetic human, learn more about historical figures and time periods that have always fascinated me and be able to hold a conversation on them, deepen my knowledge in my field, specifically language and reading, and improve my inner ecosystem.

And ultimately, when someone asks me what I’ve been reading, I want to remember and I want to be able to converse on them.

If you’re setting a reading goal for 2023, I’d love to hear about it in the Substack chat! And if you’re not setting a reading goal (even if you’re a reader!), I’d love to hear why!

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