Looking back on the last few years of reading
Published by Jack Lo Russo on / 4 min read
I’m really grateful that I’ve rediscovered the joy of reading over the past few years.
I’ve always been a bookworm, particularly when I was a kid, but unfortunately I’d fallen out of the habit and gotten into a bit of a slump. The Dark Ages began in 2020, ironically — I had more time than ever to read but couldn’t bring myself to do it. We all know it was a weird time, so I’ll give myself a free pass there.
By the end of 2021 I’d slowly but surely gotten myself back into reading, through a steady diet of fantasy, my ‘comfort food’ genre. I was feeling good rolling into 2022, so for the first time ever I set myself a reading goal for the year ahead — 12 books, averaging one a month. It was intentionally very achievable. I just wanted something small to strive for to make sure I didn’t fall off the horse. And I made it! I read 14 books that year, overachieving ever so slightly.
More importantly though, I’d successfully made it a core part of my daily routine. At minimum I was reading my Kindle every night before bed to wind down and go to sleep, which genuinely had a transformative effect on my sleep quality (turns out the rumours are true — putting down the phone and laptop early and not watching TV in bed at night actually helps you sleep more, and better). I was also occasionally getting out and reading my book in the park during my lunch break when working from home; peaceful little moments in the day to look forward to.
So, last year I increased the goal by a single book: 13 books in 2023. Not very ambitious at all — my main concern was staying on track, continuing to reinforce the habits that I’d set in 2022. If I read most days, experienced some great books, slept well and had some more of those profoundly peaceful moments, it would be a successful year on the reading front.
2023 turned out to be all that, and more. I couldn’t get enough of it — the bookworm little kid was back. I was excited to get home from work and read, sometimes walking down the street with my Kindle in my hand. There were nights where my sleep hygiene actually took a negative turn, because I simply could not sleep until I finished the book I was engrossed in. I was excited to go on holidays because I’d have more time to read.
I built on the year of rediscovering a meditative pastime, and had a year of rediscovering the fierce and irresistible draw of getting lost in a good book.
I ended up reading 28 books in 2023, double the count of the year before.
On reading goals
I’ll be the first one to say that just setting a number — any number — of books as a goal is fairly arbitrary.
The number itself is meaningless. It’s easily spoofed. To state the obvious, not all books are created equal. Number of books read says nothing about their length and difficulty. I’m a fan of big chunky fantasy books, and in the time it takes to read one of these I could probably knock off 4 or more snack-sized novels, particularly if they’re light and easy fare. Also, I include graphic novels and audiobooks in this count (not the biggest audiobook fan over here, but I dabble occasionally) which can also alter the way you perceive that number.
I’ll say it again — the number is meaningless. But that doesn’t mean the goal is. The goal says “this matters to me, and I’m going to make it a priority”. If you set the goal higher than the year before, the goal says “I want to keep this good thing going”.
If we’ve learned anything from Apple Watch activity rings or Duolingo streaks, it’s that gamification works. Even if the numbers are arbitrary, if they can help you build desired healthy habits, they can be useful. It’s in this light that I think about my reading goals.
New goal: 30 books in 2024
I loved my bumper year of reading last year. I want to have another year like that in 2024. Whether or not I actually reach 30 books isn’t really the point (I certainly won’t be picking up a bunch of little novellas to ensure I get there).
What I’m doing with this goal is aligning my internal compass to continue following the direction I’ve been travelling in for the past few years. I’m really enjoying this journey.
Check out my reading log
You can peep what I’ve been reading over the past few years and see how I’m tracking against my goal on my reading log page!