Reading Resolutions 2016

This time of year everyone seems to be making plans for all things ‘self-improvement’ – lose weight, get fit, declutter the house, quit to pursue that dream job, try not to yell at the kids so much… Otherwise known as ‘new year’s resolutions’. As for many (most?!) people, I’ve never been particularly successful at keeping many of my resolutions, but one area in which I have mostly succeeded in recent years has been in my reading goals for the year.

Having annual reading goals started out of necessity during my ‘young babies’ years, when I set the bar very low indeed (who in their right mind prioritises reading over sleep?!) – back then it was a case of “read one book – my book club book – per month”. This was as much an escape from the less joyful aspects of young babies as an attempt to cling to the remnants of my thinking mind. But eventually having reading goals for the year took on more of that ‘self-improvement’ aspect, and I challenged myself to read two books per month (book club plus something else I fancied)

Now that my kids are just a little bit older and I’ve returned to part time work, I’m able to be a bit more ambitious in my annual reading goals, but last year it all felt a bit ad hoc – read it when you can / have to, a bit of this, a bit of that. It was chaotic. And although I managed to increase the breadth and quantity of my reading, I didn’t really end the year with any great sense that I had achieved what I would like to reading-wise.

So what to do this year to improve on that?

There have been many New Year’s Reading challenges and frameworks floating around the Internet and social media over the last week, many of which seem to provide interesting and different ways to challenge your reading for the year ahead. So I thought I’d put some of them together in the one place for a bit of inspiration for those of you who are seeking some, as well as some ideas to help you select the actual titles you might have on your list. A few of our staff will be doing these challenges and as always we’re more than happy to help you with suggestions and recommendations throughout the year.

2016 Reading Challenge Ideas

Choose 12 for one book per month, or more or less depending on your time and goals. If none of these take your fancy, just try googling ‘reading challenges’ and you’ll find a plethora of different blog spots and other websites suggesting many other interesting ideas.

The more abstract…

  • a  book published this year / last year / the year you were born

  • a book you can finish in a day

  • a book you’ve always meant to read

  • a book recommended by your local bookseller or librarian

  • a book you should have read in school

  • a book chosen for you by your partner / sibling / child / parent / friend

  • a book that was banned at some point

  • a book you previously failed to finish

  • a book you already own but have never read

  • a book that intimidates you

  • a book that has won an award

  • a book that you read a long time ago (it’s amazing the different ways we experience a book depending on where we’re at in our life at the time we read it).

By genre / subject matter / country of origin…

  • picture storybook or young adult fiction

  • a shorty story collection

  • an Australian classic

  • fiction – crime or thriller, science fiction, fantasy, historical, romance, magical realism…

  • non-fiction – autobiography, biography, history, politics, current affairs, science, philosophy…

  • something translated from a language other than English

  • combine two or more things from the above lists (eg. Norman Lindsay’s The Magic Pudding would be an Australian classic children’s book or Stieg Larsson’s ‘Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’ series would be crime / thriller and translated a book (from Swedish)).

  • Try Book Bingo (example from– many more available free online)

Or for your habits:

  • Remember the Title & Author of the books you’ve read

  • Remember who you lent a book to

  • Attend a literary or writers festival or go along to an author signing / book launch

  • Remember who lent you a book and return it before 2017

  • Keep a book journal

  • Write an online review

Once you’ve set your challenge, how do you select which book for each category?:

  • Ask your favourite friendly Farrells staff member for a recommendation!

  • Check out our regular best sellers lists

  • Ask your friends and family which books they have loved – or hated! – or found particularly memorable/fun/relaxing/challenging – whatever you’re after

  • Have a look at the national best sellers lists published weekly in the media

  • Keep an eye open for interesting pieces written on classics, new releases or different authors

  • Look at online reviews – just be wary of spoilers!!

  • If you sign up for an online reading challenge (eg. through Goodreads or another site) you end up with a ready-made online book club of other readers with whom you can share your thoughts or feelings about the books.

  • Visit your local library and draw on their experienced librarians

 We wish you all a rewarding year of reading in 2016!!

For the love of book clubs…

I’m not a particularly obsessive person, but one thing that I do love – unapologetically – is my book club.

A small group of us – family and friends and friends of friends and friends of family – started it around six years ago.  Just a group of people, who all loved reading, and were looking for a way to read more and get more out of our reading.  Our membership has waxed and waned over the years as people have moved away, moved closer, had babies, taken on new commitments etc, but I have come to realise that we are (amusingly, if you knew any of us personally), considered a ‘serious’ book club – that is, we don’t just get together to drink wine (although that’s obviously a bonus) – we are there to discuss our book.

We take it in turns to select a book each month, taking December off each year to celebrate with a Christmas dinner and reminisce about the books we’ve read over the course of the year.  It also helps take the pressure off at a busy time of year.  We agonise about what our next choice will be or alternatively have piles of books waiting in the wings for our next turn – should we select a classic?  A new release?  Something obscure?  Something mainstream?  We prepare questions in advance to guide the discussion.  We sometimes have quizzes – with prizes!!  One memorable month (and I wish I still had them to include a picture), one of our members, who happens to work at the State Library, printed all of her questions on little miniature book covers, smaller than matchboxes, of classic titles.  Now THAT’s love and obsession at its finest.

In our first year we tended to share books around, but I’ve personally developed the need to own every one of our book club books.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up in the decades ahead (simply from a space perspective), but for now we have the room and I have become quite anal about them – labelling them by month and year, grouping them in their chronological order.  In six years I’ve only missed 2 discussions (both because, rather inconveniently, I was giving birth), but I still have those 2 books and will read them one day (when I have the time…).  I am also determined to go back and buy those books from the first year that I don’t have – until then my shelves will feel incomplete.

Book club means so much to me for so many reasons – on a monthly basis it is an escape, a stress relief, an accomplishment, an education, a laugh, a cry…and an opportunity to engage in meaningful discourse with other wonderful individuals with varied opinions, personalities and tastes.  It has led me to read books that I would never have otherwise read .  Some I have loved.  Others I have hated.  Some I am indifferent to.  Only once have I made the decision to not finish reading a book because I was so thoroughly despising it (I won’t tell you which one…).  I still maintain it was the right decision.  The brilliant thing about book club is that even if the book is not to your taste, the discussion will often lift it up and give it value that you had not been able to see while reading it.

There is something quite magical about different people coming together and revealing to each other whole new aspects of a book – demonstrating how the human brain and personality can influence how we experience things.  I was once in Somers General Store for lunch and bumped into a long time Farrell’s customer, who would have been in her early 70s.  She started talking about her book club, which at that time had been running – continuously – for 42 years.  And it still had all its original members.  Now that is commitment.  That is love.

That is the shared joy of books.  :).

There are many ways to get involved in a book club if you’re interested – from online groups to community organised ones to just setting something up with your friends as we did.  And I can assure you, it’s well worth it – even if you run out of room on your bookshelves…