2019 Reading Intentions: Three Ways I’ll Make Reading More Enjoyable this Year

2019 is officially upon is…it’s time to set our Goodreads Reading Challenges, use up our Chapters gift certificates and load up our newly gifted Kindles!

For me, 2018 was an inspirational and, well, fun year in terms of reading. Late in the year I was lagging behind in my reading goals, and joined the Bookstagram and book blogging communities for a reading motivation boost as well as to try out a new creative outlet.

By the end of 2018 I had not only met, but exceeded, my reading challenge of 30 books! I know for a fact that this success is directly because of the inspiration I found with my new online bookish friends. More than once, I headed to the bookstore (virtual or real-life) to pick up a book that was dominating my Instagram feed. The added excitement of being gifted ARCs (advanced reader copies) in exchange for reviews spurred me to try out reading multiple books at once (FYI reading more than one book at a time is definitely not for me), and participating in read-alongs with my new friends kept me accountable to read quickly. It was just what I needed!

View this post on Instagram

I brought out my inner Henry Winter when I laid out this photo of The Secret History next to my fountain pen. . It’s been over a week since I finished rereading this book and in some ways I’m still processing it. I suppose that’s why it lends itself well to being reread! (Thanks to @blogaboutalatte for hosting the readalong!) . Though the novel deeply plot-driven, what is sticking with me most this time around is character development. Richard, Henry, Francis, Charles, Camilla, even Bunny. On paper they are all awful, but I found myself slowly being charmed by them, rooting for them. . If you have read The Secret History, tell me in the comments: . Who was your favourite character? In particular, what did you think of Henry (he stuck with me the most)? . Spoiler warning: if you have not read the book the comments may contain spoilers!

A post shared by Sarah | The Novel Diaries (@thenoveldiaries) on

That all being said, however, there are a few things about combining books and blogging that took away from the joy of reading for me, just a little:

  • Comparing myself to other super-hero book bloggers/’grammers who were crushing Goodreads Reading Challenge goals of 100+ books.
  • Agonizing over whether or not I should give 1 star reviews of less-than-awesome (in my opinion) ARCs that I knew authors had worked painstakingly to get to the publication stage.
  • Looking at my reading list through others’ eyes and wondering if I was reading too many “fluffy” books/not enough classics/too many thrillers/not enough non-fiction/not enough YA/you get the picture…

To combat these drains on my reading energy for 2019, and make reading more enjoyable as a blogger, I have set three important reading intentions for the year:

1. Quality over quantity. I set my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge just before drafting this post, and I actually went for a lower number, to a goal of 25 books (in 2018 I aimed for 30). It shouldn’t matter either way, really, but knowing that I have publicly committed to what is a very doable number of books for me takes the pressure off.

Maybe this will be the year I dig into a long read like The Goldfinch or reread Infinite Jest, without worrying that it will take time away from The Challenge. Maybe I will take a break from reading and focus on my other new hobbies (blogging, journalling, watercolour) and feel guilt-free about it! I have peace of mind aiming to read only just over two books a month because I know I have committed to read just for me, and not for public accolades or competition.

2. No more star ratings. The Bookstagram community is made up of both voracious readers and aspiring authors. That means that as an active member in the community, I see firsthand how much blood, sweat and tears (to use a cliche) goes into writing a novel. For National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo, for example, many of my Bookstagram friends posted daily about their struggles and successes to pump out 50,000 words in a single month.

Having a more intimate perspective on the novel-writing process makes me more hesitant to dole out low-star reviews based solely on my own personal opinions. Instead, in 2019 I will share my opinion in words (which I have in excess anyways) and recommendations. Just because I don’t personally connect with a novel based on my own experiences does not mean that it should be branded with a low rating. So, in my next book review posts, expect my normal review style, sans the numeric value at the end. Don’t get me wrong, if I dislike a book I will say so, but I will make an effort to frame this in terms of why didn’t like it, keeping in mind that many of you may very well love it depending on the season of your reading life.

3. “Should” is no longer a part of my reading selection criteria. I’m just going to say it: aside from Austen and Hemingway, I have rarely truly enjoyed a classic. As an English Lit major I was force-fed so much Dickens and Bronte that I no longer associate that type of reading with pleasure. Sure, I *should* get over this at some point (especially considering I finished my degree 10 years ago this year), but I’m not going to force myself to read classic lit when I’m not in the mood.

Reading is for me, above all, a past-time. It is meant to be relaxing and enjoyable, not an assignment or a second job. My intention is to avoid worrying what other readers will think of my reading choices, or what type of book reviews will get me the most popularity, and simply read for what reading was intended for: pleasure. I will not read anything because I feel I have to, or simply because it is popular online even when I know it’s not to my liking (sorry YA fantasy fandom world, it’s just not going to happen this year).

Finally, and this is not really a new intention but a renewed one, I want to read as many diverse authors as I can. Part of the joy of reading for me is the way it opens my eyes to the experiences of others that I would not have known otherwise. For that reason I want to use reading to hear the voices of those that are not heard in the mainstream.

To work towards this intention, I am participating in Hunter from Shelf by Shelf‘s Back List Book Club. He is sure to both choose diverse authors as well as facilitate stimulating, intellectual (and hilarious) discussion on the chosen reads. We’ll be starting in January with Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee!

What are your 2019 reading intentions? How are you using books to make your life even better this year?

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Book Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

“I sink to the floor. I’ve had the going-to-school-naked-dream before. I’ve had the going-to-school-naked-forgot-to-study-for-an-exam-in-a-class-I-never-signed-up-for combo, the naked-exam-somebody-trying-to-kill-me combo. This is all that times infinity. 

And then, because there’s nothing left for me to do, I take the letter out of the envelope and I read it.” 

Continue reading

Watching You by Lisa Jewell Review

Book Review: Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Summary: 

Joey Mullen has recently returned home to Melville Heights, a nice neighbourhood in Bristol, with her new husband. She hopes to put down roots and enjoy domestic bliss, but Joey’s plans to settle into married life are tripped up by her growing obsession with the handsome new headmaster in town, Tom Fitzwilliam. Tom, seemingly charming and suave, may not be all that he appears, however. Jenna Tripp, one of Tom’s students, believes she has seen him before, and feels she may be on the trail of a sinister story lurking behind his facade.

Continue reading

Why I Am an Alternative High School Teacher

My students trickle in one by one in the morning – earbuds in, music blaring. I say good morning to each one individually, dramatically waving so they know I’m saying hello even though they can’t hear me. I may look ridiculous, but a friendly greeting in the morning is important around here. Anyways, they smile if they’re able, and wave back. Some of our students have been accepted into this program from across the district and have a lengthy commute by public transit. Others may be battling with depression, anxiety or an unstable home life and have a hard time getting out of bed. And then there are those who may work full-time hours after school in the hospitality industry, which makes getting up early even more difficult than for a typical teenager.

Continue reading

Blogger's book stack

My Two Month Book Blogging Journey + the Blogger Recognition Award

I have been an official #blogger for no more than two months, so imagine my surprise when I had a notification letting me know the lovely Darina of Facing the Story had nominated me for a Blogger Recognition Award! Thank you so much Darina!

What is the Blogger Recognition Award?

It is a blogger to blogger award that acknowledges the hard work and creativity that goes into making original blogs. The fact that it comes from within the community makes it that much more authentic to me, because I know that nobody knows the difficulty it takes to put yourself out there on the internet more than another blogger!

Continue reading

Emma in the Night Bookstagram

Book Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

“They found Emma’s car at the beach. They found her purse inside, on the driver’s seat. They found the keys in the purse. They found her shoes in the surf. Some people believed she had gone down there to find a party or meet a friend who never showed. They believed that she’d gone for a swim. They believed that she’d drowned. Maybe by accident. Maybe a suicide. 

Everyone believed Emma was dead. 

As for me, well – it was not as simple as that.” 

Continue reading

Three Podcasts to Listen to If You Love Great Storytelling

At the heart of my love for reading is my love of a good story. Though I am trained as a Social Studies teacher, textbooks either make me fall asleep virtually right away, or invoke a latent attention deficit disorder that has me jumping up and running to procrastinate with even the dullest of chores.

A well-researched World War Two historical fiction, on the other hand, and I’ll stay awake reading all night. (A jet-lagged version of myself became almost nocturnal reading All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale a few years ago.)

Continue reading