Old Books

Simple Book Reading Goals: Three Questions to Ask First

BookshelvesWith the simple turn of a calendar page we find ourselves in a New Year! Perhaps we have anticipated this New Year more than most, as we leave the long and difficult journey of 2020 behind. A New Year has become a bit like a reset button for us, hasn’t it?  As you consider your 2021 goals, perhaps reading more books is on your list. Here are a few simple questions that helped me refine my book reading goals to be more achievable and also more enjoyable.

Question 1: Are you an e-book reader or a print book reader? To be honest, I tried to be an e-book reader for a while. Could I save a few trees by reading an e-book? Maybe. Would I reduce the clutter on my bookshelves by reading e-books? Most likely. Could I read a book in the middle of the night without turning a light on and disturbing my husband? Most definitely! But no matter how hard I tried to like e-books, I didn’t. Being a visual learner, I want to see the whole book – the cover, the table of contents, the pictures- all during the reading process. And as a visual learner, I remember what I have read by where it is located on a page, “in the top left corner on the page right after that drawing I saw”-that’s where it is!  E-books don’t lend themselves to this kind of visual memory. I also love the feel of a book – the type of paper it is printed on, whether the cover is soft like leather or a weathered hard canvas board. So I finally stepped away from e-books and accepted my love for print books. This also helped me refine how I acquire books and how I do book journaling (more on that later).

Question 2:  Do you value quantity or quality? This may sound like a trick question, but it truly is not. We are often steered towards the belief that quality supercedes quantity. In many realms of life, this is true. When it comes to reading, however, these two values land on a pretty level playing field. My first attempts at book reading resolutions involved setting the quantity of books I wanted to read in a year. Seemed pretty reasonable and I saw many others setting goals of reading 12 books, 30 books or more in a year. After a few failed attempts at quantifiying my goal, I realized I was not concerned with how many books I read. My desire revolved instead around reading books that either challenged me or took me on a journey to another place. A book might take me much longer to read than expected, but I was fully immersed in it and couldn’t put it down. Or another book might take me down a thinking path I didn’t expect, resulting in needing to re-read several portions to understand it. When I realized I was energized by how I valued the content of a book I was reading, I gave myself permission to not finish a book I didn’t like – and I didn’t need to read it, because I was not working toward a number goal for the year.

My book journal small image | A Place for SimplicityQuestion 3: Do you want to use the reading material again, or is the simple pleasure of reading enough? Again, either of these goals is admirable. But it makes a difference in how you approach your reading goal. I have always wanted the simple pleasure of reading to be enough for me. But I also highly value productivity. Many times as I was reading a book I would think to myself, “I could use that material again…but what if I can’t find it?” This is where book journaling comes in. For the past two years I have developed my own simple system of journaling the books I have read in a way that allows me to easily resource my favorite reading content again. This inexpensive, flexible and personalized way of book journaling can be adapted to anyone’s preferences. In my next post I will explain the simple book journaling system that has energized me to be a more consistent and productive reader.

Barnet Bain, in his writing, The Book of Doing and Being, speaks of  “the quiet joy that comes from reclaiming aspects of ourselves that we thought we had lost.” I thought I had lost the joy of reading because I was trying to structure it around a system that didn’t work for me. Hopefully these questions will open the door to your reclaiming of a quiet joy of reading in whatever way works best for you.




Debbie Ashley

Hello! I’m Debbie — Lover of Jesus, Pastor’s Wife, Mom, Encourager, Hobby Gardener and passionate about the simple pleasures of life.

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