• Going Public With a Reading Resolution

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 32 comments

    reading resolutionLast week’s spirited discussion about writing resolutions and public accountability is still going strong, as many of you have shared with us your 2016 writing goals. This week I want to tell you about my 2016 reading resolution, and I want to hear your reading resolution too.

    In the post above, I mentioned my reading log, and how at the end of 2012 I was so disappointed with that year’s list that I publicly vowed to read eighty books in 2013, else I be obliged to perform a public dramatic reading of Fifty Shades of Grey while wearing a hot-pink onesie.

    I must admit, last year’s reading list was as woeful as 2012’s. For one thing, the amount was lower than it’s been in years. I know quantity isn’t all that matters, but I still prefer to average a book per week, and last year I didn’t come very close to that.

    And of the books I did manage to read, well fewer than half were written by women, minorities, or foreign authors in translation. Combined!

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    A Three-Pronged Reading Resolution

    I’ve never been a great crusader for diversity in reading habits. Diversity in publishing, yes. And diversity in content, for sure. But I figure that the people who don’t give a damn about exploring stories and lives and viewpoints outside of their own narrow experience won’t feel compelled to do so by anything I say. Bless the people who fight for it, but I don’t feel particularly equipped to join them.

    But I can influence my own reading habits, and the stories/lives/viewpoints that I take in. And that’s why my 2015 reading list disappoints me: I make my own choices, and in 2015 I chose very few books, and an awful lot of white dudes.

    So in the spirit of continuing to share our goals, here is my three-part 2016 reading resolution:

    1. Read at least fifty-two books

    2. More than half of which will be written by women, and

    3. More than half of which will be written by minorities and/or by foreign authors in translation

    Keeping a tally, like notches in a bedpost, is tacky. But if that’s what it takes to diversify my reading, then that’s what I’ll do.

    [Tweet “”Keeping a reading tally is tacky, but maybe that’s what it takes to diversify my reading.””]


    Promotional Interlude

    Thankfully my favorite publisher, NYRB Classics, is constantly putting out wonderful books in translation and wonderful books by women and minorities, as well as wonderful books by white dudes. I’ve got a big stack of them saved up and ready to go. (See photo above.)

    And much of last year’s translation reading came from Deep Vellum, a Dallas publisher which recently opened a bookstore in Deep Ellum. Check it out, Dallasites.



    If I fail to reach any one part of this reading resolution, I’ll … I dunno. I’m open to suggestions, if you want to leave one below. Some sort of humiliating public display? Donate money to an organization I find odious? Donate money to an organization I don’t find odious?

    And so y’all can keep track of me, each month in this space I’ll check in and share what I’ve read and give a few thoughts on each book.


    Your Turn

    Maybe you want to read a specific amount of books this year. Maybe you want to catch up on some classics, or maybe set aside the classics and catch up on your contemporaries. If you have a reading resolution for 2016 — even if it’s just “read more” — let us know in the comments below.

    Happy reading and writing, WriteByNighters! Check in next week for a discussion of the first few lines of Tayeb Salih’s wonderful novel, Season of Migration to the North. That’s right, Great Beginnings is back!


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services.

    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and other publications.




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    Alex Jackson

    Mine is just “to read more.” I think I read about 25 books last year. Some were literary and long, like David Copperfield, some were easy to read mysteries, stuff you can get through in a day. So 25 probably isn’t very good either. But I don’t want to make it a numbers’ game. I’ll just use my own judgment.

    I think you’re punishment should be to an humiliating public display *and* donating money to some cause you support. Both at once. Like, you have to walk naked to the Salvation Army to give them money.

    J. Sommers

    To read the Pulitzer for Fiction books going back to the beginning. Not all of them this year but that’s where I’ll start. A lot of them I never even have heard of. The first winner was “His Family” by Edward Poole. Who!? I want to see how our tastes have changed between now and then, and if a book like Poole’s from 1918 would even be considered in 2018. (Answer. It wouldn’t. It’s not great.) This doesn’t really answer to diversity. I don’t know when the first Black pulitzer winner was, but I’m sure it wasn’t until like the… Read more »

    J. Sommers

    1978 was the first Black fiction Pulitzer (James MacPeterson), 1950 was the first black pulitzer (poets). So I’ve got a long way to go before I get to 1978.

    J. Sommers

    I’m just keeping it to myself. I won’t blog or anything. At most I’ll post some reviews at goodreads/amazon. But if you’re interested in a particular book let me know and I’ll tell you what I thought of it.

    I am not writing a book/day yet. But I am up to a paragraph. Some days a lot more. That idea is working for me pretty good so far, so thanks. Or thanks to your friend.


    No, it should be something beneficial to somebody, outside of mere entertainment value. Donate money to a literary organization such as 826. Better yet, donate your time. Spend x number of hours in 2017 reading to kids at your local library.

    Heck, do that anyway, even if you hit your goal. Consider it a reward.

    I’m not being better-than-thou. I don’t do this kind of stuff either, and I really should. Maybe that should be my resolution. Yes, that’s it. My reading resolution in 2016 is to read to children at my library.


    Thanks David for posting your reading goals. It’s a good reminder to forget career stress and life stress and blah blah blah and just write and read more. How simple is that?


    Because we keep looking at it as a chore, something we HAVE to do. Maybe we should look at it like something we GET to do. It is a privilege that millions do not have access to. Even that may not be enough sometimes, because we are an entitled lot in America, and sometimes take things for granted. Distractions abound, like the accursed TV, phones, email, etc. Here in Ruraltown, when the power goes out (which is more often than you might think), we get out more, meet our neighbors, be together as a family, and, astoundingly, read more books.… Read more »


    Let’s just pretend that means Scholar Of Books, okay?


    Yep! Read and write more, that’s my goal. (Oh yeah, and get off my butt. That one too.)


    I want to read (and write) in response to what’s relevant to this present moment. That’s what I vow. Hence I might be moved to read Ta-nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (which I was), but that might also inspire me to read a recent biography on Thomas Jefferson and his views on slavery (which I did). I do read many women writers (most recently Ottessa Moshfedh’s Eileen), but I only do so because there are so many good women writers today. Not to pay attention to them would be to short myself as a lover of good writing.… Read more »

    Yi Shun Lai

    I’ve been using Goodreads’ Reading Challenge. I like seeing the little purple bar go up as I read. :) (And I like being “one book ahead!” or “two books behind!” Okay, that last, not so much.
    Then again, I’m a sucker for games of all sorts. Hm.

    Yi Shun Lai

    I like a version of Exquisite Corpse mashed up with “Telephone” called “Picture, Sentence.” Basically, you write a sentence; the next person draws a picture to illustrate that sentence and folds over the original sentence; the following person writes a sentence s/he thinks is what the picture is trying to say…the results are hilarious.

    Yeah. You log onto goodreads again, sign up for a reading challenge, which allows you to set how many boooks you want to read in 2016…etc. Progress bar!!!


    Yes, David, good guess — The Old Man and the Sea! That reminds me of that old joke: Why did Hemingway’s chicken cross the road? To die. Alone. In the rain. (rim shot, spotty applause) I love literary jokes. Reading now. Good luck to you.


    My goal is simply to read and at the end of the year tally up how many books I have read (I’ve never kept a tally before). I don’t dictate xxx books per week as if I’m really enjoying the read I’ll only do a chapter a day – to prolong the pleasure. If it’s a good “I can’t put this down” thriller then it’ll get read in under a week. Be interesting to see how many books I do get through by years end. If you don’t reach your goal how about standing on a soapbox in Central Park… Read more »


    Eww, that sample of a worst book was a good one.
    I reread sentences that ‘grab’ me and descriptive paragraphs that move me. I often wonder how, in a simplistic way, these paragraphs are so powerful. I’m hoping some of the author’s brilliance might rub off. One lives in hope.

    Betty G.

    Book a week would be my goal. I’ve read three this year,
    so I guess I am on pace for it. If I fall behind, then I’ll just
    read lots of little books to catch up. My game, my rules.

    If you don’t hit your goal, in 2017 you have to read every
    book James Patterson Inc. has ever written.

    Glynis Jolly

    I started my reading quest in December. I don’t believe yearly resolutions to be worthwhile, although resolutions as they pop into the mind are great for me to try to complete. The quest is two really. I want to read more classics. I see them as a more perfect way to write than some of the garbage that’s out there today. Still, I will mix in some more contemporary literature. In both cases, I’m hoping to pay better attention to the style of the authors. As for how many books I read, because of the effect of astigmatism, I’ll be… Read more »

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