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How to create and complete your own reading list

Austenne Grey

When the new year starts, people begin making reading lists and can even take on a reading challenge. Maybe you’ve decided to read a certain number of books this year or read everything you can by your favorite author. No matter which challenge you choose, at some point you might find life gets in the way of your reading time. Don’t let yourself get distracted! These four tips will help you stick to your reading goals this year. 

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1. Recognize the importance of reading.

“Today a reader. Tomorrow a leader.” — Margaret Fuller

Okay, let’s be realistic. No one looks at themselves in the mirror and says, “Today I will be a leader!” Maybe you do, but for the majority of us, we don’t think of ourselves as leaders. But we are. Not only can we lead among those with whom we have a relationship, but even a chance meeting can have a lasting effect. Leadership isn’t a forced thing. Leadership isn’t defined by someone with a religious cause or a social vendetta. Leadership can happen in a single conversation. Leadership is an extension of you. The question is: What kind of leader will you be? Reading can help you figure out your leadership style.

2. Consider reading as a lifestyle change.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” — Benjamin Franklin

There are those who falsely assume that they aren’t “readers.” Technically, whether its work emails or tabloids at the grocery store, everyone reads. So, everyone is a reader. Semantics, I know, but the question remains, is what you’re reading worth your time? Remember, time is a valuable commodity and must be given to activities worthy of this precious gift.

That doesn’t mean all of your reading material has to be life altering — or, maybe it does, because a light-hearted piece can be life altering too. It does mean that we must first take stock of what we allow into our minds. So, pause for just ten minutes of introspection. Jot down what you read on a daily basis and why. Do you like your list? Now, make it personal. Do you wish you were more organized? More compassionate? More communicative? The answer to each question may be found in history, poetry, biography or fantasy.

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3. Read everything.

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P.J. O’Rourke

I know it’s easier to follow an already-made list, but reading lists are easy to put together. Making your own list allows you to collect works you know you’ll like, along with works you know will be challenging. The key is variety. Use those already made lists to your advantage. Look over “51 Greatest Mystery Novels of All Time,” or “35 Classics You Should Have Read in High School,” or what have you, and pick five that look interesting.

Do this five times with five different lists, and you have a list of 25 books. The next step is to intersperse your book reading with news/magazine articles (enter The New Yorker or Vogue — yes, they have decent articles), short stories and graphic novels. That way, when July rolls around and you’re too emotionally exhausted to read yet another epic historical British romance, you can reach for an InStyle or Sandman or Irish Fairy Tales for a little break. Whatever you’re reading may be existentially heavy or trite but when you finish that ending sentence, you’ve completed something. Check it off your list.

4. Write It Down.

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” — John Locke

Throughout the year, keep a journal. Jot down ideas about life, ideas about taste, ideas about culture, ideas about how you want to live, ideas about how to treat others, ideas about how to succeed, ideas about coping with failure and ideas for the future. As more information becomes available to us, we then become responsible for stewarding that information.

For you extroverts out there, join a quality reader’s group or start one of your own. Wine, great books and quality conversation —what’s not to love! All the best to you with whatever Reader’s Challenge you choose. If you would like a little nibble to go with your reading selection, check out my website at:

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