I set two primary reading goals this year: read more diversely (which, for me, means prioritizing books by authors of color), and read the books on my shelves. The problem, I’ve discovered, is that my shelves don’t reflect the kind of diversity I’m hoping to consume now.
A good chunk of the books sitting on the unread shelves in my office were purchased at least a year or two ago, before reading diversely was something I thought consciously about or put an effort towards. I got a lot of them at used bookstores and used book sales, where I’d think more about the topic than the author. When I scan the authors on my bookshelves now they’re overwhelmingly white.
So what’s a goal-oriented reader to do? Is there a way to reconcile these two reading goals? I’ve been thinking about it off and on for the last couple of weeks, and I think I have a few strategies that may also apply more generally if you have a similar clash between your different reading goals:
- Acquire books that meet my goals. Let’s be real – I’m definitely not going to stop buying books this year. I’m too much of an addict to quit. What I can do is prioritize acquiring books by authors of color. If there are two books I’m curious about, my buying power should go to books that can help me further my diversity goals in some way.
- Use the library more. My library has a great collection and good connections to other libraries through interlibrary loan. I can get a lot of diverse books that way, as long as I plan ahead a little bit and do a decent job managing my hold list.
- Sort out my bookshelves better. At this point, my shelves are double stacked with books, meaning a lot of them are hidden from view. I need to take some time to get the books by diverse authors front and center so they’re top of mind when I’m selecting my next read.
- Lists, lists, lists. I love a good list. I’ve been working to put together lists of books I want to read and books I own by diverse authors so, like the bookshelf sorting, they stay top of mind.
- Set specific goals. The goals to “read more diversely” and “read my own books” are pretty general, which is a bad strategy, if you listen to goal-setting experts. I need to think of a way to make my goals more specific – maybe a percentage or number of each type of book – so that it’s easy to see how I’m doing and make adjustments on the fly.
While I’m writing specifically about my own reading goals, these strategies might also be applicable if you have other goals that seem to conflict. Acquire new books that meet your goals, and use free sources like the library (or cheap sources like a used bookstore) to make sure you have the books you need to meet other goals. Make your goals specific, and find ways to keep them in front of you as the year progresses. And make sure to track carefully so you can make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
What strategies do you have to help you meet your reading goals?