Friday, April 7, 2017

What's on My To-Read List (and How Did It Get There)?

It's been a long time since I did a non-linkup post! Originally I envisioned doing more of these kinds of posts, but apparently I need the structure. Ah well.

The last time I shared some data on my personal reading was back in 2014, when I shared information on how my preferred book formats have changed over time and how I fit reading into an average week (a topic I definitely need to revisit now that I'm a parent!). This time around, I decided to take a look at my to-read list, which you may remember that I capped at the beginning of 2016 after creating a new "might want to read" list, which feels a lot less obligatory. What's left on the original list and why is it there?

I grouped the books into rough categories of why I put them on my list in the first place. (Some could definitely be in more than one category, but I picked the primary reason I put them on my list.) Here are the books I'm planning to read, and why I plan to read them.

Classics I Should Read: 55
I wrote a whole post previously on why I read classic books, and there are many that I'd still like to read. Some of these made it onto my goals for the year, like The Sun Also Rises, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Bleak House. Some are less obvious, like Silent Spring and We Need to Talk About Kevin. They're books that I see over and over again on lists of "100 books to read before you die" and "books to be well read." When I feel like there's a gap in my base of classic books, it goes on my list.

Diversifying My Reading: 42
A bunch of books ended up on my list during my 2014 project to diversify my reading, and I didn't get around to all of them. I'm still interested in reading books like In Search of April Raintree, The Mis-Education of the Negro, and Girl in Translation.

Books that Sound Interesting: 35
I'm a sucker for good nonfiction, so a lot of books are on my list because I think I'll learn something interesting from them. Books like The Discoverers, How the Irish Became White, Team of Rivals, and The New Jim Crow all fall into this category.

Books I Keep Seeing Recommended: 33
These are books that I see repeatedly not because they're classics but because they're popular. Books in this category include YA books that show up on a lot of Top Ten Tuesday posts, like The Raven Boys and Throne of Glass; books that Modern Mrs. Darcy and her readers recommend a lot, like Bel Canto and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; and contemporary books that I've just seen show up in articles and book reviews a lot, like Cutting for Stone and The Light Between Oceans.

Highly Rated Books: 20
One of my 2016 reading resolutions was to read some books I'd never heard of that were highly rated by a lot of people on Goodreads. I didn't end up getting through very many in 2016, so I still have books like The Way of Kings, The Winds of War, and Imperium on my to-read list.

Books that Sound Enjoyable to Read: 16
These are books that I put on my list not to learn things or brush up on classics or expand my reading horizons, but simply because they sounded like I'd enjoy reading them. These include mysteries like Gaudy Night and A Kiss Before Dying, children's books like Howl's Moving Castle and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, and humor books like Girt and Notes from a Small Island.

Books that Sound Helpful to Read: 12
These books could be broadly considered "self-help," but they range from books about parenting (It's OK Not to Share and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child) and relationships (Getting the Love You Want) to books about faith (Amazing Grace and For the Life of the World) and psychology (Feeling Good and 10% Happier).

Books from the BBC's Big Read List: 12
Every so often a list goes around claiming that "the BBC thinks you've only read 6 of these books!" This list is loosely based on an actual list that the BBC compiled based on their 2003 Big Read survey in the UK. I added a number of these books to my to-read list after I uncovered the original list, as a kind of combination of diversifying my reading, reading classics, and reading well-loved books I wasn't familiar with. These include The Magus, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, and Katherine.

Personal Recommendations: 5
One of my 2015 reading goals was to read through the books that had been personally recommended to me over the years, and I got through most of them, but there are a handful left, including The Blue Castle, Maurice, and Bitter in the Mouth. (A lot of books people recommend to me are already on my to-read list for other reasons, or there would be a lot more in this category!)

Holy Texts: 3
Another 2015 reading goal was to read holy texts from other religions. I read The Qur'an, The Book of Mormon, Tao Te Ching, and The Bhagavad-Gita, but I'm still interested to read The Rig Veda, The Upanishads, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

So there you go! It's interesting to see how much of my to-read list is based on specific reading goals I've had the past few years. Maybe next time I set a goal I should be more circumscribed in how many books I try to tackle for that goal!

I now have 515 books on my "might want to read" list, but it's only these 235 from my original to-read list that I'm determined to finish, which I'm guessing will take me about five years. This year I'm mostly focusing on the Classics category, as I hate coming across references in other books that assume I've read a classic book and/or spoil something in it. I also want to tackle more of the Books I Keep Seeing Recommended so I'll have more to discuss with other readers. (It's so frustrating when multiple people ask, "Have you read X?" and I have to keep saying, "No, it's on my list!") Outside of that, the rest are for my own interest, enjoyment, or learning, so I can read them in tandem with other books that I'm interested in from my ever-growing "might want to read" list.

I'd be interested to hear where your to-read list comes from. Have I inspired you to sort your own books into categories? If so, please share your own findings in comments!

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