For years, here is how I found books to read.
1. About 70% of the time, I went to the library and browsed. When I saw something that looked interesting, I took it home and read it--or didn't, sometimes, but I'm a pretty good judge of my own taste, so usually I read it.
2. For about 15% of the time, I went looking for sequels or other books by authors I liked. Usually when I found an author, they were well into, if not done with, any serial writing, so I would read them all one after another.
3. When I was a kid, the remaining 15% was made up of books my sisters gave me, or that I found around our house. After I moved out, I developed a habit of browsing bookstores and writing interesting titles down on my checkbook, then looking up those books at the library. I found about 10% of my books that way, with the remaining 5% being the occasional book someone (still usually one of my sisters) would recommend to me. There were a few books clubs over the years, but one book every month or two is not a statistically significant amount. (Not that my percentages here are anything other than quick guesses.)
Around the time when I stopped carrying a checkbook--say 2009--I discovered Goodreads. Suddenly, I was showing up at the library with more than a few titles scratched down. Once I got a smartphone, the typical library visit consisted of me pulling up my "to-read" list on my phone, then cross referencing it with what was available on the library computer. Sometimes I'd go ahead and request a bunch from home, then just pick them up as they came in. I still browsed the shelves, but the percentage of books I found that was dropped dramatically.
Then this summer, I started book blogging. Without even realizing it, I was getting buzz on books that weren't even out yet. It turns out it's much faster to get through the holds list for a book that is just coming out instead of waiting until a book is so popular that I start to see it everywhere. I also become a reading teacher, and was inspired to up my YA reading count in order to help kids find books they'd connect to. My to-reads list went from about 200 books to over a thousand (and I discovered that I should refer to it as my TBR pile).
I knew better than to fall down the rabbit hole of ARCS--I'm resentful enough when I win a book in a Goodreads giveaway and then feel obliged to review it promptly. Still, I am feeling more and more pressure to read more and more books. I'm a fast reader, but I started feeling--not overwhelmed, exactly, but like I was spinning in circles. There were books I wanted to read, but then I'd get distracted by some other book, and then I'd forget the plot of the book that I wanted to read the sequel of...
I sat down tonight and took a good look at that thousand-plus to-read pile. If you handed me any one of those books and put me on a plane, I'd land with it either read or well started. I'm not saying I'd love every one, but I would at least be interested enough to read them. The question is, which were the ones I really want to read?
I created a new shelf, named, after some brief but intense internal agonizing, my Reading Hopes for 2016. ("Goals" and "Plans" both made me tense. I like to leave myself wiggle room.) There are 172 books on the list, which is ridiculous. I've read that many this year, but I know myself well enough to know that I will stray from the list whenever something else catches my attention. Some of the books on my list are classics, some are backlist books of the last fifteen years or so, and some are brand new. Most of them are YA, but not all. There's a little nonfiction, mostly professional reading. The list overall makes me very happy.
For all that I love spontaneity, I can also nerd out on organizing and processes. My next goal--be still my beating heart!--is to roughly prioritize the books. I mean, I HAVEN'T READ WINTER YET! Clearly, I need to sharpen my focus.
I'm so excited! I feel content and confident with my reading plans now.
How about you? What books are closest to the top of your list? What's your approach to finding books to read? How much structure do you need?
Here's the shelf as of today!
my reading-hopes-2016 shelf: