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Book Box: The Life-Changing Magic of Reading Plans

Dear Reader,

Last year, I enjoyed the range of reading.

But it wasn’t always like this.

I used to be dissatisfied with my reading — too little economics, not enough technology and life sciences. And I definitely should be reading more books on writing, I’d tell myself.

Reading had become a source of guilt.

Then I made a reading plan.

I began by signing up for the Goodreads challenge, with a target of 100 books that year. This was a lofty goal, but I figured it might be worth trying. As I added to my TBR (to-be-read) list, I thought about subjects and people I wanted to know more about- like data and Richard Dawkins, and about genres, I enjoyed like regional literature, novellas and essays. Already, it felt like fun.

Writing down my TBR, on Goodreads, on Google Docs and even as book screenshots on my phone, helped solidify my reading goals and make them attainable.

Previously, when I finished one book, I was never sure which one to read next. With so many options, I became confused with what Sheena Iyengar calls the paralysing paradox of too much choice. Now with my reading plan, I had a list. I started to experiment – adding audiobooks to the mix. One year, I read a memoir a month. I had my list of books on my Kindle, buying paper copies in advance for my bookshelf.

The Art of Choosing.
The Art of Choosing.

If you want to read more this year, why not try a reading plan?

Here are five hacks I’ve found helpful.

1. Start small: A book a month for the next quarter is a good way to begin. If you are returning to reading, pick easy and fun books. Even if you read regularly, alternate tough books with easy reads. You could start with

2. Build your list around your preferences: Mix familiar genres with new genres that you’d like to explore, fiction with non-fiction. If you enjoy stories from all over the world, check out Around the World in 80 Books for some excellent book recommendations.

Around the World in 80 Books.
Around the World in 80 Books.

3. Explore engaging reading themes: Join a book club and pitch them a theme – like reading the Pulitzer prizewinners for the last 5 years. Or reading the FT’s best business books. Choose a book a month from a Nobel Laureate. Bring in the classics and all the books you haven’t read before. Read The Year of Reading Dangerously where Andy Miller does just this and sees first-hand, the life altering potential of such a reading plan.

The Year of Reading Dangerously.
The Year of Reading Dangerously.

4. Decide on deep vs diverse: If you are the kind of reader that delights in exploring rabbit holes, like a year of reading JD Salinger or a year of Jane Austen this could make for an exciting plan. And if you’d like to read diverse, there are amazing book lists and book bingo kind of reading challenges online — you could even make your own reading matrix — a list that has for example, one horror book, a book on big tech, a book of essays, a travelogue, a YA (Young Adult) book, a translation and may even include ‘the oldest book in your local library’.

The Jane Austen Book Club.
The Jane Austen Book Club.

5. Deviate from the plan whenever you feel like it: Allow for serendipity, for that impulse read or the bookstore buy. Modify your plan if it’s not working for you – rejig, and redirect as you build a structure that works for you.

For January reading options, you could start here.

Next week, I bring you books that will help you stick with your reading resolutions, and with any resolutions at all!

Until then, Happy Reading.

Sonya Dutta Choudhury is a Mumbai-based journalist and the founder of Sonya’s Book Box, a bespoke book service. Each week, she brings you specially curated books to give you an immersive understanding of people and places. If you have any reading recommendations or suggestions, write to her at sonyasbookbox@gmail.com

The views expressed are personal

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