It’s a New Year, and with it comes a sense of renewal and fresh possibility. Many people around the world are reviewing their experiences and accomplishments of the past year—and I think that’s beautiful.
But one of my favorite things to do—go with me on this—is reflect on and savor my mistakes (and there are many) of the previous year.
As Neil Gaiman said in his December 31, 2011 New Year’s Eve wish, “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.”
So today I thought I’d write you a list inspired by my own past mistakes when it comes to the various annual reading resolutions I’ve set for myself in past years. Maybe you, too, have your own ambitious goals for reading horror this year—and whether you succeed or “fail” at them, know that you’re brilliant for even having tried.
To further quote Neil Gaiman, “Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is.”
So here are some recommendations, suggestions, insights on ways to SLAY your reading goals for 2024. And whether you reach all your goals or not, you win either way just for trying something new.
1. Read What You Like
Please for the love all that is unholy, do not try to force yourself to read books just because you think you “should” read them. My wish for you in the New Year is that you feel liberated to only read books you like. There is no bigger reading buzz killer than reading a book that bores you just because you think you are supposed to.
If you find yourself reaching for a book because you think it will make you seem smarter, or because it’s on all the acclaimed Important Literary Books Lists TM…but you’re not ACTUALLY interested in it, or it doesn’t excite you, here is your permission slip to leave that book on the shelf.
What do you actually want to read? What do you actually like reading? Is it books with ghosts and ghouls? Cozy horror? Bloody slashers? Books filled with the occult and demon possession? Horror graphic novels?
Let’s all take a cue from my six-year-old, who’s been staying up at night with his nightlight to greedily read his Minecraft and Transformer readers.
Be free, read what you love.
Not only will this make reaching your reading goals more possible (because you’ll be effortlessly flying through the pages)—it will also make your reading life so much more FUN.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to DNF a Book
On that note: do you ever find that you are not enjoying a book, but you keep going because you feel you must finish what you’ve started? UGH. There is no better way to stall your appetite for reading than by forcing yourself to KEEP reading something you’re not loving. Let’s all stop doing this in 2024, okay?
Life is too short to read books you're not enjoying.
How about we all DNF more books this year? (For the un-initiated, DNF = Did Not Finish.)
Even the books everyone you know has RAVED about. Even the ones everyone says you MUST read, or you MUST give a chance.
Maybe you’re not in the right mood. Maybe it’s not your style. Maybe it’s just not for you. That’s okay.
It’s not the book’s fault, and you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings. This isn’t homework! You don’t need to force yourself to finish a book that you’re not loving.
If you’ve given a book a solid chance to hook you but it’s just not doing it, close that book. Take out the bookmark. Put it back on the shelf. Reach for something else, something you’ll love.
Remember, you set your reading goals for you, not to torture yourself. This is supposed to be fun. The sooner you get back to something you’ll enjoy, the smoother your reading experience will be.
3. Vary Book Length
One way to keep things interesting is to mix up the length of what you’re reading. You can intersperse longer novels and epics with short novellas that are easy to devour in a single sitting.
In fact, I might argue that horror novellas are where it’s at—and there are so many good ones to choose from!
Short stories are also fun ways to shake up your reading pace and keep things interesting. Plus, horror anthologies are a great way to discover new-to-you authors and experience different styles of horror without committing to an entire novel.
A benefit of reading shorter works—beyond the fact that they’re usually pretty fast-paced and fun!—is they can give you a great morale boost. When you’re able to add three books to your “books read this year” list in the span of one to two weeks, you get an energizing jolt of satisfaction that helps sustain you through those longer novels.
4. Mix Up Styles, Themes, and Sub-Genres
There’s nothing more boring than reading the same thing over and over again. Good thing for us, the horror genre is not lacking in a wide variety of topics, styles, subject matter, and sub-genres. One way to keep your reading life interesting throughout the year is to mix things up.
You get the idea.
Change things up, try new subgenres, and experiment with different styles to keep yourself from getting bored and uninspired by your reading list.
5. Turn to the pros
Sadie wrote up this incredible list of tips and tricks for book reviewers. It’s a great place to start with if you’re interested in keeping track of and reviewing all the great books you read this year!
6. Keep a log.
This goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway): a great way to keep track of your reading progress through the year is to keep a reading log. There are a couple fun ways to do this.
Digital reading log
Using a digital platform like Goodreads or Litsy, you can keep track of all the books you’ve read in a year. These platforms are a lot of fun because there’s also a social element where you can connect with other readers, read their reviews, and find out about new books.
Analog reading log
I have a confession: I’m an analog girlie. In a world of technological innovation, I still love writing in paper journals with pens. Call me old-fashioned, but it helps me think more clearly and express myself creatively!
One thing I do is keep a spread in my physical journal with a log of all the books I’ve read that year. I like to keep it simple and just list them, but there are all kinds of ways to make this creative and fun. You might like to use a bullet journal or get a dedicated reading journal.
Either way, a good old-fashioned hand-written reading log can be a fun way to add a personal element to the way you keep track of books read.
7. Sign up for the The Lineup's newsletter!
This one is cheeky as hell, but I'm also dead serious.
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9. Go at your own pace!
Remember what I said via Neil Gaiman at the top: make more mistakes. GLORIOUS MISTAKES.
Now don’t take this the wrong way, but in some ways, I hope you FAIL at your reading goals this year. Because to fail is to try. To make a mistake is to attempt to do something you’ve never done before.
Set lofty, ambitious, borderline ridiculous reading goals for yourself this year—and then have a TON of fun failing your way through them. Read more than you EVER have—and celebrate your successes. Celebrate your failures, too!
A number is just a goal and any amount of reading is GREAT. This isn’t a competition, there is no finish line. Each year is just symbolic and the start of a new calendar doesn’t hold any TRUE meaning—beyond the meaning you give it.
Each day is a chance to start fresh, and every book read is a book you hadn’t read before. Reading goals, resolutions, and intentions are about your own personal entertainment, enrichment, and growth. Know that your pace is perfect, and get clear on your why.
Do you want to meet your reading goals so people will be impressed by you? Or do you want to read more so you can be inspired and live a more enriched—and fun!—life?
Don’t lose sight of your original WHY—and whatever you do, just keep reading.