Sunday Salon: 2011 Reading Goals

The Sunday

With 2011 only a week away, it seems like a perfect time to set down my reading goals for the year as well as potential reading lists for each. A few weeks ago I shared some of the challenges I’d join if I were joining challenges for 2011, and my goals are drawn from those.

My 2011 reading goals boil down to three main goals and a good number of mini goals. My intention is that most of the books I read should fit into one of these categories. (ARCs are the exception; I do enjoy reviewing them, so they’ll stay, but they’re a bit harder to plan out!)

Goal #1: Read More Classics

I have this first goal taken care of with my personal Classics Reclamation Project, for which I’ve decided to always be reading (or listening to) a classic. For more on the goal and the project, as well as my definition of classic for purposes of the project, please see my Projects page. You can also peruse my list to see which books I’ve included so far (it’s ever changing).

Goal #2: Read from My Own Shelves

I have plenty of great books waiting for me on my own shelves, yet I am forever buying more or running off to the library. I’d like to read some of the books I already own and possibly pass them along to other readers. I’m kicking off 2011 by accepting the TBR Dare, which will hopefully set the tone for this goal for the rest of the year!

Reading from my shelves will mean I’ll cover a few mini goals as well. All books listed here are ones I already own:

Mini Goal 2.1: Read the books by Indian authors or authors of Indian descent

  • Kiran Desai: The Inheritance of Loss
  • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: The Palace of Illusions
  • Amitav Ghosh: Sea of Poppies
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake
  • Rohinton Mistry: A Fine Balance
  • R.K. Narayan: The World of Malgudi
  • Vikram Seth: A Suitable Boy and An Equal Music
  • Manil Suri: The Age of Shiva
  • Thrity Umrigar: The Space Between Us

Mini Goal 2.2: Tackle authors I’ve been meaning to read

  • Russell Banks: The Darling and The Reserve
  • Lauren Belfer: City of Light
  • A.S. Byatt: Possession
  • Edwidge Danticat: Breath, Eyes, Memory
  • Robertson Davies: The Deptford Trilogy and What’s Bred in the Bone
  • Emma Donoghue: Room
  • Jasper Fforde: The Eyre Affair
  • Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • Julia Glass: Three Junes and The Whole World Over
  • Mark Helprin: Freddy and Fredericka and Memoir from Antproof Case
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day, and The Unconsoled
  • Kathleen Kent: The Heretic’s Daughter and The Wolves of Andover
  • Justin Kramon: Finny
  • Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
  • Colum McCann: Let the Great World Spin
  • Herta Muller: The Appointment
  • Sena Jeter Naslund: Ahab’s Wife and Adam & Eve
  • Patrick Ness: The Knife of Never Letting Go
  • Julie Orringer: The Invisible Bridge
  • Ann Patchett: Run and Bel Canto
  • Mary Doria Russell: The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace
  • Gary Shteyngart: Super Sad True Love Story
  • Wallace Stegner: Crossing to Safety
  • Elizabeth Strout: Olive Kitteridge
  • Abraham Verghese: Cutting for Stone
  • Alison Weir: Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth

Mini Goal 2.3: Read second novels by authors I’ve only read once but enjoyed

  • Jonathan Safran Foer: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • John Green: An Abundance of Katherines
  • Sara Gruen: Ape House
  • Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible
  • Marina Lewycka: Strawberry Fields
  • Kate Morton: The House at Riverton
  • Linda Olssen: A Sonata for Miriam
  • Orhan Pamuk: Snow and My Name is Red
  • Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • Colm Toibin: Brooklyn

Mini Goal 2.4: Read more memoirs

  • Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Bill Bryson: A Walk in the Woods
  • Joan Didion: A Year of Magical Thinking
  • Jules Feiffer: Backing into Forward
  • Alexandra Fuller: Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
  • Ryszard Kapuscinski: Travels with Herodotus
  • Greg Mortenson: Three Cups of Tea
  • Azar Nafisi: Reading Lolita in Tehran
  • Nuala O’Faolain: Are You Somebody?
  • Orhan Pamuk: True Colors
  • Salman Rushdie: Imaginary Homelands
  • Rob Sheffield: Love is a Mix Tape and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran
  • Abraham Verghese: The Tennis Partner

Goal #3: Expand My Literary Horizons and Fill in the Gaps

There are also books I don’t own in several categories that I’d like to read, as a way to broaden my literary horizons. These categories break Goal #3 down into a few mini goals:

Mini Goal 3.1: Read some GLBTQ lit

These can be either about GLBTQ characters/issues or by GLBTQ authors. Cass has volunteered to send me some recommendations, which I greatly appreciate! Other recommendations are welcome too.

  • Dorothy Allison: Bastard Out of Carolina
  • Ivan Coyote: Missed Her
  • Emma Donoghue: Landing and Kissing the Witch
  • Leslie Feinberg: Stone Butch Blues
  • Fannie Flagg: Friend Green Tomatoes
  • Nancy Garden: Annie on My Mind
  • Jeannine Garsee: Say the Word
  • Radclyffe Hall: The Well of Loneliness
  • Tony Kushner: Angels in America
  • Minnie Bruce Pratt: S/He
  • Sarah Waters: Tipping the Velvet
  • Judd Winick: Pedro & Me

Mini Goal 3.2: Explore Dystopian lit

From classics like 1984 to contemporary YA, dystopian lit is a genre that interests me but that which I haven’t explored much. If you have favorites to recommend, please send them along!

  • Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange
  • Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Robert Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • Lois Lowry: The Giver
  • David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas
  • Patrick Ness: The Knife of Never Letting Go
  • George Orwell: Animal Farm and 1984
  • Jose Saramago: Blindness

Mini Goal 3.3: Read to fill in the gaps

There are certain authors and books I’ve never read but feel I need to. My classics project will cover the older books, but there are some more contemporary ones that beg to be read:

  • Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game
  • Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesex
  • Anne Fadiman: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
  • Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Toni Morrison: Beloved
  • Tim O’Brien: The Things They Carried
  • Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • Salman Rushdie: any
  • William Styron: Sophie’s Choice
  • Alice Walker: The Color Purple

I’d also like to fill in the gaps that currently exist on my Books page by reading authors whose last names will cover the blank spaces. Thanks to some great recommendations, those may be:

  • I: Yasushi Inoue, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Irving, Amy Ignatow (The Popularity Papers), Sheena Iyengar (The Art of Choosing)
  • Q: Amjed Qamar (Beneath My Mother’s Feet), Matthew Quick, Anna Quindlen
  • U: John Updike, Brady Udall (The Lonely Polygamist), Thrity Umrigar (The Space Between Us)
  • V: David Vann (Legend of a Suicide), Jules Verne, Kurt Vonnegut, Voltaire, Brian K. Vaughan (The Last Man series, The Runaways series), Sara Varon (Robot Dreams), Sarah Vowell, Abraham Verghese
  • X: Xinran (Sky Burial, The Good Women of China, China Witness)
  • Y: Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road), Jane Yolen, Laurence Yep, Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese), Sara Young (My Enemy’s Cradle), Michele Young-Stone (Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors), Banana Yoshimoto (Kitchen), Charles Yu (How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe)

Your Turn!

Do you set reading goals, or do you read completely at whim? How do you set your reading goals?

Join the Conversation


  1. I love your goals! I just set mine a few days ago. I see that we have some of the same books on our list for next year:

    Never Let Me Go, The Color Purple, and The Things They Carried.

    Annie on my Mind and Beloved are great books! Good luck on your goals and happy reading!

    1. Those are three books I’m hoping to get to soon! Annie on my Mind as well–I’m glad to hear another positive comment about it! I’m off to see what you have lined up for 2011!

  2. I try not to set too many reading goals. I find that when I regiment my reading too much, all the fun falls out of it. That said, like you, I’m definitely hoping to spend more of 2011 reading from my own shelves. I definitely have a book acquisition problem, and there are so many books I know that I’ll love languishing on my shelves while I keep myself busy acquiring yet more books to languish on my shelves! As a matter of fact, I see lots of books on your lists that are books that are calling to me from my own shelves where they have been much neglected. Here’s to a great 2011 of getting re-acquainted with our own books! πŸ˜€

    1. I find that as well, which is why I ended up with such sweeping goals and such long lists of books! I’m looking forward to diving into all those great books that have been patiently waiting for me on my own shelves while I’ve been off acquiring more πŸ™‚

    1. That’s so exciting to hear! I’m pretty excited about your 2011 too, though…definitely looking forward to your classics Fridays, especially!

  3. What an amazing/inspiring list of reading goals this is! There’s a lot of overlap with my own informal goals, I have to admit. This year I thought I did a better job of reading from my shelves, but in fact I was madly purchasing new books all the time. Ah, bibliophile delusions….

    1. Thanks! I’m looking forward to them. I thought maybe if I made my goals a little more formal I might actually get to them πŸ˜€ I’m terrible about buying new books when I have oodles of perfectly good ones sitting unread at home!

  4. I read mostly on whimβ€”but I do have a rule: I can’t read the same genre twice in a row, so that keeps things fairly fresh. I also have to work around the two libraries I bounce between at home and at school, so between those two requirements, I tend to make out decently.

    I hope you enjoy Middlesex; it could also count towards your queer lit goal, as Cal is intersex. (All the initials in what I fondly refer to as quiltbag is what makes me default to queer; I like it much better as an inclusive, umbrella term, probably because I never know if someone’s A includes aces or just allies.)

    1. I really like that rule of yours, though I’d really have to force myself to follow it. Maybe that would be good for me! That’s a good point about Middlesex, thanks! I’m still figuring out the best term for the “quiltbag”…trying not to offend, trying to include everyone!

    1. I haven’t really set reading goals in the past, so I figured this year I’d try it. I made them intentionally broad and numerous, figuring that if I just read mostly what I already own, I’ll be in line with them! War and Peace and Jane Eyre are somewhere in that long list of my own goals as well πŸ˜€

  5. Wow – that’s quite a detailed list there. I pretty much convinced myself to stop hoarding books until I’ve read everything on my bookshelf. I wonder how long I could keep pretense up – probably until my next trip to the bookstore. Haha.

    Aww, I missed out on a couple of letters on my A-Z reading challenge too – I, N, Q, U, and X. Oh, book suggestion for letter Y: Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m hoping I can convince myself of the same! I do love hoarding books, though. Thanks for the Y suggestion; I’ll add it to the list!

  6. You have so many great books on your list, I hope you enjoy them! I want to post some reading goals too, I hope to get around to actually doing it before the year is over!

    1. Thanks! I’m looking forward to them! There’s no way I’ll get to all those books, but I’m hoping to enjoy the ones I do get to.

  7. My only real goal in 2011 is to read at least 75 books – which is a lot for me! I have some ideas of reading more classics and “filling in the gaps” of my literary landscape.

    For Dystopian Literature, have you read “The Handmaid’s Tale”? I know you liked Margaret Atwood’s other books. I’m just getting into this genre more, but “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is another one. You may have already read those.

    Great goals – I look forward to following along.

    1. That’s a great goal! Numbers stress me out, so I try not to set those for myself. I have read “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which was one of the first Dystopian novels I read! I’m debating whether or not I want to read The Road — some people have absolutely loved it, and others have said it’s so depressing. I should probably add it to the list, just in case. Thanks for the recommendations!

  8. I am definitely in a “whim” frame of mind for 2011. I overplanned my 2009 and my 2010 and now I just want to read. My goals are

    (1) read classics

    and (2) read the books I own or get rid of them. (I.e., if I havne’t read what’s on my shelf why do I own it?!)

    That’s as detailed as I’m going to get, I think.

    1. Those are nice, simple, open-ended goals, and ones we share! I just added lists to mine because…well, I like lists πŸ™‚ Enjoy your whim reading!

    1. It’s my first year of such detailed planning. We’ll see how long it lasts! I know I’ll end up accepting review copies as well, which is fine. I’m not setting any number goals or must-read books, so as long as I kind of stay in line with my goals, I’ll consider the year a success.

  9. when i started reading your list i was making up specific books i wanted to respond too (you know, sort of, “oh my god! yes! read that one! you’re going to love it!”)…but i ran out of steam because you mention SO MANY books on here that i love, or want to read. i haven’t thought too specifically about my reading goals for the next year, other than wanting to continue reading more classics, and inject some more women and non-white dudes in there, but i may as well copy half the books you mention here. i can’t wait to start reading your reviews of these books, as i’m pretty sure it’s going to influence my reading for this next year.

    and, of course…happy new year!

    1. That’s so good to hear! I always like to hear positive things about the books I decide to read. It sounds like your goals are about as specific as mine…except that without an actual list of titles, I know I’d never get anywhere πŸ™‚

      Happy New Year to you as well!

    1. Heh…well, I don’t expect to get through ALL of them! That’s basically every unread book I have on my shelf πŸ˜‰

  10. I really like the blend of Sweeping and Specific that you have going on here with your reading goals; I hope you find it is the perfect combination, so that you feel encouraged to read along with your lists without feeling like they’re burdensome. You have (as so many others here have said) such terrific books on here: your 2011 sounds wonderful already!

    1. Thank you for that lovely wish! So far, actually, I do feel that way. Having a few goals has guided my reading, even in the first few weeks of the new year, in a really nice way.

  11. Wonderful reading goals, Erin! Wish you all the very best!

    There are some wonderful books in your list! Vikram Seth’s ‘An Equal Music’ is one of my alltime favourite books – I liked it better than even ‘A Suitable Boy’ (though ‘A Suitable Boy’ is wonderful too). Vikram Seth’s ‘The Golden Gate’ is wonderful too – it is a novel in verse. If you haven’t read R.K.Narayan’s ‘The English Teacher’ I would highly recommend it. It is a book I read when I was in college and it tells a beautiful and poignant story.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on ‘Room’ and ‘The Remains of the Day’. Both of them are two of my alltime favourite books. I would also love to hear your thoughts on Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’. I found it a difficult book to start reading, but enjoyed it after I got into it. If you do get a chance, do try to watch the Stanley Kubrick movie which is based on this book – it is wonderful too.

    Nice to know that you have an Anne Fadiman book on your list. Have you read her essay collections ‘Ex Libris’ and ‘At Large and At Small’? They are two of my alltime favourite essay collections. I would highly recommend them. I think if you haven’t read them yet, you will love them, especially, ‘Ex Libris’.

    Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2011!

    1. I’ve not heard anything about An Equal Music, so I’m so glad to hear it’s one of your favorites! I’ve heard of The Golden Gate but have not read it. What an interesting idea, to write a whole novel in verse! I’ve not read The English Teacher, but I will add it to my list. I see that it’s the final volume in a trilogy…should I read the others first? Thanks for the recommendation!

      Room and Remains of the Day are both ones I most definitely want to get to in 2011, at some point! I’m very curious about A Clockwork Orange as well and feel it’s one of those books I really need to have read, for some reason.

      I have not read anything by Fadiman, but those two collections sound wonderful! Again, onto the TBR list they go. It’s getting longer by the second…thanks!

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