Shelf Awareness with Julia Engel logo

Here we are again, at the dawn of another fresh year. Filled with hopes, dreams and aspirations. I enjoyed setting reading goals and tracking them throughout 2021 so much that I wanted to do the same again this year.

I purchased a large stack of books as a gift for myself for Jolabokaflod (Christmas Book Flood, an Icelandic tradition celebrated on Dec. 24) last month, and my library holds list seems to be ever-growing, so I better get cracking on reading these books! Setting goals can be a very helpful exercise and I learned from my reading resolutions last year that even if I didn’t reach all of my goals, just having them did help me to improve my reading significantly.

Reading is so beneficial and one of the most important goals I would like to continue prioritizing. When I sit down to read, the world goes still. It is like a meditation; my head and heart feel clear in the midst of the chaos of daily life. I find a moment that is crystalline and pure, when my frenzied, frenetic brain is able to find center and feel grounded. It helps me to feel creative and inspired. Reading others’ stories can help me to feel seen and heard, not so alone anymore. And isn’t that something we all would like to feel more right now, a better sense of meaningful connection to our fellow humans?  

I will admit that it is not always like this. Sometimes I have a difficult time getting into the book I’m trying to read. Bogged down in the muck of bad prose, ineffective literary devices and obvious plotlines, predictable or flat characterization, dull settings, overly technical jargon and performative use of the thesaurus. Or sometimes just because I’m feeling anxious that day and can’t concentrate. I believe it is important to let yourself give up on a book, even if just temporarily, if it is beginning to feel like a chore or sour you towards the activity of reading.

Having a set of reading goals can help motivate me to power through a tough one if I feel there is something I can gain from it. However, as I set my goals for the year, I am mindful of the fact that my intention is to use reading as a tool to better myself, to gain a better understanding of this world and my place in it and not to just collect titles I have finished like chips in a poker game. I feel much more satisfied using goals to help me persevere through difficult material rather than force myself to finish something just for the sake of finishing it.

It is not enough for me to say again that I simply want to read “more” this year. Yes, I want to improve my proficiency, but most importantly, I want to read more widely and to read intentionally. To not only grow my list of “finished” titles and become more familiar with many different books that will help me in my work at the library, but also to help me grow personally. To develop my heart, mind, and spirit. To learn more about myself, and to gain a better understanding of the way that other people experience the world. To turn the words on the page into growth, wisdom and empathy.

Even though I know it is beneficial and brings me joy, it can sometimes be difficult to set aside time to read. That is why having a daily reading habit can be helpful. When there are so many chores to do, reading can sometimes feel frivolous, but in fact is quite necessary for my peace of mind. It is not simply a luxury but a vital necessity.  

So what are some ways we can encourage ourselves to set aside time to read regularly? Here are a few suggestions that I have found helpful over the past year:

1. Find what works for you: Whether it is audiobooks, graphic novels, popular fiction, magazines, e-Books or nonfiction. Find a format or a genre that doesn’t feel like work, but is something that you look forward to. It is important for us, no matter what our age, to read for pleasure. Once you have gotten into a regular rhythm it will be easier for you to expand your repertoire.

2. Set aside a time every day to read: I have found that setting alerts for activities like reading are helpful. Working even a small chunk of time set aside for reading into your daily routine can be a good way to remind yourself to read.

3. Set a daily reading goal: Last year my goal was to read for at least 20 minutes every day, and I found this was a very attainable amount of time and often I exceeded it. It could be a magazine, cookbook or novel — as long as it’s reading. Using apps such as Beanstack on a smartphone or tablet have been very helpful reminders and are great for tracking your progress.

4. Write and talk about the books: Students are often required to write book reports about what they’ve read because it helps with reading comprehension. Try joining a book club, write in a reading journal, or maybe even ask a friend to be your “book buddy” who you talk to about what you’re reading. These are also great ways to help keep you accountable and on track with your goals.

5. Listen to audiobooks while doing regular chores: I have found it is very relaxing and entertaining to listen to books while driving, cooking, folding laundry or making crafts. We have a great variety of audiobooks on CD, Playaway (pre-loaded mp3 players) and downloadables.  

The library is here to help provide you with a rich variety of materials that may help inspire you to read! Check out our catalog page for some reading suggestions from staff. You can also use the catalog to search for titles, authors or subjects. For further inspiration, visit our Books collection page for reviews, more staff picks and other book lists.

As always, if you have any questions about how to access library materials, services or programs, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Philomath library by phone at 541-929-3016. You can also contact me via email, or reach out to our Ask a Librarian service via email at askalibrarian@corvallisoregon.gov.

Happy new year and happy reading!


(Julia Engel is a reference librarian at Philomath Community Library. She can be reached via email at Julia.Engel@corvallisoregon.gov or by phone at 541-929-3016.)