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Here's how to set your reading goals and read more books in 2024

Even if you're someone who reads regularly, it can be hard to keep up your reading goals.
Jackie Lay
Even if you're someone who reads regularly, it can be hard to keep up your reading goals.

Trying to read more can be a hard habit to stick to – even if you're someone who regularly reads a lot.

Just ask Nadia Odunayo, the founder and CEO of The StoryGraph, a book recommendation website with over a million users. Odunayo said that when she started The Storygraph in 2019, reading more felt like an essential goal.

"It felt like it very much became part of my identity as a reader, " Odunayo told Morning Edition. "Like, I run a books company, I need to make sure I'm reading."

In a few years, Odunayo went from reading 13 books a year to well over 70.

While she feels like that's a realistic goal for her, it's not an achievable goal for everybody.

Odunayo says setting realistic expectations about how many books you want to read can be the key to success. But making sure you pick the right amount of books to read in a year can be tricky.

"It was a combination of making the time, but also being excited about a lot more books, " Odunayo said.

A Economist/YouGov poll found that 46% of Americans finished zero books last year and 5% read just one last year. Out of the 1,500 American's surveyed in the poll, only 21% read more than ten books.

With March being National Reading Month – it is a good time to think about revisit your reading goals from the beginning of the year. Whether you've just gotten into reading, or you're churning through multiple books a week, here's some tips to keep in mind as you're setting your reading goals.

Expand your reading horizons by thinking about what types of books you're reading.
Jackie Lay / NPR
Expand your reading horizons by thinking about what types of books you're reading.

Think genres, not numbers

Reading goals don't always have to be numerical. Goals such as wanting to read books from more diverse authors or reading more of a specific genre can be better than just focusing on a number. Brea Grant, one of the hosts of the podcast Reading Glasses, says she realized she didn't want to set a number goal when she found herself reading books she didn't like, or finishing books just for the sake of hitting a number.

"That's not fun because that's going to eventually turn you off from reading," Grant said.

Sites like The StoryGraphfeatures reading challenges that users can participate in to expand their reading habits. One challenge recommends books from 10 different countries for users who want to read from more diverse authors.

You can also create your own goals. If you're an avid fantasy romance reader, for example, you may want to see how many science fiction books you can incorporate into your reading habit.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as reading books on a topic you're interested in. Grant, a filmmaker, decided that this year that she wanted to read more books about filmmaking.

"I didn't go to film school, and I realized that I haven't even read that many books about filmmaking, even though I've been a filmmaker for so many years," Grant said. "So I think that focusing on reading more books about my craft is a better goal than a specific number of books."

Reading might seem like a solitary hobby, but it doesn't have to be!
Jackie Lay / NPR
Reading might seem like a solitary hobby, but it doesn't have to be!

Find more ways to make reading a community affair

Reading can often seem like a solitary hobby, but it doesn't have to be.

Check your local area for book clubs and reading-related events. Or find someone to talk to about books – and you don't even have to ask about what they are currently reading. You can ask them about their favorite book, or the book that impacted their life the most.

"That's another way that people can show that they're bookish without necessarily being like 'I read 400 books this year'," Mallory O' Meara, who hosts the Reading Glasses podcast with Grant, said.

If you'd rather get lost in a book alone, O'Meara says you might enjoy finding new spots to read in your city. It might feel intimidating going into a coffee shop or bar alone, but it can be a fun way to explore your neighborhood while doing something you love.

"We really encourage people to make it an activity," Grant said. "Get a cozy blanket, get a cup of tea, something that you look forward to at the end of the day."

Whatever you prefer, Grant says it's always important to remember why you want to read more, and not get too caught up in feeling like you have to read a certain number of books.

"Reading is a hobby, and you want to get the maximum enjoyment out of it," Grant said.

Don't be afraid to adjust your goal

At the beginning of the year, it's easy to set high expectations of yourselves. You think you can workout everyday, or read a book every week. But as the year goes on, you might want to adjust that number to a goal you know you can reach.

"There's a lot of things we won't achieve in life," Grant said. "Make reading something you know you can get done."

Finding that perfect number can be hard.You want something that challenges you, but doesn't feel unrealistic. Additionally, life can get in the way. These challenges could include large work projects or family obligations that you didn't anticipate at the beginning of the year.

Suzanne Skyvara, who leads marketing at Goodreads, a book recommendation site where over six million users participate in its annual reading challenge, recommends adjusting your number later in the year if you need, and encourages not to think of changing your goal as "failing."

"If you're finding that you've set the goal too high in the middle of the year and it's becoming demotivating you can bring it down, which re-energizes me and gets me back on track," Skyvara said.

After all, reading should be a hobby, not homework.

"The goal should always be to enjoy your reading life more," O' Meara said. "To read more books that you either love or teach you something or you connect with in some way."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 27, 2024 at 10:00 PM MDT
This article was updated to fix the amount of Goodreads users particpating in the the site's annual reading challenge.
Mansee Khurana
[Copyright 2024 NPR]