Choosing next year’s reading project

During each of the past two years, I’ve done year-long reading projects.

In 2021, I read through War and Peace one chapter at a time. Tolstoy’s chapters are very short…he just wrote 361 of them. And, sure enough, when you read one chapter a day, you finish on December 27th! That truth still feels slightly magical as I think about it. When you move at a steady pace, and just keep going, you do in fact reach the end goal.

In 2022, I’ve been reading through all the works of Shakespeare. My illustrated Shakespeare anthology is 1024 pages long, meaning that I only need to read three pages per day to keep up the pace. The font is kind of small, but it’s still quite doable in less than 15 minutes a day. Even with some of his less-great stuff, this doesn’t inspire too much resistance.

It’s been a good reading experience. I mean, obviously, it’s Shakespeare. But I’m even enjoying just the random Shakespeare references that come at coincidental times. I read Henry IV part 1, which is where the phrase “the game is afoot” comes from — and I was also, at the same time, reading This is Not A Book About Benedict Cumberbatch, where the author is obsessed with the actor who plays Sherlock Holmes in the Netflix series…and she throws in a line at some point about the game being afoot, because Sherlock Holmes always says that, and I’m like…hey!

Looking at the calendar, I see that it is…mid-October. Which means that I will, in fact, have read all the works of Shakespeare in a little over two months. So…what should I read next?

I don’t have to choose one work or one author to read over the year, but I like this steady pace of small steps, and I like the sense of completion that comes from finishing something big. I also know, after two years, that I can do it, and the idea of such a challenge feels intriguing.

I am not opposed to re-reading something, but it would have to be the right thing. (In terms of “big” books, I have read Ulysses (and The Odyssey!), Middlemarch, Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, 1Q84, and Infinite Jest…I’m not sure I truly want to spend a year re-reading any of those. I have read about 90 percent of the Bible but I don’t know that I’d want to read it straight through…and not hit the New Testament until fall.)

I could read an author’s entire works…or I could read an anthology of something (poetry?). Anyway, I welcome suggestions! I’m pretty good at sticking with something once I start it (hello, Upholder) so that makes me want to be sure I choose the right thing.

In other news: Tranquility by Tuesday launched yesterday! I’ve loved seeing people’s pictures of their copies. If you haven’t bought a copy, would you please do so? If you have, I hope you love it — and if you do, would you please post a review wherever you ordered it? I’d love to get some more reviews up at the major retailers. Thanks!

A lot of great publicity yesterday! I’ll keep adding to this list this week.

An excerpt ran at Fast Company about escaping the 24 hour trap.

I was on Hilary Sutton’s Hustle & Grace podcast — always a great conversation with her, in this case talking about practical tips for a satisfying week.

I was on the Passion Struck podcast with John Miles, talking all things passion and tranquility, and on A Mindful Moment with Teresa McKee and on Tilt Parenting, a show about raising differently wired kids hosted by Debbie Reber. I’ll send these links out in my emails later this week too!  A few others but I am trying to spread the links out!

34 thoughts on “Choosing next year’s reading project

  1. I am not an upholder, so I am always impressed by the idea of streaks / year-long projects but have no desire to do them for myself.

    Both my dad and my daughter read Les Miserables by Victor Hugo several years ago and really enjoyed it. The chapters are long, and everyone says that Hugo gets bogged down in his description of the Paris sewers for way, way too long, but if you’re looking for a single book, it may be a good choice. Plus, you could schedule a family trip to see the musical as a way to celebrate the completion.

  2. I sometimes use the Serial app to read longer books. When I was home with little kids I read all of Dickens’ books with the help of Norri Epstein’s Friendly Dickens. It’s like a gentle book club or course. I am almost finished reading all of Agatha Christie’s books in order of publication and am also looking for my next read or study. Perhaps Beowulf because I have some companion literature

  3. During the spring of 2020 I reread all of Jane Austen. It wouldn’t keep you busy for a year, but in that moment it was light, delightful, familiar and comforting.

  4. My top two for really long books would be Les Miserables or The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s so cool to read classics and suddenly understand a cultural reference! I think you would get that from both of those. I hadn’t thought about making all of Jane Austen a project, but having read Gillian’s comment above I would definitely second that suggestion! I’m currently reading Dickens’ Great Expectations and would heartily recommend that too. I love all of Dickens, but my top suggestions would be Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities if you wanted to read some of his works and hadn’t before. Maybe that’s too many suggestions haha! I read way too many door-stoppers as a teen…

  5. I read The Count of Monte Cristo this year through the serial ap but felt pretty meh about it. That said, I’m a patreon member of The Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA, and one thing they offer through patreon is “Conquer a Classic.” I followed the serial ap schedule so finished in August but the store owner (Annie Jones) breaks it out into 11 sections and there is a discussion at the end of every month that really added to my reading experience. So I am waiting to hear what the 2023 read will be and will probably buy the physical book this time and follow her breakouts. They read Middle March last year and Anna Karenina the year before. I think they post a poll so the patreons have some input into what gets read next.

    I’m looking forward to hearing what your project will be!

  6. Reading all of Sherlock Holmes is pretty fun if you haven’t done that. I also loved Count of Monte Cristo and if I remember correctly it’s similar to War and Peace in having short chapters.

    I don’t think I want to read all of Shakespeare but I wonder if you would share a few of your favorites? I’ve read a handful of the plays but not since college and I think it would be fun to re-visit.

    1. @Amanda- I always love Midsummer Night’s Dream – just a good combination of whimsical/magical and funny. I like As You Like It and I appreciate the dark magic element of MacBeth. Romeo and Juliet is just always a good read, and because so much of it is so familiar it feels more accessible than others. So, I guess, nothing surprising as those are some of the best known ones!

  7. Have you read books by Ayn Rand? Her books and her philosophy of Objectivism are controversial. You may either love it or hate it. I had chanced upon The Fountainhead without any idea about the author or what the book was about. This was 22 years ago. I had read her Atlas Shrugged subsequently, and though it took me some time to get into its groove, I remember liking both these books.
    I am planning to re-read these sometime. These two book together come upto around 2000 pages.

    Eager to know what you choose for 2023. Also best wishes on the TBT book.

  8. If you read Herodotus in 2023, I will read it along with you (because, that’s already my own year-long reading project for 2023)!

  9. Laura,

    I read War and Peace last year because of your suggestion.
    This year I am reading Les Mis. Quite enjoyable, 365 short-ish chapters. I would recommend it.

  10. I got stuck at some point on Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. While not 1000 pages long, I guess the need for additional reading and working through the footnotes made this something I am considering to turn into a year-long project. Otherwise, maybe Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu? Or all the works of Edgar Allan Poe?

  11. Also adding in that the last few years outside of my book club and whatever I feel like reading in the moment, I’ve committed to working through books on my shelf I already own. I’ve done anywhere from 20 a year to 12 (one a month works out nicely and isn’t too hard to catch up on when I haven’t been consistent). I can keep this going for years to come!

    Next year I’m committing to reading my mother and grandmother’s favorite book, And The Ladies of the Club. It’s big, so we’ll see what previously owned books I read after that.

    The year after that, I’m re-reading the journals of author Lucy Maud Montgomery. It will be my third time through and is something I do every ten years.

    1. There are published journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery????!!!! I am so glad I know this.

      I am currently working through the Emily books with my 12 yo daughter. We already read the Anne books. It’s so lovely to revisit these.

  12. You could pick the complete works of an author eg Terry Pratchett. I bet there are loads of reading order guides online for

    I hear you on the old testament being LONG. I’ve been doing the bible in a year podcast this year. It’s mostly the bible on chronological order but there is one of the four gospels every few months so it kind of breaks up the old testament. And instead of doing eg all the psalms in a row it’s one psalm a day, and the psalms are chosen to make sense with the book you’re going through. So eg when reading the books about David we also heard the psalms written by David. It’s a pretty accessible way to read/ listen to the bible. There’s a reading plan to download too if you don’t want to listen to the podcast.

    1. This is a great way to read through the Bible! The Old Testament is long, and it’s hard not to get bogged down in the prophets, but it’s so worth persevering. I’ve done several different through-the-Bible in a year plans and I struggled with the chronological one, but breaking it up with the Gospels would make such a difference. We need the relief of account of the coming of the Saviour or the darkness of the failure and sin of God’s people will be overwhelming.
      You can do it Laura! Tap into that Upholder tendency and don’t be satisfied with only having read 90% of the Bible! 🙂

  13. I am doing a Bible in a Year program right now, and yeah. There was a LOT of Old Testament to get through. Jeremiah almost did me in. There were some delights in there, too, but overall, it’s been – well – an experience.

    1. If you want to do just the Old Testament in a year, Jewish people read a section per week. Only mentioning it because Simchat Torah is this week, which is when we finish and start over.

  14. How do you determine which version of a large book or series to read? At one time I looked into this idea and found that there were many versions/adaptations/translations.

    1. @Shannon – very true! If there are multiple translations it might help to look around and do some research on which people like most, or which has been most widely adopted, or has the best reviews.

  15. Ooh how about doing Jeremy Anderberg’s The Big Read? I just joined for the October selection, which is Frankenstein. I have never read it and am getting so much out of it in tiny daily doses. The selections for 2023 are five classics:
    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (January-March)
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (April-May)
    The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (June-September)
    The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (October, for Halloween!)
    East of Eden by John Steinbeck (November-December)
    I’m excited for each title!

  16. What about a short story a day? Working through an anthology of short stories. I’ve fallen of the W&P bandwagon but going to get back one and try and catch up a bit.

  17. How about The Once and Future King by T. H. White? It’s a re-telling of the Arthurian legend that is wise, humorous and winsome. The play and movie “Camelot” were adapted from this book. I have read it many times and it is always a joy – I made sure it was the last book I read in the 20th century!

    Or how about the works of E. B. White? There are many collections of his essays from his days at The New Yorker in its golden age. His claim to fame is “Charlotte’s Web” but he is so much more than that. He can be very, very funny which is always appreciated these days and always writes with great insights into human nature. The book of his collected letters to friends and acquaintances is also a great read.

  18. I’ve wanted to read Kristin Lavransdatter for awhile now but have been intimidated by its bulk. It’s over 1,000 pages, but that would seem much more doable when broken down to just a few pages a day.

  19. We read the Bible through every year. You can do it different ways – straight through, chronological, etc. If you don’t like the New Testament being at the end, you could read a couple books from the Old then one from the New. They aren’t in chronological order anyway. If you’ve never tried it, reading it aloud is awesome!

  20. All of these comments are making me realize I have never read Les Miserables. I love that it has 365 chapters! What a great year-long project.

  21. You could focus next years reading on exploring works from from non-European authors. I think it would be exciting to explore works from China, India, African Nations or the Middle East. Maybe do one region per quarter.

  22. I haven’t done big reading projects in years but when I did I consumed the collections of Ayn Rand, James Clavell, and James Michener. I read Hawaii every summer from 7th grade until college. I love epic, multi-generational, sagas. There are so many more out there. Tough choice. For me in 2023, I’m considering a virtual book club to broaden my reading chops and get out of my rut. I’m reading Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow.

  23. What about the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel? The prehistorical fiction saga tells the store of a girls life across 6 books. Borrowing from Wikipedia: As a whole, the series is a tale of personal discovery: coming-of-age, invention, cultural complexities, and, beginning with the second book, explicit romantic sex.

  24. I’ve been struggling to get through Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time), but your technique may be what I need to do. It’s 4200 pages, so 11.5 pages a day over one year, or 5-6 pages a day over two years.

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