Article published on January 23, 2017.
Most of us are by nature creatures of habit, and as readers we probably know what we like and stick with it. And why not? But a new year brings new opportunities and the perfect chance to broaden our reading horizons. And whilst we may be feeling at our most ambitious on 1st January, later in the year, somewhere around the 2nd January, we’re likely to have reined in those ambitions, so whilst it’s all well and good deciding that 2017 is going to be the year you read all of Shakespeare’s plays in Old English or finally read all 13,000 plus pages of Artamene, or Cyrus the Great on a quiet weekend, there’s nothing wrong with setting your sights a bit more realistically. And with that in mind here’s seventeen ideas to kickstart your reading revolution this year:
1. Read outside of your comfort zone – whatever it may be – if you like fiction, why not try a non-fiction title, if your penchant is for mystery, why not try a sci-fi. And it doesn’t just have to be genre, if you tend to read only English authors, or male authors, or white authors, or whatever your tendency, try something different.
2. Read a book that was published in a year that is important in your life – the year you got married, the year you had your first child (or your second, or your third etc – lest there be any cries of favouritism), the year you graduated or the year you lost someone special, it might just be a nice reminder of times gone by.
3. Reread a book from your childhood – it’s probably many moons ago since you last picked up anything you read as a child or teenager, so it may be interesting to take a walk down memory lane and to see whether the book stands the test of time.
4. Read your best friend’s/sibling’s/parent’s/grandparent’s/significant other’s favourite book – sharing a book with someone close to you can be a magical experience; a book recommended to me by my grandfather is still, and will always be, my favourite book.
5. Read a book based entirely on its cover – forget all about the proscription not to judge a book by its cover and pick a cover, any cover.
6. Read/reread the first book of an author you love – it may just be that you came across your favourite author partway through their career so going back to their debut could make you fall in love with them all over again or alternatively prove that writing matures with age!
7. Read a book that’s older than you – no one likes to think about their age so reading a book that’s got a few years on you can make you feel a little younger, if nothing else.
8. Read a book by an author under 30 – in contrast, reading a book by someone under the age of 30 will likely have you feeling old, very old, and wondering just where you went wrong, but it may just also introduce you to some very talented writers. And you can bask in the fact they won’t always be 30.
9. Read a book from an author from another country – whether it’s an author that appeals to you or choosing a book from a country you love or always wanted to visit, the world can very much be your oyster when it comes to reading. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, dig out an atlas and take a blind pick.
10. Read a book set in a time/place you’re not familiar with – and yes that includes the future!
11. Read a book by an author you’ve always wanted to read but never got round to – we’ve all got them, authors we want to read but for some reason just haven’t, so no more excuses.
12. Read a book by an author you’ve never heard of – whether it’s a debut author or just an author you’re not familiar with, giving an unfamiliar author a chance is a great way to find a new favourite.
13. Read a prize-winner – the literary award scene can seem quite a daunting arena, and for many years I turned a blind eye, but then I read the 2014 Man Booker winner Richard Flanagan’s A Narrow Road to the Deep North, and I discovered one of my favourite novels of all time. If you don’t want to read one of this year’s winners, why not delve into the annals of the literary prizes where there’s a wealth of great writers to read.
14. Read a book on a shortlist/longlist – as with the prize-winners, awards lists can be quite off-putting but there’s loads of prizes to choose from, with most genres covered, so pick an award that appeals to you and take a punt. If you want more choice opt for the longlist.
15. Read a banned book – there’s a whole range of books that have been banned across history, some more surprising than others, all of which offer food for thought today.
16. Read a book that you pick at random – this is quite a daring challenge but randomly picking a book could prove to be an utterly brilliant move or an utterly foolhardy move. What’s the worst that can happen?
17. Read a book you heard about in nb magazine – this is not glorified self-promotion but a genuine tip. nb readers and contributors are a fine and wise bunch, obviously, and also very modest too, so if you like the sound of something you find within these pages, chances are you’ll like it for real.
If you pick just one challenge or attempt all seventeen, I hope you find a book you love. But if not, just think, it beats any of those other torturous new year’s resolutions, I mean really who wants to give up cake or start running when the alternative is picking up a book.
Just Another Jihadi Jane by Tabish Khair