How To Create A Reading List For A New Year
January 02, 2021
TBR 2021 Ranjani Rao

A rainy beginning to a long-awaited New Year!

Seems like a good day to sit down and compile resolutions, make lists and contemplate why we need to participate in this annual ritual, knowing that it loses significance even before the first month of the year comes to an end.

A time for looking ahead

What use are resolutions and to-do lists in 2021, a year that has arrived on the heels of one that taught us to humbly accept what is? Instead of making plans I wanted to stay still and be open to what the year had in store for me. That was the plan.

Until Facebook intervened. It threw up a poster I had made a year ago, a TBR 2020 list of books that I planned to read in the next twelve months. 

It wasn’t an ambitious list – just 8 books. Fiction, non-fiction, essays, travel – the usual selections that I like. The authors were popular names that I either knew or admired, and other writers I had come across while exploring new literary venues.

The year-end tally was disappointing. I could check off only three on the pretty poster that I had boldly shared on social media. Even that number seemed too high since two were audiobooks that I had listened to. Could I count them as being ‘read’? 

Surely, I didn’t have to share such a dismal update. 

Wasn’t that the first rule of social media

Display only that which you are proud of? To make the most of the sliver of your life that looks good?

Whether you share a delicious slice of cake, a brilliant rainbow, or a flattering selfie that makes you look stunning (an event as rare as a rainbow), it perpetuates the myth of perfection as your permanent place of residence. 

A time for looking back

Nothing puts a damper on a new year than looking back on the year that was and discovering that while you were bragging about all that was accomplished, there were many activities shelved, tasks left unfinished and the goals postponed.

My 2020 TBR was a reminder of the gap between what I had set out to do and what I had done instead.

I could berate myself for this failure.

Or I could let it slide.

I updated the list, not because I was proud of it. But because it brought to mind all the other reading I had done in 2020. Instead of pursuing the titles I had picked at the beginning of a year full of promise, a year that would later come to be called the “year of the pandemic”, I had followed a different reading trail.

In the first half of the year when asked to stay home, I had turned to books with a vengeance. When I could not visit the library or bookstore, I tried audiobooks. Because I could not travel, I chose to read books by authors from faraway countries so that I could move myself to a new milieu, at least mentally.

I discovered podcasts that introduced me to new writers, found recommendations on newsletters and checked out challenges that awakened me to new ways of expanding my reading preferences.

I wrote ten in-depth book reviews on my blog. And more on goodreads. All of this counts. And none of it is reflected in the unfinished list of my TBR.

A new way to look at resolutions

As I mulled over a TBR for 2021, wondering if I even needed to create one, it struck me that making a plan is just the first step. A way to invite something into your life with intention. By compiling a list, I was consciously choosing to make time for reading. From a wide range of choices, similar to a lavish buffet, I was picking things to put on my plate.

I may not like the taste of all that looked attractive at first sight or even get around to doing justice to everything I chose, but I could make a beginning.

By studying my 2020 TBR, I was acknowledging the plans made and projects attempted with the best intentions even if they didn’t turn out as well as expected.

My 2021 TBR is more ambitious. But it has scope to evolve. And it has room for your suggestions.

Share your reading plans for 2021. And do drop a suggestion for a book that should join this list.

Happy New Year!! And happy reading!

Photo credit: Ranjani Rao‘s personal archives

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