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Confession: I have less than no interest in New Year’s goals. It is not that I think the idea of goal setting to be a bad one – it is just that the idea does not resonate with me. I love goals. I love lists. I just don’t have any desire to set upon a course of self improvement on the heels of the most stressful time of year. What I do want, however, is to be inspired at this time of year. To be encouraged to dream and think and reconsider my footsteps. For me, the very best way to do that is to sit at the feet of my literary mentors. Instead of agonizing over weight loss goals and vows to be more clutter free, I use the month of January to set some very important mentoring dates on my calendar: my reading list.
I love books and I love intelligent book clubs. Thankfully, I am a member of several (Mentoring In The Classics, Blackbelt in Freedom & Land of Storybooks) and they provide the backbone to my annual reading list. As a Leadership Education Mom, I also have book lists for Kidschool, Family Read aloud and lunch time audiobooks. But there is more… some books are just for me. For my scholarship, for my vocation or for my enjoyment. Those books need to go on the list too.
Admittedly, this is a monster sized web of books that somehow needs to get organized. Now, like Charlotte, I understand that my web will change a bit from day to day. Nonetheless, I start each year with a reading plan that is a reasonable goal. I give myself permission to change the plan if necessary at some point (I discover a new author, we have a diagnosis that requires my research or my spiritual director recommends new books or for certain books to be put down) but I have a reasonable expectation of 80% success. Historically, I have found this to be very satisfying.
Some parts of my reading plan cannot be planned out more than a few months at a time. The Kidschool books, for example, are in constant flux. I am fine with this. The reality is that I create the list in January but I do regular maintenance on it all year long. It is an easy thing to edit as we go if necessary.
My bookclubs are a source of incredible scholarship and mentoring for me. Not only am I reading texts that I might not otherwise reach for, I am enjoying the camaraderie of other readers who are passionate and excited about our shared learning experience.
Mentoring In The Classics is a wonderful monthly subscription program. At the beginning of the month, I receive thought provoking and valuable mentoring audios with study guides. During the month, other MIC subscribers meet in a Facebook book event to share our questions, epiphanies and reactions to the mentoring and the text. At the end of the month, I receive a “debriefing” audio and possibly some supplemental materials that help to bring closure to the reading. Through this program, I am reading books that require real scholarship of me and am enjoying them with mentoring and companionship.
Starting in February, I will be subscribing to a new monthly book club: Black Belt in Freedom. Presented by the same people who offer Mentoring In The Classics, this study series will be exclusively freedom focused. I am very excited about this new series and all of the American classics that I have wanted to read but have not otherwise made the time for. This program will resemble the Mentoring In the Classics program in terms of format.
18 months ago, I joined The Land of Storybooks. An interesting little Facebook group made up of bibliophiles from all over the cyberworld. This group loves books and classics especially. In no time at all, we were talking about hosting online book clubs. One thing led to another and now we have at least one if not multiple author studies or book clubs every month. All of the book clubs are voluntary and you don’t have to join a bookclub to be a member of the group. Nonetheless, I love most of the books that the group selected for 2015 and I cannot wait to read them with others! We don’t have all of the months locked in, but we are set through July so I am adding them to my reading plan.
Beyond my book clubs, I have books to read for my personal scholarship. That is trickier to plan because I am totally in charge of my reading and I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. For this category, I work very hard to make sure that I am remaining faithful to my Compass.This year, I want to focus on becoming more mulier fortis. The Compass is a tool designed to help me approach my study in a way that is organized and honest. To help with that planning, I map out the areas I wish to grow and look through my books and my wishlist of books to find classics that will speak to those areas.
In the evenings, I read for pleasure and classic entertainment. For this category, I usually listen to an audiobook while I work on puzzles or brain games. I love falling asleep listening to a classic like The Scarlet Pimpernel or How The West Was Won or the King Raven. These books are the perfect transition from the labor of the day into the peace of relaxation. I do not schedule these books but I do put them on a list and when one is done, I reach for whatever appeals to from that list. In this way I can make good on my Audible purchases and get through some interesting texts that I might not have otherwise made time for.
Kidschool is probably the hardest to plan. This is the part of the day where I get to share what is mine. That means that I pick the books – but honestly, the books usually end up picking themselves based on whatever else we are studying that calls for it. To help myself remember what we have available, I make a conscious effort to look through my shelves every month and listen for the book to call out to me.
Finally, I have a couple of long lists of books that I would love to read during Family Read Aloud or listen to an audio version during lunch. For these, I merely make up a list based upon what we already own or are willing acquire and then rotate between the children for selection. For Family Read Aloud, I let the kids suggest what they want next and then ask my husband to choose which we should tackle. For lunch, I just honor whichever choice the designated child has made from the list that I have provided.
My lists bring me great peace. I despise ending a loved book only to be perplexed about what to read next. Having these lists in place helps me to be ready for the next great book and to integrate all that I am learning with new texts that are coming down the path. Choosing my books with care based on some personal themes or scholarship goals helps me to read deeply and with great satisfaction.
What are you reading this year? I am on Goodreads. I would love to follow you!