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The Joys of JRI: How Setting Reading Goals (sort of) Cleared My To-Read Shelves

June 27, 2017

Back in 2009, I had a little book group on Livejournal where we talked about books and reading-related things. It was called Bookslide. We decided in January that we were going to challenge ourselves to read the books we had lying around at home that we’d never gotten to. Some of our ideas for names for this challenge were:

Clear Your Shelf Challenge
Read Yo’ Shit
alREADy
Reduce the Pile Challenge
Just Read It!

We decided on “Just Read It.” It was 2009, okay? It was more relevant then.

Funny thing is, I haven’t stopped doing the challenge. Every year, I set a goal. I thought my goal had always been 50 books, but going back, it looks it wasn’t. My 2009 goal was ” […] to move at least a shelf’s worth of stuff to the other bookshelf, where it will take its place with my regular books.”

This was my original JRI pile:

Isn’t that cute? Here’s my JRI “pile” now:

(Rainbow to-read, minus the eBooks, obviously)

(ARCs from last year)

(Assorted purchases, discards, gifts, and ARC overflow)


(ARCs and related books, from my first BEA through 2015)

(Why was my 2009 camera so much better at taking pictures than my much younger iPad mini? Come on now.)

It looks like I finished that first year looking to do about 30 books, and hit my goal. For each book, I posted a little mini-review to the group, which kept me semi-focused. I enjoyed the challenge so much that I bumped the number to 50 in 2010 and have never changed it.

Things I did change: books I purchased during that calendar year didn’t count, then counted, then didn’t count again, then counted again. …That’s kind of all I’ve changed.

So, looking at the goals, I should be at about 400, maybe 425 books on my JRI shelf on Goodreads, right?

I’m at 527.

JRI works. Even without the group to keep me motivated, I have discovered other motivations: space in my home, the ever-increasing ARCs from conferences and publishers threatening to take over all my space, and the Goodreads shelf I created just for JRI. I no longer do a mini-review with each book (in part because I assumed I’d do reviews on here, which taped off as I got deeper into my career and volunteer work/community), but I do assess at the end of the year with the rest of my New Year’s goals, if any. Actually, for me, JRI is the one New Year’s resolution I always get done. I think. I’m having problems tracking my 2012 list, but I feel like I got that one done by the skin of my teeth.

Sometimes, it’s like that. If it’s December and I’m at 35, and I’m like, “Gotta finish!” Then I plow through. And I know I’ve finished on New Year’s Eve before–I feel like that was 2015. Not a bad way to end the year, reading.

Honestly, the best thing about JRI is that it means that I’m always looking through the books on the shelves, reassessing which ones I’m actually going to read, and moving along the ones that don’t affect me deeply. JRI has taught me to prioritize my reading within my home, and helped me learn to stop reading books I don’t like. (Do they count? Yes they do, but I’m not sure they always did, so maybe that was a thing that changed too.) This year is a little different–but aren’t they all?–in that almost every JRI I’m reading is a Rainbow book, so there won’t be that constant moving of things off the shelf (as Rainbow books get delivered to me almost every week), but I’m hoping that the habit of always grabbing from my own shelves will carry on into next year, when I won’t be on a committee. (I think?)

I highly recommend challenging yourself when it comes to your reading. The Goodreads challenge is a good start if you’re not the self-motivating kind. There are also challenges like Read Harder on Book Riot, which give you a set of types of books to read. Might be a little harder using your own shelf, but I like Read Harder because it’s general while still mostly allowing space for some good shelf picks.

And, of course, if you need more motivation, I’m here for you! Just comment below.

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