2013 Reading Resolutions

While I’m not a big one for restricting myself too much with my reading I do have some goals for shaping my bookish pursuits

A stronger focus on Australian Authors
There are a couple of factors influencing me to read more Australian authors:

  • buy-australianI am one of the…gang? posse? army? (what is the collective noun for a group of passionate readers?) of people now sharing responsibility for administering the Australian Women Writers Challenge (no prizes for guessing which genre I am responsible for) so I feel obliged to keep up with my Aussie reading.
  • I am also very fortunate to have the chance to be a judge for one of Australia’s writing awards in 2013. Happily I think of this as a privilege not a chore and am even now honing my excuses for things not done. “Sorry boss I meant to read that 400 page study last night but I was obliged to finish the latest novel by ;” and “oh I know it looks like I’m just lolling about reading instead of doing the housework but actually I’m undertaking very important judging work, please don’t disturb me again”. I can’t wait.

A change to my reviewing format
NoStarsMy role as a judge has given me the impetus to do something I have been pondering for a while…stop giving star ratings to my reviews. I really can’t give ratings to any books which are eligible for the award and, because I don’t particularly want everyone to know which category of which award I am judging, I’ve decided to stop putting the star ratings on all my reviews. To be honest I’m glad I had this push as I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with giving books such public grades. They are entirely subjective and are often taken out of context. I know the reviews themselves are subjective too but at least they allow for me to explain my thoughts whereas with star ratings people tend to focus on nothing but the number without any context. Some of these people take a very dim view of anything less than a 5-star rave, believing that a 3 or even 4 star review is somehow negative  In my mind that has never been the case but people obviously place their own interpretation on things. Now they’ll have to read my words if they want to get cross with me.

A change in book acquisition habits

The books I buy will be from Australian book shops. I’ve actually been moving this way for a year or so but will be more strict about it this year. To be totally honest I view this as a mixture of charity (giving money to a worthy cause), selfishness (I want to be able to browse a bookshop once in a while) and stupidity (it really is daft to pay double what I need to for each book). But I like going to book shops and at least if I shop locally I won’t feel so guilty when the last book store shuts its doors. I’ll still buy eBooks when I can too (there are now some decent local options for those of us not wedded to the kindle) as I really don’t have oodles of room for physical book storage in my new house.

The exception to this rule is that the audio books which provide the basis for whatever semblance of sanity I cling to will still be bought from Audible US as there simply isn’t an Australian equivalent for downloadable audio, not even an overpriced one, and I am not prepared to go without my audio books simply because no one in Australia offers this kind of service.

I might also make the odd exception for a book that looks like never being published in Australia that I really want to read (this tends to happen with translated fiction from smaller publishers). Of course if Australian publishing houses made it easier for people other than book sellers to find out what is due to be published in coming months I could make more informed decisions on this issue. You’d think some of them were guarding the codes for the world’s nuclear weapons by the way they keep this information hidden away.

Because books here are so expensive, and because my personal economy is in danger of plunging off its own fiscal cliff, I won’t be buying a lot of books though so the library will be my new best friend. Thankfully all the libraries in my state have recently made it easy for us to order books from any of them and I have already commenced utilising this excellent service in earnest by placing loads of holds and setting up a couple of lists so that I can keep up a steady stream of library books coming into the house.

Challenges
awwbadge_2013As was the case last year I am only signing up for a single challenge – The Australian Women Writers Challenge mentioned earlier. In some ways this has spoiled me for all other challenges as it turned out, for me, to be a lot more fulfilling than just counting numbers which is what most other reading challenges of my experience have involved. It genuinely challenged me to read outside my comfort zone and think clearly about my reactions to some of the books I read as well as providing a myriad of opportunities for engagement with other readers. I realise that even if I wanted to load myself down with a swag of other reading challenges as I did in previous years they would all feel a bit dull by comparison.

Without the benefit of challenges though I will keep an eye on my virtual travelling and will aim to read as many titles eligible for the CWA Dagger Award for translated crime fiction as I can get my hands on.

What about you? Do you love reading challenges or are you a read-by-whim kind of person? Any particular goals for 2013’s reading?

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23 Responses to 2013 Reading Resolutions

  1. Bernadette – I’m so glad you’ll be doing some of the judging. The competitors will be in well-informed, intelligent and trustworthy hands. I don’t blame you for the star thing either. That’s one reason I don’t do book reviews. I’m not comfortable influencing others’ reading decisions beyond outlining the plot elements (without spoilers) and so on. I completely see your point on that. And as for using your new responsibilities to your – erm – advantage? Why not? May try that myself…

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  2. Bill Selnes says:

    Bernadette: I admire your willingness to commit so much time to reading books as a judge. I cannot see myself concentrating my reading to the extent necessary be able to meet the needs of being a judge.

    I expect to limit myself to the Canadian Reading Challenge.

    As far as goals I set but one each year. I hope to be able to read a book a week.

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  3. Jose Ignacio says:

    Bernadette you have very interesting resolutions. I particularly like your change on your reviewing format. I do share with you your concern about the negative interpretation of a three or four star review. Maybe I should do something about that too. I also share with you your aim to read as many titles elegible for the CWA Dagger Award for translated crime fiction as possible.

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  4. Rebecca says:

    Count me in the read/by-whim camp. I started a few challenges last year but felt stymied by them. I plan on joining just one, a translation challenge, and informally I’m trying to read books set in as many countries as possible. Thanks to your blog and the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I have lots of ideas for Australian books, which seem to be available as ebooks mostly here.

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    • Reading by whim is definitely a good strategy Rebecca…I had all sorts of ideas about how I would start my reading year but we are having the most awful heatwave and I hate the heat so I threw all my plans out the window and bought a book set in Antarctica with my Christmas iTunes (bless Santa).

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  5. JoV says:

    I think it’s great you are doing some judging now! Congratulations. It’s really great that your library allows for ordering books, this 1 Jan 2013, my library starts charging for reserving books from any other library. I was disappointed, needless to say. All these cost cutting measures have resulted in this deprivation of basic reading rights!

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    • that is terrible news Jo – I am actually quite surprised that ours have actually been able to keep improving these services (fingers crossed it stays this way) – libraries are so important but so many stupid politicians don’t see their value

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  6. Marg says:

    A shelf of avid readers? A library of avid readers?

    I love that the South Australian library system is making it so easy to borrow books across the whole network. Makes so much sense!

    I go back and forth on the star ratings issue. Some years I have them but other years I decide I don’t like it. At the moment, I am going on showing them, but that really could change at any point.

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  7. I’ve been having a think about the star rating system as well. My initial change a couple of years ago was to move to half stars. I was thinking of moving to a score out of 10. 7 out of 10 seems to more be pleasing to authors than 3.5 stars. The problem, as you say, is people interpret anything less than 4 or 5 stars in an overly negative way. 3 stars in my rating system is ‘A generally solid, enjoyable read and I’ll probably try other books by the same author.’ (6 out of 10 is an above average score). And I do read their other books. I am well used to grading essays and using the full spectrum of marks, recognising that there is a variable quality to the work I assess. I do find the scoring system useful for myself and for readers – it benchmarks the book against the others I’ve reviewed. As for the concerns of authors, I think they need to understand five things – 1) books do vary in quality, 2) that judgement is subjective, 3) readers are entitled to share their opinions, 4) ratings coalesce across several sources to find a natural position, 5) in the wider scheme of things most blogs have very little direct impact on sales given their low readership (that’s certainly the case with The View from the Blue House). I will continue to ponder.

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    • You’re probably right Rob that a 10 point system would yield less grizzles…but I suspect some people would still only see what wasn’t there. I had a ridiculous exchange with an author last year after giving a 4 star review to a book I liked very much but thought was let down by the ending….emails went back and forth and were quite tetchy on both sides by the end – I don’t think that particular author had any understanding of any of the five things you mention!

      I will still keep my ratings in my personal records as I do find it helps me – it is a kind of gut reaction to a book and is something I can use to compare books over time.

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      • I think I will continue to give ratings. My blog is aimed at readers not authors and the rating provides a benchmark. My ratings are not arbitary – I spend quite a bit of time thinking about them. The other thing that tetchy authors need to be aware of is that engaging with readers/reviewers in a negative way is, in the whole, counterproductive. I doubt, for example, that you will read/review another book by the same author despite liking the first and you were unlikely to have changed the original review. I guess after years of having my academic work judged, judging others work as a journal and book series editor and referee, and being involved in public debate, I’m more comfortable with passing opinion and living with author reaction. I think on the whole I prefer to try and school authors re. my ratings than duck them by not doing it. I agree that if I was involved in judging a competition it becomes a lot more problematic to have the ratings in public before the result is known.

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  8. Sarah says:

    Totally agree with you on the ratings Bernadette. I only rate on Goodreads and I find my scores are fairly arbitrary. Congrats on the judging. It sound great. Ps we have to pay to reserve library books in England 😦

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    • Yes I just heard that you have to pay to reserve books in England…that is ridiculous on several levels, not least of which is that I cannot imagine it’s going to assist in any economic recovery given the paltry amount it would add to any library’s coffers…sadly though it will make life that bit harder or less enjoyable for many avid readers who rely on their library

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  9. Kathy D. says:

    Glad you will be judging Australian crime fiction. Your blog has pushed me to read many more books from Oz, and I read 10 last year by women authors, all of which were good, some stellar, but not a dud in the batch. I will keep reading here to see what I want t read and then start the search to find them available and at a reasonable cost. The territorial restrictions and high prices are a hindrance, especially since my library system falls short now on ordering overseas books. It will purchase 400 of a popular dvd, but very few non-U.S. published books.
    Will miss your star ratings, which I have not seen lately, as I always look for the five star books, but do not shun the four or three star books either.
    I did push my reading comfort zone by joining the Global Reading Challenges, and I am glad I did. I read so many more new authors from countries whose fiction I hadn’t read and enjoyed the books, while learning more.
    Anyway, look forward to this blog, Kerrie’s and Fair Dinkum Crime for news of books from Oz, and anticipate reading many.

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  10. Norman Price says:

    I am definitely a reading on a whim person now. Time is too short to read anything I am not interested in completely. Reading the CWA International Dagger and the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger shortlists are the only challenges I will attempt at present.
    Also I hope in 2013 to go back and fill in some of the gaps in my crime fiction reading experience.
    And i hope to read some more non fiction history books, which will probably mean more reading and less blogging, but we will see what new mysteries life throws up.

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  11. I enjoyed reading your resolutions – they made me think quite a lot, and your reasoning was very interesting. My only resolution most years is to clear a bit of my backlog. I was talking to someone who said they had a backlog of ‘at least 8 books’. Well that’s just a list of current books in my view – a backlog is 50-100 books that you own, disregarding the books you are intending to obtain soon….

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  13. angelasavage says:

    You’ve inspired me twice already in 2013, Bernadette. Thank you. I posted this in response to your Reading resolutions and Virtual travel posts.

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  14. A long while ago I was thinking about deleting the star ratings from my reviews too. Mainly because the system I devised just seemed too… arbitrary and I wasn’t sure it really meant anything useful. I did a poll though asking if anyone ever paid attention to the ratings a blogger gives their books and the overwhelming majoirty said that they did, so I kept it. It also gave me a useful label I thought, so when someone said they wanted a recommendation of a book that i loooved, I could direct them to my blogg and tell them to click on the 8 stars label. But I just wrote a review this morning and when I was selecting how many stars it got, I felt a bit silly tbh, so its something that I might also revisit this year.

    On your buying books issue – I have pretty much given up buying new books. If its an AUstralian book I will buy it new in an independent bookshop. Other than that, I am either downloading (because its cheaper) or buying only second hand from vinnes or the salvos. That way the money goes to a good cause and Im not spending too much.

    Good luck with your judging. I hope you get something valubale out of it.

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