5 Ways to Reach Your Reading Goals in 2019

Tis the season to talk about goals–how to set and achieve them. If you have one or two (or ten) goals focused on reading this year, here are five of my best tips, tricks, and tools to make the most out of your reading life in 2019.

  1. Utilize free or inexpensive sources for obtaining books. This is my favorite tip for readers because it removes the restrictions a lack of money places on readers. Utilizing your local public library, little free libraries, and low cost book buying options like Friends of the Library allows you to make more daring choices, get more books at once, and browse without fear of busting your budget. There are also free and low priced eBooks available on Amazon and through Wal-Mart’s eBook distributor, Kobo.
  2. Challenge yourself with reading challenges. Whether you want to read more, wider, in community, or what you already own (and STILL haven’t read *sigh*), a reading challenge might help you reach your goal this year. There are several reading challenges out there to choose from, including #theunreadshelfproject2019 Challenge, the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, and a numbers-based challenge like the Goodreads. You can also join a subscription service like OwlCrate (YA books) or Book of the Month, or an online book club like Well Read Black Girl
  3. Develop a group of trusted review sources. A list of reviewers you trust will help you determine whether a book is for you right now. This will reduce the number of books you slog through or set aside. Find readers with similar tastes and search their feeds for book reviews or where they get their recommendations. Follow people with great taste wherever they post about books they love–Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, their website, etc. “Official” reviewers like Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews or lists in Entertainment Weekly, Essence, or other publications are also good resources.
  4. Create a habit or routine around your goal.  Schedule reading time. Take books with you to take advantage of wait times. Leave your current read on your nightstand or wherever you read. Participate in #readawholebooksunday. Do something to make reading a part of your routine, and you’ll be more likely to show up and READ.
  5. Get better book recommendations. The best way to reach your reading goals is to read better books. If you don’t choose books you want to read, no schedule, challenge, or price is going to help you. One way you can find good book recommendations is through sites like By Her Shelf. By Her Shelf showcases romance, YA, historical, literary fiction, memoir, poetry, thriller, horror, magical realism, suspense, self-help, contemporary fiction, non-fiction, and Christian non-fiction books. You can also find great recommendations on Modern Mrs. Darcy or genre specific sites. Another great resource for book recommendations is podcasts. Here at By Her Shelf, we’re big fans of What Should I Read Next, First Draft, DIY MFA, and The Librarian is In, along with podcasts that interview authors like The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey and That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!: I’m pleased to announce By Her Shelf with Erica D. Hearns is LIVE on Apple Podcasts and Messy.fm! BHS will be on other apps/sites soon. When I posted about buying a microphone in early November, I never imagined I would have recorded 16 interviews and launched with 3 live episodes less than three months later. For show notes, upcoming guests, featured books, and other exclusive content, subscribe to our weekly Shelf Talk newsletter here. Show notes can also be found by searching the podcast category of the blog.

I’m still scheduling future guests. If you’d like to discuss the books you read, write, or help produce, I’d love to host you! Simply fill out the form here.

Your Turn: What are you reading goals for 2019? How can By Her Shelf help you reach those goals?

How Do You Measure of a Year? In Books, Of Course!

The last few days while everyone else was sharing their reflections on their year in reading, I was scrambling to complete my Goodreads goal and editing podcast episodes (*cue confetti* *have a nap waiting in the wings*). I don’t like to review a year until I’m in the new year, anyway.

As you’ll see in my stats, my reading for the challenge was heavily weighted one way. While I enjoyed the books I read and look forward to reading more of the same in 2019, I want to make sure I read more of other genres I love this year. I’ll share my new reading goals in a separate post. On the positive side, I upped the number of books I wanted to read in 2018 by 15 books, and I met my goal! Without further ado, here’s my year in books *:

Books read: 65

Library books finished: 3

Read What You Own Books (that I know I owned before 2018): 6

Review/Launch Team Books: 7

Fiction: 58

Non-Fiction: 7

Romance: 54

-Romantic Suspense: 14

-Contemporary Romance: 38

-Historical Romance: 2

Non-Romantic Fiction: 4

Memoir/Autobiography: 6

These stats provide a good snapshot of my year, but for a more accurate picture, I wanted to spotlight some notable books.My affiliate links are included.

First book finished*: The Trophy Husband by Lynne Graham
This was a quick, fun read that reeked of 90’s romance tropes. If you can appreciate it for what it is–trope soup, limited POV, and 90s level of understanding of masculinity/femininity/happily ever after–it’s a fast and funny book.

Last book read: Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

I really ended the year on a high note. I LOVED this book! This book combines many elements of my favorite reads: Zora Neale Hurston; Anthropological/Ethnographical study; a personal story told in the subject’s voice; a snapshot of an interesting time in history, etc. This story is an important one, and I’m thankful it has finally been published and disseminated.

Better Than Expected: Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

This book had some pretty harsh reviews, but I like Anne Tyler and retellings of classics are some of my favorite stories, so I decided to give this one a try. If you’re a fan of Taming of the Shrew or Ten Things I Hate About You, you might like this retelling set between academia and daycare.

FOMO Reads of 2018: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

I heard these two books recommended several times on What Should I Read Next. I caved to FOMO and read both, and I’m glad I did! Both of these books lived up to the hype. Eleanor is funny and endearing, and Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir is gripping and reflective in an engaging way. I highly recommend both.

Best Book for Book Lovers: I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel

If you love all things books and reading, you must read this book! Anne beautifully portrays many of the joys and dilemmas of the reading life. This book is a beautiful celebration of all the things I love about literature.

Series I enjoyed this year:

The Precinct Series by Julie Miller

I read many books in this series in 2016, but I read the backlist and became current on this series in 2018. If you love romantic suspense, seeing your favorite characters in several different books, mini-series within a larger series, and heroes/heroines with real world conflicts and complications, then I highly recommend this series.

Mirror Lake Series by Kathryn Springer
This inspirational romance series was wonderful. The characters were realistic and made me root for them. Springer made the town and its inhabitants come alive, and the conflicts were just as realistic. If you’re a fan of inspirational romances set in a small close knit town involving a core group of characters, then give this six book series a try.
Get in My Kindle picks I’ve Read: Butterface by Avery Flynn and I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel (I also listened to the audiobook of Remember God by Annie F. Downs, but I’m not counting this as I plan to read the physical copy)


I’ve read a few of Avery Flynn’s other books, and Butterface had the humor and heart I’ve come to expect from her. If you like hot romantic comedies (and the heat level is pretty high on this one), you might like this first book in The Hartigans series. Book two, Muffin Top, is also out now, and book three, Tomboy, will release February 18, 2019.

The books I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2019:

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
You can read my post on this book here.
The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman
Read my reasons for looking forward to this The Next Right Thing here.

MY BOOK!!!!!
121418_SS Front CoverI’ve been holding this news in for months! If you’re an email subscriber, you might have heard about this book already, but I wanted to officially announce it to my By Her Shelf readers. The Speaking Season: Poems and Pieces, my first poetry collection, will be releasing this month! If you’re a fan of poetry, this book is a must have for your collection. More details to come soon!

*Note: I don’t track my progress/read status for every book I read through Goodreads. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I don’t want to share what I’m reading. This post was created using my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics. It’s by no means definitive, but it’s mostly accurate.

Currently Reading: Goodreads vs. Reality

If you look on my Goodreads account, it will give you a list of seven books I’m currently reading. (o_O) While I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to keep up with my reading on Goodreads, I have to admit my current reading life bears little resemblance to the list you’ll find there. I wanted to give you a real glimpse into my currently reading list, TBR pile, and recent reads. It’s time to take a look at my real reading life vs. my Goodreads account.

Current Reads: 

The Promise of Home

I recently visited a used book tent at a Flea Market and they were having a 2 for $1 sale on Harlequin’s Love Inspired books, which I love. I bought and devoured Love Finds a Home by Kathryn Springer. I loved it. According to the Dear Reader note, the next book in the series was about one of the secondary characters I really liked, and it had a good hook. Three books later (hello, reading rabbit hole!), I’m reading my fourth book set in Mirror Lake (in less than five days).

 

Born a Crime

This is one I have out from the library. I started reading the first chapter the other day and so far it’s really interesting. I also made a print that says “Just waiting for Trevor Noah to realize he’s my husband,” so there’s that.

 

 

 

Come Matter Here

This one is a bit of a cheat. I’m actually slowing reading through a sample of this book and deciding if I want to borrow it or buy it. I haven’t read much, but it’s pretty good so far, and I’ve heard great things.

 

 

 

Currently Checked Out of the Library:

Born A Crime, referenced in Current Reads. Divided Kingdom is a book a listener suggested on a special episode of What Should I Read Next that has an interesting premise. Close Enough to Touch has been in my Goodreads Want to Read for years, so I requested it. Educated and Vox were my FOMO and Buzz Book picks, respectively.

Recent Purchases:

Along with the second book of the Mirror Lake series referenced above, I also picked up Firestarter and Thinner by Stephen King and Finally a Bride by Renee Andrews at the flea market. There are more Love Inspired Titles, but I can’t remember them right now. I saw a kindle deal for  I’ll Take You There and snapped it up because the Staple Singers’ music makes up a large part of the soundtrack of my childhood, yet I had no clue it “shaped the Civil Rights Era.” I’m looking forward to it.

Speaking of Kindle Deals:

I purchased these as kindle deals and have yet to dive into them. I started the first essay in All the Lives I Want but got sidetracked by other books.

Recent Reads:

Series:

I went back and closed the loop in my reading of Julie Miller’s The Precinct series, reading books 4-6, which I’d somehow skipped. As I mentioned in current reads, I bought the second book in the Mirror Lake Series, Love Finds a Home, at a flea market and found books 2, 3, 4, and now 5 on kindle. I read and loved three of the six so far and am currently reading the fourth.

Individual reads:

I read more than category romance this month. Since September 14, I’ve also managed to read I’d Rather be Reading (a Get in My Kindle Pick that turned out to be amazing), I Am I Am I Am (a FOMO book that was well worth the buzz), and Vinegar Girl (a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew that kept me turning the pages and proved to be an enjoyable read).

TBR:

Remember God

In addition to the library books and recent purchases (and books that will inevitably jump the line and demand to be read before what I planned to read), there’s this book, Remember God by Annie F. Downs. I actually listened to the audio book I received as a pre-order bonus, but I don’t think of audio books as reading (I know, this is a hot button issue in the reading world. I’m not saying YOU can’t count them however you want on your Goodreads or in your bullet journal, just that I, personally, don’t count them). I loved hearing Annie tell me her story, but it’s a different experience for me to read the words on the page, and I can’t wait to read it.

Your Turn: Does the reality of your reading life match your Goodreads profile? What are you currently reading? What’s at the top of your TBR pile?