in which i remember the pitfalls of creating rules, or, painting myself into a corner (again)

In our last episode of Laura's Reading Plan, I posted a very long list for 2022. On that 2022 reading plan post, I wrote:

This year's plan is much longer. This is probably a bad idea.

I also wrote: 

One thing is obvious: this plan is too long! I hope I can use it without feeling defeated, because I can't narrow it down any further right now.
Well, I called it. The overly long reading plan has become a problem in ways that are very recognizable to me, if not downright predictable. ("Problem" in the #firstworldproblems sense of the word.)

* * * *

To review:

May 2017: a list of authors and titles that keep appearing on The List* but which I haven't read.

December 2017: sub-lists of The List: a more focused to-read list, which led to. . . 

January 2019: my first reading plan.

March 2020: extending the reading plan for a second year; reading plan, part two.

September 2020: reading plan, part three. This worked less well, because it was a little too vague. That led to...

January 2021: reading plan for 2021. This worked beautifully. It was motivating, and I enjoyed the focus, the way having a plan drew me from one book to the next. I also read off-plan, and that was fine, too. 

When something works, why not do more of it? Bzzzt! Mistake. Which brings me to. . . 

* * * * 

January 2022: a reading plan for 2022, plus how the 2021 plan fared

As I said above, I called it.

I felt pressured. Felt like I had to read faster, read more, and worst of all, read exclusively from the plan. As in, I'm not "allowed" to read a book that's not on the plan. 

This is ridiculous. Why take something that is pure pleasure and a great passion, and turn it into a pressured obligation? 

Why indeed. Although it's been a while since I did this, I am all too familiar with this pattern. I create a rule -- my own rule -- then feel pressured to adhere to it, and feel I have failed if I don't. In my 20s I called it painting myself into a corner. Well here I am, in my freaking 60s, at it again! 

The ludicrous nature of this inflexibility became crystalline when I thought, It's time to finally read Thomas Piketty! Then immediately thought, But he's not on the plan. Can I do that? 

"Can I do that?" Well, of course I can! It's entirely up to me! Why do I need permission?

With that thought, I hereby release myself from the plan becoming An Obligation. The plan must go back to being a guide, an idea, a focus -- but not An Obligation, and certainly not A Rule.

* * * 

This is what I've read so far on the 2022 reading plan.

I did not finish every book that is crossed off, especially the fiction. That's not a reflection of the book; it's a my own personal threshold for when I do or don't continue reading a book. I'm always glad to try a book and know something about it, even if I don't finish it, both as a reader and as a librarian. Reading is never wasted time.


A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Alicia Elliott

Men Explain Things to Me and The Mother of All Questions, Rebecca Solnit essay collections

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells (review)

A Primate's Memoir, Robert Sapolsky

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Patrick Radden Keefe (review)

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, Andrés Reséndez

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, Annalee Newitz (review)

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann (just finished, review to follow)

The Turning Point: 1851: A Year That Changed Charles Dickens and The World, Robert Douglas Fairhurst (review)

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal, Mark Bittman (review)

Galileo and the Science Deniers, Mario Livio

Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Always, John McWhorter

Four Fish: the Future of the Last Wild Food, Paul Greenberg (review to follow)

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine, Janice P. Nimura

Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, Nadine Strossen

Permanent Record, Edward Snowden

Bob Dylan: Behind The Shades Revisited, Clinton Heylin

The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women, Scott W. Stern 

Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America's Cheap Goods, Amelia Pang

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century, Charles King

The Escape Artist, Helen Fremont

The Last Job: "The Bad Grandpas" and the Hatton Garden Heist, Dan Bilefsky

Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America, Scott Borchert

Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, Barbara Ehrenreich


Charlie Savage, Roddy Doyle

The Resisters, Gish Jen

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

Razorblade Tears, S. A. Cosby

Marley, Jon Clinch

Christine Falls, John Banville as Benjamin Black

Stay and Fight, Madeline ffitch

Gods With A Little G, Tupelo Hassmann

The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa

The Electric Hotel, Dominic Smith

Against the Loveless World, Susan Abulhawa

Simon the Fiddler, Paulette Jiles

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

Moon of the Crusted Snow, Waubgeshig Rice

Damnation Spring, Ash Davidson

The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich

The Stone Angel, Margaret Laurence


One of Us is Next, Karen M. McManus


Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood, Gary Paulsen (review)

The Leak, Kate Reed Perry

Kaleidoscope, Brian Selznick

Pumpkinheads, Rainbow Rowell 

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, Jason Reynolds

To give my brain a break (I let both of these go. I am just not interested in reading series.)

Harlem Detective series, Chester Himes

John le Carré re-reads

Long-term goal (I am doing this! Loving it! Post to follow, eventually.)

Weekly chapters of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace) and Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 (Mike Wallace).

I still want to use an annual reading plan. I enjoyed it in 2020 and 2021, so I'll continue, but with less of it, and without obligation.


* The universe of books I might read; the central list. The place to go for "what to read next" but not a To Read list.

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