Collage of images, including a cat sitting on a stack of books, a woman in a sweater reading a book, a man with headphones on and a bedside table with flowers on it, and a phone with a red cross over the phone.

Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

It is no exaggeration to say that 2020 was a tough year, and that extended to our reading lives too.

While many found solace and comfort in books, for others it was sometimes difficult to find time for reading, amid worries brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. It seemed more important than ever not to put pressure on ourselves when it came to books, and that’s something to take into 2021 as well.

Here, the Penguin.co.uk team shares the New Year’s reading resolutions they’re making, all of which involve being a little bit kinder to ourselves. 

Don’t feel guilty for what I do, or don’t, read

I’ve been in long-term war with my guilt complex when it comes to reading, but 2021 is truly the year I will win the final battle. I’ve slowly learnt that it’s ok to not be reading what everyone else is (or seems to be) reading, but occasionally I still get a little twinge, an 'I really should' running through my mind. And I still sometimes feel guilty for not finishing a book I’ve started (even though I’ve stopped feeling guilty about not loving every single book I read), or for taking 'too long' to read a book. But no more: in 2021 I promise to let go of the guilt, to not let anyone else’s opinions dictate how I should feel. Instead, I’ll just focus on the joy reading brings.

Sarah Shaffi, managing editor

Make time for reading

Pre-pandemic, I did most of my reading on my commute. With at least two hours spent on trains each day, five days a week, I used to read a lot. But as 2020 wore on and many of us continued to work from home, I found it a lot harder to set aside time for reading – and to even find the motivation to read at all. Without that specific part of the day spent on public transport with not much else to do, it has been all too easy to let the habit slide.

It’s likely that those of us who can work from home will continue to do so for at least some of 2021, so my resolution is to be more intentional in my reading habits. I’m going to set aside some time before I start work and after I finish – it might not add up to two hours a day but through set times for reading, I’m hoping to get back into the habit again.

Indira Birnie, senior marketing manager

Try new genres

I am a genre devotee. Science fiction, horror and mystery thrillers are my go-to. It’s not that I’m a genre snob, I have just come to know what I like. But it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and venture into foreign territories. Where I would usually run for the hills at the sight of a romance novel, I will pick up a Jojo Moyes book. Where I have steered away from non-fiction and the stories of real-life people, Barack Obama’s A Promised Land is currently waiting for me on my bedside table. And where I have cowered from the classics as they incite memories of my terrifying English Literature teacher, I am going to tackle Moby-Dick. But I’m not going to go completely cold turkey from my favourites, as we all know once you’re told you can’t have something, it’s all you want. This is not a diet – just a reading lifestyle change.

Imogen Rayfield, content producer

Banish the phone from the bedside table

It’s a classic of an easily broken resolution, but I’m determined to keep my phone away from the bedside table – indeed, the bedroom entirely – because I know how much nicer it is to wake up with a book instead of that grim blueish glow. Not only is swapping a book for a phone a gentler way to start the day (No emails! No WhatsApps! No weird DMs!) but it means that I’ll get at least a handful of pages in before getting out of bed rather than mindlessly scrolling. I’ve been giving the phone bedroom banishment a trial run recently, and not only has my reading pace improved but I’ve been feeling calmer of a morning too.

Alice Vincent, features editor

Continue listening to audiobooks

My reading resolution is to continue listening to audiobooks. Pre-2020 I’d only ever listened to a couple, but after the first few months of lockdown I turned to non-fiction audiobooks to learn – listening while walking, running or stuck indoors each evening. As the second lockdown and tier 3 wore on, I soon found comfort in other audiobooks and podcasts – the voices and conversations helping me to feel less alone. However this year plays out, audio will be part of my reading habits.

Stephanie Tait, newsletter editor

Keeping reading records

I used to remember what books I’d read in any given year by associating them vividly with what was going on at the time: ah yes, this was the book I took onto the sweltering tube during summer, this the one my niece made fun of me for at Easter, and so on and so forth. Now that life is an amorphous blob of shuffling in slippers from one Deliveroo order to next and frowning at the same crack in my bedroom ceiling, it is quite impossible to recall if I read a thousand books or three in 2020. Accordingly, whatever happens Out There, my resolution is to keep a small notepad by my bed and actually write down the title of books as they pass through my fingers. It’ll help fill the time, at the very least.

Sam Parker, editor-in-chief

Stop focusing on what I’m 'supposed' to read

In the first few months of the pandemic, I looked around at all my peers talking about reading so much and wondered: how? Focusing as I read my usual favourites – Booker Prize-style ‘literature’, mostly – felt impossible; I found myself reading and re-reading passages, realising I had barely retained any of the book’s last hundred words.

Then, a friend suggested a small change – why not read something more… fun? – and everything fell into place. Suddenly, I was gripped by a novel’s brisk plot, opening my book to read at mealtimes, during television ad breaks, whenever I could.

I had been stuck in the way of reading that school had inculcated in me: that reading should be challenging, a journey towards erudition; I’d forgotten the joy of it. And I came back around, anyway: now I’m reading a multitude of book styles and genres, as I will continue to do into the New Year. No more limiting myself to preconceived notions of the type of books I’m ‘supposed’ to read.

Stephen Carlick, associate editor

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