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Do You Start The Year With A Clean Slate?

A photo of a design with 2014 on it

Do you like to start the year with no unfinished books outstanding? This is of course primarily in the context of creating and keeping lists or databases to track reading, but at the same time there is no reason why people who don’t track their reading couldn’t feel similarly, either way.

I have now been reading Vanity Fair for over a year. I originally started reading it on 17th October 2012 and because I didn’t finish it I deleted it from the 2012 list to add it to 2013’s. A couple of days ago I moved it from 2013 to my new list for this year. (I will state here that I never change the ‘begin’ date for a book, so whilst – assuming I finish it this year – it will be added to one of this year’s reading round-ups, my personal log will show my procrastination.) Thackeray in 2012 was the first time, since I started tracking in 2009, that I ‘let’ a book remain unfinished from one year to the next. And it remains the sole entry in those stakes.

In the case of this particular book, I feel silly. It’s not exactly a dull book – whilst the middle dragged a bit and the names and continual use of the same prefixes have proved more confusing than any usage of ‘Miss Bennett’ in Pride And Prejudice (despite the 5 people assigned to it), Thackeray has made me laugh a lot. I love his approach and the opinions he seems to have, and I like the way he injects himself into the text. However it was the use of prefixes and, I admit, the sheer number of pages in the book, that defeated a person who had been, in 2012, a pretty dedicated reader. And as much as I tried to reason with myself that if I could read the entirety of Gone With The Wind in a month, I should be able to read the 200-pages-less Thackeray, the difference in language affected the proceedings no matter my historical preference.

So yes, for all that I know I have a fair reason, it does seem silly that a book I’ve been enjoying is the one floundering, rather than a book I hated.

To get back to the main topic at hand and stop detouring, I’m personally not a fan, in the context of my own reading (because I can hardly dictate to anyone else), of letting a book linger from one year to the next. I believe that if I wasn’t so obsessed with data collection I wouldn’t be so ‘worried’, as it is the fact that I like to keep my information by the year that is the major cause of any anguish I’ve experienced in the past. Inevitably I’ve improved as the years have gone by, as one tends to once they’ve had some practise, but for the first two years of tracking I must say that I spent the respective New Years Eves struggling to finish books of which I had quite a few pages left to read. As that of course led to my boyfriend being ignored, and to me being more focused on page count than the story, it wasn’t ever going to be a good idea long-term.

Now I resist starting any new books in the last few days of the year unless they are very short, short enough that I can finish them and then some. It may mean I miss out on adding to my book count, but remaining sane is far more important.

Yet beyond the databases I am predisposed to finish books and start the next year with a clean slate. This time around it was especially important. I looked forward to saying goodbye to 2013 and to the change in numbering and everything else that would signal the new start, however artificial in terms of the universe, that is available to us. But I like the idea of the new year in general, anyway. And as much as last year’s list was long and I enjoyed watching it grow, there is a sense of peacefulness, of relaxation, that accompanies a blank list.

Even if I do still have a review to write from last year’s reading.

I’m not a fan of continuing books from one year to the next. It may mean that time ‘flows’ but it doesn’t suit my working method nor my way of read-review-repeat. And as this is something that everyone chooses for themselves, I think it is more than okay to have a strong preference without worrying about fitting in with others.

What about you – do you prefer to finish all your current reads by the end of the year or are you happy to let things happen when they will?


Jenny @ Reading the End

January 15, 2014, 1:48 am

I let the chips fall where they may, as far as finishing books when the year ends. I have no faith that I can manage to finish them up, even if I had the inclination.

Does the “Miss Bennet” stuff prove confusing? I’m usually okay with it — if more than one of the Bennet sisters is in the conversation, it seems like they always differentiate: ‘Miss Bennet’ for Jane and ‘Miss Firstname’ for the others. But maybe I’m remembering wrong?


January 15, 2014, 3:23 am

I let books carry over, but I did want to finish The Goldfinch before 2013 ended and managed to. I always have several books on the go at one time and would go crazy if I tried to complete them all before a year ended.
Vanity Fair seems very daunting to me – I always admire people who finish it!

Tanya Patrice

January 15, 2014, 4:32 am

I don’t mind if books carry over and I count them in the year that it’s finished.

Kate @ Midnight Book Girl

January 15, 2014, 4:52 am

lol, I completely understand the agony of this choice! I prefer to be done completely before moving on to the next year, but I’m usually reading at least 3 to 5 books at once. The only book I had this year that I started last year was 1984. It’s not a long book, but the writing style takes more thought and attention than most of the YA books I read do, and (this is probably too much information) it’s my bathroom book. So I only read a minute or twp here and there unless it’s a really good part of the book. ;) For some reason, 1984 being a carry over didn’t really bother me.


January 15, 2014, 8:03 am

As someone who doesn’t even bother with New Year’s Eve partying, I just carry on as normal.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

January 15, 2014, 12:00 pm

I’m happy to let books drift from one year to the next. I started a 800 page book (A Man in Full) back in October and I still haven’t finished it. It is the sort of book that needs to be read slowly and I wouldn’t have liked the pressure of feeling I had to finish it by the end of the year. I just count a book as being read in the month/year I finish it.


January 15, 2014, 12:52 pm

I hate it and was just about to comment that I couldn’t and then realised technically I actually have a few. A History of Everything and Swanns Way being the main two.

I think, if I know I am planning to read them over a long period of time it’s okay, but if they are something I am reading in one go I couldn’t let one half be read in 2013 and the other in 2014.


January 15, 2014, 4:56 pm

My audiobook carried over into 2014. I tried to listen to it all in 2013, but the one I listened to before it was kind of long and took longer than I planned. So, it was technically half a 2013 book and half a 2014 book. I try not to have that happen, but sometimes it does.


January 15, 2014, 8:42 pm

I have no reading plan, ever, partly because I had such a big plan in grad school and then because I learned to set things down and pick them up again later when my children were small. I’ve picked up a book five years later and carried on with it. I have one right now that I’ll get in the mood for again someday, but it’s been sitting on a table towards the bottom of a stack for a couple of years.

Literary Feline

January 15, 2014, 8:55 pm

I like to think it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other, but when the clock is ticking, I start racing to try to finish whatever I am reading so I can start fresh in the new year.

Belle Wong

January 16, 2014, 5:13 am

I’m such a moody reader, I always have lots of books that I put down when I was only half-way through, always with the intention of getting back to them. I find, though, that I very rarely do – and then I’ll be bloghopping and read someone’s review and think to myself, oh, I should get back to that one!


January 16, 2014, 3:14 pm

No clean slate for me! It would be way too hard to even try.


January 16, 2014, 5:16 pm

I just let my reads carry over into the next year and to be honest can’t say I’d thought about it before!

Christine @Buckling Bookshelves

January 17, 2014, 3:31 am

I hadn’t really thought about it, but I really don’t mind if I’m in the middle of a book crossing over to the next year (or week or month, for that matter) — I simply count it based on the completion date. I only keep track on GoodReads anyway. And even though I join all sorts of challenges and set a goal for the year, I try really hard to not let the numbers dictate my reading and use them more as a reminder to make more time to read, rather than just trying to power through more books more quickly. My two cents on the matter, anyway!


January 20, 2014, 7:37 pm

I am the type of person who can only really just read one book at a time. So if it does cross into the new year that’s fine. I can’t imagine taking a year to read a book but I know Vanity Fair is really long. I really don’t like DNF a book so that always bothers me… I force my way through. Good luck finishing up your books.


February 28, 2014, 3:43 pm

Jenny: No, it’s not confusing in Pride & Prejudice so much – my comparison there was to show how Austen makes it work with 5 characters versus Thackeray making it confusing with only 2 :)

Anbolyn: that’s a long book if I remember rightly? I can understand you wanting to finish it, a good goal to have. It is long, and a bit confusing!

Tanya: That’s a good way of doing it.

Kate: I can why 1984 took a while! Lots to cover. Too much info aside I can understand that. Sometimes you need to read a book in short amounts of time.

Maryom: That’s another way of viewing it, definitely!

Jackie: True, those situations (like Vanity Fair) make it difficult to finish quickly. Me too, the month finished works well.

Alice: Interesting, I hadn’t thought of doing that – making a distinction between long and short books.

Kailana: Time is an issue!

Jeanne: I like that this is something you’ve changed as you’ve continued reading, it’s interesting to read. Though five years later – did you remember much? I can’t imagine doing that successfully!

Literary Feline: It’s a frustrating but (I like to think!) good goal to have. I like that if you’ve had a bad year, it’s something else you can say you’ve started afresh.

Belle: I suppose the question is, do you then go on to complete it?

Liviania: I’m seeing a few books on the go ;)

Jessica: I think it’s my liking for organised information that made me first think about it!

Christine: Interesting to hear of others basing it on completion date – I’ve wondered if the past if that’s cheeky, almost, because it makes you (thinking me here!) look like you’ve read a lot more when you could have read the last page of a load of books. Ahh, GoodReads makes it easier. Interesting thought about numbers. I’m trying to do that now, to push me to read more just for that rather than to add to the numbers (that said I’m not reading much at the moment so it’s become a necessity).

Angie: I hear you, I was that person for a long time and still am to some extent (it really depends on my mood/the book/etc). It is, very long!



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