A Life Well-Nourished: Reading Intentions for 2018 / by Madeleine Riley

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I did a lot of reflecting throughout the last few months of 2017, with my thoughts veering specifically towards self-care and ways to make 2018 my best year yet. The bookish community is a great place for conversations about self-care, as reading becomes a natural part of that routine for us bookworms.

But what happens when reading becomes the thing that's creating your stress?

In 2017, I more than doubled my reading volume. I joined the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. I established partnerships with many, wonderful publishing houses. My shelves overflowed. I started the Diverse Books Club. I pushed myself to read farther and faster and when it came to October, I finally crashed.

I came down from the high of a summer spent mostly reading and realized that my reading life was no longer sustainable, and even worse, that it was making me more stressed.

So I decided to quit Top Shelf Text. Enter my beloved guru Anne Bogel, my wise friends RA and Lorraine, and a spattering of others tell me not to quit, but to just slow down. 

So I took a few months off from blogging, learned a new skill, found some balance, and took a deep breath.


Now, here we are, and I feel so.much.better. Partially because I've taken a good, hard look at many areas of my life and done the necessary pruning, but also because I've laid some firm ground rules for myself to abide by in 2018. For goal setting, I use the Cultivate What Matters Powersheets to help me gain a clear view of what's working for me, what's not, and what I really want to work on in 2018.

One of the steps in the Powersheets is to select a word of the year. That word sets the tone for your goals and provides you with a mantra to guide you throughout the year.


My word for 2018 is nourish because in 2018 every one of my goals has to do with the practice of self-care. Because I reject the notion that is laid by our society, that self-sacrifice is better serving than self-care.

It's no surprise that this word came to me after my conversation with Hallie, the host of The Life Well-Nourished podcast. In my recent episode, we talked about using books as a tool for self-care and nourishment. You can listen to that episode on Hallie's blog, Daily Bites (my episode can be found here).


Hallie asked me for my definition of a life-well nourished, and that simple question sent me into a self-reflective tizzy. What does that mean? Am I living a life well-nourished? What can do I do to change the circumstances that aren't nourishing me?

Reading is such an essential part of my self-care routine, but I let it spiral into something different last year. So to follow my practice of nourishing my life, I've set a couple loose reading goals for 2018.


I think this one is obvious, but to expand: read what I want, when I want. No deadlines, no stress. That also means I'm taking a hiatus from all book clubs (with the exception of the DBC) and that I've written a more lax timeline into my review policy. I think these little steps will add up to a bigger appreciation for the freedom to pick any title off my shelf.


I'm reading a few choice books to help me think deeply about nourishing my life, starting with Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic.

Part of my reading for growth includes reading for the Diverse Books Club. The DBC is a project that has brought the most enlightenment to my reading life and deep friendships to my personal life, so I feel it's encouraging me to grow in many directions.


This year a few of my favorite bookstagrammers are putting together challenges for the #theunreadhshelfproject2018, which intends to help readers make time for the books that they already own. I am so guilty of having more than enough books already on my shelves, so I'm making a huge effort this year to pluck titles from my personal library before heading to the bookstore or library. You can read about the first five titles I'm excited to read here.


I'm continuing to work on my Newbery Project in 2018, with an emphasis on the books that I've already collected on my "Newbery Shelf" at home. I fell into a great big Newbery slump this fall after listening to (and abhorring) The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. I'm hoping to find some renewed interest for the Newbery books this year.


With 365 days in the year and 139 of books under my belt, the average pace of my reading meant I was devouring one book every two days in 2017. And can I tell you, I loved getting to check so many titles off my list. But I also started to forget the books I had read earlier in the year, and I also eschewed reading longer books because I knew they'd slow that pace. So I'm picking up some of those longer titles this year, and I'm easing my foot off the accelerator. Some books I can't help but read in a day (thrillers, anyone?) but others deserve more time and attention, and that's just fine with me.

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I'll continue to share about my methods of self-care throughout 2018, but tell me about yours! How do you practice self-care? How does reading fit into your routine?