Having felt bookishly starved in 2009 and rather over-stuffed in 2010, it’s taken me some time to plan the menu for my 2011 reading year. Then, this past week, I tested the seasoning, to see if this blend of eleven ingredients will be the perfect sort of bookishness that I’ve been craving, and I think it’s table-ready.

1 MRE Authors (12)
2 Short stories (12)
3 Re-reads (12)
4 Series (12)
5 Non-fiction (12)

6 Theme Reading: Aging (*Memory)
7 Theme Reading: Gender and Conformity (*Intersexuality)
8 Theme Reading: Wildlife
9 Theme Reading: Toronto

10 Must-Reads (12 Reading Recommendations)
11 Community Reads (including some challenges)

The first five are simply reminders to myself; they are reading trends that I do generally follow but, in the past reading year, I have lost track of them at times. Not only the text itself, but my reading intentions, too: much of this past year has been blurry in the reading flurry.

For instance, during 2010 I’ve discovered some new MRE (Must-Read-Everything) authors, but I didn’t read as many from the existing list as I wanted to. (Good thing I don’t track stats for things like this!)

And I’ve read some great short story collections recently, but I haven’t always had one on the go (which I like to have, as I prefer to leave some space between each story as I read). I’m beginning my MRE Alice Munro project, with the first three stories from Dance of the Happy Shades, on January 19th (I’ll post the dates for the rest of that collection then, too, if anyone wants to follow along), but I have several collections at hand, and would love to portion out stories as a regular side-dish.

I plan to read the Munro stories serially, but I also want to catch up on series reading proper.  I have a bad bookish habit (::finger-wagging::) of starting series and not keeping up with them or not finishing them, even when I wholly enjoy them. When I cleaned my plate of Giles Blunt’s mysteries last autumn, I was reminded of how rewarding it is to follow along more closely with a series and the characters therein, and I want to make a point of being more loyal in that way. (And maybe eating up the leftovers before I start simmering too many more new entrees would be a good idea too.)

Much of last year’s re-reading went back much further in my reading past — to childhood, even — and I’d like to choose some re-reads for this year which are a little fresher, even if they are re-re-reads. Revisiting Margaret Laurence’s novels this past year was familiar and satisfying (kinda like a big plate of mashed potatoes with butter): I’d like that feeling to make a regular appearance on my reader’s menu.

Those are all fairly comfortable reminders. The one with a hint of bitterness is my desire to broaden the kinds of non-fiction that I read, to break new bookish ground. That might take some adjusting. But it will complement the theme reading I want to do this year, so I hope I can cultivate the habit without my even noticing.

For instance, my Toronto reading has been novels, mostly, but I’ve been inspired by Amy Lavender Harris’ Imagining Toronto and Sarah Elton’s and Kevin Robbins’ City of Words: Toronto Through Its Writers’ Eyes to explore this theme more broadly too. With luck, the four subjects that I’ve chosen, and my long-time interest in them, will create a bookish kaleidoscope that will dazzle any reading awkwardness on these themes’ non-fiction reading. I hope I can adjust my bookish taste, in the same way that I learned to love cilantro.

The last two of my eleven reading intentions are closely linked, because I’ve chosen my Must-Reads this year based wholly on the recommendations of other readers. Which includes three of you who commented most frequently here on BIP. (Not that I don’t swap recipes — er, reading recommendations — from most of you bookish folk! And thanks so much for every one.) I’ll be updating this list as the weeks pass, and already the combination of flavours is intriguing.

My approach to challenges is a little different this year; I’m participating in fewer at the outset (I joined and completed 21 last year), but I’m choosing more demanding levels. My reader’s pantry may be strained by this as the months pass, but I have a big appetite, so hopefully that carries me through.

The 2011 challenges I’m joining are (with sign-ups and fresh pages yet to come):
The Foodie’s Reading Challenge (The Glutton level, 12 or more books);
The GLBTQ Reading Challenge (Setting my own level, 15);
The Heroine’s Bookshelf Challenge (5 Heroine-y books inspired by Erin Blakemore’s book);
The POC Reading Challenge (Level 5, 16-25 books); and
Canadian Book Challenge 4 (13 or more books, already complete, officially ending June 30/2011).

So far? I’ve been nibbling from 8 out of the 11: seems promising.

What flavour has characterized your 2011 reading  so far?