01/16/2013 06:27 pm ET Updated Mar 18, 2013

How to Plan Out a New Year's Reading List Without Losing Your Sanity

If you're reading this, you probably haven't read a book (for fun) in a while and you're trying to figure how NOT to overwhelm yourself with tens of thousands of books. But you're a planner and you need to set yourself a goal. Here are some tips I've gathered from friends, family and a lot of personal experience.

1. Go through the books lying on your desk or shelf at home. Chances are you put a couple of fascinating books there and you never got to them. Sometimes you ignore them because they are huge or too heavy, but the new year is a perfect time to dive into that book you've been meaning to explore.

This winter break, I came across The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto hidden behind other books in my shelf.

2. Notes to Yourself. This may not apply to everyone, but I've realized that I write book titles on my phone, save them, promise myself I'll return to them and then forget they exist. Sift through your notes and you're bound to find a novel or two that you just remember you must read.

This winter break, I found My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me: And Other Stories I Shouldn't Share With Acquaintances, Coworkers, Taxi drivers, Assistants, Job Interviewers... And Ex/Current/Future Boyfriends but Have by Hilary Winston.

3. Christmas Presents. During this Christmas season, gift-giving is inevitable. Sometimes, people give you novels that you never even thought of. I've realized that friends often give me books I'd never pick out for myself, but I often end up enjoying them.  Trust your friends, you probably underestimate their knowledge of you.

4. Friends' Recommendations. This is similar to the point above but slightly different. Every holiday, I have a friend who puts up a note on Facebook and asks her friends to recommend a book. She has found a couple of very interesting books this way. This inspired me to ask my friends for recommendations.

A friend recommended that I read White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I didn't know what to expect but I loved it.

5. Look for books that intrigue you that you just cannot afford to refuse. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, novels are a great way to understand social, political or environmental issues. Enter themes that interest you into your Google or Amazon search engine and I assure you that something will pop up.

I was researching surrogacy in India when I came across Origins of Love by Kishwar Desai.

Finally, do not overwhelm yourself with too many books. Go through your entire list and get vicious with that red pen. Take out the novels that you aren't absolutely dying to read. Also, give yourself a break to do something else you didn't get to do last year. I usually put time aside to do large jigsaw puzzles when I'm not reading.

By Ailsa Sachdev, Mt. Holyoke College