How many books have you read in the past 9 months? I read more. I have read 51 books since Thanksgiving 2007. That is a lot of books.
Last year I was on vacation and a friend lent me a book by Jincy Willet, a writer who was brand new to me. Turned out to be the perfect book for inciting my own personal reading orgy. First of all, it was a book of short stories- ideal for a commitment-phobe like me who can't be counted on to keep all the characters in a novel straight over the course of 300 pages. A literature snack was just the thing. But this book of short stories turned out to be so much better than a snack; it turned out to be the most wonderfully written book of bite-size gems I had ever had the opportunity to meet. As I read, the words filled a hunger for me, and my literature deprivation, a yearning insatiable beast that I didn't even know I had, came roaring to life and politely asked for more.
Over the course of the next week or so, I digested more books. I was on vacation in a little town and I had time on my hands. I picked up books from other people's shelves; I made forays to used bookstores. I judged books by their covers and I read them. And when I got home from my vacation I decided to get a little more organized with my new reading habit so, in hopes of finding more book recommendations, I did an internet search for the author who had started it all. That search led me to a blog:
The blog is dedicated to the goal of reading 50 books every year and the author shares reviews of her books with her audience. This was fantastic! I had never really looked at a blog before. I was wildly excited by it, and eagerly added books to my reading list, based on her recommendations. Inspired by the idea of sharing writing with the world, I said to myself, "I too will have a blog one day." But my more immediate goal was to read 50 books over the course of a year.
So I got to reading. And reading. I found goodreads. I started "talking books" with people, hoarding books I purchased at thrift stores, passing along good ones to other people, and piling up books that my reader friends passed along to me. This reading thing was fun! And, it was also energizing to have a goal for myself- a challenging one at that, one that I was unsure I could achieve. In any given year prior I had rarely read more than three books and a short pile of New Yorker magazines. It took me well over a year to finish Crime and Punishment. So this goal challenged my self discipline and took me way out of my same-old-same-old. I lead a happy life, but every year had become pretty much the same for me. Same house, same job, same vacations, etc... The book challenge changed things up. I had a project. It set my year apart from prior years, made it special, supplied a needed ingredient. And it was MY project. It also set me apart from other people.
And that, really, is what this post is all about. I embarked on this challenge in order to be challenged and to push myself into new territory. The internal satisfaction that I have experienced as a result of meeting my goal has been very satisfying. The cool thing is that there is yet more satisfaction to be gleaned from this triumph- the satisfaction that comes from bragging about it.
I read them. 51 of them. I have the list to prove it. You spent your year doing other things. Perhaps you volunteered in a soup kitchen or planted a community garden. Maybe you graduated from college and got accepted to graduate school with a teaching assistantship or had a scholarly article published. Perhaps you went to India, or conceived, gestated and birthed a baby. That is great. It is really, very impressive. But, when someone asks you if you read 51 books in the last 9 months, you will have to say, "No, I did not."
When someone asks me, I will have a different answer.