Saturday, December 19, 2015

On Reading Harder Better Smarter Wider Gentler

Many of my friends are competitive readers.

I'm not sure if this is actually a Thing, but let's just say if there was an Olympic sport category for number of books read/time spent reading, these people would be on the team.

A writer/blogger friend recently posted about having read 300 books this year. Another friend is painstakingly reading his way through a Top 100 Book list. (Side note: he quickly realized that there are many Top 100 lists--ranging from the Goodreads Top 100 Books You Must Read Before You Die to the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels and many other lists in between. So, he is doing what any competitive reader would do: he is reading the books on ALL of the lists.)

There was a time in my life when I would've wanted to be on this team. When I was a kid, I read constantly, checking as many books out of the library as was allowed in one checkout. I didn't own many books but the ones I did own, I read and reread. In college I was an English major and loved the idea that reading books was my homework.

Maybe ten years ago, I began keeping a notebook of books I'd read, and when I started this blog, I recorded the yearly lists here and here and here and analyzed the ones that stuck with me.

I dutifully recorded titles on Goodreads (until I learned that being on Goodreads, as a writer, doesn't feel so great) and then I moved my book list over to Booklikes where I have no friends and there's no judgment but there's a lovely bookshelf feature where you can display your titles.

Something I noticed this year is that I didn't read as many books as I usually do. For the first time in my life, I put books down that I didn't connect with (my rule was: give it five chapters and then quit). I quit on a lot and I am happy to say that I felt only small twinges of guilt.  For maybe four or five months when I was writing like a maniac, I barely read at all. A chapter, at most, a night, of the same book, until I nodded off to sleep.

Still, I kept buying books and checking them out of the library. Books sat on my bedside table and piled up in my office. (Side note #2. I did, however, create a lovely Book Tree out of some:

This year-- I just counted-- I read 38 books, the smallest number I've recorded since I began keeping stats.

Ah well. It's not as if it is a competition.

And yet, I do love the idea of challenging myself to read more, to read better. I can't imagine reading 300 books though (I mean, WHAT??? HOW???) And my new-found Put-a-Book-Down-When-I-Don't-Connect-With-It rule would make a Top 100 List quest impossible.

Which brings me to what just may be the perfect challenge for me: the Book Riot blog's 2016 Read Harder. 

Basically, it's a list of 24 categories. (24! Not so many!) And the titles are left up to you, which means lots of choice and wiggle room and the ability to set a book (or many) down if you don't connect. BUT, and here's the challenge part-- there is enough specificity in the categories (Read a food memoir. Read a play. Read a collection of essays.) to make you feel like you're on a competitive reading team.

Anyone want to join me?


  1. Adriana likes your idea but she doesn't know how she'll do it because she lives in CT

  2. I'm just going to keep working on my TBR list, which has about 250 boooks on it at this point. I've read about 90 books this year, but my problem is that I see great new recommendations all the time, so I add new titles even faster than I cross off the old ones!
    Probably a good problem to have, though.

    1. This is always my problem too-- an always growing stack and new books catching my eye all the time.

  3. I like this concept! I printed the list for reference -- I wish "read a YA book" was on there. :)

    1. We don't have any trouble reading those though :)

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