I’m lying. I have no plans to stop at 329 books this year. I’m also not counting books I began but haven’t finished yet, articles read, or podcasts played. My problem is much worse than reading 329 books.
This is me being vulnerable. I am not proud of how much I read. I know better than to try to impress anyone, because I’ve been down this road before. I read 500 books in 2009, just to see if I could. That was back when I kept a book blog, with a whopping 38 regular readers. When you admit that you read an absurd volume of books, questions start popping up.
What were you reading? Comic books? (Yeah, sometimes)
Did you speed-read? (No, although I know how)
Did you actually finish all of those books or are you making it up?
I have nothing to prove. If anything, my life would have gone much easier if I had found a way to look like a normal person, someone whose life was not dominated by books. I’d also have more friends if I drank coffee and beer, ate bacon, and had a tattoo. I am who I am, and that’s an unstylish, sort of freaky loner who strongly prefers reading to almost every other activity.
I don’t think other people should try to read as much as I do. It’s actually a really, really bad idea. Okay, it’s probably a bad idea. Okay, if you’re willing to make radical changes and you have a bias toward action, it might possibly be a fabulous idea, but only if you don’t do it the way most pernicious readers do.
Pernicious reading! That’s reading that keeps you sedentary and preoccupied, distant, disengaged, chronically stuck and surrounded with a backlog of basic life tasks.
What I do differently is that almost all my reading is coupled with positive action.
My secret is that reading is the reason I do most other stuff. If I have a good relationship with my husband, a respectable level of productivity, visibly competent physical fitness, and an orderly house, then nobody can fault me for kicking back with a book. In other words: LEAVE ME ALONE, I’M READING.
I read 85% of the time while I work out. (The rest of the time is doing standing-desk work on the treadmill, or exchanging brief chitchat with my husband before he turns on his headphones).
I read 100% of the time while I clean house, and about 90% of the time while I prepare meals. I also read through breakfast and lunch.
Reading is the way I reward myself for getting my daily checklist checked off. Reading is the way I occupy myself while my husband is reading textbooks or designing a new arduino project or making robots or whatever the heck he’s doing. Reading is the way I manage my travel anxiety while I’m on a plane. Reading is my pacifier.
If I read less (in English), I could use some of that time to practice my listening skills in one of the other languages I’d supposedly love to learn.
If I read less, I could be learning to play classical guitar like my childhood idol, Charo.
If I read less, I could be writing more, although, to be fair, I’ve published 258,471 words so far in 2017 on this blog alone. That’s equivalent to 1,034 pages. *THUD*
I’ll never quit. I tried once. I made a resolution not to read any books for a month, and it was awful. It was AWFUL! I was so depressed. I cheated by reading the newspaper at lunch and by listening to audio books while I did stuff around my apartment. That was back in the days of 1x speed, too. I did get more done around the place, like cleaning out closets, but once that was finished I couldn’t point to a single benefit of quitting my lifelong habit. What did I think I was going to do, start watching TV? Go to a bar?
Reading is the best thing there is. It’s the most efficient way to extract thoughts from bright, creative people all around the world, even people who died centuries ago. Pick up a book and you get the filtered, refined, polished, edited, best thoughts from people who thought of things you never could. I can thank novels for turning me into a civilized, urbane person. I shudder to think of the barbarian I might have been.
About 40% of my reading is non-fiction. This is the stuff that tends to change my life in more immediately obvious ways. At least once a month I stumble across a totally new way of looking at a situation, a better way of doing things, or a piece of information that stops me in my tracks. It’s reading non-fiction that has enabled me to fix my parasomnia problem and become a marathon runner.
I read a lot of books. I’m also sort of a jock, and that never would have happened if I’d had to spend all my workout time concentrating on my breathing and my muscle soreness. Give me a break. Exercise is excruciatingly boring. With books, though, I can do it and enjoy it. I’d never be able to hold a sixty-second plank if I didn’t have a book or magazine on the floor under my nose.
So how do I do it? Let me remind you again that I said not to, that trying to read 300 books a year is a bad idea unless you use it to improve your life in at least one other routine way.
I scored a 790 out of 800 on the verbal portion of the SAT. This is completely due to my early, addictive reading habits. Reading has made me a patient, disciplined person. It’s probably kept me out of a certain amount of trouble, since I have generally preferred to go home and read rather than go out and party. There’s a lot to recommend it. Of course, reading has also made me a huge dork.
Can you read 300 books in 2018? Gosh, I hope not. If you do, though, use it as your tool to a stronger, more active body, a cleaner, more organized home, a romantic partner who has more personal time to relax, and better dinners. Or just do it because it’s better than what’s on TV.
Ermagerd. That’s 2,765 books in ten years.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.