On Reading 100 Books (Actually, more like 50)

On January 21, 2014, I shared this picture on social media with the accompanying caption positing that I would attempt to read one hundred books during the year.


I’m so artsty it makes me sick.

Almost as soon as my fingers pounded out the goal, I realized that reading one hundred books was out of the question; it was already practically February.  So instead I said that reading fifty would be more likely.  I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but that’s like one every week or something.

As of writing this, I’ve read fifty-one books and am on my way toward finishing number fifty-two.

Now, I realize that this isn’t a great accomplishment by any means.  Still, I was impressed with myself for setting a goal and achieving it.  While I’ve always enjoyed reading–I do work at a public library after all–there was something almost stifling about knowing that I had to finish this goal.  In fact, almost as soon as I posted the picture, one of my friends commented that it’s better to keep the goals that you set to yourself because announcing the goals tricks your mind into thinking they have already been completed.

There were many times when I started reading a book and just couldn’t get into it, and wanted to stop.  For instance, I started reading The King in Yellow after watching True Detective over the summer, but I didn’t finish it until early December.  That’s outrageous! The book is only 256 pages.  I should have been able to knock that out in a weekend.  So I set it aside and read other books.  All the while I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that the time I put into reading those hundred or so pages would be worthless unless I finished the book in its entirety.

So I pressed on toward my goal’s end.  I knew I had to, but it wasn’t just because I’d already put it out there on the Internet. I had to do it because if I don’t finish a book, I feel like I’m disrespecting the author.

When I first take a book in my hands, open the cover and feel the paper, crisp and dry between my fingers, I’m entering into an agreement with that author and into a relationship with that book.  For however many pages, I belong to that book and it belongs to me. When I put it down, even for a few days, I feel like we’ve abandoned each other. By not being interesting or not grabbing my attention, the book has recanted its agreement with me.

A recent study showed that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, such as when you read fiction, improves your ability to show compassion.  Maybe that’s why I have trouble abandoning those books—because I know inside those pages, I’m someone else, maybe even someone better, if only for 300 or so pages.

Please save your psychoanalyses until the end, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve listed the fifty-one books on the next three pages, broken into three categories:  Good, Godawful and Great (because I like alliteration. If I liked assonance, I’d call them All Right, Awful and Amazing).  I briefly thought about ranking them, but then I realized that my rankings would do nothing to sway you if you’d already read a particular book and loved it and vice versa.  All I can say is that I highly recommend all the ones that I’ve put in the Great category.


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13 responses to “On Reading 100 Books (Actually, more like 50)

  1. I set myself the challenge of 50 books, and it was all going well until I finished travelling, came back home, and had to start working full time. Long gone are the blissful days of sitting around with nothing to think about but where my next ham sandwich is coming from, or which book to read next… I have only read 36, and have only a week left. Well done on reaching your goal, luckily you’re the first person I’ve told about mine, so at least the public shaming will be kept to a minimum

  2. Interesting list. I don’t like Gillian Flynn as much as you apparently do, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower is pretty darn good. Unlike you, I didn’t set out to read 50 books this year, but to my surprise when November came around, I counted the list of books I’d read and found that I could make it to 52 if I applied myself. Then I started getting nervous that I wouldn’t reach my goal. January 1 is less than a week away, and I’m almost halfway through my 52nd book. I hope I make it. Congrats on reaching your goal.

  3. I used to set myself reading goals and then I gave up doing that because I found it took the fun out of reading

  4. Great list. I thought I was the only one who read Breakfast at Tiffany’s this year! Congratulations on all that reading!

  5. Love this list! You have inspired me to read a book a week for the new year :)

  6. I gotta side with Nicolanoo. I think that the number of books you read last year is totally respectable….unless you are someone who doesn’t work or socialize with anyone, write letters or talk on the telephone; or go outdoors, or shop for groceries and cook your own meals; take baths, or gaze out of windows….I’m gettin’ older, and refuse to treat reading like a competitive sport (although I am proud to say that I read 44 books in 2014 lol!)

  7. Pingback: On Reading 100 Books, Part II | Eleventh Stack

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