2018 Reading Challenge: Part 1

by kipress

What is this? An actual blog post? Yes, it is, only two years since the last one. The thesis novel I last updated you about is back up to 92,000 words and officially in draft 5 (but who’s counting); yes, I did get my degree, but that doesn’t mean the book is finished. I just compiled that draft 5 MS today, December 31, so I felt it was a good milestone to mention.

But on to other, better books than my unfinished behemoth. Dismayed at my declining reading over the years and feeling distinctly like the internet has been making me lose my ability to read in depth, in 2018 I decided it was time to take on a reading challenge and publicly track my reading, which I did over on Goodreads – DAMN ITS EASE OF USE, AMAZON IS EVIL.

(Self-flagellates.)

Alas, I have not established a new tracking system for 2019.

Though I was most aware of Jonathan Ball’s #95books challenge, I decided to go for the more modest 52 books, a commonly declared challenge on Goodreads. I’m aware that these reading challenge numbers are all relative: to some people (let’s say, most of the students I teach), 52 books in a year might seem like a lofty goal, but to many of my writer and academic friends, not to mention friends who are voracious genre readers, it probably seems laughably small.

While there were times during the year that I fell behind, in the end I made 52 books quite comfortably, with about a month to spare, and then had a very productive December (vacation, air travel), getting my final total to 66. (Actually, it was 67, but there was one book I read early in the year that I wanted to forget and decided to delete from my list in a fit of pique.)

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 9.48.16 PMBuoyed by this success, I’m going to try for #95books in 2019. Things I need to keep in mind, given my experience in 2018:

  • Read on the bus. I’m lucky that I don’t get motion sick. That’s at least 40 minutes per day reading right there, so long as I don’t get seduced by the news apps.
  • Read before bed. Working or going on-line before bed does not help me sleep. Reading is better.
  • Stay off social media. My reading time this year shot up when I installed a social blocker which I’ve set so I’m only allowed on social media during limited periods of the day. As a result, no one likes my Facebook posts any more (I’m guessing they are not even seeing them), but who cares, really? I found pretty fast that once I blocked myself, I no longer wanted to go online, and got into the habit of reading instead.
  • Less Netflix. It’s so easy to start watching something and binge through a bunch of episodes for hours on the couch. I’ve tried to limit Netflix to two hours per week, and—just like with the social media—I found that after a while I no longer really wanted to go there, to the point that I had to schedule in my two hours so I didn’t completely ignore that form of storytelling.
  • Use the library. Not only does the public library offer good tools for organizing lists of books you want to read, the due dates create a deadline and a sense of urgency that I just never have when reading books I own (and believe me, I own a lot). But yes, I actually buy the books by people I know.
  • “Book” does not only refer to 600-page epics or weighty literary masterpieces (though those are also good). Only three of the books I read this year were upwards of 500 pages. Au contraire, lots of the books I read were poetry books, children’s books, and comics. I counted the books I read to my daughter for bedtime (five YA novels over the course of the year). I counted the ones she insisted on reading to me (three YA graphic novels which I had to look at over her shoulder). Books are books.

Parts 2 and 3 of this post will break my reading habits down a bit, and then highlight a few of my favourites from 2018.