“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut,” Stephen King, On Writing.
It’s a bit ironic that one of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Author Stephen King, since I really don’t like his writing.
I should clarify that. It’s not King’s writing I dislike. The man knows his way around a sentence. My husband loves King, so I’ve read a few of his books during the years. I’m not a fan of his genre. Since Sci Fi is not my thing, I avoid it.
I decided in spite of this to read King’s memoir, On Writing. I’m so glad I did. The book is one of the smartest things I’ve read about the craft of writing. The quote above was just one of many that stuck in my head. It summarizes the way I’ve always felt about writing and reading—a message I attempt to pass on to my students.
An interesting thing about reading and writing as it’s portrayed in the above quote is they seem like chores. I’ve never thought of either that way. I’ve written here before about my love for words, which I’ve possessed since I can remember having preferences for anything.
Although I’ve always loved reading and writing, as I’ve grown older I’ve noticed I have less time to devote to these pleasures. Gone are the days when I could spend cold winter Saturdays lying on my twin bed, covered in a blanket, reading a book. Most of my days off now are spent cleaning house, running errands, catching up on work, and hauling my children to basketball games. Actually, now that I think of it, most of my work evenings are spent the same way. There’s not a lot of time left for reading or writing, although this blog and my commitment to it has helped a lot with the writing part. The reading still tends to get lost in the hussel.
I find this true of my students as well. As journalists, they want to read and write a lot, but they find it difficult to do so and keep up with their other academic requirements. They’re reading, but more out of necessity than pleasure. They read the things they’re supposed to read. They consider this a great loss. So do I. It’s a loss for all of us.
I’ve thought for about a year about how we all should make more time for reading. If we love it, why aren’t we doing it?
I’ve gathered information on how much we read and thought about how (outside of class requirements) I could support my students in reading more.
The average American reads 24 books a year, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The number made me sad. I bet I read that many books a year on accident.
I wondered how many books I read a year, and an idea was born. I should do a reading challenge! That would force me to make time for something I love.
Deciding to start the new year with a reading challenge was easy. Figuring out how many books to read was more difficult.
I read 12 books a year for pleasure as part of my book club. I thought perhaps I would read 40 additional books, averaging a book a week during the year. Then I looked back at my GoodReads account at the books I documented reading last year. It was way more than 50, and I wasn’t even trying or rating them all on the site. Also, what about audiobooks? I average an audiobook every two weeks during my daily commute. Surely those should count as well.
I started asking around. I knew others who had done reading challenges. How many books did they aspire to read? How did it work?
A former student agreed that 52 books was way too few. She was on her way to reading 100 books in 2012, a feat I understand she reached just before the new year. She suggested I try this as well. I was convinced easily.
I plan to read 100 books in 2013. Some of the books will be strictly for pleasure. Some will be for work. Some will be for my dissertation research. But all of the books I read will fulfill me in some way.
I’ll keep track of my progress so I can set a better, more individualized goal for next year. But I anticipate reaching this year’s goal.
I mapped out the books I plan to read in January here. I will do this each month. You’ll notice there are 10 books on the list, even though I don’t need to read that many books each month to reach my goal. This is about knowing myself. I refuse to struggle through a bad book. Life is too short to read bad books. I’ve given myself some leeway to drop out of reading I don’t find enlightening.
I admit that I already was reading two books and listening to one when the new year dawned. I will finish these in the new year, so I’ll give myself credit (and a jump start) for them.
I plan to review every book I read this year. You can find some reviews from last year here.
I’m using the Twitter hashtag #100Books to indicate reviews of the books I read and posts related to reading.
In the upcoming days, I will provide you with insight on how I will accomplish this reading goal while being a full-time mom, professor, collegiate media adviser, and Ph.D. student. I’ll also offer plenty of practical advice on how you can find more time for reading in your day-to-day life. I encourage you to read more this year too. Perhaps 100 books is a good goal for you as well?
Real Nerds Read!
I would love for you to join me in my reading challenge, if you think you’re up to the task. Commit below if you’re interested. I’ll check in on you throughout the year and see how you’re progressing. We can be reading accountability partners!
I also would love your reading recommendations below. Have you read something that I just can’t miss? Leave the title in the comments.