I read a lot, far more than your average person. I read more books than anyone else I knew on exchange and anyone in my family. But now I am thinking do I really read that much, I mean in numbers. Jeff Ryan read a book a day in 2012 (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/12/new_year_s_resolutions_reading_a_book_every_day.html) and said it was easy — though I think his approach may be a little unbalanced. So I decided while on Goodreads to set a goal for the year, more so that I would know how many books I had read than because I thought it would be a challenge. I went with 100 books. That should be easy, after all I read a lot — and I am working with Ryan’s definition, which includes graphic novels.
The thing is that Goodreads seems to think I am off pace. I have only read three books this year. The numbers are not exceedingly flattering. Here I fancied myself as a crazy reading machine. For me it’s not really about the goal and whether or not I make it, especially given that I made it without thinking it would be a challenge at all, but about what the numbers really say about my reading. I have never been a fan of numbers — those pesky little things that made me retake grade twelve math and caused me so much confusion and frustration — and I think that part of the problem is that not all books are equally time consuming to read. A graphic novel takes an hour or two (some take more if they are longer or wordier) and a novella takes barely anytime. Whereas a Martin Gilbert book will take the better part of a summer to get through — his thousand page history of Israel took me about three months with a few other books on the side. If you think too much about the numbers then you either end up frustrated or going with short ones to boost the numbers.
Then there is the issue of balance. Ryan gives up various things that I don’t think I could live without. I love listening to music and my once a week morning walk where I listen to This American Life all the way through. If anything this year I am trying to be more balanced. I want to watch more movies, and TV (good TV like HBO). Rory Gilmore didn’t just read she did other things too and she was a better person/fictional character for it. I could probably read 365 books in a year if I felt like it, I just think it would hurt everything else in my life — but I say that as someone who wants to try and spend less time reading, or at least more time doing other things — just like if I only took photos then I would never post on this blog.
Then there is the upside. 100 books is a lot of growth, joy and new experiences. That’s most of the books in my house that I haven’t read, or a fifth of the books on my Goodreads to read list. That’s most of the Batman comics that have ever been published — or at least as many as any sane person should read. That’s every book Stephen King has written.