400!

December 23, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 4 Comments

I read 400 books this year!  Ha ha, suckers!  Gloat gloat gloat.

Actually, it’s not that big a deal – for the most part, the books I read weren’t terribly significant, and my average page count per book was only 281.  It’s just kind of cool to be able to say, “Yeah, I read 400 books in a year,” since I’ve never heard of anyone else doing it.  The main point is, as people keep asking me, how did I read so much?

I won’t say I didn’t watch TV.  This year I watched the entire first season of 24 and I’m almost caught up with the current season of Desperate Housewives.  But the way I watch TV is probably different than for most people.  I don’t have one in my house.  I watched 24 on DVD as a way to socialize with a friend, and I worked on my knitting while we did it.  I watch DH on my boyfriend’s DVR, and he’s programmed the A button on his remote to skip forward in 30-second increments so I can blast through commercials.  I’m watching TV, but I’m scheduling it, I’m setting strict limits on how much time I sit there, and I’m multi-tasking while I do it.

I won’t claim I read 400 books while keeping a perfect house and serving gourmet meals.  But, I do have a system for staying on top of everything.  I’m pretty minimalist, so I don’t have to clean around a lot of clutter.  I set aside two laundry days a week.  While the laundry is going (and sometimes when I’m on the phone), I clean the bathroom, do the floors, do the mending, and/or clean up after my (quite messy) parrot.  Done!  I’m quite capable of doing my grocery shopping for the week in 15 minutes.  As for entertaining, my friends and I meet regularly but we rotate hostessing duties.  I’ve only had company about half a dozen times all year.

I won’t claim I’ve maintained the world’s most astounding fitness level while reading 400 books.  But again, I do have a system.  I take the bus about half of the way to work, so I walk at least two miles a day during the week.  (I’m a rabid bicycling enthusiast, but I decided to switch to the bus for part of this year so I could meet my reading goal).  (I have read while riding my bike, but I don’t recommend it!)  I’m within the healthy weight range for my age and height.  I certainly read while I eat meals, but otherwise I don’t snack while reading.  It’s best not to associate two sedentary habits with each other.

All right, you say, I’m not Martha Stewart either, but I didn’t read 400 books.  You still haven’t said how you did it!

The main secret is that I spent about six hours a day reading, and significantly more most weekends.  You’d be amazed what a person can do in over 2000 hours.  (Now I’m asking myself why I didn’t write a book).  I read between 6 PM and 11 PM at home (minus housework and talking to Rocket Scientist on the phone), and during my lunch hour at work.  The other hour was picked up between my two 15-minute bus rides, standing in line here and there, using my electric toothbrush, etc.

Now, it’s possible I also read faster than the average person.  I think I read faster now than I did at the beginning of the year.  I average 50 pages an hour for most books, 30 pages an hour for heavy material and up to 100 pages an hour for humor or young adult fiction.  There are two tricks behind that.  One is to perpetually challenge your literacy skills and learn as much vocabulary as possible.  The other – and this is weird – is that I learned to blink at punctuation marks.  I read about it in Reader’s Digest when I was about 10 years old.  Supposedly, blinking regularly helps your brain remember and retain information in “chunks,” and breaking up what you read at the punctuation marks makes more sense.  It’s true, I have an eidetic memory – I can usually tell you whether I read something on the left-hand or right-hand page in a book and whether it had an illustration.  Maybe I’m a freak of nature, or maybe that Reader’s Digest trick really works – hard to say since I’ve been doing it for nearly 25 years.

Don’t read 400 books.  It’s silly to spend every single day sitting in one spot reading, especially if you’re doing it just to say you’ve done it.  Next year my goal is to read a large number of classic books that I’ve Always Wanted to Read.  Those are the only reasons to read:  because you love it and because you want to be a more well-rounded person.  Take it from me.

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4 Comments »

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  1. Congratulations!! I have to say that I’m quite glad that you started blogging about your year of insane reading, so I could follow along.

  2. Congrats on reading 400 books in 2008! (I, in comparison, have only read 60!) Thanks for the Reader’s Digest trick, I’m going to try to remember to do that from now on!

    Happy Holidays!

  3. Your “how I did it” is almost like mine. I’ve only read 200 books but they average about 450 pages. I read a bit faster though, around 100 pages an hour for the “normal” stuff and about 60 pages an hour for the denser stuff. I read about 3 to 4 hours a day. From 11:30 to 1 while the kids nap and from 8 (when they go to bed) until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore…
    I didn’t know the “remembering the way the page looked” thing had a name but I have that too. Eidetic. I’ll have to remember that :)
    I’m proud of you for having done it. I’ve never hear of anyone else reading the 200 I’ve read much less 400. Way to go!

  4. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am so impressed! I had my worst year ever this year. Well, worst year since I started keeping track in 93.


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