I Read 500 Books in 2009

January 1, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Challenges | 20 Comments

…and most of them were worthy.  I believe it is possible to evaluate the merit of books objectively, at least to a certain extent, and it’s my credo to seek out the best I can find.  Below is an update to stats I posted a couple months ago in The Question of Quality.

But first, for anyone asking who the F cares that I read 500 books, let me tell you a bit about it.  I have a full-time job and a teenage kid.  I commute two hours a day and go to the gym at least three days a week.  We cook all our meals from scratch and let me tell you, I do the majority of it.  I keep a sparkling clean house in spite of our 18-month-old terrier and a messy parrot.  We read aloud together an hour a day or more.  I planned my wedding this year, moved, combined two households, and hostessed my first Thanksgiving.  At Christmas I cooked for 13.  I even helped my parents clean their garage and all their closets.  I am one busy lady.  When I say I read 500 books, I mean I moved heaven and earth to make time for something that was important to me.

Why?  I did it so that other people who hear about it can say, “Wow, if she could read all that in spite of everything, maybe I can finally find time to read [insert longed-for book].”  I could have read far more if I was a speed reader or if I’d been more interested in genre fiction (other than mysteries, which I enjoy from time to time).  The reason I bother to post stats like those below is to show that it’s not only possible to read a huge quantity of books when you’re busy, but also to read dense, absorbing, challenging, literary books.  I read 30 books of 500 pages or more.

As a final note, I’ve heard from a number of people this year who think I’m a snob, largely because I don’t think chick lit “rates” the same as literary fiction.  I’ll say flatly that you’re missing the point here.  I read all sorts of things other people would consider rubbish, including noir fiction, graphic novels, children’s books, and self-help books.  I enjoy them and I think everyone should read for pleasure.  My personal reading pleasure increased by at least triple when I discovered literary fiction, and at that point I found I was no longer able to get anything enjoyable for myself out of chick lit.  If I had one wish, it would be that I could inspire one other person to read one book he or she normally would find “too challenging,” and enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed the terrific books I’ve read this year.

Pulitzers: 40, plus 3 associated by series.  That’s not quite half, though including the ones I’d already read, I’m at 2/3.  I plan to finish them this year, especially since most of the remainder are sitting in my living room right now.

Booker long list: 13, including some short list titles

National Book Award: 5, including some short list titles

Orange Prize long list: 7, including some short list titles

New York Times Notable books: 36 (possibly more, but I got lazy digging around)

American Library Association Notable books: 5 (2008)

National Book Critics Circle Award: 5

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: 26  (over 2%!)

Modern Library 100 Best Novels: 8

College Board 101: 9 (part of a challenge with my stepkid) and I’m up to 80% complete.

Entertainment Weeklynew classics: 9

The Top 10: 16

Amazon’s Significant 7: 44

Powell’s Indiespensable: 8

I’ve also read 160 nonfiction books, 7 books of poetry, and two plays.  In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve read 9 children’s books, 15 young adult books, and 46 graphic novels (not quite one a week - I’ll have to do more this year).  I catalog my reading on LibraryThing and Goodreads if you’re deeply curious.  (See right column for link).

Addendum: Here’s “how I did it” if you’re curious.

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20 Comments »

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  1. OK, so how DO you get all that reading done?? I read more than anyone I know, and I only read about 30 books this year. Granted, I have a lot of down time when I don’t read, but I can’t imagine finishing 500, graphic novels included or not! How much time to you devote to reading and where do you fit it in during your day? Also, do you find that reading that much helps or hurts when it comes to retention? This year I’ve found that taking notes while I read helps me keep track of things better (this is especially helpful when trying to write reviews later or reading more than one book at a time) but it also slows down my reading considerably.

    BTW, I know intent doesn’t always come through clearly in writing, so I just want to let you know that all of this is sincere curiosity, not a challenge to your claim! :) What goals do you have for 2010?

  2. Congratulations! I knew you’d make it :) I am very impressed both at the amount and the variety. Are you going to try for 500 again in 2010?

    • First, thank you! And second, heck no! My new husband has been very patient, but we agreed last spring that I wouldn’t do it two years in a row.

  3. Wow, you’re amazing! Congratulations on a job well done!

  4. Good for you. I cannot believe that people have actually e-mailed/commented to say that you’re a reading snob. What the hell? LOL. Did you tell them to get a life. I love me some Jodi Picoult (she’s my “Lifetime Television” author) and in no way would I ever say that she is equal to Milton (!)

  5. Congratulations! I just knew you’d make it!

  6. and don’t forget, you ALSO blogged and not just kept up your blog but COMMENTED at fun places (like Cit Reader’s Book Menages :) )
    You rock. I will reference back to your post here – I lagged in my efforts to keep track of books that had won awards and I’m wondering how many I read that are on the 1001 books to read before I die…
    REALLY – congrats!

  7. You are the wind beneath my wings!

    • Bybee! I had a dream last night that I flew to the midwest to visit you. Weird, huh?

  8. [...] television and cruising around the Internet. Shut off the electronic distractions and just read (if Rebecca can read 500 books in 2009, I think I can manage 8 books a [...]

  9. I want to be like you! I have just found out about your mammoth reading at another blog and had to come and see for myself. I am completely blown away. When do you find time to read so many? You must be really organised and I would love to know how you fit everything in.

  10. I came here through Bybee’s blog at Naked Without Books, because she said you’d read an amazing 500 books this year. I think what you have done is awesome, and shows that there is always more time to read than we think there is. Which is my motto for this coming year! Since I read only 78, and didn’t reach my goal of 100. I really congratulate you, this is an accomplishment. And to those who have criticized you – really, they do need to look to their own selves first. I think though that a book read still counts as a book read, but someone who reads all classics does have a heavier reading list than someone who reads all chick lit. But since to goal is to increase reading, than any books read is a good thing!!! Congratulations, and I’ll be coming back to visit!

  11. Congratulations! You read some great books in 2009, I hope to read more of those in 2010!

  12. Wow, I am truly impressed! Congratulations on setting a goal and completing it.

    I don’t think you are a snob at all for loving literary fiction – I too find that to be my favorite genre. Some of my favorite writers fall into that genre. I also greatly appreciate historical fiction which I think sometimes overlaps with literary (Rose Tremain is one of those writers who I consider “literary” but whose books can also fit into the historical category).

  13. Thank you all so much for your kind comments! It really means a lot to me.

  14. I am not sure how I have missed your blog in the 13 months I have been blogging – but fortunately Vivienne guided me here today. You are SUCH an inspiration and I look forward to following your posts in the days to come.

    • Bless your heart!

  15. Ran across your blog randomly. I’m impressed! It’s amazing that you make that much time to read, especially while living such a full life. I hit 75 books this year…maybe I’ll make it to 100. We’ll see!

    I hope you lead other people to squeeze in more reading than they thought possible. :)

    Cheers!

  16. [...] I read? Fascinating! I’ve always thought I read kinda slow — I’m certainly no Jessica. But finding out how I measure up against all these other readers? YES PLEASE.Here’s the app: [...]


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