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.

I Did It! Ha Ha Ha! I Did It!

January 1, 2010 at 12:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

With thanks to my cheerleaders, my challengers, and above all to my scoffers, I did it!  I read 500 books in one year.

I did it in spite of: getting married, becoming a first-time parent, moving and setting up a new household, taking on a two-hour commute, and hostessing my first Thanksgiving, among other challenges.

I did it because I like challenging myself.  I also did it to prove a point – that you’re never too busy to take time for yourself, do something you find interesting, or most especially, read all the great and wonderful books of your wildest dreams.

Thanks again, everyone, Happy New Year, Happy 2010, and I’ll fill you in this weekend with what-all I read.


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