I Read 500 Books in 2009January 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 Weekly “new 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.