Tuesday, 1 January 2019

I read 52 books in a year and it was a terrible idea



I actually did it. I read a book a week for a year. Or, at least, I read 52 books over the course of a year, having fallen behind schedule on more than one occasion and needing a real effort to catch up.


I set myself the challenge as a New Year’s resolution last year and I really do think this may be the first, actually measurable resolution I’ve managed to keep. So, would I recommend it? Nope.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I love reading. I did an English literature degree at uni based on that sole fact (probably not the best reason to choose your degree but hey, it all worked out in the end).

When the idea for this challenge first came in my head, I envisioned a year of widening my mind and actually getting through the multiple piles of unread books that take up my room.

In reality, the year was spent speed-reading, persevering through books I didn’t particularly enjoy, feeling stressed about not having read enough, spending money on new books as an incentive to read and deliberately avoiding longer books I wanted to read so that I wouldn’t fall even further behind.

I kept a log of all the books I read on Goodreads and looking back over the list I’ve built up over the last year, it’s such a let-down to discover that out of the 52 books I got through, there aren’t very many that I would actually recommend.

I think part of this is because I didn’t always have the luxury of savouring anything I read. After having it on my shelf for years, I finally read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated but I honestly think I followed about a third of the plot. 

In my defence it’s not the most straight-forward novel, but instead of going back and rereading bits, I just skimmed the bits I didn’t get and was glad when it was over and I could mark it off my list.

So, would I recommend taking on this challenge? Not at all. I’m a very quick reader and I have a half an hour commute every morning and afternoon that I do most of my reading on and even using that time I fell behind. 

I think reading challenges can be helpful, but one a week is definitely too many in my opinion, even though every year I see people surpassing this target on Twitter, so I guess it must work for some people.

Next year, I’m setting myself the target of only reading one book. The book in question happens to be Infinite Jest, which is 1,079 pages long and will probably take me just as long as this challenge did, but hey ho, no more pressurising Goodreads list for me. I want to read other books throughout the year too, but I’m not going to set myself any targets of when to finish them.

Out of the 52 I read, here is a list of the top 14 I’d actually recommend:

1.       The Good, the Bad and the Furry by Tom Cox
2.      Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
3.      Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
4.      The Good Immigrant by various writers
5.      Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
6.      The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
7.      The Power by Naomi Alderman
8.     Nasty Women by various writers
9.      The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
10.  Disobedience by Naomi Alderman
11.   Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin
12.  Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
13.  The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
14.  Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng



And after a disheartening year of reading I need fresh recommendations! So tell me, what’s the best book you read in 2018?

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