I never usually set myself reading challenges, but in 2015 I decided that I would try one, just to see if it fit. I decided to try and read 100 books. “Why 100?” you ask. Who knows. It seemed like a big number. I don’t think I had ever read 100 books in a year before. I think I’ve read 50. I could have probably opted for 75, but it didn’t seem big enough to be a challenge.
The final weekend of December, I finally finished the last page of JG Ballard’s The Crystal World (really good!), and I realised that I’d completed the challenge. I had read 100 books in a single year. Congratulations me.
So, what did I learn? What advice can I pass on to you, reader, who may want to undertake such a challenge in 2016., or 2017, or 2021 if you’re planning really far ahead?
Don’t do it. Seriously, just don’t bother. It’s nice to read a lot of books, but if you set yourself a reading target, you wind up reading for the sake of knocking numbers off a list. I feel the same way about it as say, NaNoWriMo. At the end of the month, you might have a 50,000 word novel; but is it any good? Probably not. At the end of 2015, I have read 100 more books, but have I really experienced them properly? Probably not.
A lot of people who studied English at University (there are a few none readers who say similar things about their GCSE or A Level English) say that studying books, and reading a large amount, killed their love of reading, and in some cases, perhaps stopped them from developing a love of it. I have to say that in the last third of the year, I suffered greatly from reading fatigue.
That might have also had something to do with the books I was reading. In trying to read that many books, I wound up ploughing through quite a few that I didn’t enjoy, just so I could meet the target. Some (The White Road, The Vagrant) were just so unreadable for me that I had to stop and put them down, but the rest – I just had to keep reading, no matter how I felt.
So, what am I going to do this year? I’m going to read as much as I want, and I’m not going to worry about the time it takes me. Already that’s proving difficult – the pile of books on my ‘to read’ shelf is growing, and the last book I read (the incredible Lanark) took just shy of a month for me to read – but it didn’t worry me all that much. No longer does my reading have a horrible timescale allotted to it.