THE BLOG
12/31/2014 02:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why I Read 52 Books This Year

This is the reaction I'm used to getting when I tell people about my goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks.

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And then I reply with my standard comeback. "It's not really a book a week. It just seems that way."

Why is my reading challenge a big deal?

Because people seem baffled by the idea of having enough time to read that many books. With a full-time job and a toddler, I don't have any magic tricks to create more time for myself but I have learned a few tips that make reading easier: having books around and being armed with one when I leave the house, using a tool (Goodreads) that helps me track the books I've read and want to read, joining a book club that holds me accountable and telling those around me about the challenge. It's really not hard to find the time to read when what you're reading is funny, entertaining or somehow interesting to you.

Because I want my son to love reading as much as I do. We read together as part of his bedtime routine but I think it teaches him more about the importance of reading when he sees me doing it. He knows that books are fun and reading is something we do in our house.

Because reading still matters. There's loads of research proving how good reading is for you but I tend to agree with Neil Gaiman on the topic...

"You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed."

My worldview was shifted this year due to the amazing books I read. I explored my alimentary canal, spent time with Shackleton on an Arctic expedition, discovered free-diving, realized just how freaky Scientology is, took career advice from Amy Poehler, and thought about how I want to die. Not bad for a bunch of books.

Time to get super-geeky

(I know, I know... it started when I sat down to write about a reading challenge.) Not only am I bibliophile, but I also love data. I enjoy seeing information displayed numerically and breaking behavior down into metrics. Here are some stats behind my year of intentional reading...

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In retrospect

There were two things that helped me accomplish my goal: business travel and my book club. The hours spent on the plane travelling to conferences allowed me to knock out at least a book per trip, while my book club pushed me to read books I'd normally not choose while providing a deadline and forced peer pressure to finish.

Besides a melodramatic mid-December book duplication error on my reading list (Damn you Gone Girl!), there were only two things that provided real obstacles to me finishing this thing. One was my early bedtime. Laugh if you will but if I stayed up later, I'd probably be at 60 books.

And? You already know the second thing because it's the same thing that's been distracting everyone: the 'Serial' podcast. I could have spent that time reading but instead I sat there listening. Great storytelling but definitely not counting towards my page goal.

I don't have any special powers or an abundance of free time. But I decided to make reading a priority in 2014 and I'm so glad I did. In addition to always having something to talk to people about, I just love books.

Again with the Neil Gaiman...

"I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing."