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I am a challenge girl. And by challenge girl, I mean I always maintain my challenges to an extent that I know I can achieve them, so that I can feel the comfort of achieving something without the stress of doing it.
Some might say that’s not how a challenge works, and maybe you’re right, but that’s what works for me and I’m neither sorry nor willing to change it. Fight me (but, like, don’t bother, because I really don’t care).
I’ve been doing a reading challenge since 2016, and I’ve increased it by a few pounds each year, just enough to know that I’m very likely to hit it, usually even given enough time to surpass that number.
Over the past two years, I’ve hit my personal perfect number of pounds for a challenge, and I’ve been going ever since: 50 pounds. I know that’s a lot for some, but with audiobooks in the mix and an hour commute to work at least three days a week (sometimes more), I know I’m very likely to hit that number without difficulty.
2021 was no exception: after having read 67 books in 2020, and having fully benefited from the experience (it was a very good year of reading, with stories like The only good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, and The evanescent half of Brit Bennett among the mix), I challenged again at 50 pounds, happy to reach that number but knowing that I would probably exceed it once again.
I was right, I passed it. What I didn’t expect was to finish November with 90 books read. Because, you see, when you still have a whole month of reading ahead of you, and you’ve managed to read 90 books so far, there’s no other option: you’ll want to reach the magic of 100.
I tried to tell myself, no you don’t need to do that, but my dare-girl ass is gone, And if you did, wouldn’t it be amazing to get to 100 pounds? I mean, you’re so close, you’ve got a whole month ahead of you, it’s literally – ah you see what I did there – your hobby, so how hard can it be ?
It turns out that it can be very, very difficult. And cost you more than you’re willing to pay (yes, sure, I’m being dramatic. Maybe.)
After doing a poll on Instagram asking friends if they thought I could hit 100, and only got resonances Yes, I started December with a goal in mind, and nothing would stop me from trying to achieve it. Or so I thought.
It took me almost two whole weeks to read my first book in December, a short story that I thought would be finished in a few days. But either because of, you know, it would be nice to get to 100 but it’s not important to get to 100 (of course it’s important to get to 100 now you’re so close, who are you trying to fool), or because the short story was just a hard read, it took me longer than expected to finish it, and it ended up setting the tone for the rest of the month. Also, the idea that I might not be able to read 10 books in a month and have to accept defeat started to bother me. I was so close! I WANTED IT!
Spoiler alert, which won’t surprise anyone at this point: I managed to hit 100 pounds. Primarily because of my best friends in hard-reading times, audiobooks, I ended up reaching that imaginary finish line with over a week to spare. But as I updated my StoryGraph and looked at my screen, looking at that nice round number, I realized I never wanted to do that again in my life.
It’s fun to read so much in a year and achieve this impressive milestone, but it’s not without cost. And when I look back on my year in books, I realize that reading 100 books in such a short time might not be the best way to personally consume literature.
Heck, I know people who read 200, 300 or even 600 books a year, and the last thing I want is to control my reading pace; I want it to flow and happen organically, and that’s why I usually set my challenge to something I’m most likely to achieve, with or without a challenge to follow. So there is always a chance that I will hit 100 pounds again, or 90 in a year, but I certainly never aim to hit that particular number in the future.
When did I reread this book?
When I went back to my reading list of the year to choose my five favorites of 2021, I realized that there were books I had read that year that I thought I had read in 2020.
Sure, the pandemic makes time feel like – at the same time – expanding and contracting in weird ways, but that kinda bothered me. Because my idea of these books is so far behind me that I no longer have a good memory of having read them. Also, I lied to people telling them, oh yeah i read this book last year, when I didn’t. I do not have.
What else is this book about?
Ok, fair enough, I’m not very good at remembering storylines and entire scenes from books under usual circumstances, but this time it was much worse.
I remember a good chunk of the books I liked (don’t ask me the names of the main characters, I can never memorize that), but I don’t think I read them in a way that I enjoyed them enough, or to always understand them well.
The fact that I don’t read in my native language makes me a slower reader, as I need to better consider the words in front of me, which I didn’t always do well last year. On top of that, I was aiming to jump from book to book, instead of giving myself the space and time to get to know new characters and stories, so now a lot of those books are just a memory blur in my brain.
I can absolutely tell you whether or not I liked them, or how they made me feel, but I honestly think I could have enjoyed them more, rather than focusing on what to read next .
fear and anxiety
Did I enjoy some of the books I read in December? Yes, but not as much as I would have if they hadn’t been tools to achieve a certain goal.
And it wasn’t just December; this happened often throughout the year, especially when a story didn’t turn the pages of a book, and I immediately started wondering if I should just move on to another book, because the one I was with was taking so long to complete.
Where is the girl who, in 2016, took three whole months to read Isabel Allende, and who absolutely adored this book, not at all bothered by the time it took to finish it? If you find her, let me know. I have to do whatever she does.
I like to be what I call an “informed reader”, people who know how many books they read each year and why they chose them. It’s fun to participate in challenges and talk to like-minded people about books, but the past year certainly wasn’t the most fun I’ve had as a reader. A big part of it was this pressure that I set myself to read as much and as fast as I could, with my mind fixed on something I really don’t know what yet.
It was a lesson and an eye-opener on how I want to consume books in the future.
On the other hand, reading 100 books this year has given me the ability to know that if I really want to, I can. I did it once, and now I have nothing to prove to anyone, including myself.
Now that I hit triple digits, I can sit back on my goal and enjoy reading like I think I should: no pressure, but like a hobby.
If you are aiming for this goal this year for the first time: be careful. Good luck !
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How I Read 100 Books in a Year (And How You Can Too)
My journey to read 100 books in a year