Due to a (ahem) mathematical error I committed myself to reading 50 books this year. It’s not a small goal for me, especially since I apparently only read 10 books the year before.
I started 2013 with a bang and at one point was several books ahead of schedule. Then since the summer it’s been all downhill.
Now, I’ve tried to play with this a little, by taking the total number of pages read (conveniently calculated for you by Goodreads) and dividing it by 300 (pages), my personal definition of what constitutes one book. When I do that I come out slightly ahead at 37 books (thank you, East of Eden and The Book Thief).
Well, a couple of weeks ago I was 15 books behind even with the manipulation of page numbers, and I was pretty much ready to give up even trying. It’s sort of like watching those final few minutes of a basketball game where a team is behind 5 or 6 points and there are 2 minutes left on the clock. Some teams will still scramble for I don’t know what, while other teams will give up and end up further behind in a pathetic display of utter hopelessness. I have to say I can relate to the latter.
Then I posed the question to my 9-year-old, who blazes through several tomes of Rick Riordan a month: “What should I do?”
His response: “Of course you should go for it!”
I was thinking that I am entering the busiest part of my work season and the majority of my books are 300 pages or longer, not to mention that I am only doing this for myself and none of it is even required.
“At least TRY and get as close to 50 as you can. You’ll feel really good satisfaction if you can get near 50.”
Why did it not occur to me that I could at least shoot for 48 or 45 or something? Anything in the forties would signify an achievement. And did I forget how exhilarating it can feel to “win”? Actually, the answer would be yes…I think it’s been several years since I “achieved” anything (my first publication) but that’s another story for another time.
“Pick good, short books. That’s what I would do.”
Seriously, I should consult with my child more often on life matters.
That evening, I went through my shelves and picked out the slimmest books I have. I’d like to think that this is not cheating, because all the books on my shelves are books on my to-read list; I’m just relying on my crunch players right now, and benching Leo Tolstoy and the like until next year. My end-of-the-year contenders include:
Memory: A Novel, by Philippe Grimbert
Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka
All My Darling Daughters [manga], by Fumi Yoshinaga
The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown
Darkness Visible, by William Styron
Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott
These, added to my current reads, should get me close to 50.
So how do I actually get all of this accomplished? My boy says,
“I think you should only spend 60 minutes on your blog. Whatever time you usually spend over that should go into reading.”
“You spend too much time on Facebook. Cut that time down to 40 minutes a day…no, 30 minutes. Thirty minutes at most, and use the rest of the time to read.”
Indeed, I waste a lot of time on the internet. That is why I often don’t start reading until 11 at night, at which point it takes me two minutes to read the same sentence five times.
When I first poked around at all these various reading challenges I noticed how nice everyone was about it. “50 is simply a goal; of course how much you end up reading is up to you.” It’s nice and understanding and forgiving, but it also lets me off the hook too easily. I’m thinking that if I set a goal, I should do what I can to attain it. I won’t kill myself over it – it’s not like my career or my future is resting on the number of books I complete this year – but by definition a challenge isn’t supposed to be easy, and it’s supposed to be more than what I can normally do comfortably. I will push myself, precisely because this is just for me.
How are you doing on your reading or other challenges? How do you motivate yourself to reach your personal goals?