I started a Word doc about three years ago titled “To Read.” The list of books, both fiction and non-fiction, has grown to include more than 175 titles. I kept adding and adding books, but never seemed to cross them off.
No more, I said at the start of this year. My New Year’s resolution was simple: read more. But all of the bloggers and columnists in early January wrote that the key to keeping resolutions was to quantify things. You can’t just “exercise more.” You have to “go to the gym three times a week.”
I’d heard of others reading 52 books in 52 weeks, a book per week and thought that seemed unmanageable. So I decided to try 50 books in 52 weeks. I’m three months done and about 2.5 books behind schedule, but March was so busy with the NICAR conference (more about that later) and spring break in South Dakota and then Easter at home. I’m hoping I can keep up my reading throughout the end of the semester and when I settle into my full-time job come June (EEP!!), I’ll have even more time to play catch-up.
What I’ve found to work for me:
- Reserve a bunch of books (titles selected from my never-ending list) and pick them up a week later. This means I always have something to read and I’m not waiting for the next one to come in. Renting also means if I find I’m not into a book, I have no qualms about tossing it aside for the next one because it cost me nothing.
- Read during breakfast. Starting my day with something I enjoy gives me more energy to focus on emails or school when I start it 20 minutes later than I used to.
- Read before bed. Even if it’s just for five minutes, I try to knock out a couple of pages. Usually, this strategy works well because once I start reading, it’s difficult to stop.
Between those three strategies, I find myself reading between 30-60 pages each day. So, I can knock out a 300-page book in about a week.
I’ve always loved to read, but this exercise has made me realize how little I’ve read in recent years and how much joy I get from reading. It’s a conversation starter, keeps me distracted from the usual brainless activities (Netflix, Facebook, etc.) and gives me a sense of accomplishment.
I’ve powered through one-fifth of my goal, so I figured I’d share them here and continue to update you all when I cross off 10 more.
- The Healing of America by T. R. Reid
I read this one in early January per the recommendation of my health care policy professor last semester. I’d read a Reid book last year too, on my trip to Japan, because he was a Tokyo correspondent for the AP and wrote a wonderful memoir of his lessons learned overseas. So, I was already a big fan of Reid’s writing and the Health Care class last semester really piqued my interest in health care systems around the worldwide. Each chapter takes readers to a different country and explains how each system works.
2. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
One of my favorite fiction authors, this latest work by Sittenfeld actually doesn’t hit the shelves till late April, but I nabbed an Advanced Reader’s Copy through a Goodreads giveaway. The general gist: a modernized Pride and Prejudice set in Cleveland. Loved it so much, I added Austen’s original to my list.
3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
I watched the movie on one of my many flights in 2015 and decided I had to read the book then and there. The book was, as always, even better than the flick. I loved how Genova incorporated to-do lists into Alice’s life and readers could see the deterioration of her mind by the progressive lack of detail in her lists. I read this one poolside in Florida and wouldn’t recommend it as a beach read. It really made me think about Alzheimer’s and dementia in a way I hadn’t before.
4. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
Full disclosure: I only read this book because it was required reading for my history class this semester. It wasn’t my favorite, but it served its purpose of proving background on the sexual revolution of the 1950s.
5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I devoured this book in three days on a weekend when I went home in February. I’ve added it to my all-time favorites books list; it was that good. It’s about a young woman, Louise Clark, who gets a job caring for a paralyzed young man who wants to end his life. The mother of the man tells Clark she has six months to change his mind. It’s a love story, much like The Fault in Our Stars, but more than that, it’s a commentary on death and what makes life worth living. I think I cried from this book than from TFIOS.
6. Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
Another required reading title for my history class. This memoir follows one girl’s childhood and young adulthood in Mississippi during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. I enjoyed it, especially because I would’ve never picked it out myself.
7. The Chain Gang: One Newspaper vs. the Gannett Empire by Richard McCord
With last year’s announcement of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel being bought by Gannett, I took it upon myself to learn some of the history behind this mega-media company and how it rose from a small regional chain. Anyone interested in the future of newspapers should read it.
8. The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim
This was a memoir of Swaim’s time as speechwriter for the South Carolina governor. Interesting insight into the words politicians use and how they evolve during a term.
9. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
Another recommendation from my health care policy professor. Gawande is a surgeon who spends his spare time writing about health care for outlets such as The New Yorker. He’s a fantastic writer and this book talked about America’s issues in dealing with death. It traces the evolution of the assisted living care facility, the issues surrounding nursing homes and the triumphs of hospice care. Again, not a beach read, but one of those non-fiction books that will turn all of your preconceived beliefs on its head.
10. Hard News: Scandals at the New York Times and their Meaning for American Media by Seth Mnookin
The Diederich College of Communication brought the documentary, “A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times,” to campus about a month ago. One of the speakers from the movie was Mnookin, who authored this book that I just had to read. I thought it would be mostly about Blair, but the book was more about the NYT leadership during Blair’s career and how it failed to recognize Blair’s inadequacies early on. I particularly loved one of Mnookin’s quotes early on, about why people go into journalism: “They get their fingerprints (and their bylines) on the first rough drafts of history” (4).
And that’s what I’ve read in the past 90 days. That’s about one book every nine days, so don’t know if the 50 books in 52 weeks challenge will be accomplished come December. There’s always 2017.