At the beginning of this year, while looking for a particular book on my Goodreads app, I was asked if I wanted to complete a reading challenge for 2018. I had probably read somewhere between 15 and 20 books the previous year, an achievement in itself given the amount of movies and Netflix series I committed to viewing. I chose a number that sounded good, 55 books in a year. It was roughly one a week, rounded up to the nearest five.
I started out with a few novels that were piling up unread, took many cues from book podcasts like the wonderful Backlisted Podcast and mixed in the usual bookshop gambles, short story anthologies and a couple of poetry collections.
Like any personal challenge set over a long-ish period of time, you can mark the notches on the bedside reading lamp with the little developments in your everyday life as well. Since I began this challenge we’ve moved country, I’ve started a new job, my son has started talking in full sentences and I re-discovered a lurid desire for instant ramen noodles.
So did I complete the challenge? Well, not yet. It’s just gone Halloween, I’ve got another couple of months. I always read loads of books over Christmas and my current standing is 46 out of 55. So that answer is, yes I probably will complete it. The better answer is, I now don’t particularly care. What I’ve achieved besides numbers alone (and I do think reading is an achievement given the number of demands and distractions we all face everyday) is a habit for reading, a choice for reading and a relationship with choosing books that no iTunes Genius setting or Netflix recommendation could come close to. Next year, I might read three 1200-page monsters, or 200 novellas, or 2000 short stories. It doesn’t matter that much.
As a brief addendum to this blog post, given the site is designed to be about my writing, it’s also slapped me like a big wet truth-fish to the gob that you have no business writing if you aren’t a hungry reader. I hope that whatever I choose to read in 2019, I am inspired, reassured, terrified and bewildered by the words on the printed page as I sit down to write my own.