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Archive for August, 2012

Last year, a friend joined a group that was challenging people to read at least 50 books in a year. While I did not participate in that group’s activities, it did inspire me to keep track of my recreational reading last year. When I tallied my reads at the end of 2011, I made a horrifying discovery. I had only read 19 books for fun. 19. Me. The bookworm extraordinaire. I hung my head in shame.

Now, of course, I certainly read more than 19 books, but all of my other reading was work-related. That’s what happens when you are teaching literature at two universities, working at a public library, and trying to research a doctoral dissertation. So, this year I decided to join a reading challenge on Goodreads in an attempt to make myself more accountable for my reading habits. Working in book-centric jobs means that my downtime is often spent as far from “work” materials as I can get (lots of movies, tv, and old school video games). Goodreads has been a great platform for keeping track of my reading progress, and with a few friends on it as well, it is public enough to shame me into at least trying to meet those reading goals.

I have set myself a goal of reading 50 books for pleasure this year, and as of this moment, I am 3 books ahead of my required pace. I have a few tricks to help me maintain my pace:

1. I only read books that I think will be fun/interesting/compelling books. I won’t choose the books someone else has guilted me into reading (I’m looking at you, “Top 100 books to read before you die” lists). A book I feel obligated to read often sucks the fun out of the entire enterprise causing me to abandon the whole project. There will be a day when I will tackle War and Peace, but it is not this day.

2. When I feel pressure because I’m falling behind, I am not above reading novellas or short story collections to quickly add a couple titles to the “read” pile. A side effect of this tactic is that I have read some incredible short works. They are the literary equivalent of appetizers that can be consumed in a single bite, but the real fancy, filling kind – crabpuffs and stuffed mushroom caps. Avoid the cocktail weenies.

3. Keeping track of what I’ve read inspires me to seek out other recommendations, and my “to read” list is now more than double the size of the list for the books recorded as “read”. This means I always have something to seek out or look forward to reading, so I don’t spend days trying to find something new to read.

Using Goodreads to track my reading has made me more aware of my habits, and more conscious of making time for pleasure reading. And I have continued to read for fun in spite of my reading-heavy jobs. In fact, rather than burning out on books, I find my reading libido ramping up, because I no longer associate the activity with “work”. It has become a joyful, pleasurable pursuit again. And, to be honest, I’m really looking forward to the bragging rights when I meet my 50 book goal.

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