At the beginning of 2012 I set out to read 100 books. I decided to do it because I love reading, and because I want my girls to see me reading and to, someday, follow my example.
I failed. I only managed to read 75 books in 2012, I made it three quarters of the way to my goal, and I learned a great deal. The first and most exciting thing I learned is this: Anyone can read a hundred books in a year. You can. I could have. It’s attainable.
1. Stop watching TV.
2. You know how you go out to lunch with friends? No you don’t.
3. Stop playing videogames.
Bottom line: It’s easy to read 100 books in a year if you’re willing to spend all of your “hobby time” reading books. You may not have to cut everything else as aggressively as I needed to (I am a single father with two young children, which means that the majority of my weekends are not free time), but you have to have a mindset which prioritizes reading above anything else.
I didn’t have that mindset. In spite of missing my goal, I don’t regret reading the books I read and I don’t regret the donation I’ll be making to the library this year. I don’t regret my kids waking up from their naps and coming out of their room to find me reading books, and I don’t regret all of the time I spent reading with them. I don’t regret the stack of books piled 10 high on my desk right now, or the fact that almost all of my friends bought me books for Christmas.
One of the earliest surviving written works, the Epic of Gilgamesh, written around the 15th century BC, deals with themes of friendship, loss, and the hero’s struggle to accept his own mortality. Many of the books I read in the last year (all of them?) dealt with these same themes. Reading isn’t just a way of accessing other viewpoints or exploring other lives, it’s a way of connecting with humanity, And not just the people around us, not our local branch of humanity, but all of the people who have been and all of the people who are to come. It provides us with a way of facing our own fears, and realizing that they, as much as anything else, are what make us human. If the realization of our shared struggle, our shared quest for understanding and the inevitability of grief in all of our lives doesn’t make you feel a love and kinship for your fellow man, I don’t know what will.
Fiction is a gateway to a million lives, it’s a way to experience diverse viewpoints and reconnect with what it means to be a human, to be a moment, to be a single point in a vast living ocean.
I urge you to read, for the joy of it, for the beauty to be found in it, and for the opportunity it will provide you to connect with yourself and others.
My goal for this year is 50 books.