In 2008 I challenged myself (and anyone else who wanted to), to read 52 books. That averages to 1 book every week. There were some weeks where I read more than one and other weeks where I didn’t finish any. by the end of the year I’d finished 54 books and was looking for a new challenge.
Amanda suggested a non-fiction challenge, 26 books, one topic for each letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order. I know I read non-fiction slower than I read fiction, but I figured that was definitely a doable challenge. That was back at the start of 2009. And then life happened and it took a lot longer than I thought it would at the start. However on April 10th of this year I finally finished my Z book.
It took a long time, but I really enjoyed it. My Grandpa Nelson only read non-fiction. He said there were too many things for him to learn to waste his time reading fiction. I don’t think I’m going to go that far with my reading choices, but there will definitely be a lot more non-fiction in my reading stack.
I learned so very much with this challenge. It has been rare in the last two+ years for a week to go by without me finding an opportunity to say “I just read a book about that,” even if it does result in awkward situations. There is so much out there to learn!
Plus, when you are reading non-fiction you get fewer people suggesting books for you to read that you don’t want to read that they think you’d want to read just because they see you reading.
So I’ve read a lot of books, and now I can act like I know things.
President George W. Bush in his book Decision Points says this about his experience with a reading challenge:
Nobody I know has read or absorbed more history than Karl [Rove]. I say that with confidence because I’ve tried to keep up. A few years ago, Karl and I squared off in a book reading contest. I jumped out to an early lead. Then Karl accused me of gaining an unfair advantage by selecting shorter works. From that point forward, we measured not only the number of books read, but also their page count and total lateral area. By the end of the year, my friend had dusted me in all categories* (p. 52).
*The final tally was 110 to 95 in books, 40,347 to 37,343 in pages, and 2,275,297 to 2,032,083 total square inches.
I’m thinking if people that busy can read that much, I can certainly step it up in my life. My next book challenge is to read all the books we own, starting with all the ones I haven’t read once yet.