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How to Read 52 Books In One Year (Without Going Insane)

I just finished reading my first book of 2014 – Barney’s Version by Mordechai Richler.

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It was excellent. Romantic, captivating, hilarious, and uniquely Canadian, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read.

(Or, you could always just watch the film. I won’t tell.)

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Anyway, as I delve into book #2 of the year (A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man… which I’m reading solely so I can use the term “Joycean”), I’m considering making a similar reading goal to last year.

As you may already know (because I can’t get enough of saying it), I read 52 books in 2013. Insane? Maybe; but it also was really great for me. Not only did having a goal keep me reading regularly, it also helped my writing, as well as my general conversation skills.

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I’m not going to say it was easy, because honesty there were times I thought I’d rather glue my eyelids open and watch a marathon of Hollywood Game Night than keep reading.

But like Tom Arnold with a particularly tough charade, I persevered! And if you’re feeling masochistic ambitious, here are some ways you can do it too!

1. Find The Time

I know that you’re thinking: This bitch cray! 52 books in one year?

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And I get that. You’re busy. I was too. (Mostly watching TV and Youtube videos on how to perfectly apply liquid eyeliner). But regardless, here are a few ways I squeezed in some extra reading time:

  • Always Keep a Book With You. Treat that baby like it’s your American Express Card (or- in my case, 17 different lipglosses) – never leave home without it!  You’d be surprised by the amount of reading you can get done waiting at the doctor’s office, in line for the DMV, or just generally avoiding human contact. It’s a lot more productive (though not necessarily as much fun) than playing candy crush on your iPhone.
  • Make the most of your commute. Read on the bus, train or subway on your way to and from work. Unless you get carsick.. because….

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Aaah Sweet Brown. I can never get enough.

  • Read on your lunch break. This was my specialty. Every day at lunch, I’d take my book to the food court and read for 30 minutes.

goal8I kept waiting for someone to write me a Craigslist Missed Connection but… no dice.

2. Always Have Your Next Book Lined Up

Making a list of books I wanted to read in advance helped keep me on track. It also motivated me to read faster, as I was always excited to get to the next book on my list.

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I found Goodreads to be an excellent resource for this, as well as suggestions from friends and blog readers.

Another tip is to check out the  “people who bought this author also bought….”. and “suggestions for you” tabs on Amazon.

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…….Or you could just read the entire Baby Sitters Club series (again). No one blames you.

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3. Don’t Torture Yourself

As the saying goes, “If you hate a book set it free”…..Or something like that. In other words- if you start a book that you really don’t like or just can’t get into, move onto the next. Otherwise, you’ll just get discouraged and lose excitement and momentum.goal12

I struggled with Infinite Jest for about 50 pages before eventually realizing that a David Foster Wallace dissertation about a missing VHS tape was not the hill I wanted to die on.

There’s 75 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

4. Mix It Up

Although I was seriously tempted to read nothing but 52 emo romance novels in 2013, I knew that, like all great pop stars, I had to get a lot of plastic surgery and a white cane mix things up in order to keep it fresh and exciting.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Accordingly, my 2013 reading list was a serious hodge-podge of short stories, novels, memoirs & non-fiction. I also alternated between bestsellers like Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (wait for the movie) to contemporary classics, like On The Road by Jack Kerouac (must read), and the occasional Penguin classic, like Howard’s End by E.M Forster (there’s a reason I didn’t major in English Lit).

5. Break It Down

Let’s face it- the number 52 just sounds horrifying. (Unless it’s being used to describe chocolate bars, glasses of wine, or issues of US Weekly).

mmm... chocolate.

mmm… chocolate.

The point i’m trying to make here, is that the idea of reading 52 books in one year can seem a bit daunting at first- so break it up into smaller goals. 52 books in one year works out to toughly 4 books a month, or one a week. You can even set a number of pages you’d like to read each day.

You know that acronym about goal setting? SMART?

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Yeah- Use that!. But don’t tell anyone you’re doing that, because, well… it’s kinda lame.

So those are my tips! And remember kids, above all else- do it for yourself, and your love of literature!

…and maybe also to rub it in people’s faces.

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Just a little :)

Question of the Day: Have you set a reading goal for 2014?

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10 thoughts on “How to Read 52 Books In One Year (Without Going Insane)

  1. Well, that was certainly the most attitude-filled post about reading that I’ve, erm, read for a while. It was jolly entertaining though so that’s okay.

    The only goal I’ve set is to read a classic or two. I spent most of 2013 trawling through David Copperfield by that Dickens fellow, but I managed to get The Great Gatsby done the other day. Good job it was a short ‘un.

    I advise getting a Kindle, you can get most of the older books (Sherlock Holmes, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dickens, etc.) for free and delivery is instant.

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  2. Ah, Barney’s Version. I was gazing at it on my bookshelf just the other day and mentally added it to my “must-read-again” list. Mordecai… [sniff]
    No goals, just “keep on reading, keep on reading” (like Dory in Finding Nemo except with books). I’m halfway through Winter’s Tale, which is a behemoth but magical. I’m loving it. I got it for Christmas and my goal is to finish it before the film version is released next month and ruins everything. Hey, I do have a goal!

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  3. I decided to read one book each month (cause I’m a slow reader) and I even have an idea of what types of books I want to read this year. I’m still on the first book, but I’m feeling optimistic about it. I cant read during commute (motion sickness) which would probably help me with that goal, so I’ll have to try something else like cutting out tv all together :( But this was a great post! :)

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  4. I too started to read “A Portrait…” but set it down to finish reading the stack of books my dad lent me before I move. I could take them with me, but it’s great incentive. And I’m already on my fifth book this year. You’re such a great motivator!

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  5. Your 52 books post inspired me to try the same challenge. Well, that post, and an oppositional streak that was stoked when my husband gently suggested to set a “more attainable goal” (ie. he inspires me by having little faith in my really good reading abilities). I’m currently really enjoying “The Interestings” (thanks for the review!), and have already enjoyed “The Silver Star” (a poor-mans version of To Kill a Mockingbird), “Death comes to Pemberley” (meh), and “The Imperfectionists” (quite good). Looking forward to seeing some of your future reviews.

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  6. I need to learn to give up on a book when it doesn’t suit me. Instead, I trudge through slower and slower until I can’t bring myself to even pick up the book, then I’m reluctant to start a new one, because I feel obligated to the old one.

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  7. I really enjoyed this post. Here are a few suggestions for you: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes; Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks; and The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene. Also, if you’re looking for something that’s about a crazy family from Queens, NY (okay, it’s my family) please consider reading my book: Tales of A Hungry Life: A Memoir with Recipes. You can get it here: http://www.amazon.com/Tales-From-Hungry-Memoir-Recipes-ebook/dp/B00H94R7II/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391524085&sr=8-1&keywords=tales+of+a+hungry+life
    The print edition is coming out next month. It’s a quick read and it’s getting great reviews (sorry for the shameless plug). Keep reading, and of course–writing!

    Best, Maria

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  8. I had to read Mordecai Richler’s “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” in high school. I believe this was also made into a film in the 70s. I did not read Barney’s Version but I did enjoy the movie.

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