One of my resolutions last year was to read at least a hundred books by the end of the year. It was, I hoped, a way to expose myself to a number of new ideas and learnings really quickly and iterate to a better version of myself. Why 100? A book a day, 365, seemed excessive, and per week, 52, didn’t seem like a stretch goal. 100 books may be small beans for someone still in school, or who works in publishing, but for a recreational bibliophile, a couple of books a week felt just right. Genre didn’t matter. The focus was mostly on fiction and non-fiction, however, I also read a bit of poetry, biography, business and self-help. By August 2017, I’d completed my 100th book and was still going, and a year later, I’m still going strong. The practice of intensive, intentional reading in itself is as transformative as the ideas it exposes you to. Here’s what I learned from my year of intentional reading.
You Already Read 100 Books A Year
I initially assumed that reading a couple of books a week would take a lot of time— time I didn’t have. But it rapidly became clear that I had plenty of time; I just wasn’t using it mindfully! I was already unintentionally reading and consuming a lot of content as I went about my day. For instance, I spent small but eventually significant chunks of time through the day (upon waking up, while commuting, or during short breaks at work) scrolling through social media, reading clickbait articles or getting emotionally invested in the news. Not to mention, all the time spent watching sitcoms or funny YouTube videos or reading email. The combined word count of all this would easily amount to hundreds of books annually. But it just wasn’t the information that I wanted to consume.
This taught me that intentional reading is SO important. So many of us are conscious consumers when it comes to physical well-being— we eat kale, use organic cosmetics and are conscientious with sleep and exercise. But we’re often far less intentional when it comes to the information we put into our minds and souls. Intentional reading helps you reduce the time spent consuming wasteful information that doesn’t serve you (cute animal videos make you happy and don’t count!) and you become more intentional overall.
Books Change You As A Person
Every book I’ve read last year has changed me a little bit as a person. Be it a hauntingly beautiful metaphor or expertly written scene or a new idea I’d never considered before, every book has been a vessel of personal growth. This growth tends to happen with a lag, days later during post-reading reflection. I also learned about “bibliotherapy” — reading specific books in a particular order to heal— and appreciate how effective that could be. Every book you read becomes a part of you forever.
Content Is More Important Than Format
These days there’s lots of great content in the form of audiobooks, podcasts, Youtube videos, and more. Since “reading” my first couple of audiobooks last year, this late adopter is hooked! Audio really brings books to life, lets you give your eyes a break and even multitask. Increasing the audio speed on apps like Audible makes for a faster, breezier experience, without affecting the content.
Cultivating A Reading Ritual Is A Form Of Self-Care
Reading can be a form of meditation, self-care, indulgence and even community. Treat yourself to some inspirational self-help upon waking up. Make yourself a hot beverage, light a scented candle and indulge yourself with some uplifting poetry before bed. Several of my friends love listening to audiobooks during their commute or while working out. Reading shifts your mood and your thoughts and has the power to rejuvenate you in ways large and small. It doesn’t need to be a solitary activity either! Take your book to a cafe or park and read it as the world hums about you. Join a book club, co-read or share new ideas with a friend or partner. Read aloud to your children. Dog-ear and underline your books, or rewrite your favorite quotes in a journal. Making intentional reading a priority and making a ritual of it can elevate the simple act to a practice of profound self-care.
“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed was hands down, my favorite. It included 50 very wise, very moving (wait for it)… advice columns. They tackled real people’s real serious life problems. I read this on a long flight so I had lots of time to read and reflect — and it was intense! At many points, I had to put it down to cry or take a deep, deep breath because some parts were so very moving, deep and meaningful. I feel I stepped off the plane a different person.
Fiction: I loved the inspiring “Behold The Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue, about the immigrant experience in America, and the terrifying “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn… which has since become a TV series!
Non-fiction: “Zero To One” by Peter Thiel was a pithy and brilliant business book. “Kris Jenner and All Things Kardashian” (audiobook) was another favorite— an amazing memoir from a housewife whose career took off in her fifties, it’s full of great business and life advice, especially for women.
Poetry: “Teaching My Mother To Give Birth” by Warsan Shire. In an era of Instagram poetry, it was refreshing to read longer verses, and such exquisite ones at that.