Since the last few years or so, I have been intending to set a goal. Not a public challenge or a dare but a deeply personal aspiration – To read 100 books in a year. But as it happens many times, I couldn’t take the plunge to resolutely fulfil this pursuit until the year 2019.
I have always been an avid reader devouring books since I was a child. But it was always about reading in an easy and relaxed way, savouring each word, author and stories at my own sweet pace. Of course, the desire and inclination to finish one book and quickly reach out for the next was always there. Growing up, the landscape and horizon of my reading kept expanding. Reading more and more, about old and new books, writers and genres, researching for books, attending lit fests, meeting new people revealed the vastness of the world of books. I was staring at a gleaming treasure trove filled with never-ending adventures, tales, people, perspectives, places beckoning me to experience it.
Besides, being a compulsive book hoarder when I looked at my growing stack of books all around the house and wondered about the untrackable list of e-books downloaded on my Kindle e-reader, I suffered major pangs of guilt. I had to either start reading them all or stop buying new books altogether.
I was hit with another opposing reality that how much harder it was to conquer even a small part of this world. As I grew older, I felt as if I was being left behind, unable to experience those fascinating books all around. I understood that if I had to sail even a small fraction of this never-ending voyage I had to chart a course for my journey. I resolved to at least attempt reading 100 books a year.
So, as January dawned in the New Year in 2019, I braced myself to fulfil my resolution of reaching the 100 mark. Although I had increased my pace of reading over the years and had a voracious appetite for different genres and new authors the first thing I decided was not to set a time for reading. I didn’t have the luxury of ‘free time’ in a day as I had a full-time job, was the mother of two children, had a house to keep. I also loved travelling and meeting friends and family and had endless other interests. So, I began reading whenever and wherever I could – turning a few pages multiple times in a day – between work breaks, waiting for appointments, coffee breaks, airports. It was like finding opportunities to read anywhere and everywhere.
For the first time, I started keeping a track of what I read by having a separate folder in my phone with the covers of all the books I completed. I confess, it gave me a pleasurable kick every time I added a cover to the folder. A book journal is also a great idea where besides the title, one could note the start and end day of each book and the number of pages to monitor the speed of reading.
My target was to finish two books per week and I tried my best keeping a steady pace. Of course, I stumbled several times, knocked by brief periods of reading slumps, other priorities and happenings. But thankfully, I always arose to get back on track. I switched genres, authors and narratives between books and never read two similar books back-to-back. A thriller followed a poignant read, a modern-day memoir after a classic and a sci-fi tale after a historical fiction – so it went.
Alternating between the reading mediums also gave me immense flexibility to ‘multi read!’ I read physical books, e-books on Kindle and listened to audiobooks on Audible. I must confess, I was a conventional reader in love with good old paper books and had earlier shied away from reading on my Kindle even. But when I gradually embraced it, I absolutely loved it as I read faster and also till late hours at night without keeping the lights on. I listen to audio books on the go, during commutes, walks and when I was too distracted to read. And yes, for the first time I became a polygamist reader, reading 3 books at a time on all the three mediums.
I love to read award-winning acclaimed books with rave reviews. But a few of them are too slow and insipid or simply fail to grab your interest. Earlier, I used to plough through all books I started but not any longer unless highly recommended or promised that it will get better. So if a book didn’t work, even after the few chapters, I reserved it for another time and moved on.
I became more adventurous, read a wide variety of books, authors and genres, a few outside my comfort zones, and it was an expansive basket to choose from. Weekends were a good time to do some marathon reading and even finish short books which improved my scores.
I admit, the journey to read at least 100 books in the year was pockmarked with distractions, big and small. Sometimes, I used to shut myself in a room to finish the last few pages with my kids banging the door, and at others, I used to sit with guests wondering when and how to finish my book. Sure, social media was an all-pervasive distraction which I controlled by keeping my phone away. I did leave some books halfway unable to trudge further. But I didn’t quit.
The months tumbled into years and soon it was December 2019 and I looked at my tally. Did I reach the magical number? Honestly No! I reached 89, my highest reads in a year so far. But what a magical and fulfilling year it was! Every week, I went on new odysseys, met an eclectic bunch of characters, travelled to new places, experienced myriad emotions and lived unique and fascinating lives. Romance, thrillers, memoirs, autobiographies, mysteries filled my world.
I now realise 100 was just a number. Which I didn’t reach and haven’t till now. But it was and still is a goal. Only by attempting to reach that number created a force multiplier and I was inspired to stretch myself to attain it. I am still striving to reach the number, sanguine in the sheer possibility of it.
I don’t have to illuminate what reading does to us. It enlarges our world multifariously, makes travellers of us, opens our hearts and minds, instils empathy, compassion and forgiveness. Reading is like an ancient lighthouse, steady, strong and forever guiding us to discover who we are and, above all, making us better human beings.
And so if you ever want to experience 100 different worlds and tales in a year, or more, jump into the ship and embark on this unique journey.