I Read 50 Books in a Year

So, I read 50 books in 2018.

I set a goal last January to read 50 books in one year, while also giving myself an out that if trying to hit such a high number was making reading less fun then I could stop. It turns out reading is still fun, and I made it to my 50, finishing my last book on December 30th, 2018. To see the full list of what I read, check out my Goodreads page: here

What surprised me was how easy it turned out to be. I’m not saying that it wasn’t work or that I didn’t have to try, just that I expected reading 50 books in a year to feel more like climbing a mountain and less like a series of day hikes.

It also had a weird side effect: I’m more inclined to quit a book mid-way through. This really threw me off, because I figured that needing to hit such a big goal would make my total book count feel more sacred, each completed book more valuable. But reading so many books back-to-back just taught me that certain books aren’t worth my time, and that if I’m not into something I shouldn’t even bother. This means that going forward I’m more likely to set smaller goals for the number of books to read in the year. Not because I won’t read a lot, but because I have a feeling I’ll want to abandon so many.

There was a second layer to my 2018 reading goal, and that was a list of challenges I set for myself. There was a lot of overlap between books and challenges, with some books fulfilling as many as five challenges at once (Bark and The New Jim Crow), and certain challenges applying to almost half of what I read (“Check out and read a library book”). Here are my official designees, with explanations where needed:

Read a book you’ve already read

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Read a political or religious book you think you may disagree with

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Listen to an audiobook

A is for Alibi, 168 Hours, Deep Work, The Princess Diarist, Fly on the Wall, Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Tiny Beautiful Things, and many more…

Read a book that’s over 500 pages

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson

Read a book your audience or friend group won’t be interested in

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna

Read something by Stephen King

See below.

Quit a book before you’ve finished (or at least skim the rest)

Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Frances

This was a difficult and perfect book to quit early, because there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a fine book and interesting enough, but after a few chapters I realized that with a TBR that’s four years long, there’s really no reason to read anything that’s just “interesting enough” unless there’s some outside reason to read it. And there was no outside reason to finish this book.

Read a book you were given as a gift (and didn’t specifically ask for)

Autumn by Ali Smith

Read a book about (or with heavy themes on) race

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Read a book about (or with heavy themes on) mental illness

Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

Check out and read a library book

Vagabonding, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivourous Carnival, The Slippery Slope, The One Thing, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Grim Grotto, Mooncop, Fight Club, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Penultimate Peril, Work Clean, The End, Adulthood is a Myth, A Christmas Memory, The Wicked + The Divine, and many more…

Read a non-fiction book about your career/hobby (or a career/hobby you are hoping to get into someday)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I’ve always wished I was the kind of person who went running for fun. Additionally, this book is secretly about writing.

Get rid of a book immediately after reading it

Secret Lives of Men and Women by Frank Warren

Read a book you “should” read

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This was recommended to me by nearly everyone I met on my solo road trip around the United States – “Have you heard of Wild? You should really read it.”

Read a book you “shouldn’t” waste your time on

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

The forth book in the Uglies series is a real departure from the previous three, so it got mixed reviews. People were expecting a continuation of the same story with the same people, and instead they got a new protagonist, new characters, and new tech. But I already knew all that going in and couldn’t be disappointed in the same way, so as far as I’m concerned this book is just as good as the first three.

Read a book immediately after acquiring it or hearing about it (before it even makes it to the shelf or TBR)

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

I picked up this book at an author event in Seattle. I got to meet Maureen and have her personalize my copy. I took it home and started reading it the very next day. Ironically, I would have done better to let this particular book sit on my shelf for a few years. I didn’t realize it was meant to be Book One of a series, and my only complaint is that it ends on such a cliffhanger that I wish she had waited to publish until she had the whole thing done so I could keep going immediately.

Read a book you think might make you a better person

The Meaning of Freedom by Angela Davis

Read the second biggest book on your shelf (or TBR)

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson

Read The Princess Bride (yes, literally that specific book)

Done. For the fifth time.

Read a book you’ve been “really meaning to read” for way too long

Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong

I actually started this book years ago, really loved it, but somehow never finished. In finally finishing it I realized that the reason I probably quit was the elements that interested me most started to disappear after the first few chapters.

Read a book of short stories

Bark by Lorrie Moore

Read a book with a cover that bothers you

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Because there’s a bear on it and they never actually encounter a bear. Also I don’t think the quality of the combined images is very good.

Get rid of a book without reading it

Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla

This was a cookbook that I got as a gift. I’ve found that I just don’t use cookbooks as much anymore, preferring to cultivate my own as I find new recipes. I briefly considered getting rid of all my cookbooks in the same moment, but most of what I have holds sentimental value. Plus I still enjoy having a couple classics around like The Joy of Cooking, Better Home and Gardens, and Betty Crocker.

Get at least 2 books behind or ahead of schedule at some point in the year

Managed to do this pretty early, as I was already two books behind by February. I got all the way up to five books ahead of schedule right after BookTubeAThon in August.

Decide not to do one of the challenges on this list

I never got around to reading any Stephen King.

A friend asked if I had a top three recommendations from my year, which is difficult both because I read so many great ones, and because each book fulfills a slightly different need.

So here are three books that are beautiful and heartbreaking and sad and hopeful:

  1. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  2. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  3. Mooncop by Tom Gauld

Three books that are important and well-crafted and teach you things about the world that will make you a better, more informed human:

  1. The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow
  2. Sex at Dawn by Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan
  3. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast

And one book that is just the best and always has been:

  1. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I set a comparatively low goal for 2019 (just 25 books), but hope to overtake it by quite a ways. Whatever your reading goals are for 2019, I hope they make you happy and I wish you the best of luck!