2018 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

Well, friends, I have officially completed my big New Years resolution from 2018!

At the start of this year, I launched an ambitious challenge to take careful statistics of all the books I read. Along with recording information for all the books I finished, I published a series of twelve recaps, creating an index with my thoughts on each title.

In 2017, I read more books than I ever had before (over 220), but I wanted to know more. How many pages do I read in a year? What formats do I usually read? Of everything I cover in a year, how many are rereads? What about quality vs. quantity? If I read a bunch of short, easy books in one month, does that mean I’m more productive than a month where I read less, longer ones? Are there any trends that emerge?

Because I’m a total nerd, these are the things I think about. This year, I was determined to find answers. Plus, setting a “read X amount of books this year” goal is just too easy.

Throughout the year, I recorded in a notebook everything I read including title, author, a very subjective rating on a five-star scale, and some quick thoughts. At the end of each month, I pulled my stats together, noted emerging trends and observations, and wrote a mini-review for each book. (The reviews got more elaborate as the project went on.)

Part of my motivation for the month-by-month approach was to stop periodically and think critically about what I was reading. I certainly didn’t read much highbrow literature this year (don’t worry, Tolstoy, once I’ve recovered from grad school I am coming for you), but that’s no reason to turn my brain off completely. When noting my thoughts, characteristics like writing quality, character development, world building, themes, etc. were at the forefront of my mind. These were so helpful! For books that weren’t great, I could always find something to appreciate. For the best books, I was able to express WHY I found them so enjoyable. This was integral in helping me understand why I enjoyed certain books over others.

Continue reading

100+ Books in Less than a Year

Back in high school, I got an account on Goodreads and started keeping track of the things I was reading.  Curious about how many books I read each year, I began organizing my collection into shelves.

In 2011, I read 75 books.  In 2012, the count went up to 87.  Things shifted when I went to college–only 55 and 57 reads in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

This year, though, is the highest total yet.

Some people set reading goals.  I don’t.  I just read.  I read and read and read and read and… well… can’t really stop.

As of right now, I’ve read 104 books in the past twelve months.  This includes audiobooks, assigned reading, and Kindle e-books.  It does NOT include books I’ve read twice–because, yes, I managed to listen through Harry Potter twice in the past six months.

Originally, I planned on making a big list of all 104 titles.  But then I realized that the amount of YA chick-lit I’ve been consuming lately is borderline embarrassing.  You really don’t need to know how fast I can read Stephanie Perkins and Kierra Cass novels.  (In case you were dying of curiosity, it’s less than 24 hours per book)

Instead, I’m going to list the best books.  The books that reached into my heart and found a home; the ones that made me feel; the stories that, months later, still have me thinking.

Here we go…

  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

  • His Grave Assassins trilogy by Robin LaFevers

  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

  • Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen

  • The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

  • Paper Towns by John Green

  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare

  • The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn

  • Who is This Man? by John Ortberg

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  • Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

  • Bleak House by Charles Dickins

  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

  • Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I recommend anything on this list.

However, if I could get you to read any of these books, I’d point you to The Danish Girl.  It’s been getting attention lately due to the recent biopic starring Eddie Redmayne.  I haven’t seen the film yet, but the book is incredible.  I used it to write my senior seminar paper this spring and fell in love with it.  It helped me better understand the transgender experience–a perspective on which I’ve been woefully ignorant my entire life.  The novel is about courage, love, and an exploration of self-creation.

I also highly recommend The Silmarillion by Tolkien, which was insanely hard to get through, but SO worth it.  It gives Middle Earth so much more depth and meaning.

For non-fiction, I LOVED Who is This Man? by John Ortberg.  The book is a collection of essays examining the figure of Jesus from multiple perspectives.  It looks at the impact Jesus had on different areas like science, history, forgiveness, the treatment of women, etc.  I got a lot out of this book and loved thinking about Jesus on an intellectual front, rather than a spiritual one.

My to-read list is endless, but I’m always open for recommendations for things to read in 2016!  What are some of the best books you’ve read in the past year?  Tell me about them in the comments!