I love to read. No, like, I really love to read. Verb love. As in, I’m planning to read all the fiction Pulitzer winners before I die, even though there’s a new one every year. As in, I’ve read the Harry Potter series eight times. As in, I just finished my 127th book of the year, and I’m planning to hit 150.
When I mentioned this to a coworker the other day, she said, “I just have one question: how?” Which is a great question. So let me start at the beginning.
In 2014, I was doing a lot of reading at work. I told myself that’s why I wasn’t doing much reading in my spare time. I was also planning a wedding and a cross-country move and…had a lot of other excuses for why I only read 16 books that year.
In 2015, I was adjusting to a new city, and still doing a lot of reading at work, so, you know, I only read 20 (long!) books that year. You see a pattern?
So in 2016, I decided to hell with all my excuses. 2016 was going to be the year I got real about reading. And I swear, it wasn’t just an attempt to escape the reality of the insane political cycle. That was only 75% of it.
So I decided to read 52 books in 2016. That’s a book a week, and it felt ambitious but doable to me. Zadie Smith (who you should all read) once gave the advice, “when you’re young, spend more time reading than doing anything else” and I was like “YAS” so I followed her advice even though I’m not really that young anymore. I made reading a priority—I cut out most TV, woke up an hour earlier, and did a couple of social media detoxes. You’d be amazed at how much time that opened up. I not only hit 52 books in 2016—I made it to 65.
So, honestly, my goal in 2017 was just “read more than you did last year.” I also wanted to make sure I prioritized reading books by women and minorities. I also lost my job, started a small business, and started a new job that added three hours in the car to my day. But thanks to NO EXCUSES 2016 ROBYN, I was ready.
I don’t want reading to feel like a chore, so I don’t make a reading plan for the year. I do put a lot of books on hold at the library, flag a lot of good books to read on goodreads, and drop hints to my family about what books would be the best holiday gifts. I steal my husband’s books, too, but don’t tell him. At any given time, I probably have about ten “up next” reads, but I don’t like to box myself in by designating order too strictly: sometimes I need funny, sometimes I need deep, sometimes I need an adventure, and sometimes I need something peaceful. A lot of times I need to read the book that just came off hold from the library before it’s due.
I read whenever there is time, even if I’m exhausted. I do it for the same reason that I exercise: because I know it is good for my body and soul. I read when I wake up, I read on my lunch break, and I read when I get home. If I have a good audiobook, I read on my commute. If my husband and I go on a road trip, we listen on the drive. If I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, or the auto dealership, or the DMV, I read. I read when I’m on vacation and when I’m at home, when I’m upset and when I’m happy, when I’m on planes and trains and cruise ships.
And I get it done, because I decide to. Because I know that reading is one of the most important things we can do to understand ourselves, and more importantly, to understand our fellow humans.
But why? Why devote so much of my time to something that some people never do after high school?
I read to know I am alive in a world full of stories not my own. I read to figure out how to tell my own story, too. I read to have my heart broken in safety, my hopes lifted in troubles. I read to learn, and to escape. To touch ground out of my reach. I read to visit the unknown, and know the next place to visit. I read to forgive myself and those who wrong me. I read to change, and to keep my center. I read to laugh and cry and learn how to feel emotions not my own. I read to survive, and to make sure that is not all I am doing.
So read, folks. As much as you can, for as long as you can, choosing the best books that you can. You will be amazed the difference it makes in your heart and in your life.