Last year I decided to read 52 books in 52 weeks during 2021.
I just finished my 52nd book 🥳 and I wanted to write down a few notes on this.
In mid-2020, I made some new friends and it so happened that many of us enjoy reading and we ended up talking a lot about books.
One girl said she was reading 52 books that year, and that a few of them had done that the year before as well.
It sounded superhuman to me. Like, how much free time does she have? I couldn't imagine pulling it off myself. But I was intrigued.
This person has children and runs her own business, so any excuses I had felt inconsequential.
When a group of people decided to read 100 books this year(!), any remaining excuses evaporated. And I was left with a choice.
Do I want to?
I had to tap into some big reasons:
✅ Because I wanted to have done it. I want to see what my life looks like when I've read a book a week for an entire year.
✅ Because I need help with structure. And if I commit to this, it will be a big part of my life that will support me.
✅ I wanted it to be part of my identity. Not "omg, how can one read that much" to "I'm a person who prioritizes reading".
✅ I struggle with concentration and keeping focus, so I also saw this. Adding the pandemic to it, I realized I might have more indoor time than any other year in my life.
✅ There are so many fantastic books and I want to experience them.
This commitment can be boxed into three very clear parts:
Preparing the year
This was probably the most important part.
- Choosing themes. I started by circling topics that I wanted to understand better. Astrology. I researched on GoodReads and found a list of (here's the curated list if you ever want to dive deep into astrology ;))
- Finding a balance. This was not the year to interpret Tolstoy. Nor to google 'the 52 shortest books ever written' and be done it. It was a mix; there are regular books, Kindle, and audiobooks - and each book that exists is best consumed in one of these formats. I decided on a mix of them all.
- Visualizing. What does reading 52 books a year actually mean? It boiled down to having to read approx 1 hour a day. Visualizing how and where made it real, and I could see what it looked like. When would I read and how. Where. How could I make it habitual and a cozy ritual.
- What would this look like if it were easy? One of my guiding questions in life that I kept bringing back to the forefront.
During the year
- Finding cadence. I understood that I'd had to read about 30 minutes - 1 hour a day to reach this goal. I tried to stick to it but it didn't hold true. Sometimes I read a book in one evening, sometimes I went days without touching one. That was OK.
- Staying flexible. I promised to never keep reading a book I did not feel engaged with. So I actually picked up more than 52 books, but I was quick to dismiss one if I couldn't get into it.
- Being kind to myself. A few times I got sick of this commitment. At those times, I just reset. I picked up a book I've read before and know I loved and would like to read again. Like watching the Matrix movie after a few years - you know you loved it, but it's been long enough that you'll be surprised and entertained.
- Doing it together. I cannot enough stress the importance of my GoodReads account. Seeing other people in my life read books, map their progress, add reviews and check off milestones has been very important. Although reading is a solo deal, I've never felt lonely doing it.
- Self-trust (I find this to be a recurring theme when finishing these types of challenges). I decided to do something and I kept that promise to myself.
- Connecting concepts. I've absorbed a lot of ideas, thoughts, and concepts. I have made my own connections between different books. If I read something that intrigued me, I chose books on a similar topic that would allow me to dive deeper. In many ways, I feel like I think better. That might sound vague, and it feels vague, but it also feels true
- Having a structure is fantastic. It's so helpful to make a commitment of this kind because I feel I could lean towards my preparation. Like most things, it was simple but not easy. And putting 30 minutes a day to something you're committed to is very doable.
- I will not do it again! At least not soon. Not that I don't want to keep reading, I just want it to look different. I want to read more in-depth articles and read less books but deeper. Perhaps 12 books, but diving very deep into them, summarizing and discussing with others.
- Next year, I need a better balance in creation. Currently thinking about what that will look like.