A second post in which I basically talk about what I did for a year.
I stopped reading as much as I used to as a child, and it frustrated me that University took up so much of my time that I didn’t have time to do something I enjoyed so much. I find books to be a haven of escape, away from the pressures of reality. But they also keep you connected to the world, in that they can expose you to so much: hint at important questions, offer social commentary. If only you decide to take time to look.
Books are also amazing ways to network with people. My friends have similar literary interests, and I do enjoy the odd critique of pieces of literature. I’ve never been an avid fanboy, in my memory, but I finish books and get takeaways from them.
The other thing I really wanted to do was to develop a metric for books. All things are subjective, but as I grew older, I found it tougher for me to identify my favourite genres, and found it harder to rate books or recommend books to other individuals. This was especially because I was out of touch with it all. I figured maintaining a book review list would help.
So, I challenged myself. 52 books in 52 weeks. I’d track myself on Goodreads. The idea was to read daily, to a point where I could comfortably achieve this target. It was ambitious, especially because I didn’t want to pick small books just to meet the target (I enjoy longer reads), but I also didn’t want to forget the plots of books I’ve read (something I do very often – I forget character names). Tracking the balance would be tough.
First, I opened up my goodreads account. The only other time I had used this was when I first got my Kindle booted up, but apart from that, I hadn’t ever rated books on the site. Goodreads became a really good place: I started using it for book recommendations, to join a couple of book clubs (where I’m not active, yet), to start tracking myself, and also, to comment on books my friends had read.
Second, I decided I’d review every book I read over the course of the year. Write even one word about what it made me feel. Was it something I’d recommend? Why would I recommend it? Who would I send the book to? Ask myself the tough questions.
Third, I wanted to pair books with music. This isn’t something I ended up accomplishing (though one of my friends did, and I thought it was delightful).
Lastly, I shared this specific goal with a few select people – individuals who read voraciously, who I thought could keep pace with me, and/or even motivate me if I was falling behind. More importantly, they’d encourage and not judge me if I was ahead of my goal. I was going to become a serious bookworm, and I needed all the help I could get.
Later in the year, I also joined Reddit, which I found to be a great source of recommendations, but also a fun place to talk about books I read, especially down at r/books and r/sciencefiction
I read 81 books in the year. This is likely to become 82, or even 83. Here’s the entire list, with some comments: https://tejasrao.net/2017-reading-list/
This was the toughest thing I embarked on all year, I think. It required a lot of devotion, and I could, at most be off books for 3/4 days. I was even reading during exams – something my parents had disallowed in my house when I was growing up. I didn’t buy as many books – a lot of them were sent to me, or even borrowed, or downloaded, so this was super economical.
I did succeed, I think. Not just in terms of meeting a challenge I had set for myself, numerically, but, on a macro look at things, in terms of becoming a reader again. Over the course of the year, I re-identified my favourite genres (around April, pretty early), and then found books along those lines. Toward the end of the year, I even began exploring, and still am in the process of learning about books and media across cultures – I think there’s a lot more work I want to do in this area, but it’s been very enjoyable reading things like manga and Chinese science-fiction so far.
I also began to read fanfiction. Strange for me, yes, but someone convinced me it was worth a shot.
The impact reading had on my writing was incredible. I even tried writing something humorous in June, when I was reading Dork (a terrible experiment I thoroughly failed at), but it was worth the shot. It also gave me a lot of confidence to express my emotions. If Chetan Bhagat can do it, so can I, I thought. Turns out it’s tougher than I did think it was, but it’s fun trying to articulate everything in my head. Even if it seems abrupt and uninteresting.
The luckiest thing I experienced was actually a terrible week on personal fronts, where I sat in my room after classes everyday and read. I used to get up for meals, but I didn’t do anything apart from reading on those days. That week? I read 7 books. 1 book a day. It was the most fulfilling thing and managed to pull my mind out of some very numbing realities I didn’t have the courage to face at that time.
What I’m very grateful for is the literary support system I have. Starting from my parents, but even friends I’ve opened up to more recently. Prememe, 3000, Loafer: These 3 were instrumental (to say the least) and recommended/forced me to read a LOT of books I wouldn’t have ever dared to try. Massive thanks to you 3. I don’t know what this 52 challenge would have been without you.
What’s next? I can only wonder. But I’d like to review books better and I’m targetting 104 books next year. 2 books a week, with the added challenge of trying new genres I’ve never read before.
There’s a lot to read and a lot to know. I’m just excited by the amount of information and creativity I haven’t been able to consume or appreciate.