Twenty-Four Years of Reading: 06/09/11
Twenty-four years ago when I was just barely a teenager I heard from a number of trusted adult sources (news media) that children today (so mid-1980s) would read at most 1,000 books in their life time. Even though I wasn't reading very much back then, meaning I wasn't reading much for pleasure, I thought that sounded like a small number. The number implied that people my generation were lazy or illiterate or maybe both. I decided this was a call to action, a chance to prove them wrong. I would do this by keeping a list.
So on June 9th, 1987 I started my list of books or short stories read. Later it would include academic articles as I entered college. As I became a parent the list started to include picture books too.
On May 15, 1995, just months before I got married and a month shy from graduating college, I read my 1000th thing. It was a long academic article called "Vegetation of Santa Cruz Island" by Richard Minnick. I was taking a marine biology class at the time in which I learned a ton but was nearly crushed under the weight of the class reader, comprised of poorly photocopied academic articles. Now-a-days it would be a folder full of PDFs and probably just as hard on the eyes!
I am now about six months away from finishing my 6000th item. Since I'm back in college again it may very well be another academic article.
What has changed over the years, besides the balance of what I read, is how much I read. My first year I read 72 books. My next year it jumped to 216. A decade ago when I was depressed by work and a pair of miscarriages, that number fell to 42 books. Then two years later I only managed 34 books because I was busy as a new mother! Despite the peaks and valleys, the number has been increasing.
In 2004 I turned my website into a blog. In the fall of 2006 I turned the blog into a book blog. In 2007 I challenged myself to post a review each and every day. That set my reading at a floor of 365 books a year. What I didn't expect, was to have it raise the number up to a high of 600 or more. Last year I read 675 books and this year I finished 600.
I also put together a pie chart of the types of books I read from June 9th of last year through June 8th of this year. The largest piece of the pie goes to picture books. That's in part because I read with my children and because I took a children's materials for ages 5 to 8 class which required reading around sixty picture books.
The next largest piece is nonfiction which reflects the research I've done for class papers and my textbooks. But there are quite a few nonfiction books that I read for fun as well.
Next comes graphic novels and manga. I started reading them in earnest a couple years ago when I was first invited to be a graphic novel panelist for the Cybils. This year though I've been reading through a couple of series for fun: Fullmetal Alchemist, Twin Spica and xxxHolic. Comments (18)
Comment #1: Thursday, June, 9, 2011 at 17:57:40
Wow! That's pretty impressive. I wish I would have kept track of what I've read all those years. I remember a lot of the books I read, but I know there are some that I can't remember the titles of. I have been keeping track for several years now, but I still wish I would have back then.
Comment #2: Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 18:10:15
I wish my list went back to when I was first learning how to read. I probably would have been a better reader for it and it would be fascinating to look at now.
Comment #3: Thursday, June, 9, 2011 at 19:48:31
That is awesome! And completely mind blowing to think about reading that many books.
Comment #4: Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 18:11:34
I've almost filled up my second of these book diaries. My next big goal will be 10,000.
Comment #5: Thursday, June, 9, 2011 at 20:19:38
April @ My Shelf Confessions
I think it's so cool that you've kept track just to prove an article wrong! what a fascinating break-down as well! Kudos to you, I loved reading this post. Congratz!
Comment #6: Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 18:12:01
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. It's such a personal thing. I usually don't make such a big deal about it but with the whole on going discussion about reading going on right now, I felt I should share.
Comment #7: Friday, June, 10, 2011 at 00:07:58
Wow! this is impressive. I wish I'd thought to keep a list of books I've read. Would have been fun to look back on it.
Comment #8: Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 21:38:00
It's fun to look at but I'm also trying to get it into a digital format so I can look for things like re-reads, number of pages read, favorite genres and whatnot.
Comment #9: Monday, June, 13, 2011 at 23:11:44
This is really terrific! What an accomplishment and I love how you've been keeping track of it.
Comment #10: Friday, June 17, 2011 at 14:35:31
Thank you. It's been an interesting endevor.
Comment #11: Tuesday, June, 14, 2011 at 10:00:01
What a great project! I love the idea... I wonder if I can get my daughter to do something like that?
Comment #12: Friday, June 17, 2011 at 14:37:00
I think it's something that you need personal motivation to do.
Comment #13: Friday, July, 8, 2011 at 15:45:47
That's awesome, Sarah!
Comment #14: Monday, July 11, 2011 at 12:13:54
Comment #15: Monday, July, 11, 2011 at 16:35:37
So incredible! I've considered myself a "graph/stats-aholic", but I'm now green with envy. I wish I'd kept such wonderful records of my early reading.
This is absolutely a case for arguing that kids/adults are reading just as much if not more than ever. Fabulous post! Just incredible, keep up the great work because your site is fantastic!
Comment #16: Monday, July 11, 2011 at 13:52:03
Thanks! Sometimes when I post about my list I feel like I'm bragging. But then when someone says people don't read or start worrying about books harming people, I turn to the list and I can point to what I read as a kid and what I'm reading now. It helps jog the memory and helps me remember that I wasn't reading "safe" stuff as a kid.
Comment #17: Monday, July, 11, 2011 at 17:04:32
That's very impressive record keeping! I'm pretty sure I've read over 1,000 books in my lifetime (I'm 33), but I don't have a complete list of what I've read.
Comment #18: Monday, July 11, 2011 at 14:15:10
You probably have. If you haven't, you're close. It took me 8 years to read my first thousand books. I was 21 when I passed that milestone.