50 Books a Year

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It’s been an interesting year for my bookshelf, or lack thereof. It’s the 8th year I’ve set a reading goal, and the most ambitious one yet.

At the start of the year, I decided that I would read more on my (then) new iPhone X. Kindle and iBooks users will know this, but it’s pretty easy to get lost in the never ending vertical scroll, filled with books categorized by genres, bestsellers, sales, and upcoming writers. My choosing process is quite simple, I scroll to a book summary that appeals to me and I buy it. The best part of it is that as I scroll, tap, and purchase the book I don’t let the length of it affect my decision.

The advent of e-reading has unearthed my insecurity regarding my book choice. Being a non-native, English-as-a-third-language speaker, I feared being seen with a book that’s under 200 pages. And if you’ve been to a bookstore in Korea lately, you’ll notice the trend of pocket books and the lack of hardcovers.

I grew up in Cambodia where we had one bookstore that had the same bestsellers year after year, and one secondhand bookstore that was largely made up of books backpackers had left behind, or traded in for another worn paperback (lots of Stephen King).

My actual bookstore existed only in airports. Overpriced books that you reluctantly buy if you forget to pack one for your flight. And growing up abroad, I spent a lot of time in it. It wasn’t until university that I found people who were avid readers as I am, who wanted to take the time to discuss and share what they read. It was also then that I decided I don’t belong in these discussions. Though my international education included a handful of the books that are considered classics, I’v never read through the list of “classics”. And that was enough to isolate me from book discussions. I stayed a closeted reader until I found out about Goodreads.

It took a while for me to start sharing books that I’ve read, I’m reading, and I want to read. It’s so fascinating to be able to see, in real-time, what my Facebook friends are reading. I was particularly fascinated by this one friend, an acquaintance from university who took up 90% of my feed. She was starting a book, finishing a book, writing reviews, sharing quotes, almost every day. Her reading challenge for that year was 100! Mine was 30.

Then one day, the feed didn’t update. I found out she had passed away. She never got to finish her Goodreads challenge, and I never got to thank her for changing my life. Her YOLO approach to whatever books she read inspired me to embrace the IDGAF attitude regarding book choices.

When I ask around for book recommendations, the discussion and suggestions revolves around the 100 books you’re apparently supposed to read before you die. And when the books from that list doesn’t appeal to you, you’re not going to enjoy reading it. Society created a rubric, a prerequisite of books you have to read before you can call yourself a reader. I didn’t abide to it and thanks to that I achieved my 2018 reading challenge. That isn’t to say that I won’t read classics, it’s to say that I would like to read them as they fit my timeline.

The final book that I’m ending the year with, my 52nd book of 2018, is I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, by Anne Bogel. A quote that speaks to me is, “when we share our favorite titles, we can’t help but share ourselves as well”, and so I would like to share myself. Here is my bookshelf.

I would like to end with a quote highlighted by the aforementioned friend. I’m glad we crossed paths.

We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.” — John Green.