I’m 1 Month into My #220for2020 Reading Challenge: What I’ve Learned So Far
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Happy first Monday of the month! The arrival of February means I’m officially one month into my epic (and/or “freakish,” to use my husband’s words) reading quest of #220for2020.
The good news is: I’m still on track! As I write this (on January 31, 2020), I’m just about through book 18 of the year, which Goodreads informs me is exactly where I need to be on if I’m to pace myself for the next 11 months (see all the books I’ve read so far here).
The bad news is… Well, there isn’t really any bad news. It’s a challenging goal, and it will only become more challenging as the year goes on. But it’s also fun and I’m learning a lot.
Here’s a few of the things I’ve learned so far with a few book recommendations sprinkled throughout:
- The more books I finish, the more books I find myself not finishing. On purpose. I’ve never been aversed to putting down a book if it’s not meeting my expectations. When I embarked on #220for2020, though, I assumed I’d leave fewer books unfinished simply because of the time crunch–there’s just not as much leeway to start books over. In reality, though, plowing through this many books in close succession has made me a far more judicious reader than usual. I don’t wait as long to put down the book if it’s not working for me since the goal of reading this much is hard enough–why add to the stress by forcing myself through pages and pages I’m not enjoying or learning from? In total, I’ve put down 14 books, most of them within a few minutes/pages, a few of them more than halfway through. I have not counted these books toward my reading goal.
- I love the randomize feature on the Libby app! Since I now do the majority of my reading on my smartphone using the Libby app (synced with my library account), I miss the thrill of browing library shelves and finding random books I never would have thought to look up. Luckily, I recently noticed that Libby has a “randomized” feature that will sort books withing any category or search filter in a completely random order (rather than listing them by popularity or publishing date). Some of the best books I read this month were found simply scrolling through randomized books, including: This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story by Jackie Shannon Hollis, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara, and The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug.
- Switch it up. One way I’ve been able to keep up the pace without dulling my attention span is by building variation into pretty much every facet of the reading experience. While I do at least half of my reading through audiobooks (because I can listen while commuting, cleaning, etc.), I vary up the kinds of books I listen to, as well as their lengths and audio styles (with music vs. without, single voices vs. multiple voices, male voices vs. female voices). I also switch up the kinds of ebooks I read, and try to alternate ebooks with hardcopy books when possible. Finally, since I tend towards books on very serious or emotional topics, I try to take breaks by reading lighter books or works written by comedians (I loved You Ought to Know by comedian Adam Wade, one of the January 2020 Audible Originals).
- Enjoy time spent not reading. My love for reading hasn’t waned, but because I’m spending more time reading, I’ve begun to enjoy the times I’m not reading more. Whether chatting with my husband, cooking, or going for a walk, I’ve started bask in quietude and silence whereas before I would have filled any and all mindless voids with endless podcast episodes. I’m guessing my mind is probably pretty busy processing the infernal amount of books I’ve been throwing at it the last four weeks that I’ve been able to slow down and just be in the moment more of the time. This is partly why I haven’t built up any kind of buffer yet–there have been times I could have been reading or listening to a book (while cleaning or washing dishes, for example) but I was simply enjoying the simplicity of those moments.
- Priorities. Taking on a challenge like this really forces you to be mindful of your priorities and the ways you spend your time. It hasn’t been altogether easy reading this many books–I’ve had to reduce or cut out a number of time-sucking activities like Netflix, extra time on social media, etc. In turn, the challenge has anchored my priorities in other ways and helped me be more focused in my professional life. Some days have gone less smoothly than others… The last two nights, for example, I’ve made the mistake of scrolling social media an hour past my usual bedtime. There are worse things in life, but it crystallized the tradeoff, since I can definitely see my reading progress lags the more time I spend on social media without a purpose. (Luckily, one of the books I read this month was Nir Eyal’s phenomenal
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life which has given me some new tools for staying focused on what’s important.)
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned in the process. I’ll try to report back throughout the year as I hopefully continue to make progress toward #220for2020!