My Year in Books


My Year in Books

How privileged and happy am I that in 2015 I was able to read 114 books totaling 26,151 pages. How did I do it? Why did I do it?

In late 2014 I gave a talk as part of the ASU Humanities Lecture Series about how literature encourages empathy. Citing the work of David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Caetano, I highlighted a cause and effect relationship between reading and caring more for others. Since caring more for others (and , specifically, showing that care) has been a long-term goal of mine, and because my job requires me to have a deep familiarity with the field of contemporary American literature, I set a goal to read 102 books in 2015, or roughly two books a week.

I surpassed that goal using several techniques.

1. At any given time this year I had several books going: on my Kindle, my iPhone Overdrive App, on my bedside table, and on my coffee table. I really enjoyed moving between the different books, especially all those times they were in dialogue with each other.

2. I’m going to make a parallel here that may seem crazy. But I kind of approached reading the way I approach running, AND I read while I ran. 114 books and 26,151 pages corresponded to 838 miles and 125,525 feet elevation gain. That running took me over 200 hours, and I read for probably 75% of that time.

My Year in Miles


3. I spent a lot of hours reading. According to, I read at almost 300 words per minute. If we assume a page is 300 words, that means I spent 435 hours this year reading.

My Reading Speed
What were some of the happy byproducts of this reading? First, I found that during conversation instead of quoting Seinfeld episodes I started talking about authors and books I was reading and the rich ideas running through the texts and in my head. Second, I did find that I was understanding more types of human situations. Especially with books like Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (Oh my gosh!) and The Forever War by Dexter Filkins.

So what’s the goal for 2016? I’m going to say 104 again. Will you join me?