Djerassi, The Books

I had a goal to read 40 books while at Djerassi, because I normally like to raid the Alumni Library and read at least a poetry book a day. But I wasn’t reading as much poetry as I was memoir and fiction. And that’s okay. I ended up finishing 30 books in 28 days, so I’ll take that. I read some REALLY AMAZING books, and you can read my reviews on Goodreads. Some of my favorites were Townie by Andre Dubus III, My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, and Living with a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Thirty for Thirty

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?

6 Days 17 Hours 59 Minutes 50 Seconds

The tension mounts.

Here’s a short update on the preparations for our Peru trip. We have finalized most of our reservations including hotels, transfers, activities, and meals. The spreadsheet, as they say, is filled in.

The training is going great. My goal to replicate the Trek mileage for 4 straight weeks is 3 weeks in. I have motored South Mountain so many times that I feel like I know every rock and cactus. The drawback is that I might need to buy some new clothes before we leave. Today I was able to remove my favorite jeans without unzipping or unbuttoning them. I have dropped 2 inches in the waist and 2 inches in the hips. That’s okay. It’s the grief weight coming off. This weekend I’m doing my favorite 9 miler on Saturday and my favorite 4 miler on Sunday. I can’t wait!

Oh! And to brush up on my Spanish, I’m listening to Coffee Break Spanish podcasts as I hike. I really enjoy the lessons from profesor Mark and estudiante Kara, who broadcast their Spanish Learner’s show from Glasgow. It took a while for me to get used to their thick brogue, but I figure I’m learning Scottish and Spanish at the same time and how can that be bad.

Another preparation that is going great is working my way through some Peruvian authors. I have been a Mario Vargas Llosa fan for years, so I had already read The Bad Girl, Way to Paradise and Feast of the Goat. But John also picked up a lovely novel by another Peruvian author, Alfredo Bryce Echenique. I’m reading A World for Julius, and I love it! Julius is a bit Owen Meany meets Oskar Matzerath, but imagine this taking place in a changing Lima–where the aristocracy is losing its grip.

So. By now, it’s 6 Days 16 Hours 59 Minutes 50 Seconds to go. Peru, here we come!