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52 books in 52 weeks (or thereabouts)

In January 2020, I set a goal to read 52 books this year. You can read my mid-term report in Curious on Medium. Back then I thought that the biggest health issue I’d have to face this year would be gallbladder surgery… little did we know.

In January 2020, I set a goal to read 52 books this year. You can read my mid-term report in Curious on Medium. Back then I thought that the biggest health issue I’d have to face this year would be gallbladder surgery… little did we know. Reading Station Eleven, about a highly virulent pandemic, just as countries around the world were starting to lockdown in March, was certainly an unnerving experience.

As I write, I’m 47 books in and feeling the pressure a little. It’s been an enjoyable challenge but at this point I’m not sure I’m going to even set myself a target for next year. I’ve read more and I’ve been more intentional about making time for reading. I’ve realised that my morning routine works best when I allow time for reading and getting some fresh air before starting work. But there have been times when, rather than being encouraged, I’ve felt the weight of the target bearing down (and the temptation to pick out only shorter books!) – especially when I’ve dropped behind.

There’s no doubt that reading a book a week – or even two – is possible if you plan carefully and block out time for your goal. But what’s the point – and why is it useful?

Reading widely – and taking in different genres, styles and periods – supports the development of editorial skills, simply through increased exposure to vocabulary, tone and other aspects of the language. So, there’s an advantage for me in the work that I do.

And given some of the events of this year, some of the books I’ve chosen are essential reading, especially for those of us who support the Black Lives Matter movement and are serious about working to bake antiracism into both our lives and our businesses. (Here’s a fantastic set of antiracism resources for white people if you’re interested in support with putting this into practice.)

The month in which I read the least was September, when I took on a step challenge to walk five miles a day in aid of the Trussell Trust. I was reading less but I felt better – both physically and mentally – than I have done for ages.

That’s why, for 2021, I plan to make more time to walk further, and to pick out 20 or 25 books that I’ve always wanted to read but never got around to. I won’t feel so much pressure – and any more than that will be a bonus.

In case you’re interested, here are the books I’ve read so far in 2020:

  1. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
  2. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  3. Transit by Rachel Cusk
  4. White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties, 1964–70 by Dominic Sandbrook
  5. Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset
  6. Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
  7. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
  8. 12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup
  9. Circe by Madeline Miller
  10. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  11. Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
  12. A Dance to the Music of Time: 1st Movement by Anthony Powell
  13. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
  14. Deep Work by Cal Newport
  15. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  16. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
  17. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  18. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
  19. Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
  20. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  21. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
  22. The Fast 800 by Michael Mosley
  23. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
  24. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
  25. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  26. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  27. Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
  28. Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth
  29. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence
  30. A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor
  31. Small Island by Andrea Levy
  32. Normal People by Sally Rooney
  33. My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary by Rae Earl
  34. Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth
  35. In and Out of the Kitchen by Miles Jupp
  36. Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga
  37. The Warrior’s Princess by Barbara Erskine
  38. The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre
  39. Grey is the Colour of Hope by Irina Ratushinskaya
  40. The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken by The Secret Barrister
  41. The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
  42. Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
  43. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
  44. Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy
  45. The Dark Half by Stephen King
  46. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  47. Kudos by Rachel Cusk

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