Journalist Daisy Hudson set an ambitious goal of reading 52 books last year, which quickly grew into a goal of 100. She writes about the ups, downs and findings of reclaiming the world. ‘writing.
Author Jhumpa Lahiri once said that books “let you travel without moving your feet.”
In the strange times we live in, when the globetrotter seems like a pipe dream and the walls of our homes can start to close, the prospect of being able to escape to another world is alluring.
Whether it’s the moving stairs and talking portraits of Hogwarts or the verdant idyll of the Shire, books can create rich new landscapes to capture our imaginations.
I wish it was for a reason as noble as this that I decided to set myself a goal of reading 52 books last year.
In reality, it’s just because I’m stubborn and competitive.
And in terms of New Years resolutions, it seemed more achievable than learning the trumpet or taking spin lessons.
But let’s go back for a second.
For most of my life I have been an avid reader.
In high school, I devoured several books a week.
I read the whole the Lord of the Rings series at age 9, not because I was particularly interested in hobbits, but just to prove to my teacher that I could.
Yes, I was that kid.
I came back to a book, a damaged copy of Tomorrow when the war started, so often that the school librarian just gave it to me.
However, once I started working full time and spent much of my day going through reports, emails, and news articles, my reading slowly plummeted.
I imagine a lot of people feel the same way. After a long day at the office, it was easier to swap one screen for another and dive into a dumb Netflix series that didn’t over-test my tired, fried brain.
But by the end of 2020, I had decided I wanted to go back to my old favorite hobby and resume reading pleasure for pleasure rather than necessity.
Setting a goal of 52 pounds for the year, I created an Instagram account to track my progress and write short reviews.
I started with a hiss and a roar, tearing apart the 700-page autobiography of Barack Obama with all the fervor of a political geek in his element.
It was easy to tick off book after book during the heady summer vacation days, when there was nothing else to do but sit in the sun with a book and a drink.
But I’m not going to lie, it was also a chore sometimes.
Not being the type to give up easily, I sometimes persevered with books that should have just been thrown on the shelf.
Because I publicly published what I read, there was also a pressure to read more “guest” books, rather than lighter rates that I probably would have appreciated more.
And there were times when I had to force my tired eyes to keep reading for another 50 pages, or just one more chapter, when all I wanted to do was start a new episode of Schitt Creek.
I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I picked up the pace of picking up a book rather than turning on the TV.
As I approached mid-year, it became clear that I was going to hit the 52-pound goal with several months to lose.
The more I read, the more I wanted to read.
Instead of resting on my laurels, I increased my goal to the intimidating but satisfying number of 100.
To achieve this, I had to step out of my comfort zone.
I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t read a lot of New Zealand novels before this project. I’m not sure why – maybe it was just ignorance, or maybe I just didn’t think the books here could be as good as those produced elsewhere.
It looks like a very Kiwi trait. A mixture of big poppy syndrome and a strange colonial inferiority complex.
Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Some of my favorite reads this year have been written by Kiwi authors, taken from the hilarious and heartfelt book by Rebecca K. Reilly. Greta & Valdin, to the incredible Sue Orr Loop tracks.
Browsing the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards fictional list once again opened my eyes to the wealth of creative talent this country produces.
This is my mea culpa. I’m sorry, New Zealand authors.
Trying out books that I would never have explored otherwise has led to authors who quickly became new favorites, and whose words had a profound impact on me during another difficult year of this tiresome and disturbing pandemic.
Rebecca Solnit’s essays on feminism provided an outlet for my most frustrating days, while writers such as Bernardine Evaristo, Anthony Veasna So, and Brandon Taylor opened my eyes to the lived experiences of those who are not. born with the privilege that I was.
This is perhaps the most valuable thing I have learned from this year of reading.
By broadening my horizons, stepping out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in the stories of others, I think, or at least I hope, that I have become more empathetic, more aware.
Finishing the 100th book in early December was like reaching my own personal peak, the end of a 12 month literary journey that made me cry at different times tears of laughter, tears of sadness, or sometimes just them. tears of frustration from reading something brilliant and realizing that I will never come close to that level of creative genius.
The day after I hit 100, a new book landed on my desk courtesy of our book publisher.
I was immediately excited to tackle it, completely forgetting that I had already achieved my goal.
It turns out that reading is like riding a bicycle.
The more you practice the easier it gets, and before you know it, you’re dashing off to new places and new adventures, discovering the world one pedal, or one page, at a time.