I’m not normally a New Year’s Resolution kind of person - in fact, I told my roommate that this year I would resolve to wash the dishes on Jan. 1st and call it a day. I did that, but then I stumbled upon a Slate article where the author undertook to read a book a day for a year. 

Like most avid readers, I have what someone on Twitter called “the pile of shame” - books that I’ve promised that I’m going to read someday. (For me, it’s two piles on my desk and a corresponding larger set that lurks in my bookshelf.) Often, my reading eyes are bigger than my stomach (or my propensity to buy books on Amazon) and frankly, I haven’t made much progress on any of these in months.

Below, the current iteration of the pile of shame.

The current iteration of the book pile.

So, reading a book a day would be pretty cool. However, that pace would probably require giving up a number of activities I also enjoy  - video games, watching bad TV, cooking - and would become completely ridiculous when I enter school in the fall. Looking into the new year, I see setting some book goals as a way to get over my always-full pile of “books to read” and to have a way of incentivizing reading over screen-staring time. 

I also have become inspired by my friend Diana Kimball‘s experiments with public reading, and want a way to engage in more of a dialogue/reflective process around what I’m reading. So I’m embarking on a customized version of the challenge. Here are the rules:

  • I will read 260 books by January 1st, 2014. 
  • I will write a blog post for every 5 books I read - as a way of checking in. This may be every week (or less, or more, depending on a number of factors.)
  • Audiobooks don’t count.
  • Graphic novels do. 
  • Since the goal is to lower the number of books that I’ve gotten 10 pages into and never finished, finishing books I’ve started is allowed.
  • I will try NOT to just read the shortest or most convenient books -the blog posts are a way of ensuring that I stay honest about this. 
  • I’m going to try for a mix of fiction and non-fiction. A lot of what I have lying around is non-fiction, but there’s always the Tournament of Books.

So, without further ado, the first five:


One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw by Witold Rybczynski, Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation – and Positive Strategies for Change by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood, The Law of Superheroes by James Daily and Ryan Davidson, Both Flesh and Not: Essays by David Foster Wallace - which was the 24 Book Club book.

In the service of having some sort of record abou this project, I’m going to write a few words, and put each book in a category at the end of the 5-book period.

Best Written: Both Flesh and Not (not shockingly). This was my first DFW book, and there were many parts of it that I loved.

Worst: One Good Turn, by a huge margin. It was terrible - badly written, self-indulgent, low on content and ultimately unsatisfying.

Most Useful: Women Don’t Ask, which came highly recommended by many other women geeks.

Book I was most excited to read:  The Law of Superheroes, which turned out to be okay. I was unhappy about the level of certainty that the authors seemed to come to on each question (things like: “Would Wolverine’s claws count as arms under the 2nd amendment?”). To me, the back and forth about the uncertainty is more interesting, so I came away a little disappointed.

Book I’ve had for the longest:  In Other Worlds, which was good but repetitive.