In early June, I began to consider abandoning my Reading Challenge goal of reading 54 books in 2021. My mind was consumed by COVID concerns and too distracted to read an entire book for pleasure. Other than reading to prepare for classes and book club, I mostly leafed through magazines during the first 6 months of the year.
Then, inspired by an email from Fulton County Library System notifying me that my library card had expired and inviting me to come into the local branch to renew my account, I doubled down on my commitment to complete the challenge. I was 43% of the way there and sure I could read 31 books in 27 weeks. I developed a strategy that revolved around the library’s rules about borrowing and renewing books.
First, I browsed my “Want to Read” list on Goodreads, starting with the recently added. These are books I’d heard about from friends or from author talks on Zoom, books that were reviewed in the newspaper or online magazines, books that were likely in demand and circulating quickly through the Fulton County Library System. I placed a few on hold and, seeing that I was not first on the waiting list, I searched my list for books in the floating collection at my local branch.
While you can check out most books for three weeks, books with long lines of people waiting to read them cannot be renewed, and books in the floating collection are only available for two weeks. Borrowing these books would force me to be disciplined in my approach to reading.
I began checking out 2-3 books at a time and reading them while drinking my morning coffee and eating my lunch on the back porch, instead of scrolling through emails. I read a few chapters before bed every night, instead of binge-watching a new Netflix series.
Six months later, I’m delighted to report I completed the challenge with two weeks to spare. When I enter my 4-star review of the 54th book on Goodreads, I’m treated to an electronic fireworks display and a message of congratulations.
Smiling proudly, I look over the list with a sense of accomplishment that is in no way diminished by the presence of four rereads. One was the classic novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which I read in 2012 and appreciated even more this time. Besides, I’ll probably devour another book or two before midnight next Friday.