In 2012, Slate columnist Jeff Ryan managed to read one book per day. That’s a mind-boggling 366 books. And, while comic books and short novels made up some of his total, he also tackled Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Thomas Hardy, and Umberto Eco.
No slouch, him–but this achievement wasn’t a literary walk in the park. To do it, he gave up on listening to music, he quit reading blogs and twitter, he cut out video games, and he dedicated every spare moment to reading.
I’ll confess: that’s not for me. Without keeping up with professional blogs, I’d be a worse librarian; and without taking time for cute animal videos, I’d be a less pleasant one. I love music too much to give it up; there are already far too many albums on my “to-listen-to” list. And video games? Well, let’s just say I appreciate my XBox 360.
But even with all these other types of media crowding for my attention, I still find time to read. Not a book a day, by any means–more like a book a week, or even a month. But there’s something about the pleasure of sitting down with a story that blog posts and Facebook updates just can’t match. A book gives you a world to come back to, in between the demands of modern life. It’s a vacation, with characters who become your friends–something to anticipate when the workday seems to drag on, or the piles of laundry seem neverending. Nonfiction books can do this too; the business advice of Jim Collins or the quirky science stories of Mary Roach can be just as engrossing as a great novel.
So, at this time of year for thinking about resolutions, I’d encourage everyone to set one simple goal: read. Not a book a day–there’s no need to treat it like an endurance sport, after all–but whenever you need an escape from the grind. Pick up that novel everyone’s been talking about, and dive in. If it takes a month or two to finish, that’s fine! Whether your interests are literary, self improvement, science or faith, there’s a book out there waiting for you. Go find it!