the 52 books project


the first 26 books of 2013 and an aruban cat

according to science the average american reads about 15 books a year. since the advent of ebooks this number has increased dramatically, as it used to be in the 3 to 4 range. so all you ereader naysayers, perhaps the focus should be on whether people are reading more, and less on the delivery of the medium? (author’s note: “according to science” might be my favorite meaningless phrase in the english language and i’ve always wanted to use it)

i average about 20 to 30 books a year. assuming i live an average length life, that’s somewhere in the range of 2000 books in a lifetime, and doesn’t that just seem an awfully small number for an entire life?

i’ve decided to attempt to read 52 books this year (2013), 1 a week for the entire year. along with steadily becoming an avid runner, i want to further embrace my true love of reading. i’ve devised a rather structured approach to this plan in the form of a reading list. if i kept to this schedule my lifetime consumption of books would be somewhere in the 4000 range (this still seems terribly low, but a vast improvement!)

now before i go on, i can feel you thinking ‘but alexander won’t this rigid schedule suck the joy out of reading?’ and my answer is you could be right. but i know i want to read more, and i know, as with running, unless i have a schedule or a goal in place it’s so easy to get distracted. so we’ll see what happens.

and the 2nd “before i go on”, i’m sure there are individuals out there who read far more than i’m setting out to read and before you let me know this fact let me preemptively say, good for you, i don’t care.

my thought in posting this list addresses my secondary goal for this project which is to find more people to talk with about books. i’ve never been part of a book club and i’m not sure i’d necessarily enjoy that format of scheduled reading, but with this, if someone has an inclination to finish a book at the same time as myself then hooray, we can discuss said book, and be friends forever! i’ll be writing weekly thoughts on each of the books as i finish them and look forward to anyone’s thoughts on the books.

so here goes, the dates listed are the scheduled date to be finished. this is only the first half of the year, 26 books, this will accommodate potential interesting book releases in the coming year that can be added to the latter 26. i’m also open to any recommendations and (less so) to proscriptive interventions.

january 7th – state of wonder by ann patchett (already in the midst of reading)
january 14th – the savage detectives by roberto bolaño (already in the midst of reading)
january 21st – red sorghum by mo yan
january 28th – seven houses in france by bernard atxaga
february 4th – billy lynn’s long halftime walk by ben fountain
february 11th – the glass castle by jeannette walls
february 18th – the garden of evening mists by tan twan eng
february 25th – the ghost map by steven johnson
march 4th – the little stranger by sarah waters
march 11th – the orphan master’s son by adam johnson
march 18th – marks of identity by juan goytisolo
march 25th – the night circus by erin morgenstern
april 1st – the marriage plot by jeffrey eugenides
april 8th – the book of ebenezer le page by g. b. edwards
april 15th – silence by shusaku endo
april 22nd – great house by nicole krauss
april 29th – the war of the end of the world by mario vargas llosa
may 6th (my birthday!) – american pastoral by philip roth
may 13th – oryx and crake by margaret atwood
may 20th – kafka on the shore by haruki murakami
may 27th – interpreter of maladies by jhumpa lahiri
june 3rd – pilgrim at tinker creek by annie dillard
june 10th – telegraph avenue by michael chabon
june 17th – never let me go by kazuo ishiguro
june 24th – a visit from the goon squad by jennifer egan
july 1st – the finkler question by howard jacobson


14 thoughts on “the 52 books project

  1. I’ve read five of your books which make me want to talk to you about them now! Plus, pick up the rest. The schedule is tough. I find I have weeks where I can devour multiple books and months when I can hardly make it through one. I admire your commitment and fortitude. Best of luck!

    • know exactly what you mean about the changing difficulty of reading throughout the year. i experience exactly the same ups and downs. it’s just one of those things i would love to be habitual and this seems as good a way as any to establish that. do let me know when the books you’ve read come up (if thoughts about it are still in mind!) and i definitely recommend taking a look at some of the titles on the list that you haven’t read, i think there are potentially some really fascinating reads ahead. appreciate the support, whether it is admirable seems dependent on whether i’m still going in a couple of months. you’re quite right though, it is a tough schedule.

  2. That’s a challenging schedule, but I wish you the best of luck with it and look forward to your thoughts on them all! And I’m with Hannah – I already want to talk with you about the ones I’ve read… 😉

    Good luck and enjoy!

    • i’m glad you’re both not telling me which of the books you’ve read, otherwise i’d be tempted to switch around the schedule to get to them faster. glad to hear that some of the books are covered by people with opinions i truly respect. this is going to be fun and nightmarish at the same time. i’m a fairly fast reader, but when stuff gets busy reading becomes tough. looking forward to it.

  3. i would love to be able to read a book a week. where do you find the time? that’s a serious question; between work, theatre, and friends, i have barely an hour to myself most days. are you giving up anything to be able to do this?

    • truth be told i probably don’t have the time. it’s a bit of a grand experiment. i usually spend some portion of the day reading, whether on the metro or just in the morning before i leave for theatre stuff. i always try to make time for myself at some time during the day, even if it means some late nights. i am also probably less social these days, sometimes preferring to be home than out, so this gives me some more time. still, it’s going to be a lot, so we’ll see if it’s even possible. i’m hoping that if i get behind on the longer books i’ve strategically placed some shorter ones along the way to catch up! i’m not sure at the moment whether any sacrifices will have to be made to accommodate this, i’m imagining less tv and more time with a book!

      • i definitely lost a lot of reading time when i switched from the metro to a car (though it’s worth it for me). this is a wonderful goal to make for yourself, and i’ll be really interested to see how it goes for you. i used to clear a book every 2-4 weeks, but i have been too burned out the last 2 years to read much at all. i miss it terribly.

  4. well well, a personalized book club tailored to alexander’s schedule! very ambitious indeed. by the way, i just downloaded my first audible book for my trip (cheating a little for my next ‘generic’ book club meeting shhh). also, the glass castle is a trip!

    • i know, i know, i’ve probably lost my mind here, but i’m intrigued to see what happens and if i can even come close i’ll feel like i did something! i won’t tell anyone that you’re listening to the narrated version, it’s certainly a step up from cliff notes! but if your book club comes demanding explanations, i’ll feign ignorance, at least until they threaten violence. i’m really looking forward to the glass castle, i don’t know where and why it was recommended to me, but what i’ve read about it sounds intriguing.

  5. I just found your blog through Twitter as I decided to read 52 books in 2013 and have convinced a few other tweeters to join in. We were using the hash tag #52books and found you.

    You’re a lot more organised than me, I’m just going for any 52, depending on how the mood takes me. I will probably not manage to read one every week but might miss a week and do 2 on another week.

    Good luck with your reading list 🙂

    • thank you for stopping by and saying hello! glad to hear that other people are undertaking this challenge. i’m hoping being a little bit more organized might help me, as i tend to get entrenched in obligations throughout the year and then realize weeks have gone by without reading anything. i’ll be intrigued to see what books inspire your attention throughout the year, so do keep in touch about your efforts.

      and i’m off to the races with it, starting today! all the best.

  6. Impressive. I will be interested to hear how it progresses. I like the list, mainly because I have heard of and actually read a few ahead of you (not in the last week though!).

    • there’s a lot of potentially great books on the list. having been looking forward to reading many of them for a long time. finished with the 1st of the list and will have a response written up about it very soon.

  7. Pingback: book #2: the driver’s seat by muriel spark | a tolerant trees

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