Fifty Books in Slightly Under 365 Days
I’ve been tracking my reading for the last couple of years using Goodreads and find it to be a great platform. They heavily promote reading through the reading challenge. It can be set to any number of books, but by default is 50. For the last two years prior to 2018 my target has been 20-25.
My girlfriend is a very active reader, and this coupled with a forum I visit encouraged me to challenge myself to hit 50 books in a calendar year, something I once considered impossible for myself. Part of the challenge was also racing my girlfriend to hit 50. I managed to to hit this on the 6th of November. Lucie did manage to beat me by a couple of weeks. You can find my full challenge here.
The Alpha and the Omega
I began 2018 travelling through Taiwan, and as I do on a lot of my journeys, take books with me that are set in the place. The first book was aptly named Taipei by Tao Lin.
It was a really interestingly written book that chronicles roughly a year in the life of a somewhat socially stunted writer who also appears to be suffering from depression. Full Review.
I ended the year completely coincidentally reading another book set in Asia with Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, that has recently been adapted into a film.
It’s a book about the obscenely rich and powerful of Singapore’s elite. Each chapter is told from a different person(s) perspective. Some are good, but some are boring. The more I think about it, the book really had no plot, and wasn’t the strongest character driven novel either. It would be more accurately described as a series of events. Full review.
An Unexpected Gem
Another book I picked up for my trip to Taiwan was Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan.
I usually don’t particularly enjoy books that are significantly leveraged on relationships, but this was fantastic. The novel is based around a family in Taiwan struggling against the KMT. It is woven around many important historical events in the 20th century after Japan secedes Taiwan to the Chinese, the KMT’s escape from the mainland, the white terror, and the UN’s recognition of the PRC as the sole China.Full Review. I normally never give 5 star reviews, even for books I really love, but I easily gave this book one.
There were several books I read this year that I found quite disappointing.
I began the year in Taiwan’s famous Eslite Bookstore and Lucie and I played our favourite game of purchasing each other some books. Ironically, she bough me Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her (I haven’t, thankfully), and I bought her Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I hadn’t read it, but loved the movie. Unfortunately, I’m almost willing to say it’s the worst book I have ever read. The writing style and format is absolutely terrible. Full Review. I’m amazed the movie turned out so well.
Another classic I was very keen to read was John W Cambpell Jr’s Who Goes There, that was adapted into The Kurt Russell classic, The Thing. The book felt rushed, the writing wasn’t clear, and at times the characters blended into each other. It felt like a small sized novel squashed into a short story. I feel that it would have benefited from more depth with more character and location development. Full Review.
This year I seemed to read several non-fiction books, including Sapiens and it’s follow up, Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Horari, The Panama Papers, and Bad Blood.
Horari’s novels really shone a light for me onto the history of humanity and explained it in such an ingenious way that anyone could understand it. Besides the content itself, the genius of the novel is it’s ability to convey such complex matter into layman’s terms.
The Best Book (Possibly) That I Have Ever Read
Even though it was long and I was anxious to get ahead in the challenge, I decided to start Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.
It is an absolutely phenomenal book. A story across multiple time periods, continents with real historical characters that definitely does not disappoint. This has got to be one of the best books I have ever read. It received five stars Full Review.
Thoughts on the Challenge
Whilst I enjoyed reading them, I felt that the challenged added too much pressure. Both Lucie and I found ourselves rushing, neglecting other hobbies, and feeling guilty when neglecting our reading. Reading is about the journey, not the destination, which can vary for people. I think I’ll get to high figures again next year, but that same effort for someone else may only be 5 or 10 books. Maybe even one. That is fine.
Next year, I’ll be setting a more reasonable challenge, but only because I enjoy seeing it on Goodreads, and want to make sure I continue reading, as it can sometimes be too easy to stop doing so.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading fifty books in just over ten months, and I read some really amazing books. I read my first Stephen King book, The Shining, I read some classics including Fahrenheit 451, and Ender’s Game, and read some books completely out of my usual interests, such as The Memory of Running, and The Poisonwood Bible.
Some stand out novels for the year include The Alchemist, The Bourne Identity (which I found far superior even too the amazing movie) and American Psycho. I continued with my love for Thomas Pynchon, and Inherent Vice did not disappoint.
Now that the challenge is over, I am looking forward to digging into some longer reads I have sitting on my shelf, such as Mason & Dixon, The Fountainhead, and Infinte Jest.