I read more than 100 books in 2016.
That might seem like a lot, a ridiculous number, just completely unrealistic. But to those who know me well, I’m sure this comes as no surprise.
When I was in elementary school, I slayed reading challenges like knights slay dragons and like Beyonce slays everything.
I tore through books at a pace that led one teacher to call my reading habits “suspect” and accuse me of lying on the sheets she had provided to log our progress each month.
But I just love reading. It’s been a lifelong habit cultivated wonderfully by my family, from my mother who got me my first library card, to my older sister, who taught me to read using her own homework and Readers’ Digest magazines.
Perhaps that’s why, as the sun rose on Jan. 1, 2016, I set out to achieve a somewhat-lofty goal: reading 100 books in a year. And I did it, completing 117 of the 121 books I started last year.
The only people who didn’t meet my goal with surprise: my mom, my sister and my husband. Instead, they nodded, said things like, “Oh yeah, that won’t be a problem for you,” and reminded me to make sure my library fines were paid.
Other folks weren’t so understanding. A few coworkers looked at me like I was nuts. The most common response upon hearing of my goal was, “Where would you even find the time for that?”
But that’s one of the many things I learned from this goal — which I met, quite triumphantly, in early November. I learned how to make time for the things I want to do, a piece of advice first bestowed upon me by a tattoo artist who looks like my favorite author, Stephen King, and was quite fittingly working on matching King-inspired tattoos my sister and I share.
Strangely, I didn’t start reading toward my 2016 goal until Jan. 2, when I picked up “Weird Florida II: In a State of Shock” by my coworker, Eliot Kleinberg. It was one of four excellent Florida-themed books I read last year, along with “Oh, Florida!” by Craig Pittman, “Myths and Mysteries of Florida” by E. Lynne Wright and “Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland” by Dave Barry.
I had some great moments while working on this goal last year. While reading “Raylan” by Elmore Leonard, my lovely 4-year-old niece asked me if I could read it to her. Those familiar with Leonard’s work will understand why I couldn’t do that — but I did promise to buy her a copy when she turns 16. While reading Barry’s book on an airplane, I laughed so loud that it prompted the person in the seat next to me to ask me to be quiet. While listening to the audio book of comedian Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me?” I had to pull into a parking lot because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.
Reading also got me through a few rough patches during the year — particularly when I was away from my husband, Peter, for two weeks in July while I covered the Republican and Democratic national conventions. In the little downtime available, I escaped being lonely by reading one of the four books I brought with me on the trip. I will forever associate the Democratic National Convention with the book I read during my stay in Philadelphia, a postapocalyptic science-fiction novel titled “The Last One,” written by Alexandra Oliva.
Here are three tips for anyone who wants to do this — because anyone can do this.
Brush off your library card. Of the 121 books I read last year, only 26 were not borrowed from the library. I owe a great debt to Palm Beach County’s libraries. I borrowed hardcovers, paperbacks and ebooks — pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Their online system is easy to use and made it simple for me to reach my goal.
Keep track of what you read. I used a combination of an app and Google Sheets to track my reading in 2016. Goodreads is fantastic for readers: Download the free app, and you can keep up with what your friends are reading while also making lists of books you want to read, books you’ve read and books you’re currently reading. Google Sheets — the internet giant’s version of Excel — made it easy for me to be a giant nerd and keep a running, sortable list of the books I was reading with their authors and dates I read them, plus a column for whether or not I would recommend a book to someone else.
Don’t waste time on books you don’t like. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. Life is too short to waste on books you don’t enjoy. If you’re reading for recreation, experiment with different genres until you know what you love, then dig in with both hands and go deeper to explore authors and sub-genres. By keeping track of what you read and what you finish, you can better gauge what you might want to borrow next from the library.
My favorite books I read in 2016
• “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty. Read from Jan. 30-31.
• “All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders. Read from Feb. 14-16.
• “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami. Read from March 20 to April 10.
• “Mr. Splitfoot” by Samantha Hunt. Read from May 3-5.
• “End of Watch” by Stephen King. Read from June 19-20.
• “What It Takes: The Way to the White House” by Richard Ben Cramer. Read from June 27 to Aug. 23.
• “The Last One” by Alexandra Oliva. Read from July 25-30.
• “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult. Read from Aug. 8-24.
• “Oh, Florida!” by Craig Pittman. Read from Sept. 4-19.
• “Lily and the Octopus” by Steven Rowley. Read on Nov. 20.