“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
In 2019, I set a New Year’s resolution – a reading challenge to read 52 books in a year. By December 31, I had achieved my goal – 52 books in a year. By comparison, Stephen King reveals that he reads about 80 books a year.
Without knowing the total books read in a year, we get some clues into the reading habits of some famous people who credit a portion of their success to books. In December, President Obama listed his favorite 19 books of 2019 and the year prior he listed his 29 favorite books of the year. Bill Gates recommended 19 books from 2019. My friend and writing colleague, Jay Reeves, averages 24 books a year, reading 2-4 books at one time, a habit I keep as well. My writing coach, Daphne Gray-Grant reads 52 books each year and publishes book lists in June and December.
I discussed more details of my reading challenge in Post 1.
I’m in my fourth year of creating a reading challenge.
Here’s a quick recap.
- In 2016, my goal was 52 books. I read 53 books and 13,064 pages.
- In 2017, my goal was 30 books. I read 38 books and 11,715 pages.
- In 2018, my goal was 30 books. I read 47 books and 13,018 pages.
In 2019, my goal was 52 books. I met my reading goal, completing 52 books and 15,027 pages.
Here is the list of books I read in 2019:
Finding Oprah’s Roots, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Fierce Loyalty, Sarah Robinson
Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules of Success, Claire Shipman, Katty Kay
Becoming Mrs. Lewis, Patti Callahan
Benny & Shrimp, Katarina Mazetti, Sarah Death (translator)
Body Surfing, Anita Shreve
Just Rewards, Barbara Taylor Bradford
A Land More Kind Than Home, Wiley Cash
Maranatha Road, Heather Bell Adams
Mistress of the Ritz, Melanie Benjamin
Small, Great Things, Jodi Picoult
Swimming Between Worlds, Elaine Neil Orr
The Cactus, Sarah Haywood
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
The Hours, Michael Cunningham
The Last Juror, John Grisham
The Litigators, John Grisham
The Obituary Writer, Ann Hood
The President is Missing, Bill Clinton, James Patterson
The Reckoning, John Grisham
The Sisters Hemingway, Annie England Noblin
The Wife, Meg Wolitzer
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Food and Hospitality
Biltmore Traditions, Biltmore Staff
Southern Cakes, Nancie McDermott, Becky Luigart-Stayner (photographs)
Tar Heel Traveler Eats, Scott Mason
Health and Wellness
Food Freedom Forever, Melissa Hartwig
It Starts with Food, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig
Whole 30 Day by Day, Melissa Hartwig
Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, Susan Smith Blakely
Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law, Gindi Eckel Vincent, Mary B. Cranston
Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law, Preet Bharara
Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat the Italian Way, Kamin Mohammadi
Educated, Tara Westover
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
Kind is the New Classy, Candace Cameron Bure
Life in Motion, Misty Copeland
Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years, David Litt
The 1997 Masters, Tiger Woods
This is Me, Chrissy Metz
Writing My Wrongs, Shaka Senghor
Obama: An Intimate Portrait: The Historic Presidency in Photographs, Pete Souza
Obama: The Historic Presidency of Barack Obama – 2,920 Days, Mark Greenburg
How to Skimm Your Life, Danielle Weisberg, Carly Zakin
The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life You Can Thrive In, Bill Burnett, Dave Evans
We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter, Celeste Headlee
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, Robin DiAngelo
Holidays on Ice, David Sedaris
Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, David L. Weaver-Zercher
Why Religion: A Personal Story, Elaine Pagels
Tar Heel Traveler, Scott Mason
Murder on Birchleaf Drive: The True Story of the Michelle Young Murder Case, Steven B. Epstein
By now you know I use Goodreads to track my challenge. Goodreads is a mobile app (and website) that includes book reviews, recommendations, social sharing with friends and the ability to create a catalogue of books you have read, are currently reading or want to read.
I use the app’s Reading Challenge to track my progress. It is also nice to have one place to track recommendations to my reading list. Goodreads also provides statistics about my reading challenge.
I was in good company with my goal. More than 4.4 million readers joined the Challenge and collectively read 55.9 million books with 696,000 readers successfully completing their Challenge. The average books pledged per reader were 64.
The shortest book I read was 89 pages (Fierce Loyalty) and the longest was 771 pages (The Goldfinch). My average book length was 288 pages. The most popular book I read was Educated by Tara Westover (read by 615k readers). The highest rated of my books was “Tar Heel Traveler: New Journeys Across North Carolina” by Scott Mason. I was pleased that a book promoting our beautiful state did so well. It speaks to Mason’s ability to tell stories whether as the Tarheel Traveler on the Raleigh television station, WRAL-TV, or in his books about food and travel in North Carolina.
I look forward to hearing about your reading adventures when we connect this year.
Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at email@example.com or 800.662.8843.