I Read 100 Books in a Year

If you’ve spent much time with me this year, you know I have been working on a pretty intense personal challenge. This week, I reached my goal: I read 100 books in a year.

Last September, my friend Tabatha texted me. She had seen a blog post from a mutual acquaintance who had just finished up a yearlong challenge of reading 100 books. Tabatha and I have always both shared a love for reading, passing on recommendations and borrowing books from one another in college. She suggested we attempt a reading challenge of our own; without hesitation, I began my quest to read 100 books in a year.

I have always loved to read, but it is a habit I have fallen in and out of over the years as life has changed and my time has been monopolized in other ways. As a kid, I had a weird affinity for the Laura Ingles Wilder books, that eventually grew into a more normal love for Harry Potter, Twilight, and any other similarly daunting series. In high school, I read every book for English class, meticulously annotating the pages, not because it was homework but because I genuinely enjoyed reading them. In college, with all the reading that came with my classes, reading for fun became less of a habit and more of a recreational activity saved for vacations and holidays. In the day to day I would add books I came across to a to-read list. This was a list that grew tenfold in the time it took me to get around to checking one off of it.

When I moved to Thailand in 2017, I found myself with a lot of time to do the introverted things that, in college, I had nearly forgotten I enjoyed: reading for fun, writing for fun, and learning for fun. Over there, I had more alone time and found myself tuning into podcasts, rather than throwing on music, to fill the silence. I liked the ability to stay up to date with the daily news (favorite podcasts: Today, Explained and The Daily), the economy (favorite podcast: Marketplace), the occasional politics (favorite podcast: The Weeds), or to learn something new about people or policy (favorite podcasts: Hidden BrainThe Impact, and The Uncertain Hour), all while commuting to work, working out, cleaning my apartment, or doing just about any otherwise mindless activity. I was spending my time learning new things, writing and exploring my thoughts, and reading the limited English books that I could get my hands on. I was pouring though books faster than I could find them.

Cue Joey getting me the one of best gifts I have ever received, and what is now one of my essentials for traveling: my Kindle. Given the choice, I agree with the sentiment of preferring traditional books to an e-reader; however, the convenience of a Kindle when living abroad cannot be overstated.

Changing Habits

So fast forward to August 2018: I am back in Portland, I am trying to maintain some of the mindful habits I developed in Thailand while balancing my Portland lifestyle, and I get that text from Tabatha. This seems like the perfect goal! Ambitious? Definitely. But in-line with my other values and goals? For sure. But I quickly realized I would need to change some things about my lifestyle in order to make the time to read more.

The biggest change I have made this past year involves my social media habits. I aspired to replace the endless scrolling on Instagram with reading; I started always having a book with me. 10 minutes before work starts? That’s enough time to read a few pages. Eating dinner alone? It’s way less uncomfortable with a book.

I also got an Audible subscription. It’s funny, because when I would tell people that I was challenging myself to read 100 books in a year they would be impressed; when I would tell people that I was including audiobooks in this challenge they would scoff, “What? That’s cheating!” What?! This is my challenge that I’m doing for myself! I make the rules! Also, how many books have you read this year? I had never been into audiobooks before, but, as a podcast listener, listening to books was an easy transition. I replaced my habit of messing around on my phone before bed with listening to a chapter of my current audiobook.1

Similarly, for the most part I stopped watching TV. Specifically, I stopped binge-watching Netflix shows alone. I still watch movies or shows with friends or family, but I quit it as a solitary time-suck. In addition to the time it freed up, doing so also had the benefit of broadening the scope of books that I was interested in. I would get bored if I stuck to just one or two genres so instead I added a variety and started focusing on including books that I could learn something from.

With more time freed from screens, I was easily finishing a book or two a week. I have talked to many people who have told me they would love to do something like this challenge, but they simply do not have the time for it. While I believe this may very well be true for some people, I think the majority of us don’t realize how much time we waste. While I have spent a little less than half of this challenge in Korea where, admittedly, I have a lot of time, I read 62/100 books before I started teaching here. I made time; I prioritized reading. And while 100 books may not be a feasible goal for everyone, I am confident that anyone who wants to read more (or accomplish another equally as self-fulling goal) can make time by using a book to replace a screen or other time-sucking habit that isn’t serving them.

Game-Changer: The Library

In addition to time, another limiting obstacle to reading so many books is money. When I started the challenge, I picked books that had been on my “to read” list for a while. However, even buying them used, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this challenge was going to cause me to go broke. And then one day I remembered something else that I had loved as a child, back in those Little House on the Prairie days: the library. 

That day I left my apartment, walked approximately 4 minutes down the street and around the corner, and I got myself a library card. And just like that—BOOM—my life changed forever. I say this only slightly hyperbolicly. It sounds dumb—like, of course the library!—but it was a resource I hadn’t taken advantage of in my adult life. And let me tell you, the Multnomah County Library has upped its game from when I was a kid! It has an app! I can manage all of my holds online! And remember how convenient my Kindle was for traveling? I discovered that I could check out e-books. Even in Korea, I continue checking out e-books on my Kindle. Game. Changer. 

The List

I debated including a list of the books I read or not. On the one hand, I did this challenge for myself. I chose books on subjects and in genres that interested me, not to prove my intelligence or sophistication (or lack thereof). I took this yearlong goal as an opportunity to read books that have been on my “to-read” list for months or years. Additionally, as I started traveling again, I found it really interesting to pick up books that were set in and/or were written by authors from the country I was traveling in. These might not be of interest to everyone.

Ultimately though, as someone who takes book recommendations from friends seriously and browses book lists on Pinterest in her free time, I figured including my list might be helpful to any of you who are trying to read more. If you have questions or want my opinion about any of the books, feel free to shoot me a message or follow me on Goodreads.This was a really fun project for me. I truly hope it inspires you, as I was inspired a year ago, to read more; additionally, I hope it inspires you to change a habit or to get started on a goal you keep putting off. January is not the only time for resolutions. You can start right now.

Here is the list:

  1. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (audiobook)
  3. Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim
  4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (audiobook)
  5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  6. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach (audiobook)
  7. The Spider and the Fly: A Reporter, a Serial Killer, and the Meaning of Murder by Claudia Rowe
  8. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
  9. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
  10. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  11. The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism by Steve Kornacki (audiobook)
  12. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  13. See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey into Kim Jong Un’s North Korea by Travis Jeppesen
  14. To Obama: With Love, Joy Anger, and Hope by Jeanne Marie Laskas
  15. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Shine In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
  16. Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly (audiobook)
  17. The Sawbones Book: The Hilarious, Horrifying Road to Modern Medicine by Justin McElroy and Sydnee McElroy
  18. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  19. Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur
  20. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
  21. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby
  22. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik, and Ping Zhu
  23. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham
  24. The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines
  25. Becoming by Michelle Obama (audiobook)
  26. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
  27. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  28. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis
  29. Less by Andrew Sean Greer
  30. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  31. To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia and a Quest for a Life with No Regret by Jedidiah Jenkins
  32. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  33. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy
  34. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders (audiobook)
  35. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
  36. Creating Room to Read by John Wood
  37. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
  38. Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold
  39. Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden
  40. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  41. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  42. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  43. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
  44. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chun
  45. Columbine by Dave Cullen (audiobook)
  46. The Kindness of Strangers by Don George
  47. Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption by Vanessa McGrady
  48. Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
  49. What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
  50. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  51. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (audiobook)
  52. A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa
  53. Call Me American: A Memoir by Abdi Nor Iftin
  54. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park
  55. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell
  56. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
  57. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt (audiobook)
  58. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  59. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World  by William H. McRaven
  60. High Infatuation: A Climber’s Guide to Love and Gravity by Steph Davis
  61. Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
  62. Educated by Tara Westover (audiobook)
  63. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  64. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff
  65. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (audiobook)
  66. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
  67. In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham
  68. The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State by Nadia Murad
  69. Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki (audiobook)
  70. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  71. Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison
  72. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  73. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  74. A Life Less Throwaway: The List Art of Buying for Life by Tara Button
  75. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  76. Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
  77. Born A Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  78. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (audiobook)
  79. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
  80. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  81. The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
  82. Language A to Z by John McWhorter (audiobook)
  83. From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
  84. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
  85. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
  86. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
  87. The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris (audiobook)
  88. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  89. Dear Leader: My Escape From North Korea by Jang Jin-sung
  90. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
  91. Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James R. Doty
  92. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  93. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
  94. Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are by David Livermore (audiobook)
  95. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
  96. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  97. Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future by Pete Buttigieg (audiobook)
  98. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  99. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollen (audiobook)
  100. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

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All a girl needs. || Busan, South Korea
All a girl needs. || Busan, South Korea
Books, books, books. || Busan, South Korea
Books, books, books. || Busan, South Korea
Rainy day vibes. || Jeju-do, South Korea
Rainy day vibes. || Jeju-do, South Korea

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