I just finished Sara Nelson’s book, So Many Books So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading. Oh. My. God. It’s like she and I are twins. Forget the fact that she’s a Yale-educated, professional writer, married to someone on the SNL team (yes that’s Saturday Night Live), mother and lives in Manhattan and I am a state university graduate, single mother who works in health care… that’s not where our similarities lie. It’s in our likes and dislikes, reading styles and preferences and our sometimes snobby judgments. I felt an immediate sisterhood when she admitted she couldn’t finish critically lauded White Teeth by Zadie Smith (although she was much more successful in her one attempt clearing over 300 pages to my two attempts, first to page 56 and then again to page 58 before I simply had to put it down). I was intrigued when she spoke so highly of Michael Faber’s The Crimson and the White and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, both patiently sitting on my shelves awaiting their time with me.

While her book served to provide some review of what she read (and some great recommendations for me to add to my own wish list), it was also a memoir of her life, her most important relationships and, of course, her love of books. Her writing style takes on a very interpersonal tone, where I felt like I was having a conversation with a good friend. She shared enough of her life–strengths and flaws–to create a connection with me as a reader, while maintaining a respectful distance to protect those most important to her. I have to also say, that I loved that there were two weeks out of the year that she couldn’t conquer a book. Knowing that I am about to embark on this same project, I felt instant relief. I mean, I want to read a book a week, and that is certainly my intent. But this project is a personal goal designed to unplug and spend time on my favoritist of favorite hobbies–my reading. If I hit all 52 weeks, great. If I don’t, I know I will have read more than I ever intended without a goal in place. This may not sound like the Lance Armstrong training approach to reading, and that’s okay. It’s mine.

When I closed Sara’s book and took that moment to savor a good book read, I quickly moved into my own thinking about how I would like this year of reading to take shape. Sara let books come to her and so many of them seemed to come at the right time. I am hopeful there will be some of those serendipitous moments for me this year, but I also know the planner in me doesn’t want to leave too much to chance or too many Sunday nights to wondering what in the heck I am going to take on for the week. So, to get me started and in the zone for this challenge, I am establishing the following guidelines:

1. All 52 books will be books I currently own. With a library of over 600 books and only about 125 of those having been read, I certainly don’t need to be buying any more.

2. The only exception to the books being ones I already own will be with regard to my book club’s monthly selections. You can better bet that my book club reads will be included in the count and with one each month, that only leaves me with 40 more to read.

3. The only exception to the books being ones I already own or have to buy for book club are ones that I just can’t wait to get my hands on. Really, if I already own more than 600 and have only read just over 100 of those, does anyone think I can really go a year without buying a book?

4. I really don’t want to take the easy way out, but with a pretty demanding job and a 6 year old embarking on back to back soccer and T-ball seasons and all that goes into being 6, I think the reality is that most of my selections will be under 300 pages. I would like to see if I can fit in 1 or 2 significant reads (300 – 500 pages).

5. I am a lover of contemporary fiction and memoirs and that will likely be the bulk of what I read; however, in the mix I will include:
– One Pulitzer Prize Winner
– One National Book Award Winner
– One collection of short stories or essays
– One collection of poetry
– One true classic that I should have read in school but didn’t
– One contemporary classic
– One non-fiction book
– One parenting-related book
– One business-related book
– One graphic novel (oops, I might have to purchase outside of my collection on this one)
– One children’s classic read with my son

I think that about covers it. I am really excited about this project and taking it on with my good friend, Deejah. It will be nice to have a partner in crime, one with whom I can share in the delight of a perfect passage, commiserate when the going gets tough and from whom I can gather new reading possibilities (that I won’t procure until the end of the year, of course).

I am also just a little bit terrified.