Reading as a serious hobby

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

As far as I remember I’ve always enjoyed reading, as a child I would borrow my sister’s Michael Ende books and my brother’s Dragon Ball comics. I went through most of my siblings’ bookshelves, and when I moved on to the adults’ bookshelf, I found it too dull and boring, full of classics and old books about philosophy and religion.

At some point I ran out of interesting books to read from the bookshelves at home and my reading got limited to the books I’d receive as gifts, about 4 per year + the books I had to read for school. I had no reading preferences or knowledge whatsoever, I needed to be given a list of possible books to read and then I’d make my choice.

Which is how I came across The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, my all time favourite, hidden in the long list of winter books to read for school. Everyone around me said it was a terribly long book, my siblings told me it was so dense that only the motivation/pressure of *having* to read it for school would push me forward. I liked challenges and I went ahead, thereby starting a 5-year-infatuation with the Middle Ages, an era I’m glad to say it’s over now.

When schoolwork got more intense and my life busier, my reading became more intermittent. I’d almost always have a book on my bookshelf, but sometimes I’d skip reading and it wasn’t unusual for me to spend months with a book. I wasn’t serious with my reading, I had no goal, no ambition with it.

t got worse when I got my first smartphone in 2013, when bedtime and bus time officially became phone time. In the following years, Netflix and the proliferation of TV series pushed reading down even further in my priority list.

My very limited book expertise at the time was merely fiction books, young adult, medieval and some historical, I loved and reread Ken Follett’s The Century trilogy. I thought that was all there was, I’d watch my sister read parenting books and my brother read biographies and I couldn’t fathom how someone would sit down and read something that boring. My biggest interest at the time was the Millennium saga by Stieg Larsson.

I went to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where I found out I don’t dislike museums, just art museums. A new world opened up to me in the shop, I saw bookshelves full of science books, productivity, economics, you name it. I understood nothing of the topics but those books were calling my name. My first purchase at that shop was Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman, which would come to be the most complicated book I’ve ever read.

I realized nonfiction is not necessarily boring.

I noticed there was no way I could read all these interesting books unless I got organized. My interest for reading sparked up again, and I started using my Goodreads account seriously. I would commit to reading every day, track my books, and that would motivate me to be constant. I updated my account, added several top rated books to my shelves, and started slow and humble. That was at the end of 2016.

I remember I first started with Gone Girl by Jillian Flynn, followed by my first nonfiction books The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Deep Work by Cal Newport and the first books of Harry Potter in German. My German level was about B2 back then and I wanted to get serious about reading in German.

My reading goals for 2017 were to read around 30 books, at least 10 in German, the rest could be fiction or nonfiction (preferred).

I wasn’t as constant as desired, but I achieved my goal and read some very interesting books in 2017. My reading speed increased, I found joy in reading in an organized way, and I kept adding books to my to-read shelf, which kept getting bigger and surpassed my previously set 100 book limit. My top 5, in no particular order are:

  • Ready player one
  • The power of habit
  • The three body problem
  • Deep work
  • Thinking, fast and slow

I’m happy to have been able to mantain a somewhat regular reading habit since 2017, and I’m marvelled at the results. Sometimes life gets in the way, or I stumble upon a really boring book such as The Girl in the Train by Paula Hawkins, but I had bought the paperback German edition and I *had* to read it. Even though it took me a month in July 2017 and I will never ever under no circumstances be reading that dreadful book again.

Number of pages I’ve read per month

By 2018 I wanted to be slightly more ambitious and regular, reading 35 books, more nonfiction and more classics. The year is not over yet but I estimate I’ll have read 49 books, most of which were short, but still 4500 pages more than last year, 13 nonfiction and 10 classics.

I take pleasure in reading, but even more when I have a goal and a system that my past self has thoroughly thought of, that will keep me on the right path to achieve that year’s goal. When I look back to 2018 I can’t believe I’ve read 16.5k pages, amounting to an average of 45 pages per day.

I think of 2019 and the amount of books in my to-read shelf and I can’t imagine how I’ll go through them all in a lifetime, but then I think my only task every day is not to break the chain. I don’t necessarily need to read 45 pages per day, just using bed time, commute time, breakfast/dinner, I can amount to 1.5h reading time which is enough, regardless of the amount of pages I read.

Computerlinguistics master student trying to keep up with my reading list and an intermediate hipster. ane.bz