The Year of 100 Books

unread booksJim’s post this week on what he’s stopped reading inspired me to take a good look at what I haven’t even started. Long before I ever considered myself a writer, I was a reader, and even now, I feel like I at least do a fair amount of it. But the reading I do is sporadic, because this is how I do almost everything. I am a huge champion of the day planner, but I’m not especially good at following a consistent schedule for anything (writing my novel, grading, exercise, date nights with my husband, weekly coffee shop outings with my girlfriends, you get the point). As a result of this, I do most of my reading in the form of perusing: A story and a few poems from whatever excellent literary journal recently arrived in my mailbox, a couple of flash fiction pieces from an online journal I wander across, a few essays as I’m searching for something to teach for next week’s English class, maybe a novel once a month for good measure, etc.

This method, however, is becoming increasingly unsatisfying. I’m a firm believer that in order to write (or at least to write well), you have to read constantly. But even though I know and believe this, I don’t always practice it. As I delve deeper into the overwhelmingly isolating process of writing a novel, I become more and more acutely aware of how much reading I’m not doing.

So, now seems like as good a time as any to roll up my sleeves and fucking get serious. This week, I’ll begin a year-long project that will finally help me become the kind of reader I want to be. The goal is to read 100 books by April 1, 2012, which will work out to just under two books each week for the next year. (Yes, this includes the three bonus weeks I’m getting by starting now, in March. Just trust me—I’ll need them.) I know that, if nothing else, the internet community will help keep me accountable.

Want to be a better reader too? Join me in this project, and post your progress updates in the comments section. I’ll update each week with the books I’ve read and a few thoughts about them. Have suggestions? I’d love to hear which titles you think absolutely can’t be left off my list, or what you’ve read recently that’s totally blown your mind. I’m open to any genre, any subject, any style, any form.

Here’s what I have so far (in no particular order), and this was just from pulling books off the shelf that I already own but haven’t yet cracked open:

  • 1.  Karen Russell—Swamplandia
  • 2.  Paul Harding—Tinkers
  • 3.  Tim O’Brien—Tomcat in Love
  • 4.  Arundhati Roy—The God of Small Things
  • 5.  John Fulton—The Animal Girl
  • 6.  Marjane Satrapi—Persepolis
  • 7.  Hannah Tinti—The Good Thief
  • 8.  Laura van den Berg—What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us
  • 9.  Graham Greene—The End of the Affair
  • 10.  Anita Diamant—The Red Tent
  • 11.  Jhumpa Lahiri—The Namesake
  • 12.  Janwillem van de Wetering—The Empty Mirror
  • 13.  Tao Lin—Eeeee Eee Eeee
  • 14.  Adam Novy—The Avian Gospels
  • 15.  Don DeLillo—White Noise
  • 16.  Margaret Atwood—The Handmaid’s Tale
  • 17.  Michael Chabon—The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
  • 18.  Lorrie Moore—Who Will Run the Frog Hospital
  • 19.  Mark Haddon—The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
  • 20.  Susan Butler—East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart
  • 21.  Anne Michaels—Fugitive Pieces
  • 22.  Azar Nafisi—Reading Lolita in Tehran
  • 23.  Geraldine Brooks—People of the Book
  • 24.  Brian Brodeur—Other Latitudes
  • 25.  Kahlil Gibran—The Prophet
  • 26.  Brett Lott—Jewel
  • 27.  Shusaku Endo—Silence
  • 28.  Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn—Half the Sky
  • 29.  Jeannette Walls—The Glass Castle
  • 30.  Alexandra Fuller—Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
  • 31.  Junot Díaz—Drown

Add to that list a few great books I’ve had the pleasure of starting but for one reason or another (most likely laziness or my almost-but-not-quite-crippling ADHD) I  have not yet finished. (Don’t worry, so they’ll “count,” I’ll go back and read them from the beginning):

  • 32.  Ben Percy—The Wilding
  • 33.  Jennifer Egan—Emerald City
  • 34.  Salvador Plascencia—People of Paper
  • 35.  Jeffrey Eugenides—Middlesex

Then, in the service of my own writing, there are a few fabulous books that I’d like to go back and read cover to cover for a second (or third, or fourth) time, because they’re just that brilliant:

  • 36.  Susan Minot—Lust
  • 37.  Ben Percy—Refresh, Refresh
  • 38.  Margot Singer—The Pale of Settlement
  • 39.  Molly McNett—One Dog Happy
  • 40.  Colum McCann—Let the Great World Spin
  • 41.   Karen Russell—St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Books suggested by others:

  • 42.  James Lasdun—It’s Beginning to Hurt
  • 43.  David Malouf—Remembering Babylon
  • 44.  Nevil Shute—On the Beach
  • 45.  Sarah Blake—The Postmistress
  • 46.  Alison Stine—Ohio Violence
  • 47.  Marie Howe—What the Living Do
  • 48.  Tom Robbins—The Imperfectionists
  • 49.  Valzhyna Mort—Factory of Tears
  • 50.  A. Van Jordan—MacNolia
  • 51.  Victor Lavalle—Big Machine
  • 52.  Junot Díaz—The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • 53.  Lauren Groff—Delicate Edible Birds
  • 54.  Jonathan Safran Foer—Everything is Illuminated
  • 55.  Milan Kundera—The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • 56.  W. Somerset Maugham—Of Human Bondage
  • 57.  Jonathan Tropper—This is Where I Leave You
  • 58.  Nicole Krauss—The History of Love
  • 59.  Jose Saramago—Blindness
  • 60.  Margaret Atwood—The Blind Assassin
  • 61.  E.M. Forester—Passage to India
  • 62.  Joseph Heller—Catch 22
  • 63.  John Kennedy Toole—Confederacy of Dunces
  • 64.  David Foster Wallace—Infinite Jest
  • 65.  Joyce Carol Oates—We Were the Mulvaneys
  • 66.  Jennifer Egan—The Keep
  • 67.  Jennifer Egan—A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • 68.  Sherman Alexie—War Dances
  • 69.  Daphne Kalotay—Russian Winter
  • 70.  Jonathan Franzen—Freedom
  • 71.  Jonathan Franzen—The Corrections
  • 72.  Terese Svoboda—Pirate Talk or Mermalade