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How to read 100 books this year
Julia Doutre had a goal to read 80 books in 2017, but surpassed that to read 100 books. - photo by Tiffany Gee Lewis
My sister-in-law is not the type to brag. So she never would have admitted it herself.

But somehow, over Christmas break, word got around the family that Julia Doutre read 100 books in 2017.

Let me repeat that: one hundred books!

If youre doing the math, youll realize thats almost two books per week.

I was so impressed. I kept sidling over to her at Christmas dinner. I cant believe you read a hundred books, I kept repeating.

And my next question was: how? And how can I, and all those aspiring to be more diligent readers in the new year, do the same? Heres what she told me.

Make a goal

Julia had a goal to read 80 books in 2017. Shed read 50 the year prior and decided to set her sights even higher. As the year progressed, she realized she was on track to exceed her goal why not make it an even 100?

You can do the same. Pick a number for yourself, or create a wish list of the books you want to read. Write it down and post it where you can see the list every day.

Make a rule

A few years back, Julia was reading Boys in the Boat for her book club.

I was never getting through it, she said. I noticed my pattern. When I had downtime, I was on my phone. I never made time to read. I just went to the easiest thing.

Julia made a rule for herself. She wasnt allowed to look at social media until she had read an entire chapter of a book. Sometimes it took all day, but it changed her reading patterns.

When I started reading more, I loved learning more. She even noticed that watching a TV show or movie didnt bring the same satisfaction as reading.

I loved getting into someone elses head, another story. You simmer it its not immediate.

Now reading is her nightly habit.

First things first

In order to read, you have to make it a priority. People say they dont have time to read. So much of our attention is taken up, Julia said. So make a goal. Julia recommends writing it on the calendar and working reading into a daily schedule so youre committed. Even if its just 10 minutes.

For busy mothers, she suggests starting with shorter books. Its one reason she loves middle-grade novels. There is depth and beautiful writing, but the reading is bite-sized.

Find good books

There are several places Julia goes for recommendations. She talks with her mom weekly about what books shes reading. They share ideas and reading lists.

She follows a few podcasts that have opened her mind to a variety of books. These include What Should I Read Next? and Read-Aloud Revival. She also follows book blogs. She keeps an ongoing list through her library. If she hears a title mentioned over and over, she adds it to her list.

Find what you like

Through trial and error, Julia has found what she likes. Shes drawn to childrens historical middle grade and adult non-fiction. She doesnt do a lot of fantasy or young adult. And shes OK with that.

Find what works for you, she said. If you dont like a book, dont finish it. Life is too short to waste time on middling stories.

For her part, Julia hopes to read more classics this year, two per month. Shes shrinking her numbers goal in anticipation of delving into lengthier stories.

What books teach

Were told to read, read, read. Studies have proven that those who read literary fiction actually exhibit greater empathy (including this one by Scientific American). Books are knowledge. The great women and men of history were usually avid readers.

I asked Julia what she learned during her year of intense reading.

Books can change you, she said. They can change the way you think. They have great power in them.

Shes also come to appreciate good writing. Im not a great writer, so I appreciate when someone can express what Im feeling.

And books have a way of helping. Julia and her husband are preparing for a big move and the arrival of a baby. With so much change in the near future, she looks to books as her constant.

When we move, there will be a library. There will be books about moving to an unknown place. I can read about other peoples experiences to help my own.

The essayist Joseph Addison once wrote, Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Hopefully in this new year we can all carve out more time for a good book, or, who know, maybe even 100.


Julias picks for best reads in 2017:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, adult fiction

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson, adult non-fiction

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, adult historical fiction

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsburg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin, young adult non-fiction

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, middle grade historical fiction, sequel to The War That Saved My Life