Thursday, January 2, 2014

52 Books a Year and a Confession about Encyclopedia Brown

Last year, on January 1st, 2013, I decided to make a yearly goal of reading 52 books a year. I did a little research, and realized that I had already read 52 books in a year, in 2012. More, actually...I could account for 52 books from my notes and by perusing the bookshelf, but I knew I had forgotten some.

I went ahead with the 52-book commitment in 2013. It was going very well until December. I got to 49 books at Thanksgiving- and just stalled. I stalled for much of the fall: choosing to read magazines and just fall asleep, and it took me a long time to read Diane Ravitch's book and Far From the Tree. But I made it 52! And I am sure I have forgotten a few again this year, too.

I was worried that my list was all "kid" books and not many "grown-up" books, but looking over it, I had 25 grown-up books (7 novels,  7 general nonfiction, 11 professional books) and 27 "kid" books/ novels. For 2014, I think I want to read more "grown-up stuff" for me, so I'll see how that goes. I'll post my list of 2013 reads later. Considering Donalyn Miller's Summertime Book-a-Day Challenge, this seems like a very reachable goal. That being said, I do not count picture books or anything lower than about a "Level O."

Full disclosure does require me to make public that I was at 51 books at 11:30 pm on December 31, 2013, so I read Encyclopedia Brown #4 to make it to 52. I was an effective detective to the last chapter, at which point I was very sleepy and perhaps angry about successfully solving cases and not being awarded 25¢ a day, plus expenses. It's not the most important book I read in 2014, but considering the "Incident at Lester School" in Downer's Grove, Illinois*, it still counts. 52 books in 2013.

Encyclopedia Brown selfie

* In 1976, at Lester School, in Downer's Grove, IL, a student that I will refer to as "my sister, Brenda" in this anecdote (since that is her name), once won the reading contest in class by plowing through easy phonics readers that were well below her reading level, with titles like "I See Sam", and turning in reports and counting them as "real books."Normally, I would be appalled and consider this to be treachery, but considering that Brenda's book reports really required such an intense commitment to inference, character motivation, and general embellishment, and typically used significantly more words than present in the initial text, I fully respect the project as an exercise in creative writing and a reminder to teachers that more isn't always better. Sometimes reflecting on the reading life of a second grader of almost 40 years ago inspires a 40 year-old woman to meet her 52-books-a-year-goal by ringing in the New Year plowing through an Enyclopedia Brown book. By the way, it was Bugs Meany.


  1. Totally forgot about Bugs Meany! I haven't read Encyclopedia Brown since Jay was reading them years ago! I should get them out for Gabe!

    1. Fran is on the Tigers soccer team- he recycled the shirt in 3rd grade for dress like a book character day. After the tigers shirt, all he needed were jeans, a crown, and surly attitude- and we had all those things...I LOVED the Onion article linked to Bugs Meany's name...

  2. Kathy T the Book GrammyJanuary 2, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Do you think if Brenda had been at Bach, counting minutes instead of books, she would have been as motivated? I like your point about the exercise in creative writing....maybe a new option to consider for March...maybe a character trading card mixed into the incentives.....

    1. It's pages *or * minutes, isn't it? That was 14 pages- she read the whole series! Or you coudl read it s-l-o-w-l-y.I was thinking of challenging myself to write a review to see how difficult the task really was! It's one of my favorite school stories ever- and I can't believe I found a copy of the book online! I think character trading cards sound fun! I will do Mat the Rat from "I See Sam."