About The 3000 Books Project

 

In January, Beulah Maud Devaney read her 1,000th book.

In her article “Three Thousand Reasons to Choose Your Reading Carefully,” Devaney briefly celebrates the milestone before realizing that, at her current reading rate, she’ll only read 3,000 books in her lifetime.  Instead of having an existential crisis, however, she pens a manifesto.

Rather than feeling obligated to read so-called “important” or famous books she doesn’t like, Devaney says to Hell with it.  Life is too short, she explains, for books by authors she doesn’t like.  Instead, she decides only to read books that interest her, not the critics.  She writes:

“The books that deserve a place among my remaining 2,000 reads are those with an idea that excites me…In short; I’m going to demand more from the books I read. I’ve got 2,000 books left to read, at best, and I intend to be ruthless in choosing them.”

Reassuring, right?  This is a woman who’s taken charge of her reading life.  No more will she be bound by oppressive chains of “The Best Books of All Time” lists!  She doesn’t have to feel bad for hating important and/or importantly popular books!  To heck with the local old biddies book club—her reading destiny is her own!  How liberating.

Or…not.  After reading Devaney’s article, I wasn’t reassured or empowered.  Oh no.  I was panicked.

This isn’t new for me.  I’ve been prone to book-related anxiety my whole life.  My mom tells this story about when I was…oh, I guess about three, I used to cry myself to sleep at night because I thought I’d never be able to read.  Can you even imagine that?  A three year old full-on panicking because she’s afraid she’ll be FOREVER ILLITERATE.

So honestly, it’s no wonder that Devaney’s article sent me into a tailspin.  I moped around my house for a good two weeks since, after doing the math, I figured that making it to 3,000 books before I kicked the bucket would probably be a stretch.  Like any self-respecting young woman, I dealt with this knowledge with a potent combination of denial, yoga pants, and Netflix.  

My reaction was even more complicated because over the past few months, I’d found it difficult to get excited about reading at all, much less for fun.  I’d been working on my dissertation, and the combination of ridiculous amounts of writing, looming deadlines, and the uncertainty of my future sent me spiraling deeper into my ennui.  Suddenly, my “to read” list started to look more like a serious “to do” list, and I was about as motivated to tackle it as I was to scrub my floors with a toothbrush.

So that got me to thinking: how many other people feel pressured by their growing “to read” list?  I have to say, just from asking around, it seems like many of us experience what I’ve dubbed “reader’s guilt.” Maybe you feel soul-crushing shame when you look at your bookshelf because you love a good book sale but haven’t read half of what you’ve bought.  (Guilty as charged.)  Perhaps it’s that neglected library card that’s three years expired peeking out from behind your Starbucks one, judging you every time you buy a latte instead of literature.  Or maybe it’s just hanging out around the water-cooler at work and feeling like a terrible human being because you’d rather read a steamy romance novel rather than Ulysses.

You know what?  Screw that noise.

Look: I’m not denying that reading is an intellectual experience.  Heck, I’ve built a career around that idea.  I’m also not saying that having reading goals and participating in book challenges are bad things (heck, I even have challenges listed in the sidebar).  It’s just…sometimes we lose focus about why we love reading.  For me at least, reading is part of my identity.  I don’t want to neglect that because I’ve let reading become a chore rather than an escape.

That’s why I started The 3000 Book Project.  First, I wanted a way to track the books I’ve read in order to figure out how to read better.  I want to read widely and read well, and tracking my progress helps me do that. Second, I wanted to support other people in their reading journeys without adding pressure.  It’s not about checking book titles off lists (though we’ll do that sometimes), it’s about reclaiming the joy of reading.  It’s about fostering that heart-fluttering feeling you get when you crack open a new book.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I want to give people tools for enjoying books.  Whether that’s a review that offers a new perspective on an old favorite, a supportive environment where you can voice your opinions, or the resources to start your own book club, The 3000 Books Project’s goal is to encourage a love of reading.

So maybe we make it to 3000 books.  Maybe we don’t.  It doesn’t matter—reading a journey, not a destination.  I hope you’ll join me on mine, and I’d love to be a part of yours.