Reading 52 Books In A Year

It’s been a goal of mine for a couple years now to read 52 books in a year. Yes, that’s an average of a book a week. In 2018, I got close – I read 50 books. But in 2019, I read only 18. I attribute much of that 2019 number to the fact that my life felt like an out of control dumpster fire for most of the year and reading wasn’t a good enough escape (this may explain how I got into anime in 2019), so my reading habit really took a hit. 

But towards the end of 2019, I started thinking that I’d like to give it a better shot again in 2020. 

The problem was – I didn’t really feel like reading. I was now addicted to reading quick snippets and articles on my phone, smashing through different TV shows, and watching movies. Sitting down to read only sounded enjoyable in theory. 

Maybe this is something that a lot of people experience but for me it was troubling. I had been a voracious reader ever since I was young so the fact that I had gone through a long period of such low reading volume was definitely atypical. 

So how to get back into it?

Start a new book. I had fallen off the reading wagon mid-book. That book would have normally been a brisk read for me but since I wasn’t feeling reading – it turned into a slog. I wasn’t motivated by that particular story. So if I’m looking to restart my habit I look for a book I’m excited about. Maybe something popped up on amazon, or I got a rec from a friend. The prospect of starting something new is always exciting. 

Pick something FUN. The books that are the most fun for me to read are usually YA fiction books. Yes, it’s a little embarrassing but YA is written to keep TEENAGERS engaged so to say that they are page turners would be an understatement. Luckily I had a rec in this genre from a friend on the backburner so I knew exactly what to get. The thing to note here is that you almost want to pick something almost easy that will keep your interest. For me – that’s YA Fantasy.

Habit. Reading is a habit like anything else. So like anything else, it’ll take a little bit of time to take. This is why the second point is so important. If I pick something fun, I’ll WANT to read because I’ll WANT to know what’s next. Another reason YA fantasy works for this purpose? It almost always comes in series format. Which means I already have a built in mechanism to keep my attention. 

Reading is an activity that can sometimes feels out of reach because there is a certain elitism that pervades around the literary canon. People wills say if you haven’t read certain things then you don’t really read and so on. But if you read at all, you’re a reader. And although many books have stood the test of time or offer truly great examples of writing/literature, reading any book can improve your vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and empathy skills. Yes, even YA can help with those, and as a result, there’s really nothing to lose. So far I’ve read five books this year which means I am on track! Wish me luck!

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A bomb book store in Portugal

 

What I Learned from 30 Days of No Alcohol

I participated in Dry January this past month. It’s actually the first time I’ve done any type of goal or challenge for myself regarding alcohol since I started drinking regularly. But the reasoning for it is simple – I found myself drinking too much.

But let me give you some context here: 

Before I left for college, I had a couple sips of alcohol here and there. It still tasted nasty.

In college but before the age of 21, I drank probably less than twenty times and most of that took place during my year abroad. I was too scared to lose my wits in public most of the time so I just didn’t drink at all.

After the age of 21, I drank less than a dozen times while still in college. Additionally, I dated a guy that really made me not like alcohol.

Then my so called ‘adult life’ started. My philosophy around drinking was still pretty minimal. I would have a drink maybe three times a month on average and I would get drunk maybe once or twice a year. On vacations, I was more lenient, often having an average of one or two drinks per day during a trip. That pattern continued all the way up until seven months ago when I moved to Chicago. 

Chicago’s scene is much more focused around drinking than my previous environments. There’s a much bigger sports culture = drinking. Limited activities other than restaurants and bars = drinking. Plus, I joined a very social company which accompanies every single event they throw (and there are a lot) with free alcohol. 

My point is – I have had more alcohol in the past seven months of living here than I have probably in my ENTIRE adult life before moving. You heard me. More alcohol in seven months than in seven years.

I realized there were so many instances where I had just automatically picked up a drink or ordered a drink or gone out just for drinks. It was everywhere. And I don’t like alcohol enough for the calories or the dollars to be worth it to me. I wanted to break myself out of the automated alcohol grab so that if I do want to drink, I could be a little more intentional about it. 

It wasn’t hard per say but I did learn some things.

  1. Cities are alcoholic. Maybe I never noticed but every restaurant is constantly shoving the special drink menu in your face. Promotions focus on cheap alcohol. Large firms and events entice attendees with alcohol passes and tickets. There seems to always be a reason to drink with every activity.
  2. Especially if you’re in a pair or small group – many times the other people want you to drink so they feel more comfortable drinking. 
  3. However, if you tell people upfront you’re doing dry January they laugh and say oh good for you, let’s go out in February! There is notable relief when you offer this explanation.
  4. Buying alcohol at restaurants is like getting robbed. The markups are insane. The bill almost doubles when alcohol is involved. 

Ultimately, the social thing was way weirder than the alcohol thing. I barely missed alcohol itself. There were a couple dinners where I really wanted a nice glass of red, but other than that, I didn’t actually crave it the substance itself. 

For me, it was a social crutch. It’s comforting to have something in my hand in a networking or party setting and on top of that, once I’ve had two or three, I’m definitely feeling more talkative, thus making the experience less stressful.

 I made a lot of people feel uncomfortable or guilty when I said I wasn’t drinking this month and the relief on their faces when I said it was only for one month was evident. I had never really noticed the peer pressure before, but alcohol weirdly enough is the only drug where people expect an explanation if you’re not partaking. Simply declining isn’t good enough – there has to be a cleanse or event or (god forbid) alcoholism to justify your lack of consumption.

There’s a learned reliance people have on alcohol in certain situations, something I was developing as well – but I don’t want to be that person that NEEDS alcohol to participate in events.

Something that makes me nervous now that the month is over, is the all or nothing mentality surrounding drinking. If you tell someone you don’t drink – they might ask for an explanation but that’s about it. Otherwise, the expectation is that you will drink and keep on drinking. It seems much harder to say you only want one than to say you don’t want any at all.

But for me, after going thirty days without it, this moderate to low point of consumption is where I am sure my sweet spot is. I like a glass of wine or a cocktail every now and then and I see little point in me consuming more than one or two drinks but it’s the stopping and declining when you’ve already started that seems more difficult socially.

But we’ll see. So far I actually haven’t had more than one glass of wine in February so maybe my mentality will hold. In any case, the exercise served its purpose – I am painfully aware of every drop of alcohol in my space and whether or not I actually want to consume it and that’s all I need right now.

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Malibu Wine Safari – the alcohol industry will truly insert itself anywhere