Quantity v. Quality


I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately and I’ve come to one conclusion: book bloggers read a lot of books.  I mean a lot.  Like 200, 300, 400 books per year.  Now I just finished my 29th book of the year.  It hasn’t been my best year ever but I’ve never even come close to three digits.

But these are hardcore book bloggers, can normal people read this much? It turns out they can.  I do read rather slowly so I went to my best friend from law school, Susan.  She’s a very quick reader and I knew she read a fair amount so I thought she would be a good real life person to ask.  She said, and I quote, “I haven’t been reading as much as I used to, but I’d think I still read 200 – 300 books per year. You?”

Susan and I are both attorneys working roughly the same amount of hours each week.  She has an active social calendar, a new house to work on, and she watches at least some television.  Why is she reading 10 times the amount of books I am?  Her answer: “I think you get more depth and detail from them.”

So I started thinking.  Can you read 400 books each year and get as much out of them as you would if you only read 40?  I don’t know the answer and I certainly don’t want to judge those readers.  I can’t imagine ever reading that much, but everyone is different and my reading style is not anyone else’s reading style.

Or maybe I just watch too much television.

I’d love to hear other thoughts.

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25 thoughts on “Quantity v. Quality

  1. Emily September 29, 2009 / 5:24 pm

    Really good topic!I read 87 books last year. My goal for this year is 100. I'm currently at 83. My totals include a good number of short books though – YA novels and graphic novels. I've already decided that next year I'm not going to set a number of books to read goal. I want to go for quality over quantity. (I read fairly thoroughly too, so by quality I mean the types of books I want to read, not the speed I'll read them.) I've found myself antsy to read big books this year (like Great Expectations or Anna Karenina) and to read more classics in general (I read classics pretty slowly) but not feeling like I can if I'm going to hit my 100 books goal. I'd be really interested in what types of books your co-worker reads that she could read 300-400 per year. I feel like the only way I could increase the quantity of books I read a year (with my job and social life remaining the same) would be to read "floofy-er" books consistently. That said, I have been thinking a lot about how to increase how many books I can read. I think I need to work on cutting distractions and focusing better. Often times I'm distracted by my computer, or else I start daydreaming. Over the past few weeks I've enjoyed taking my book to a cafe or the park where I can focus better, and while daydreaming is still a bit of a problem, I get a lot more read. I also am thinking about cutting some TV shows. I get so behind on my DVR. There are some shows that I should probably just cut from my life and have more time in general. 🙂


  2. Dominique September 29, 2009 / 5:36 pm

    I'm always baffled about how people find the time to read that many books too, I usually average about 30 to 40 books a year. I agree with Emily that maybe they read lighter books, I've just finished three Sookie Stackhouse novels and I think I read them all in a little over a week. Otherwise I really don't understand how they can read that much in a year!


  3. Kelly September 29, 2009 / 5:39 pm

    I'm having a really good year and am on pace to read 200 or more books before Jan. 1.
    I think it's going to be the most I've read since I started keeping track. Generally, it's somewhere around 150-175 a year.
    I'm sort of a hermit in general, though, so it's not like I do this and go out all the time. 🙂
    I would bow down to anyone who can read 300+ books a year. I don't know how you'd do that unless it's your job.
    I'm probably reading a lot of less-than-stellar books, quality-wise. And I've recently discovered a love of YA fiction, which is great if you want to pad your numbers. (Is that cheating? Probably, right?)


  4. Bookishly Fabulous September 29, 2009 / 5:57 pm

    Last year, I read 50 books, and I think that was the most I'd ever read in a year. It was a struggle to get that many in. This year, I'm on track to finish 50 with little effort. It just depends on my life. I made a huge move for work and lived with relatives for a while last year so it was harder to fit in pleasure reading.


  5. Michelle September 29, 2009 / 5:58 pm

    100 would be a lot for me, but it doesn't sound too outrageous. I like your idea of not setting a goal (although I feel like I would always have one in the back of my mind). Especially if you want to read some hefty classics. War and Peace definitely brought down my reading total for the year but was an accomplishment in itself. [BTW, I highly recommend Anna Karenina].Susan reads a lot of the same young adult that you and I do. She also reads a lot of fantasy novels but those are usually pretty lengthy. I'm amazed with her. I recommend a book and she's finished it before I'm done telling her why she'll like it.I know I get very distracted. Especially with the iPhone – it's always around and always enticing me to check my email, twitter, facebook. I should take my book somewhere. I kind of miss reading in coffee shops like I used to in Ann Arbor. I used to go upstairs to my loft to read War and Peace and leave my phone downstairs. That was pretty successful.My DVR keeps getting close to full so I may have to cut some shows as well. But which ones go?


  6. Michelle September 29, 2009 / 6:01 pm

    You are my kind of people, Dom. I'd be ecstatic to get to 50. 🙂


  7. Michelle September 29, 2009 / 6:08 pm

    That's pretty impressive no matter what kind of books your reading. I read a good amount of YA novels and still only get to 40-something. And I'm not really the social butterfly myself…


  8. Michelle September 29, 2009 / 6:14 pm

    It really does depend on life. Last year I only read 20-something because I had to take a 3-month reading hiatus for a crazy campaign job. And while I was in school, my numbers went down (although I read like crazy during summers).I feel like now that my life is on a steady track I should be able to read more but things always come up…


  9. Kelly September 29, 2009 / 6:21 pm

    I think I'm at about half regular fiction and half YA fiction. (Did you read Unwind by Neal Shusterman? SO GOOD!)
    Either way, my books bought for any given month totally exceed the books read. I think subconsciously I'm waiting to get mono or something similar, something where I'm housebound for weeks.


  10. Michelle September 29, 2009 / 6:33 pm

    I hadn't even heard of Unwind but it looks interesting and has excellent reviews on amazon. I'll have to check it out. I would probably read more YA if my husband didn't constantly tease me when I do. :PI think that buying more books than you read is simply the sign of a book lover. I've probably only read 1/4 of my books and I'll never catch up (unless of course I figure out how to read 400 books per year). I think I'm hoping for one of those long homebound periods, too (maybe maternity leave someday with the perfect baby who never cries is my best hope).


  11. Kelly September 29, 2009 / 6:44 pm

    Yeah, it's also easier to read a lot when you're single, like I am. 🙂 I live by myself and my dog doesn't care how much I read, provided he can sit in my lap while I'm doing it.


  12. Bookishly Fabulous September 29, 2009 / 7:04 pm

    Oh, you definitely have to read Unwind. It is one of my favorite books ever.


  13. Bookishly Fabulous September 29, 2009 / 7:10 pm

    Regarding goals: I read 50 books last year because I set a goal. This year, I made a list of 10 books that I really wanted to read instead. It feels like homework, and I am not going to meet the goal, but I think reading that 50 last year got me into the habit of reading a lot (I know I should already do that as a librarian). Now that I got into the habit of reading a lot, I'm done with goals. I'm now reading what and when I want (except for book club books).


  14. Carly the Jagyularr September 29, 2009 / 7:27 pm

    When I was younger I read a lot more books a year than I do now. I've never kept track of exactly how many. I'm a lot busier now than I was in high school, so now I do a lot more re-reading of old favorites, with the occasional new book thrown in. The last one I finished was Street Gang, which actually has nothing to do with gangs and everything to do with "Sesame Street".

    (Technically, I think I've read Flaming Iguanas since then, but I'm not sure I fully count that one, because it was for a class. It was still a really fun book, though.)


  15. Carmen September 30, 2009 / 3:35 am

    Wow, I find a 100 books impressive enough! But 300 – 400!? Thats at least a book a day!I'm at book 23 now, and I've set a number of books I wanted to read this year, but honestly, I can't remember :p.. I think it must've been 50? :pI read 44 last year, and I'm behind in numbers this year. But I don't really mind anymore. I'm just gonna read as much as I can enjoy.Being behind the copmputer takes up a lot of my time mostly, and watching tv. And college. :pBut like Dom said, reading the sookie stackhouse books don't take up much time. well, they do, but they are faster to read. I finish most of them within 2 days, so if there were 200 sookie stackhouse books, i might be able to read 200 in a year :p. (If I bought them all and I didn't get bored by them :p)


  16. Carmen September 30, 2009 / 3:36 am

    Oh, and I say that War and Peace counts for at least 3 books! 😉


  17. Vishy September 30, 2009 / 5:20 am

    This is really a wonderful post! It was a pleasure to read the discussion on it too! I normally read around 40-50 books in a year. Last year I read 50. This year I planned to read 24 books (2 books a month) with a few of heavyweight classics thrown in – 'War and Peace', 'In Search of Lost Time', 'The Canterbury Tales', 'The Pickwick Papers'. I have completed reading 20 books till now and I think I will meet my goal, in terms of numbers. But I haven't read any of the big books that I had planned to read, and so I would say it has been a not-so-good reading year for me. But I am hoping that I will be able to complete atleast one 'big' 1000+ page book this year – I am hoping it will be 'Kristin Lavransdatter' by Sigrid Undset (have read one-third of it till now).
    It was amazing to read in your post that there are readers who read 300-400 books a year! I am also amazed to know that your friend reads around 200 books a year, with her busy schedule! It is like reading a book a day! I tried doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation and this is what I found – out of 24 hours in a day, probably around 7 goes off in sleep, maybe an hour goes off in getting ready for the day, maybe 1-2 hours goes off in commute, 1-2 hours in having food, probably 8 hours at work and probably an hour goes away here and there. That is around 18-20 hours spent. If one spends the rest of the 4-6 hours on reading books, and if a book is between 200 to 300 pages, then one has to read 35-75 pages an hour to finish it in a day. Assuming one doesn't watch TV, take phone calls or spend time on the internet or catching up with friends (all pleasurable activities and extremely difficult to resist), doesn't have errands to do, or doesn't get a million other possible interruptions, this looks potentially possible. But doing it every day of the year, must be pretty tough! One of my friends listens to audiobooks, and I think it would be possible to complete 200 books by listening to audio books 🙂
    Next year, I am planning to just make a list of books to read rather than set a numerical target and see how it works 🙂


  18. Maria September 30, 2009 / 5:37 am

    I'm just on my 30th book for this year, which is already more than last year so I'm really proud… Or I was proud until I realised there are people who read ten times more books!I don't think setting a goal for the year is necessarily a good thing because I would probably be trying to reach that number and therefore staying away from big, important books that inevitably take longer to read…


  19. Michelle September 30, 2009 / 7:03 am

    School books definitely count. At least I always counted them.


  20. Michelle September 30, 2009 / 7:04 am

    I think my goal was 48 this year and I'm not going to hit that. I think I'm doing away with goals for next year.And yes, we can count War and Peace as 3 books. 🙂


  21. Michelle September 30, 2009 / 7:04 am

    Those are some interesting calculations. If only we could do away with sleep or work.


  22. Michelle September 30, 2009 / 7:07 am

    I already passed my number from last year (I think it was in the low-mid 20s). I bet goals do make you stay away from those big books. I think I tend to read easy YA novels when I feel like I haven't accomplished much in awhile.


  23. Vishy September 30, 2009 / 7:16 am

    Yes, I agree. Sleep is okay, but work – it will be nice to get away from it sometimes 🙂
    And yes, you can definitely count 'War and Peace' as 3 books 🙂


  24. Bina October 1, 2009 / 3:39 am

    Last year I read 66 books and I thought I´d try for more this year, but then I found myself hurrying to finish because for the end of a month so I´m not going to count until this year is over. I have no idea how people read so many books, I´d guess it´s the quality or they read all the time, it´s amazing to be able to read so much. But it´s not for me. Sometimes I don´t read another book for a week because I want to enjoy the feel of the book I just finished.


  25. Amy December 25, 2012 / 6:49 pm

    My reading has increased since 2009 when I got really into YA, dystopians especially. Although YA are shorter 300-500 pages I still don’t get up to the 200-300 book mark. This year I did 100 books on Goodreads but it was at a financial stretch and never again. It’s probably easier to do when you can pick any cheap paperback of the shelf but being blind and having to rely on audio, braille and ebooks… It takes a lot of time waiting for the accessible formats to be made and then affordable. I read 7 books in one day but that’s only because I can speed listen and they were under 4 hours running time each.


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