As the elite men were about to cross the finish line at this year’s Chicago Marathon, the notion of a reading marathon dawned on me. And why not?
Marathoners log scores of miles and hours of training all summer and, indeed, all year in their quest for 26.2 miles, whether they run the distance on Marathon Day in 2.5 hours or 5 hours or longer. How many books could we read if we dedicated that much time and energy to filling our souls with stories instead of or in addition to filling our soles with miles?
Reading has long been considered to be on the decline, though recent studies show that eReaders are breathing new life into the hobby. A recent Pew study found that roughly 75% of Americans over the age of 16 have read at least one book—in whatever format—during the past year (a whole book! wow!). In addition, 20% of U.S. adults have read at least one eBook, and 11% listened to an audiobook.
As someone who reads dozens of books a year, the notion of reading just one title every twelve months is unfathomable. I can’t imagine restricting myself to only one book. In fact, my current wish list has 26 books on it (coincidence? maybe). With 325,000 new titles published every year, how could I choose just one of those to read? It would be something like Sophie’s Choice, forcing me to abandon something I love to save just one.
But plenty of people are doing just that—reading just one or two books a year. They choose to spend their time on other things. Which is fine. But what’s really sad is that nearly 20% of U.S. adults report that they had not read a single book during the past year. Not one.
eBooks may well be changing that paradigm. Pew reports that “the average reader of eBooks says she has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-eBook consumer.”
That seems like good news (even to someone who still loves the feel of a real book … the binding, the paper, but maybe that’s a blog post for another day). Who cares about format as long as people are reading?
If, then, it is true that most readers are hitting somewhere between 15 and 24 books a year, a Reading Marathon of 26+ books doesn’t seem out of the question. Indeed, for many of us dedicated readers, it’ll be a cake walk, a 5K to a marathoner.
So here’s a challenge to readers and nonreaders alike: Read 26+ books by next year’s Chicago Marathon, which is tentatively scheduled for October 12, 2014. That’s a book about every two weeks. (I’d even go so far as to propose reading 26+ books from local authors and local publishers, but that might be pushing it.)
We’ll call it the Chicago Reading Marathon. Are you up to the challenge?