50 Books in 52 Weeks: Interview with John Weatherford, Literary Adventurer

18 May

John Weatherford is trying to read 50 books this year. We’re well into the fifth month of 2009, so that means John has been at it for the first third of the year. He started a blog so the rest of us can follow his progress, but we wanted to dig a little deeper into how the literary adventure is going; John obliged.

Dove&Snake: Where did you get the idea to read fifty books in a calendar year?

John Weatherford: I guess I just wanted a challenge, and I was typically reading around 25-35 books a year, so I figured 50 would be a challenge. I didn’t want to make it so ridiculous that all I did was read, but I wanted to have to sacrifice some things in order to make it happen.

D&S: You started off with a specific list of books to read this year. How did you pick those books?

JW: The list started as basically a list of every book I owned or had borrowed that I had never read. That only made about 35, so the rest I got off of PaperBack Swap. I just got books that were available now and that I had been meaning to read, or were socially significant books that I felt foolish for not having read.

D&S: Have you wanted to change that list at all? Are you going to stick to those books only?

JW: I have already changed the list a lot. I have read 6 or 7 books already that weren’t on the list at the beginning of the year. I’m okay with that. I was going to stick to the list so that I would decrease my surplus book supply, but sometimes a book comes along and you know that you need to read it at this point in your life. So I grant myself the freedom to divert from the list.

D&S: What books came along that you just had to read?

JW: In Praise of Slowness and a book I am currently reading called An Army of Davids. They were books I put on my wishlist on PaperBack Swap as soon as I joined and when I finally got them, I couldn’t wait to start reading them.

D&S: Are there any books on your list that you were especially looking forward to reading when you made your list?

JW: The book I was most looking forward to reading was Moby Dick. I haven’t gotten to it yet. I don’t think I will cut that one, but you never know.

D&S: Are you allowing yourself re-reads?

JW: I am not allowing re-reads in my 50 books total. There are a few books that will be required reading for me, but I just throw them in on top of the 50 non-required reads I am trying to do.

D&S:What books are required reading?

JW: I am reading Rocking the Roles again. It is a book about marital roles that my wife and I are going through with another couple. I anticipate that there will be other books that I will re-read with some other people in the near future.

D&S: Does it bother you when you’re reading something that’s not on your list?

JW: It doesn’t bother me. I try not to be tied down to obligations. I just kind of roll with whatever comes along.

D&S: Are you on the pace you hoped you would be at by this time of the year?

JW: I am on pace. Right now I would be at about 49 books for the year if I keep this pace up, but I always get more reading done in the summer, so hopefully that means I am ahead of pace. I would like to be 2-3 books ahead by the end of September if possible.

D&S: This isn’t your first time attempting to read 50 books in a year. How does your 2009 50 books quest compare to 2007 and 2008?

JW: I read 38 books in 2007 and 40 in 2008, so I am steadily improving. Last year I got behind pace early and gave up on the 50. Then I got laid off from my job in June and read 14 books in 8 weeks. I probably could have done it last year if I hadn’t given up so quickly. Live and learn, I guess.

D&S: How many total books did you read from January to April?

JW: From January 1 through April 30 I read 16 books.

D&S: Total pages?

JW: Some of the books are no longer in my possession thanks to PaperBack Swap, but I would guesstimate about 4000 pages, give or take a few hundred.

D&S: As the year has progressed, has it been easier or more difficult to keep up the pace?

JW: Definitely more difficult. It gets to be a real drain on my time and my brain starts to rebel, I think. I usually have no problem reading, but as the year goes on, it gets more and more challenging. It is really hard not to see it as an obligation and to let myself enjoy the adventure. It often feels like a job, like if I don’t clock my hours for the day someone is going to report me. I’d say that has been the biggest surprise to me. It isn’t bad, I enjoy struggling through things. I think it is good for character, I just wasn’t expecting it.

D&S: How does your blog help you keep going?

JW: It keeps me accountable. I know people look at it and I don’t want to have to say I gave up. I really like to finish things, and I am very deadline driven. Knowing others know my deadline helps me keep motivated.

D&S: Can we check in with you in September for an update on the second third of your year-long literary adventure?

JW: Definitely check in. It will keep me honest.


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