Rick O’Shea on reading 100 books in 2014

From the archives: Jan/Feb issue 2015

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100 books in 2014

2FM’s Rick O’Shea set himself the challenge to read 100 books in 2014. He tells us how he managed it.


Rick-OShea-1It all started a couple of years ago. I was always one of those people who read a lot, went into bookstores regularly and got the existential fear of the reader—that there are always so many great new books on shelves and I’m never going to be able to read all of them. Worse still, there are so many ‘classic’ books that I’ve never read and they’re in the ever-lengthening list too.

At the tail-end of 2012 I decided to give myself a New Year’s resolution I thought I could actually stick to: read a book a week for 2013. If I managed the 52, I would have read roughly twenty more books than I had the previous year, and that could only be a good thing, right?

I managed 54. I felt fantastic at the end and, with either a rush of blood to the head or an excess of red wine over Christmas 2013, I decided that the sensible thing in this situation would be to double down and try the seemingly impossible (for me anyway) in 2014—read 100 books by the end of the year, amounting to roughly two books a week as opposed to last year’s single book every seven days.

The question I’ve been asked most in the intervening months in interviews (and, bizarrely, people interview you on radio and in newspapers when you try to do something as bizarre as read more) is ‘Where on earth do you find the time?’ A few months back I wrote a blog post about it that included a few of the following.

Stop watching TV: not all of it, just as much as most people do. I deliberately pick evenings where the TV doesn’t go on at home until at least 9pm and before that is for reading. On top of that, every now and then I get bored of TV and simply don’t watch it for a week. You’d be surprised how much you record that week that you simply delete when you go back to it the following Monday.

Find a partner who’s on board. I’m lucky enough that my wife is as voracious a reader as I am. The sofa of an evening with your other half reading beside you can be a very seductive thing.

Sundays are sacred—not in the traditional way; most Sundays we spend almost all day reading. I know that’s probably not for you, but you did ask.

Keep a list. I don’t know if you’re like me, but if you are, you like lists and targets to aim for; you find them useful. I have a series of A4 sheets that hang in the kitchen. As I write this I’m on my final page, the one that finishes with ‘100’.

Drink less. I’m not sure about you, but those evenings when I’ve come home and opened a beer or a bottle of wine aren’t those when I’ve read late into the evening. One just doesn’t work with the other for me.

Go to bed half an hour early. Again, it works for me too. Just do the above and read till you drop off. You’d be surprised how quickly you finish a book that way.

Then there’s the hard one: put your phone or tablet away. I know these days that’s tantamount to saying ‘Stop breathing for the next hour there, would you?’ but it is incredibly easy to allow your train of thought to be derailed when you’re reading if you decide to just check Facebook for a minute or look at the headlines on a news site. If you’re serious about this, take your phone and put it away for the evening or afternoon you’re reading. Physically away on a shelf or a table, far away where you can’t reach it, and switch off all your social media and e-mail notifications. If it buzzes with a text or rings, so be it. You’ll lose yourself and get tons read if the book is any good.

The process has led me to the strangest places—writing an article for the Irish Independent that has led to a regular column; being interviewed about it on Arena on Radio 1, which too has led to my turning up there regularly to talk about the written word; being asked to take part in panels about poetry at One City One Book and the recent Lingo Festival; launching books for authors; and now being asked to judge the Bookseller’s Young Adult fiction prize for the UK and Ireland for 2014.

As for the 100 books, as I write this at the very tail-end of October I’m two books behind the pace I should be reading at to make it, and I’m OK with that (even if I did read six on the week I was on holiday recently to get me back on track). Is it a chore? Not even in the slightest. Yes, I’ve read some things this year that I probably wasted my time on, but very few. I’ve also spent time with books I absolutely wouldn’t have found the time for in my old life, books that are wonderful pieces of perfection that I’ve ended up pushing into the hands of friends and family.

Will I make it to 100? Yes. It’s as simple as that. No matter what it takes in terms of time management I’ll get there.

As for next year . . .


by Rick O’Shea


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