I finally enter Steve Duin’s reading contest!

Every year Steve Duin, columnist for the Oregonian holds a reading contest to see who can read the most pages during the year. The winner always reads some number that even I, a voracious reader, think insane. Like over 100,000. This year, I sent in my entry of 21,177 pages read which was 71 books. I sent this note along with with spreadsheet.

Dear Mr. Duin,

My page total isn’t anywhere near winning, but my goal this year was to actually get my entry to you. I’ve never been able to keep track of pages read on my own—that extra step of flipping to the back and seeing what the last pages was has always eluded me. In the back of my journals, I’ve kept track of “books read” since 1987, but in 2008, I began using Goodreads. At the end of last year I discovered I could export my list of books read and they listed page numbers. This year I just had to export, sum and save in Excel and voila! I finally enter the contest.

This was not the best fiction reading year. Around March I got annoyed at all the unsatisfying novels I was reading and just started re-reading things I liked. Hence the appearance of Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer. Things picked up mid-summer and I devoured some books during my August vacation. I would say the most quietly delightful “what if” sort of novel was Abraham Lincoln: A Novel Life, by our own Tony Wolk. What if Abraham Lincoln showed up in 1950’s Illinois? My absolute favorite novel, if forced to choose, was Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife. Aside from being an engrossing story, the novel itself was a gentle reminder that the famous people I know (and judge) everything about, may in fact be media creations. Which reminds me, the other favorite novel I read the year—do your readers really actually stick to one? I can’t imagine—was Three Girls and their Brother by Theresa Rebeck. A commentary on the media culture in our country, the voices of each character are amazing. This book also wins the “don’t judge a book by its cover” award as its cover was hideous and not at all reflective of the novel.

Nonfiction-wise, it was a smashing year. I discovered permaculture theory and, thanks to the library, devoured many books on the topic. I have a tiny back yard, but I think I’m a farmer at heart, and due to the permaculture books I read, I am transforming my “land” into a more sustainable environment. The best non-fiction book I read was Urban Homestead, your guide to self-sufficient living in the city. Unlike 99% of the books I read, I finished my library copy, returned it and immediately bought my own copy. Reading the various tutorials on growing and foraging for food, making bread, cheese and preserves, all I could think was “these are my people.” What could be more fun than that?

Next year, I aim to not only enter my number of pages, but also write an essay. Until I retire (30 years hence) that seems to be my only hope for winning your contest.

Good reading,


6/25/10 Note: I just looked at the contest results (published 2/1/10) and I got 34th! Not bad. But seriously, do those 100,000 plus pages people ever go outside?

Here is the list of books people chose as their favorites. (Published 2/1/10)

Here is the annual column about the reading contest. I, sadly, am not mentioned (Published 2/1/10)

One thought on “I finally enter Steve Duin’s reading contest!”

  1. Wow! Fantastic!!! I am so impressed. 34th is really good. I would be woefully behind that total. I am intrigued with the page numbers being exported along with your lists.It would be nice if Goodreads also listed that with your number of books read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *