The Math of 10-10-12

I’ve been having a few misgivings about how much reading this is actually going to be. 100 books is a lot of reading on top of the work I already do. As a PhD candidate, my job is equal parts reading and writing (probably more reading than writing most times if I’m honest). So, to deal with this fear, I decided to do a little math and see what is required to complete 10-10-12 in timely fashion.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that all books are equal. I know, I know, not all books are equal as anyone who has read (or attempted to) Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake will tell you. I haven’t tried either, but I have had the pleasure of reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

So if all books are equal, then you can divide 100 books by 12 months.

100 books/ 12 months = 8.333 books per month

8 1/3 books a month is a more reasonable number to look at. It can also be broken down by weeks to provide a different picture:

100 books/ 52 weeks = 1.92 books/week

So, just under 2 books a week. This number is a little more frightening for me as all it takes is one Moby Dick to throw my reading off for the week. Melville’s magnum opus happens to clock in at around 623 pages while Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom comes in at 562 pages. These are long, to say the least, and I would only have 3.5 days to read this going on the 1.92 books/week. This is going to be a challenge.

Let’s break it down a third way. How many days do I have for each book?

365 days/ 100 books = 3.65 days/book


100 books/ 365 days = 0.273 book/day

So, that’s about a quarter of a book a day to make 10-10-12 by the end of the year. That seems manageable, but I’m going to have to wait and see if it is. The first couple of months are going to be key because if I get behind, then it will be very hard to keep up. In a way, it’s like the comprehensive exams I completed last year. I had a list of 120 works to read in a little less than a year (works is deceiving as each work was not a full book; in my estimation, it was more like reading 20 novels, 3-4 books of poetry, 8 plays, and 3 books of literary criticism).

All of this to say that I think it is possible to complete 10-10-12. The key is going to be sticking to a strict schedule of reading. Whether such a disciplined approach takes the joy out of reading remains to be seen.


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