Open Book is a community book-sharing project that supplies children's books to areas in the New River Valley.

It sounds simple enough: 52 books read in a single year. That’s one book a week, on average. Pick out a mountain’s worth of books you’ve had lying around for years and stick them on a shelf somewhere you won’t forget about them. Keep track of your progress on Goodreads and post about your progress towards 52 books on your respective social media platforms. 

College is a time to stretch one’s literary interest and indulge in whimsical diversions in one’s reading habits. University life is such a drastic confluence of different backgrounds and experiences that the kinds of books one might never run across accidentally can be introduced by someone from a dramatically different walk of life. There are few better ways to learn about new books than by going to college, which makes it an ideal scenario for the 52 Book Challenge.

Completing the 52 Book Challenge is something of an optional rite of passage for bibliophiles the world over. It is, simply put, a test of one’s ability to not just work through a large quantity of literature, but also their ability to put aside free time to read in the first place. It’s a matter of time management and persistence more than it is an exercise in binge reading.

But going about doing this challenge takes on new complications for college students. For one thing, students have less time and money to go about this challenge, and though a local library or a thrift store are both excellent remedies to the latter, the former still provides a wide range of issues as well. We all know that one student who is so stupefyingly busy that they seem to lack the time to even socialize or eat. And often students have the self awareness to know when they themselves have been that student. In other words, scheduling reading time as a college student, much less a challenge of such proportions as a 52-book sprint is no mean feat, but it can be done with effort.

The easiest way to ensure that you will have time to read is simply to identify the times during the day when nothing else is going on. If one takes a solid look at their usual behavior, it turns out that there are plenty of stretches of time throughout the day where a handful of pages can be read. Waiting for a class to start or for a bus to arrive are both golden opportunities to put a few extra pages behind you.

But now that time has been set aside to read, the question of what books to pick still looms large. There is one thing that potential challengers should keep in mind when finding new books for this: there is no shame in picking shorter volumes. The point of the 52 Book Challenge is diversity of subject matter. It is perfectly permissible, and indeed perhaps advisable, to select books that are on the shorter side for any number of reasons. Just because a book is longer doesn’t make it any more legitimate as a selection for this challenge, and a book’s length is by no means a reasonable metric for its quality. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the supreme literary achievements of the last hundred years. It is also, blessedly, only 120 pages.

That being said, if you can burn through a 700 door-stopper in a week, then by all means read as many as you like. But where to acquire these books? As previously mentioned, libraries are the obvious answer, and the return date for those books could add a useful imperative to get around to reading them. Most libraries will also have a sale section for books that they can no longer hold on their shelves, and these are often extremely cheap. At the same time thrift stores are great for books you might want to read in the future but don’t want to potentially miss out on. Plus, books tend to be heavily discounted there as well. The Y Thrift Store on North Main Street is an excellent place to pick up books on the cheap, and the Blacksburg Public Library on South Main has a similar used section with comparable prices.

The 52 Book Challenge is the ultimate New Year’s Resolution for book lovers. Plenty of readers make it to around the target number annually but don’t actually keep track of what they have read. The purpose of the challenge to track one’s progress through the year to see how reading habits have changed over time and to see where one’s curiosity and whimsy has led them. Plenty of New Year’s Resolutions are tough and interesting, but few are as rewarding as the 52 Book Challenge.

Lifestyles staff writer

History major from Radford, Virginia. Music Guy. Colloquially know as the 'Walking Encyclopedia'

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