A few good books
Senior Crystal Farnsworth reads 558 books in 365 days
When Crystal Farnsworth finished an in-class assignment last year, she picked up a book and read. When she returned to her apartment, she read some more. She read in bed. She read at meals. She read in London and Dublin and Paris. All year long, she read and she read and she read.
In 365 days, Farnsworth read 558 books. Total pages: 181,486.
Among Oregon’s bookworms, Farnsworth is reigning queen. In January, she claimed top honors in a lighthearted annual reading contest held by Oregonian columnist Steve Duin. Only one other contestant topped 100,000 pages.
After reading about six hours a day during the school year, Farnsworth put distance between her and her competitors by averaging 11-hour reading days during Christmas break. She reads at break-neck speed, digesting a 350-page book in about three and a half hours.
Her college textbooks make up only a tiny fraction of her reading. The majority was an eclectic mix of nonfiction, ranging from Paul Zumthor’s Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Holland to C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity to Morton N. Cohen’s biography of Lewis Carroll. On the lighter side, she read 10 books by Lemony Snicket, the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
A writing and literature major from St. Helens, Ore., Farnsworth says she retains much of what she reads. “If I went through the list, I could probably tell you a summary and some random facts from each one,” she says. Among those tidbits, she learned:
- The poster-bear Smokey was given his own ZIP code — 20252 — by the U.S. Postal Service in 1964 to receive 1,000 letters a day. — Brenda Peterson, Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals
- Camels can drink up to 50 gallons of water in a few hours, storing it all over their body. — Kenneth Kamler, Surviving the Extremes
- Each day we breathe about 23,040 times and move about 438 cubic feet of air. — Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses
Farnsworth wasn’t the only George Fox reader to shine on Duin’s list. He listed Laura Engle, a 1990 graduate, as one of the prolific readers. Angie Gill, a senior writing and literature major from Gladstone, Ore., tallied an impressive 80,000 pages, but didn’t enter the contest.