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J.A.A. Purves

2013 Reading Journals

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Keep it up, everyone.

At this point, Ryan H. gets credit for making something that looks like it may turn into the most enjoyable “books read list” on this year’s thread.

Pierrot, on the other hand, so far seems to be outdoing all the rest of us all for sheer heavy intellectual weight-lifting.

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Keep it up, everyone.

At this point, Ryan H. gets credit for making something that looks like it may turn into the most enjoyable “books read list” on this year’s thread.

Pierrot, on the other hand, so far seems to be outdoing all the rest of us all for sheer heavy intellectual weight-lifting.

It's more like heavy intellectual marveling and wondering, actually lifting then it's a diferent matter...

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At this point, Ryan H. gets credit for making something that looks like it may turn into the most enjoyable “books read list” on this year’s thread.

Ah, I hope it does, if only because that would mean that I shall have had an exceptionally enjoyable year of reading.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Gracy Olmstead at The American Conservative:

 

George Vanderbilt, a late 19th century heir to the family fortune and builder of the Biltmore Estate, reportedly read 3,159 books during his lifetime (approximately 80 books per year). He kept a list of the books he had read in a diary; his last book was Henry Adams’ third U.S. history volume. Most of us wish we could amass the knowledge that represents. Books give us insights into the perceptions and perspectives of foreign minds. They widen our horizons, and foster our understanding of beauty. But few of us will surpass Vanderbilt’s reading achievements ...

I used to think that, if I tried really hard, perhaps I could read as many books as Vanderbilt. When I realized that this was probably an impossible goal, it felt something like a punch in the stomach: it was a moment of finitude. Because of that moment, I could empathize with a girl I recently overheard talking with friends at Capitol Hill Books. Browsing the overstuffed shelves, she mentioned that bookstores often scared her, because she realized she “would never be able to read them all.” ...

Some reject the infinitude stretching before them by deciding not to care. There’s too much to ever possibly absorb, and we become frightened and disheartened by the realization that we cannot have it all. Some become reading automatons, determined to absorb as much information as possible before they die. Speed reading apps, despite their usefulness, can turn reading into a personal competition or race to win. This often takes the joy out of reading, and makes it a chore ...

When we can, we should read for quality’s sake: savoring every book, re-reading the ones that enchant us most. Yet at the same time, not every essential read is worth savoring. Speed reading is useful for the accumulation of necessary knowledge. Slow reading is essential for the appreciation of written beauty. Perhaps our best reading choices lie at the junction of quality and quantity: we can speed read tedious or secondary works, then slowly absorb the masterpieces worth relishing ...

 

I'm not sure I like the conclusion she reaches here later.  For the first time in years, this year I'm probably going to reach at least 80 books read.  (In 2011, I read a grand total of 15 books.)  I didn't think it was possible, but I've been surprised at how I accomplished it with mere time management and discipline.  I'm very busy.  Work goes sometimes for over 40 hours a week (and it's not a job where reading a book can ever count as "work").  Social life, family and a dating relationship took many evenings and weekends that I otherwise technically could have spent reading.  But, reading just a couple hours before bed, or an hour or two early in the morning - that alone leads, on average, to knocking out one book in 2-3 days.  There are dry spells where television or the internet or fatigue take over and I won't finished a book for a couple weeks, but then there are industrious spells that make up for that.

 

3,159 ... that doesn't seem like much.  I already own about half that and I've only read about half of what I own.  But, in the big picture, I own and have read virtually nothing.  Sometimes I'll happen across something that mentions the voluminous amount of reading that characters as diverse as C.S. Lewis, Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway or Winston Churchill.  One fact about this is that the amount of reading these guys accomplished never seems to correspond to how busy or to how active their lives or lifestyles were.  Compared to how they read, it's almost as if I haven't read.

 

All I can say is, after experiencing what it's like to read about 80 books in a year ... now, I want that every year.  Who would have thought what a difference just a little discipline can make.

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Alright, good job, everyone.  In my humble opinion, Pierrot still had the most impressive reading year (including Homer, Melville, Tolstoy, Joyce, Mann, Proust, Faulkner, Wittgenstein, Pynchon & Wallace) even if Infinite Jest took the second half of his year.

Link to the 2014 thread here.

 

I didn't used to keep track of my reading like this before, but I've been finding, over the last few years, that it does make a difference.  Looking over your own list, you notice when you stop reading for a while (which is something I didn't notice or even think about before).  You notice when your reading is one-sided or narrow in focus.  And, you notice someone else is finally reading something that you resolved to read years ago but didn't.

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Oh yeah, I forgot about this thread.

 

My January list is fairly representative of my 2013 year: a high quantity of the kinds of books that can be read quickly. The kids are in bed by 8 or 8:30, so I have a ton of time in the evenings these days.

 

Despite the January sample, I did read some books by women as well, without making a special effort to do so but following my nose. Everything by Tana French (finally), new-to-me Emma Donoghue (guess why),and long-time fave Katherine Boo are the standouts I remember. I've read the new Megan Abbott every year for a while now and did again.

 

Also, 2013 was the year I went all in for audiobooks downloaded straight from the library to my phone. 49 in total including heavyweights like Melville, Bolano, Pynchon, and Ford's Bascomb Trilogy and a bunch of books I'd tried to read previously and set aside such as Telegraph Ave and Matterhorn. I also found that beginning an audiobook sometimes helped me find the voice to finally read a book I've avoided with a better understanding.

 

That 49 audiobook total also includes every book in the Jack Reacher series, which I finally got tired of being told to read after mentioning a love of crime fiction. This all happenned in about 45 days, so they clearly made an impression on me.

 

2014 is off to a crackling start. Among others, I'm halfway through Ivy Pochoda's Visitation Street and recommend it for any Richard Price fan.

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^ *facepalm* I. Am. An. Idiot.

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52 books?!!

You guys have my undying respect and admiration.

52 is my goal--book a week, even though I think I should read more, even though I have no idea why. ::sigh:: I'm also going to try to post more reviews on Goodreads. I'm also going to really try to read the books I've bought but not read before buying new ones or, if it's a book I want to read but haven't bought, try to get it from the library**--which could also have the added benefit of learning to be patient. (I'm currently at #548 for Gone Girl.)

January:

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Hey, Cheryl, I'm reluctant to launch a thread on this book because I'm only about 50 pages into it, but so far, it's magnificent. I don't know where the story is going, or if I'll sour on the novel, but right out of the box, it's all sorts of amazing.

 

Did you share that view early on, and, dare I ask, by the time you finished reading the novel? (No spoilers, please.)

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