August 2017, In My Notebook

As September comes closer, a big part of the reading-me shudders in panic. With the new catalogues and the tempting pitches, the prizelists and the festivals: how to fit in all-the-books. When one’s reading plans back in January are still all needy and stuff.

Oh, and some of those are doozies. George Perec’s A Void. Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch. And there are some other hard reads I’ve saved for the latter part of this year too. Because it’s more fitting to cry over animal stories, like The Yearling and Bob, Son of Battle, in December.

Even without weeping, there were some others that I was determined to finish. Books I’d gotten stuck in before. Some mystical “before” time. Was it five years ago, or twenty? It doesn’t really matter: stuck, either way.

Which isn’t to say that all my reading projects for this year were challenging works in translation or door-stoppers. I also gathered a stack of my grandmother’s Jalna books, some Louise Erdrich books and David Mitchell novels.

Also, as September closes in, another part of me is shuddering with excitement, prepared to cast aside all of January’s plans, ready for new reading projects and a new school year.

When I add up the Jalna stories which remain, along with all the other elements in these reading plans, the math says to me that I’d best keep my nose in a book. Don’t look up. Don’t fall for some new printed thing.

There are not enough reading days remaining in this year to complete the projects that I began in January. They will need to spill into the next year. Which is what brings on that excitement, the thought of the reading year to come, all that it might hold.

Also, the hold list for Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me was too long. And I wanted to have my own copy of Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves. Because, reasons. And you can’t rush Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s stories with a duedate.

So, these are recent acquisitions which aren’t in my notebook. They are still in the middle of the table, freshly gathered from a trip to a local indie shop.

Putting it in ink is imperfect. My reading ideas can’t be captured in such practical terms. As soon as I make a list, it declares itself to be “in revision”.

How about you? How have your reading plans for this year taken shape? Have you begun any new projects? Are you considering the new reading year yet?


  1. Danielle September 8, 2017 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Does 20 years mean you started the Irving back then and didn’t finish it until now? If so, there is still hope for a few books on my pile (and I have quite a few that need to be un-stuck). I keep thinking I will pick one from my languishing pile to read each month until I get rid of the pile, but sadly I keep adding to it.

    • Buried In Print September 8, 2017 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      Oh, I know that pattern: it’s the “adding to it” that does me in everytime. I keep thinking I’ll get my library stack to 0, but, then, more holds come through or I bring home “just one or two” which were simply irresistible and I “one or two” myself into a stack once more. Yes, in that case, I first started it shortly after publication, because two reading friends just loved it, nd I’ve tried a couple of times since those times, too, but never made it through until this summer. Do you leave your markers in or just remove them in despair before returning them to their shelves?

  2. Wendy September 4, 2017 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Did you enjoy Prayer for Owen Meany? That was the book that started my enjoyment of reading when I was 23 (so 30 years ago). My co-worker was a big reader and she suggested A Prayer for Owen Meany and I loved it. So one of my reading projects this year is to reread an old favourite for every new book. I started to read Interview with a Vampire (Anne Rice) and couldn’t make it through it again. I definitely enjoyed it 25 years ago but my selection of books has perhaps been elevated a bit?? I did pick up over 30 used books at the University of Regina booksale on the weekend and I have no idea when I will read them….although I quit Don DeLillo’s ZERO K this afternoon after 50 pages as I just couldn’t get into it. happy reading

    • Buried In Print September 5, 2017 at 8:40 am - Reply

      It was partly your enthusiasm for it which kept me going, Wendy. Even at the 500-page mark, I was thinking “take it or leave it” but, by then, I was determined to finish properly to try to figure out why I wasn’t drawn to it, and, then, I cried when it was done. How he got under my skin, I don’t know, but I know it didn’t happen in the last 150 pages, it was at work the whole time, and I’m so glad that I returned to it and persisted. I live next to the neighbourhood that he lived in as an adult and I often think of that story now, when I walk those streets. What other Irving novels have you enjoyed? I’ve read Garp and Hotel New Hampshire, although as an ill-equipped teenager. I’ve not tried to reread Anne Rice but I did borrow whatever the “next” book was from the Witches series, after having left it for some time, and I couldn’t get into it either. But, yes, I loved those stories once too!

      • Wendy September 8, 2017 at 10:16 pm - Reply

        I enjoyed 158 pound marriage but it’s probably not for everyone. happy reading

        • Buried In Print September 11, 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

          That sounds like it would make a great comparison/contrast with Owen Meany; I’ll have a look for it next time I’m book-hunting.Thanks!

  3. Naomi September 4, 2017 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    I’m always excited for the fall and all the fall lists, but also feel completely overwhelmed by them.
    Every once in a while I write out my reading projects or books-next-to-read just to make myself feel better. But, like you, I find mine so constantly changing that there’s really no practical point to it. Oh well… 🙂

    • Buried In Print September 5, 2017 at 8:26 am - Reply

      I know just what you mean. I can read a catalogue, become wholly enthused, and determined to read several titles, then I realise that I’ve listed a month’s reading (or a few months, depending if I’ve gotten sucked into reading the backlisted pages too) and then, bam, reality sets in. And the whole plan needs reordering. (Or, scrapping!)

  4. A Life in Books September 1, 2017 at 5:47 am - Reply

    I’m still clinging on to the idea that it’s late summer, resolutely sticking my head in the sand about the inevitable onslaught of winter so no plans for me. Pleased to see that you enjoyed Ghostwritten which remains my favourite Mitchell title but seems to have been largely forgotten.

    • Buried In Print September 1, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

      We’ve had a relatively cool August, which I think has brought thoughts of changing seasons to my mind earlier than usual. I’m not complaining: I’ve loved this summer, temperate and a balance of sun and rainfall. Ghostwritten felt so heartful, in comparison to the others (even though I admire the others). Have you read all the others? Now I’m wondering if it will perhaps remain my favourite as well.

  5. Rebecca Foster September 1, 2017 at 4:57 am - Reply

    Your “L-O-N-G” and “HARD” categories made me chuckle. (You have lovely handwriting, by the way.) I’m getting a bit disillusioned with my doorstoppers challenge; I’ve only discovered one amazing super-long book this year and I feel like the others have all been cheats: books that just happened to be 504 pages, or that I only ended up skimming. Speaking of David Mitchell, though, I have been meaning to make his Cloud Atlas one of my monthly doorstoppers. My husband has read all his books but I’ve only ever read Jacob de Zoet — the odd one out, I take it. My only other challenges were reading at least one classic a month, which has been great, and (as always) trying to read more of the books that I own. I’ve actually been doing pretty well on that one recently, mostly by cutting down on library reads. I have about 30 books published in 2017 that I still hope to get to before the end of the year.

    • Buried In Print September 1, 2017 at 8:39 am - Reply

      Isn’t it funny how many books are 504 pages long? Anyway, beyond that, so much of it is what we define for ourselves as readers: our personal bookish criteria. Somewhere, there is a 504-page-long book which would count as a true chunkster, I’m sure. And there is probably a Tana French book that is more than 500 pages but which reads like a 300-pager. Is Cloud Atlas your husband’s favourite? I’m rather looking forward to Slade House because I’m curious what he’ll do with so few pages! Then again, I feel like he’s more of a novella-guy, really, with so many pieces coming together to form larger works, so maybe that one won’t be any different than one section of one of the longer works. Those are good ever-challenges, really, that you’ve got. I share your own-books project, but some of my specific projects for this year required more of a library dependence (the Erdrich books, various series I’d like to finish which are incomplete on my shelves) so it has fallen back. How do you choose your classic reads? That’s definitely something I want to add into the mix for next year, but I want to find a way that doesn’t feel like homework!

      • Rebecca Foster September 1, 2017 at 11:14 am - Reply

        I’ve just plucked classics at random from my shelves — but usually the shorter and more approachable ones! (I didn’t get very far when I tried a Dickens.) I’m going to do Madame Bovary for September. One can always download things from Project Gutenberg too.

        I think Cloud Atlas was his first and still his favourite, but he also really likes Black Swan Green. We own those two.

        • Buried In Print September 5, 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

          My “firsts” are often my favourites too, even when I later discover another of an author’s oeuvre which I think might actually be an even better match. Black Swan Green I really enjoyed; it’s a contender for favourite, although Ghostwritten was my “first”. Madame Bovary was one I got stuck in some years ago, but, on beginning again and persisting (thanks to a readalong online a few years back), I had a great reading experience with it after all. I think you’ll be glad you’ve read it.

  6. kaggsysbookishramblings August 31, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

    “There are not enough reading days remaining in this year to complete the projects that I began in January.” I doubt I’ll live long enough to read all the books I want to…..!!

    • Buried In Print August 31, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

      Well, yes, there’s that. Look at you, taking the optimistic stance!

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