December 2017, In My Notebook

This season, I took a break from my reading projects and played with the longlists for some of the Canadian literary prizes.

Before I’d quite finished, I started in with the next Mavis Gallant short story collection.

Still, I might yet finish the three remaining books. Alternatively, they might wait until 2018.

Usually at this time, as the number of reading weeks in this year dwindles, I am thinking ahead – reading ahead in my mind – imagining new reading projects for the following year.

Well, that’s true.

But, what’s also true is that usually at this time there is a bit of a scramble.

That’s what happens when I try to reconcile the overly ambitious reading goals I set for myself in the past with the reality of having continued to undertake additional reading projects in the present.

It’s like that website which calculates how many years it will take you to finish your TBR, which doesn’t take into account how many books you add to your TBR each year.

Have you done that calculation? In theory, I can read all the books on my TBR by the time I am 73 years old.

That assumes so many things. Not least of which is I don’t discover any more interesting books to add to the list.

Because of course, even when I don my discerning reader’s cap, I still add books to my TBR every day. Well, maybe not every day, but at least 365 in a year, so it might as well be.

The reason that I’m not scrambling this year is that my reading projects for this year were too large to fit comfortably into twelve months. Maybe a single one of them would have been fine, but Louise Erdrich and Mazo de la Roche have written a lot of books, and Mavis Gallant wrote short stories for an entire lifetime. These are two- and three-year-long projects.

So reading is still underway for these — mid-way or nearly mid-way, or, at least, well-begun — projects. Not one of them will be complete at the end of this year; perhaps I will be scrambling to complete them next year. Or, perhaps I will discover that I work best with multiple multi-year projects. Which does seem to suit a TBR designed to last a lifetime.

What about you? Have you been enjoying any planned or unplanned reading projects lately? Are you already thinking ahead to reading in 2018?



  1. […] curious about the remaining ten, some of which were already on my TBR. (In fact, one of them was a title remaining on my last notebook post, one I’d meant to get to reading, which slipped down the […]

  2. Kat January 2, 2018 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I love your checklist! I’m trying to add categories to my book journal this year, instead of just title, author, and tiny reviewette. Maybe i’ll add a checklist.

    I didn’t know about the TBR calculator. I keep a list of books with suggestions from bloggers, etc., but, as you say, It never stops. And what I’d really like to do is clean my living room and clear the bookcases. I’d love to have one tidy room with clear surfaces. Extreme book-buying has stood in the way.

    Your reading list looks very sensible, especially with the Mavis Gallant stories. I love her work, but bought a big collected stories volume, and it is easier to go through one small books at a time, I’ve found.

    • Buried In Print January 3, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Kat, and I agree: volumes of collected stories are useful for references, for pulling off the shelf to revisit a favourite now and then, but for methodical and deliberate reading and rereading they are not very comfortable creatures to spend much time with.

      Some categories I’ve used in logs in the past included, at the back of a notebook or in a separate list at the bottom of the e-file: Single-sitting Reads, Desert Island Reads, Pageturners and various themes and countries that fit with reading projects; that way, when I know they fit, I can make note of them in a list over there as part of the “proper logging” too. It serves as a useful reference later on, when I’m craving a certain kind of book which I’ve already enjoyed.

      I’ve been working steadily at exploring and considering (and sometimes winnowing) my bookshelves for the past couple of years and it’s a huge project (previously I was just collecting and mostly reading books from the library). I’m not sure I’m making any headway, most days it’s seems I am not, and I’m not anywhere near an “extreme book buying” stage these days, so I can imagine your project would seem insurmountable, even just that one room. But these are nice “problems” to have, aren’t they! 🙂

  3. Laila@BigReadingLife December 28, 2017 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    I love that TBR calculator for some reason! If I don’t add any more books to my TBR (yeah RIGHT) I’ll have finished my TBR in 5 years and 2 months! 🙂

    You are inspiring me to read more short stories in 2018. I may not do a dedicated project like you but I do want to make time to read some each month. My trouble is that for some reason I want to plow straight through a collection super fast, and then I get bored by about halfway through. I need a system so I can savor the stories. Maybe one story a week? I’m playing with the idea.

    • Buried In Print December 29, 2017 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Five years seems like such a reasonable number to work with. Even if you do plan to add more titles and authors along the way!

      One story a week works perfectly for me. You can always try it: maybe it’ll work for you too!

  4. Alley December 27, 2017 at 7:31 am - Reply

    First up, your list is super neat. I am jealous of your handwriting.

    Second, I feel like this is the right way to handle reading challenges. No need to give yourself a year cos it seems like a good arbitrary timeframe. Good luck in your continued challenges in the new year!

    • Buried In Print December 28, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      Hahah, thank you, I think. I’m impatient so I don’t like to write in haste and then struggle to decipher my scribblings later. It’s a fine line, however, between simply never finishing anything and relaxing the approach to a project: I’m still learning where that line is. Maybe one always is.

  5. Naomi December 15, 2017 at 10:33 am - Reply

    What a nice, neat list! What 3 books do have left to read?

    I often wonder how many of my unread books will ever get read. And, more morbidly, sometimes I wonder what the point is of me reading all these books, after I’m gone? But I’m well aware that’s going down an impossible road of ‘what is the meaning of anything?’! Haha. Just thought I’d mention it, in case anyone had a good answer for me. 🙂

    • Buried In Print December 15, 2017 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      After you’re gone? Probably no point. laughs But while you’re living, everything you read is changing the entire world for the better. Yup yup. Which also applies when you forget 99% of what you read. I’m pretty sure there’s a stat that proves this scientifically. nods American War, the Carol Off, and Lost in September. I know, I know: they’re really GOOD ones. I just got tired.

      • Naomi December 21, 2017 at 10:05 am - Reply

        Ooo… I like that answer. I guess I’ll continue reading then… 😉

        (It was the Carol Off I couldn’t see, but I do now! I have no doubt you will eventually have them all checked off… no rush!)

  6. The Reading Life December 15, 2017 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Your post inspired me to do some planning of my short story reading for the first half of 2018. Right now I have 157 short story collections on my E reader, mostly gifts from publishers. This represents 1000s of short stories.

    As year long projects I’m planning to continue following along as I can on your Mavis Gallant Project. I have about half of her two hundred or so Stories. I Will continue reading and studying Yiddish Short, focusing as much as possible on women writers. I also plan to start a long term project in which I will endeavour to read and post upon all of the short stories of Deborah Eisenberg.

    tentative short story plans for 2018 for January to July

    January- Short Stories of Hassan Manto and Goli Targhai
    February-19th Century American Short Stories plus revisiting Clarice Lispector
    March -All Irish Short Stories – A Reading Life Tradition
    April – 20th Century American Stories and English Ghost Stories
    May – Nigerian Short Stories and pre-WW II Filipino Stories
    June – Australian Horror Stories (I have huge collection of them) – Indian Stories
    July – short stories set in Paris. Focusing on Irene Nemirovsky

    I also hope to discover great new to me writers and as I find them I will share them on my blog.

    • Buried In Print December 15, 2017 at 5:32 pm - Reply

      Mel! You’ve sent me scurrying to my bookshelves and to the library catalogue to see what/how I can participate in some of what you planned. I definitely want to try Eisenberg’s stories, but I am concerned that you will be able to read through them more quickly than I can – I am very slow with short stories and much quicker with novels – maybe I should start ahead of you so we can meet towards the end!

  7. annelogan17 December 14, 2017 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    You have extremely neat writing, and you seem very organized. I have a haphazard pile of books on my shelves from publishers, and I try to be fair to each of them and read from a different publisher as often as possible. That’s about the extent of my goals and projects, which is sort of sad as i type it out here. Also-there’s a website that calculates length of time for TBRs? Crazy!

    • Buried In Print December 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      Do you track any of your reading online? Or in a spreadsheet? The website isn’t terribly helpful unless you have an idea of your stats. Not that I’m suggesting one should do so – there’s some value in avoiding that entire scene. grins I’ve been where you’re at – on the rotation merry-go-round. This year I’ve taken a radically different approach to ARCs and new publications – compared to recent years – mainly focussing on backlisted reading, with the exception of this prizelist project – and it’s been really interesting. I think I like it.

  8. Café Society December 14, 2017 at 4:35 am - Reply

    My PhD supervisor claimed that the day he came to terms with his mortality was the day he realised that he owned more unread books than he had life left to read them in!

    • Buried In Print December 14, 2017 at 9:47 am - Reply

      That’s a great story, Cafe Society: I wonder how often that is the case for us, as voracious readers. Probably more often than not, even if we don’t articulate it that way!

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