Here’s what I have learned. Again. I’m sure I’ve learned this before and, then, forgotten.
Just because I change my goals, that doesn’t mean that my habits change.
In 2012, I was disappointed that I had not read more from the backlists of my MRE (Must-Read-Everything) authors.
Disappointed that I kept adding to my own shelves but kept reading from library shelves instead, deliberately and voraciously.
Disappointed that I opted more frequently for fresh reads than for rereading.
So I made read-o-lutions and I increased my goals in each of these categories for 2013.
But in 2013, looking stats-y-eyed at the books I read, they fell into the same ratios as they had the year before.
It’s uncanny. And now that I think about it: it seems to have been an inevitable outcome.
Even though I’m not a numbers-gal, I recognize that simply adding to one’s goals, without adding to the number of reading hours in a given day, means that I would have to read fewer of one kind of book in order to read more of another kind of book.
I don’t need to be a numbers-gal to recognize the flaw in that plan.
Because I love discovering new-to-me authors. I’ve just “discovered” Candace Savage and her A Geography of Blood is my to-go read for evenings right now.
Someone recommended Greg Kearney’s The Desperates. Was it you? Speak up: I’d like to thank you. Yes, I do have a copy of Michael Crummey’s latest collection here, and he is solidly rooted in my MRE list, but I have to read a few chapters in Kearney’s novel each day too.
I love browsing the stacks in the library, love being in a queue for something new, counting down the readers between me and the New [Author’s Name]. Yup, I requested five of Candace Savage’s books via ILL (who would ask for just one?). And I just picked up “my” copy of the New Amy Tan.
And just saying that I wanted to read more than 12 books during the year from the backlists of my favourite authors? Well, it’s not that simple. If I’d read the 24 I’d aimed for in 2013, I might not have discovered Kevin Irie, Richard van Camp, and Denise Chong, whose books promptly left me wanting to read everything they have written.
So the problem here? It’s not me. Not really. Not my lack of stick-to-it-ive-ness. Not my seeming flighty-ness. Not my dwindling loyalty. (That’s my story. And I’m sticking to it. For now, anyway.)
The problem is that there are not enough hours for reading in a given day, no matter how I approach the stats.
And as much as I like the idea of new habits, the old ones don’t work against me either. They simply work against the new habits. The conflict is between them: nothing to do with me. Not really. So what I have decided is not to make read-o-lutions until a few weeks have passed, let them battle it out.
I want to see what I do with a gap. Not a forced gap in which I don’t read (that’s how last year began: did not like that at all) but a breather. In the meantime, I’m going to see if, without aiming, I strike out in unexpected directions.
I mean, it’s clear by now that these habits are deeply ingrained. (At least it’s “clear” for now: I’ll probably need to relearn this somewhere ages and ages hence.)
It’s clear that efforts I make to redirect do not succeed. Perhaps I can trick myself into doing something different if I pretend that I am looking the other way. But if not, that’s okay too. Because even if I am looking the other way, chances are that my gaze is directed at some other good book.
What’s obvious: in 2014, I want to read more, more, more.
In some cases, that means continuing with existing projects. Some more Fridays for installments of A Fainter Footprint, returning January 31.
Some more stories in the Alice Munro reading project resuming January 11th with The Love of a Good Woman. (Full schedule details here.) Then: Jakarta JAN18; Cortes Island JAN25; Save the Reaper FEB1; The Children Stay FEB8; Rich as Stink FEB15; Before the Change FEB22; My Mother’s Dream MAR1
And reading projects? I’m aswim with them.
Next week? I’ll be chatting about my foray into e-reading.
The week after? Books about outsiders and exceptions.
The week of January 20th? A focus on families and ruptures.
And, the last week of January, a project I’ve been reading towards for months now will launch: finally!
In February, more of that, with some themed reading for Black History Month too.
And on February 2, the first of my 2013 Relit Award Samplers: did you see the shortlists were released in December?
Yup, maybe I don’t have a lot of read-o-lutions, but I do have a lot of plans.
On the stack now? Other than the three books I’ve already mentioned above?
Two rereads: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The former because I still want to finish reading the Time Quartet, whereas previously I have excelled at reading and rereading the first two volumes only. The latter because I want to read two retellings that have been recommended, including the P.D. James novel.
The other retelling was recommended by my niece, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and she also recommended Pierre Merot’s Mammals, which I’m reading in translation by Frank Wynne. So far it reminds me of Cees Nooteboom’s Rituals, with characters that are difficult to “like” and in this case even more difficult to understand.
(Okay, yes, I have made one read-o-lution: I do want to read the books which have been loaned to me and which I have been nagged about relentlessly. These books and their passionate recommenders know who they are. I’m also, finally, going to read Wool. And finish the Hitchhiker’s series. And start the Warriors book. Oh, how the read-o-lutions sneak in.)
Running the Whale’s Back, an anthology edited by Andrew Atkinson and Mark Harris, containing stories by Atlantic Canadian authors, exploring the themes of faith and doubt. I’ve read the introduction and the first two stories, which are amazing. So far the problem I foresee with this collection is that I haven’t read many of the authors’ previous works and they are often well-known, long-established Canadian writers, so I suspect this book will be adding substantially to my TBR plans.
Michelle Cliff’s novel Free Enterprise, which fictionalizes the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant and Annie Christmas, part of John Brown’s crusade fighting for the abolitionist cause. The prose is lyrical, the sort you feel compelled to reread and linger over, and the story is one lost in the official record.
Aunt Winnie, Elspeth Cameron’s biography of her (great) Aunt, one of the desirable debs in the circles of elite in early 20th-century Toronto, at the point I’m at. At times, the narrative reads a little like a social registry, but there are interesting aspects to the story too, chronicling her father’s rise to prominence in the banking world and observing the dramatic changes in “Toronto the Good” at that time.
Okay, so most of those are library books. Most of them are fresh reads. Most of those are old habits. But they’re not so bad, right?
How are you feeling about your reading habits these days? What stands out in your current reading stack?