I do love reading about reading. I’just finished A Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life, by Andy Miller. It’s part reading journal, part literary criticism, and partly his story of coming to terms with his relationship to reading as he approaches middle-age and becomes a new father. I enjoyed it immensely.
“I read,” I say. “I study and read. I bet I’ve read everything you’ve read. Don’t think I haven’t. I consume libraries. I wear out spines and ROM-drives. I do things like get in a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it.”
As often happens with books like this, it’s also made me take a look at my own reading habits. I use a GoodReads account to track my reading, and every year I participate in their Reading Challenge. You set yourself a goal for how many books you’re going to read over the year, and it tracks your progress, gently reminding you when you’re behind. Being mindful of my reading habits through GoodReads has definitely improved the amount of books I finish; when I first started, I set my goal at 30 books, I recently just completed my 50th book for the second year in a row.
But not next year. For 2015 I’m going to set my target much, much lower, and instead concentrate on reading some longer books that have eluded me so far. Even if I only finish one or two, that will be progress for me.
I don’t have a great track record with long books — if by the time I get to around page 500 and the end isn’t in sight, I start getting the reader’s equivalent of itchy feet and rapidly start losing interest. I don’t think my reading group will ever forgive me for bailing out halfway through Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, a novel which by all counts is quite wonderful, and which even I am forced to admit I was enjoying… right up until the half-way point, when I got bored, and something new and shiny came along to distract me. (Working in a public library doesn’t help, being surrounded by new and interesting books all the time. My library card is stuffed with books speculatively checked out because the caught my eye during the course of my work day).
“You are here. It’s conversation-time. Shall we discuss Byzantine erotica?”
I’m going to start the year by jumping in at the deep end, with David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Previous attempts have always fizzled out after a couple of hundred pages, but never because I wasn’t enjoying it. I’ve read and enjoyed some of Wallace’s other writing – A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is a favourite – and I’ve owned a copy of IJ for years; it was one of the first titles I bought when I got my Kindle. There’s also a nice hardback edition sat on Kareri’s bookcase, and it’d nice to be able to point to it and say, I’ve read that, too.