A Reading Life


The blogger in front of her To Be Read pile.

If my life has a lodestar, it’s books. They have been my constant companion for as long as I can remember, and the only topic of sufficient interest and variety I could devote a blog to. Other hobbies flourish and fade, and even they are a vehicle for more books in my life: captivated by volcanoes? Read a book (or six!) Learning to knit? There’s all kinds of interesting books for that! Contemplating skepticism, Buddhism, Wicca? Books, books, and more books! Sad, lonely, bored or bereft? Books to comfort, sustain, and entertain! Confused and ignorant? Boy, do you need some books!

Reading a book is about half the fun; discussing the book with others, exploring its meanings and themes, debating over differing interpretations, and letting the experiences of others enrich your understanding is the other, oh, 80%. The bookish life was once quite a solitary pursuit, but no longer–at least, not if you don’t want it to be. I’ve belonged to various real-life book clubs over the years, but they invariably fizzled out due to splintering interests, physical distances, and/or personality clashes. Lately, though, I’ve been drawn into a wider web of book blogs, and found them expanding my reading horizons and reigniting my passion for blogging what I read. It’s not as sociable as gathering the club to discuss this month’s selection over hors d’oeuvres, but it’s also not as problematic. There’s no scheduling problem–you join in the conversation whenever you can. You can participate only when the book is interesting to you and disregard uninteresting titles. If personality conflicts emerge, you can simply move on to another blog without a big “I’m quitting bookclub!” drama.

One of the ideas I have found really valuable is the Reading Challenge: organizing your reading around a theme for a defined period of time. There’s so much I want to read out there, that it gets a little daunting–call it the tyranny of choice. Putting a bit of structure around my reading is an idea that works for me rather like picking out an outfit for work the night before does: it eliminates the 5 or 10 (or 20!) minutes spent staring blankly at the closet without the first idea of what to wear. As Ken will tell you, I do a lot of sitting and staring at my bookshelves, wondering what to read next. Not this year! This year, I have taken on specific challenges that I hope will automate the selection process and motivate me to get some books read!

First challenge: the 2010 Chunkster Challenge. It looks like I’m going for the Mor-book-ly Obese level, with six 450+ page books picked out:
Xenogenesis, Octavia Butler (already underway)
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
Clementine Churchill: the Biography of a Marriage, Mary Soames
Doubt: A History, Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Ozark Trilogy, Suzette Haden Elgin
The Eagle and the Raven, Pauline Gedge

As these are all part of my existing collection, they will do double duty and get me well on my way in challenge 2: Attacking the TBR Tome. I went through my shelves yesterday and pulled out 20 books that I’ve been “meaning to read” for ages, and put them all together on one shelf. I won’t list them all here, but it’s a nice mix of genres and lengths, so that whatever mood I find myself in, I should be able to pull something from that shelf to satisfy it. An additional level of challenge I’m setting for myself: once I’ve read them, I will put them into circulation via Bookmooch, unless they’re truly exceptional, and I know I’ll want to re-read them.

Challenge the Third: Science Book Challenge 2010. This is really a gimme, as I have piles of science books I’ve been meaning to read, and have salted the TBR shelf with them. Hey, no-one said we couldn’t make our challenge books do double duty–or even triple, like Doubt: A History, which rings all three challenge chimes. (Moving that one right up the priority list, I am.)

And of course, I need to get the bulk of this reading done by September, because I am definitely participating in Readers Imbibing Peril again, assuming Carl runs it this year.

One final challenge to myself for 2010: to talk about every book I read here on Bookish Dark. Even if it’s off track; even if it’s just for fun (and a little embarrassing); even if it doesn’t deserve a full review. If it’s part of my reading life, it deserves at least a mention. I’m working on making my bookshelves a more accurate representation of my reading habits, and I would like this blog to be, too. Let’s not call it a resolution, as we all know those tend to fail by February; and let’s not say I have good intentions, as we know where those lead. Let’s just jump right in and make 2010 the most Bookish year yet!

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3 Responses to A Reading Life

  1. Ramona says:

    Well, Yay! It’s about time you posted again. Wouldn’t it be more than six books in the 2010 Chunkster Challenge if one of them is a trilogy? ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’ve been trying to decide a way of keeping track of the books I read. Maybe I should blog about each one. That would fulfill two objects: keeping track and a blog idea. Read/blog on!

  2. kaizerin says:

    The trilogies (Xenogenesis is also one) might be cheating a little bit, but since they’re both bound in single-volume editions, I declare they should count. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, by all means, add book discussions to your blog topics. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on the books you’re reading. I’m interested in your NY resolution to include more non-fiction; what sorts of things are you planning to read?

    One of the reasons I want to mention every book I read here is to have a better record of what I’ve read. I looked at the historical Kaizerin reads section (way out of date now) and was amazed at some of the stuff in there I’d forgotten about.

  3. CountessZ says:

    I LOVE that you are planning to fully chronicle your reading life here! I find so much inspiration from your reading list.

    I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about the Xenogenesis series, which totally counts for the Chunkster Challenge when all bundled together! I have really found the series to be thought provoking and I look forward to discussing in the comments!

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