Prepare yourself, this is kind of huge. Well, huge for me—I don’t actually expect this to affect the state of your union or anything so dramatic (and if it does, maybe find somebody to talk to about that?)—but this goal-type thing that I’m doing this year is SO DIFFERENT from my usual reading projects, that I’m feeling shaky.
Ok, that might be the M&M’s. But still.
Here’s what it is: This year, I’m reading 12 books. Last year (2011-so last year!) I read 110 books. Chunksters. Mostly “literary classics.” I had a sense of accomplishment and I kind of did a little mental dance every time I added a book to the I-finished-this list. (My mental dances are very graceful. You would not know this by watching me actually dance.) The year before that I read 130. Ok, fine. I don’t actually need a pat on the back, I’m just making a point. And the point being—I read all the time.
But this year (drum roll please) I’ve chosen one major work to read per month. Just one! So I won’t be reading The Historian and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell again in one long, lovely version of The Lost Weekend. (Books not booze: I need a bumper sticker.) (Another one, that is—I have “Books Not Bombs” on my car already—about which I recently had the oddest conversation with a guy in the car next to me at a stop light….)
Anyway, I digress. Pretty constantly, but that’s neither here nor there.
I stopped keeping track of pages read this year because it just seemed a little pointless—I mean, sure, I’m more proud of myself when I finish a 1000 page book than a 200 page book—but why? It’s not like I’m learning to read. I don’t need a gold sticker. But even without keeping track of pages read, I still have a bit of marathon-mentality: I want to read more! and better! I WANT TO READ IT ALL!!! and then I finish a book like The Crimson Petal and the White (944 pages, in case you were wondering. Of course you were.) in less than 48 hours, take a deep breath, brush the chips off my blanket and have absolutely no idea what I read.
How dumb is that? So I’m trying (in many areas of my life, but this most obviously) to chill the eff out, stop rushing so much, and actually let what is going on make an impression on me. And that includes the books. Who knows—I might just take up yoga.
So, for each month, I’m choosing one major (ok, pretty hefty) book to read. And instead of posting about the 4-5 books I’ve read each week, I’m going to post about whatever portion of that book I’ve read. So the first week of January might be about 20 pages of Les Miserables or 300 pages of Les Miserables (depending on how long the champagne holds out), with the goal of finishing said book by the end of the month.
And I’ve picked some rather massive tomes—I think January’s is the heftiest: Julie Rose’s translation of Les Miserables is 1375 pages, and if I spill over into February’s Anna Karenina, 976 pages, well, that’ll just have to be ok. And I’m fudging just a bit in later months—I certainly don’t need an entire month to read one Edith Wharton novel, so I’m having a month of Wharton. Same with Henry James. But you get the idea.
Also, I’m looking forward to doing some outside reading about whatever text I’m tackling. I’m not taking any literature classes this semester (sniff) and I’m going to use some of the time I usually spend writing those five zillion papers for research about what I’m reading. My goal is one academic article per text, per week, so occasionally I’ll have something more to say in my reviews than OMG I so loved this book and you will too. Yay! Though that’s always fun too.
And this is the plan:
January: Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
February: Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
March: Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
April: Edith Wharton—The House of Mirth, Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome—whatever I have time for (maybe The Buccaneers!)
May: The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
June: W. Somerset Maugham—Of Human Bondage, The Razor’s Edge, The Magician—whatever I have time for
July: Henry James—The Portrait of a Lady, Wings of a Dove, The Golden Bowl, The Ambassadors—whatever I have time for
And now that I look at it, that’s not so much a 12-in-12 plan as I’m-going-to pick-something-I’ve- been-intimidated-by-each-month-and-read-that plan. And I only planned until July thinking that if everything works as I intend it to, life is going to get a little nuts in August, what with the moving and grad school stuff. And that way if I decide to throw another Dickens in and push Wharton back a bit, or decide I’d rather read Forster than Maugham in June, well, I’ve got some time to play with.
Because a plan without wiggle room absolutely will not work for me.
And that’s me. Anyone else have major reading projects this year? What are you most looking forward to reading? Tell me all your plans!