An attempt to plan my reading year

by , under books and reading, LibraryThing, time

Since I became an audiobook fan over two years ago, I often have two books “in progress” at any given time, one in print and one in audio. But for the past couple of months, I’ve had three or four books going most of the time. My current audio is Villette by Charlotte Bronte, and it’s a good 22 hours long. Since I often listen while cleaning the house, those weekends where I have things scheduled (like wall-to-wall basketball), or when I’m achy and under the weather, I get little or no cleaning done, and so I make no progress with Villette. I’ve also had a library book, recently renewed for the second time but I really need to just give up on it, a collection of essays on literature and life called A Mirror in the Roadway: Literature and the Real World by Morris Dickstein. I like what I’ve read – thus keep renewing it – but haven’t read enough and know I won’t be able to finish it in the next few weeks – so I’ll return it soon, and perhaps it will cross my path again someday. I’ve also had two books I sort of alternated depending on my mood: my book group’s selection for December, How Fiction Works by James Wood, and my LibraryThing Early Reviewer book, Soldier’s Heart by Elizabeth Samet. I finally finished the latter last evening.

So where am I now? I’ve only got about four hours left of Villette, so I’m hopeful I’ll be done before the year ends. (I think that will put me at 47 books finished in 2008, which is really excellent when you consider how busy our lives are!) My book group has chosen short stories by Chekhov for January, and Crime and Punishment for February, and luckily I own a collection by Chekhov PLUS the Dostoevsky novel, so will attempt to read both of those before we meet to discuss them. (I read Crime and Punishment a LONG time ago; it should be good to revisit it.) There’s also going to be a discussion at TSCPL in late January about the novel Atonement, and I checked out the CD in hopes of making that my next audiobook after Villette.

Beyond those three, I don’t have definite plans, but there are books that have been “calling” to me from my shelves in recent months, that I hope to get to in 2009. I think the one I’ve had the longest is Vanity Fair, so despite its length, it’s on my short list of “likely leisure reading” for the coming year. Other novels that are in my sights: Brookland by Emily Barton, The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Keep by Jennifer Egan, Poison by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, and The Lightning Keeper by Starling Lawrence. I’m also looking forward to reading a second collection of stories by Lydia Davis, called Varieties of Disturbance. I just got that one for Christmas, so it’s the “newest” (to me) book on my potential list for 2009. I’ve picked up several books of poetry in the past two months as well, including four on Black Friday. They all look good, and unlike the novels I listed, they’re all quite short and should be quick reads. 😉

I continue to struggle with emotional eating and my love of fattening coffeehouse drinks. One book I had on my wish list for a long time was The Hungry Self: Women, Eating, and Identity by Kim Chernin. I found and bought it not long ago, and would like to fit that in between novels, and sooner than later. I’ve also had a bizarre kind of thought, that what I need to do is replace my addiction to food and sugary beverages with a “safer” addiction. If it were possible for me to get hooked on exercise, that would be the best thing, hands down, no question — but seriously, ME, addicted to exercise??? That seems VERY unlikely to happen. But what if I could feed my love of reading, what if I could “binge” on books? And I don’t mean just BUYING more books, though I certainly LOVE buying them and having them, but READING and “sampling” them, FEEDING myself with words, DEVOURING and INGESTING them – the books I already own. I saw a book some weeks ago that seemed to reflect this train of thought, and yes, it was an impulse purchase: Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania by Avital Ronell. This and the Chernin book are on my short list of non-fiction for the first months of the new year.

I have been writing this post off and on for about three hours. Jeff has said a couple times, “You’re still writing that?” (And standing behind me a moment ago, he said, “Oh, this is the part where you talk about what’s going on right now…” That Jeff, he can be funny, and then other times he thinks he’s being funny but he’s not.) But I’m glad I got a bit of an outline started – what I’m reading, what I plan to read soon, and the next batch of books on my radar. Just one small step toward getting my head in order.

© All the parts of my life 2008-2015.

  1. Marie

    Wow! 47 books in 2008 is VERY impressive. Congratulations! I’m ashamed to admit how many books I’ve read this year. The number is actually an all-time high for me when it comes to getting some “leisurely reading” done – so that is a positive. But the amount is not nearly as close to what you have completed!

    I see you just read The History of Love – what did you think? That was the last book I finished a month or so ago. I thought it was fine – not fantastic, but good. I love the way Krauss uses language – she is obviously a poet. And yet, I had some problems with the story itself.

    As for your to-read list: The Time Traveler’s Wife is just so-so. That was one of my completed books this year. I was actually pretty disappointed by it given how LONG it is! It felt like the author just wanted to see every single word she had written in print and did not allow for proper editing. It was too much. The ending was just lackluster, but man, I was glad it was over! Just my two cents…

    I hear Lydia Davis is good. I have been trying to finish her novel The End of the Story since I got it in 2005… Not that it’s bad… I just have a really bad record when it comes to finishing books! :-p I’d be interested in knowing what you think of her short stories.

    Anyhoo – I hope you are doing well, overall. Keep reading!!

  2. HeathMochaFrost

    Marie – Great to hear from you! Thanks for your comments!

    The History of Love was hard to follow because Krauss’ plotting was (as you know) not linear, and I could see where many readers would be frustrated by that. But, I liked those two main voices (Leo and Alma, am I remembering their names right? – the old man, and the girl), SO MUCH, I wanted to keep reading. Their voices were both really distinctive, and I admire authors who can do that, especially within one book. Once I was into the second half, I didn’t want to put it down, and got through it as fast as I could! Yeah, I REALLY liked it. 🙂 Just a week or two after finishing it, I found a copy of Krauss’ Man Walks into a Room and bought it IMMEDIATELY.

    Thanks for the tip on The Time Traveler’s Wife, I’ll keep that in mind. I’d seen it recommended highly on LibraryThing, so that piqued my interest, but when I get to it, if I find it’s not for me, I can always donate it to the annual library sale. 🙂

    As for not finishing books, there were a few this year that I didn’t finish, either because of time constraints (usually those are library books) or because I just didn’t get into it. I’ve heard that not finishing books can be a good thing, though, because you’re “sampling” more of them, and also not “forcing” yourself to read something that you’re just not enjoying. There are too many excellent books out there to finish ones we don’t like!

    Oh – Lydia Davis – I read her story collection Break It Down in October, and while I didn’t love every story, I liked most of them, and her writing style is really unusual, and I found it exciting and wished I could write like that. I haven’t seen the novel, not sure if the same style would work as well there as it does in the short works.

    I must get back to work – sigh. Stay warm and well!


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