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Revisiting a Radical Resolution

August 14, 2013

Hourglass front viewAt the beginning of this year, I talked about the books I had read during the year just past and made a resolution to read fewer books in the year ahead. Foolish? Yes, I now realize that it was. Why? Because, reading isn’t something I do according to plan. After I finish one book, I reach for another, read it, then select another, etc., etc., etc., gobbling them up like popcorn. I suspect this is true for most readers.

What possessed me to even consider such a radical resolution? My objective was to read slowly, to take time out along the way to savor the language and, when finished, take a little time off to think about the book’s theme and the writer’s style – the things we did in school when we were reading books assigned to us with the goal of improving our minds and broadening our horizons. I’m long out of school, but, let’s face it – my mind still needs improving and my horizons could certainly be broader, so it seemed like a good idea. Maybe it was, but it didn’t work for me.

 As with most resolutions I began with the best of intentions. I picked my first book for 2013, Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (yes, I would recommend it), and started reading. I planned to pay attention the language, dissect Ms. Lippman’s method of constructing her story, and, most important to me, figure out how she made her characters come so vividly alive on the page. I’d ask myself: What makes this book worthy of a reader’s time? Somewhere along the line, my noble intentions flew out the window. I became immersed in the story and just kept turning pages, needing to know what happened next. In other words, I enjoyed the story and forgot to analyze it.

 That happened with book after book – not at all what I had in mind at the beginning of the year. My goal was to become a thoughtful BOAN booksreader and, in the process, a better writer. I still think it was a worthy goal, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not meant to be a thoughtful reader (though I haven’t given up on the better writer part). I’m a lover of stories and, like all lovers, not particularly analytical about my passion. I love what I love and the intellect has very little to do with it.  After I finish a book instead of taking time to analyze it, I reach for another.  Oftimes, my choice is inspired by the book just finished. That’s as analytical as I get and I’ve decided it’s OK. I read for pleasure. Pure and simple.

 Having said all that, I’ll add that the experiment was not a total failure. There was another part of my resolution – one that I was able to keep. More about that … soon.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2013 3:03 AM

    Oh how I agree with you Sandy, the intention is a good one but so unrealistic. It’s not all bad though because have you ever thought that perhaps your way of reading is HOW you analyse the books. Even though you barely allow yourself a space between them, I bet you don’t forget the one you’ve just finished, or the one before that either. Nor do you forget which author you enjoyed as well as those authors whose books you will never open again.

    I know a couple of people who do read slowly and try to savour the words and guess what…they don’t read many books, maybe just two or three a year, which, to my mind, greatly limits their understanding of how other people think and, even more, how other people live. Books educate us so all those words are seeping into your brain to be plucked out at some time in the future when you need them, for writing, for thinking, or just to recommend them. So keep gobbling up those books and I’ll do the same:)

    • August 15, 2013 7:44 AM

      What a great analysis, Sheila. I think you’re right. The analysis is happening in our subconscious and it’s there when we need it. I feel better about myself now. Thanks.

  2. August 15, 2013 7:20 AM

    Nice post! I’m one of those slooooow readers! Not by choice. I’ve got a disconnect between the the “non-picture words” and translation. It’s sort of like reading a foreign language that you don’t have a good grip on – when you have to pause to check your French-English dictionary every few words. But I do savor a nice meaty novel. Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of Dickens, Austen – those long-winded, picturesque writers. So I’m very impressed by those of you who can just gobble them down. I love a long luxurious read – and good thing. Speed reading? Mwah! That would have made college reading so much easier. You know, we’ll always enjoy a good book and gobble them up just as quickly as we hit “the end”. It’s our addiction. You just happen to have the super power to go along with your voracious appetite for book-kryptonite. 🙂

    • August 15, 2013 7:48 AM

      O, Sofie, you put it so kindly. I’m afraid I’m not up to the speed-reading level. I guess, in reading, as in writing, our differences are just part of who we are – and to be embraced.. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Mary Moore permalink
    August 15, 2013 10:24 AM

    First, a huge thank you to you and your fellow bloggers for all the thought-provoking posts I’ve read on Birth of a Novel in the past few years. My time-consuming job gave me little time to read and respond, so this is actually my first comment to any blog, anywhere.

    I think it’s wonderful that you read—at any speed! My personal goal is to increase my total time available for reading; then I can race through a mystery to reach its conclusion, take time to write notes when I read a how-to book, and still have time to savor the word choices in a literary classic. Each book is a new and unique adventure…

    • August 15, 2013 11:04 AM

      Mary Moore, my dear, old friend, great to hear from you. I agree that each book is a unique adventure and deserves to be treated as such. Thanks for commenting.

  4. August 15, 2013 1:16 PM

    I’m the gobble-type reader, but I try to take the time to write a brief review or comment on Goodreads and Amazon, although sometimes I slip through another book or two before I manage that. (I know those reviews, when four or five stars, help the author become noticed, and I like to help any author who entertains, delights, thrills, or even scares me.

    • August 15, 2013 1:29 PM

      Good idea, Norma, to share your opinion on a book on Goodreads and Amazon. I try to do that too but, like you, tend to get behind on my good intentions. Leaving a comment on a blog post like this is really encouraging. Thanks for taking time to do so.

  5. August 17, 2013 3:50 PM

    Lately, I’ve been sizing up my books the way I might a new balloon at the Acme. Is the story well inflated with lots of action from the first page on? Then I’ll buy it, and savor the action, asking myself what is was about the characters that made me care about them. Yes the story will give me pleasure the way a balloon might. But the writer in me wants to improve.
    Barbara of the Balloons

    • August 17, 2013 4:20 PM

      Well said, Balloon Lady. Thanks for sharing your insight and giving us a different way to think about books. I think we all agree that the best ones, like balloons, make us soar.

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