The reading life


The stack beside my favorite reading chair.

Last year, I issued myself a bold challenge: Read one hundred books from my shelves (i.e., books in my collection before the end of 2018), including at least 24 non-fiction titles and at least one book from each of the following “special collections”: Shakespeare, poetry, NYRB, Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, philosophy, art, and children’s / YA. I met the special collections goal, but of the 42 non-fiction titles I read last year, only 18 were RFS (read from shelves). And of the 120 books I read last year, only 53 were RFS. (Here is last year’s summary.)

Without fanfare, I renewed the challenge for 2020, and I’m enjoying significantly more success. At this writing, I’ve read 69 books, 51 of which were in my collection before the end of 2019; and I’ve read 27 non-fiction works, 23 of which were RFS. As for the mini-challenges:

Shakespeare RFS: Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It and The Tempest
Poetry RFS: Aimless Love (Billy Collins)
Vonnegut RFS:
Joyce Carol Oates RFS:
Philosophy RFS: How to Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life (Seneca); How to Keep Your Cool: An Ancient Guide to the Anger Management (Seneca); How to Grow Old: Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life (Marcus Tullius Cicero); and How to Be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life (Epictetus)
Art RFS:
Children’s / YA RFS:

I’m three stories into Joyce Carol Oates’ 2010 collection, Give Me Your Heart; and I recently pulled Mother Night from my Vonnegut shelves. The narrator is a Nazi propagandist, so the choice may prove an interesting complement to The Plot Against America (Philip Roth, 2004), which I read last month. I haven’t made decisions about the other categories.

My unfinished business from last year is Chris Chester’s Providence of a Sparrow, which is a gorgeous memoir. I simply need to finish it.

So with eight months remaining in the year, I’m experiencing a sense of (cautious) optimism about meeting all of my 2020 reading goals. In fact, I have been toying with increasing my Goodreads challenge, which is currently 104 books. We’ll see.

And, yes, book talk in the midst of a pandemic may seem like the equivalent of putting my hands over my ears and saying, “La, la, la! I can’t hear anything.” I do hear. Books are what keep me sane afterward.

4 thoughts on “The reading life

  1. I agree! Books and book talk are what are keeping me sane. I know others have mentioned having trouble concentrating on reading during this pandemic. Not me! For that I am thankful. I enjoy seeing your plans, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here I was feeling smug about my 30 books read so far this year! I too have been trying to read more from my shelves, but have been pushing myself to read more fiction. Unfortunately, I have only read 2 novels and 1 collection of poetry–from Billy Colins in fact–so I need to improve in that area. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Notes, quotes, and links | Nerdishly

  4. Pingback: The year in books | Nerdishly

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