Read from the shelves.
This is the avid reader’s “Lose weight” or “Join a health club” goal, isn’t it? A resolution made to be broken before Valentine’s Day with rueful chuckles and the nodding acceptance of most fellow readers.
Although my rate of acquisition has certainly slowed, my commitment to reading from the shelves has been something less than steadfast. (Evidence: More than forty of the titles I’ve finished this year were published this year.) As I made room for new friends this morning, I was struck afresh by how many wonderful books already await my attention. Frankly, walking through my house is not unlike wandering through a tiny but well curated bookstore, replete with the same, “Oooo, that looks interesting!” and “Hmmmm, now what’s that about?” discoveries. The abundance of riches is both wildly cool and a little embarrassing. So although we’re a bit out from the “I resolve” time of year, I have been contemplating a personal reading challenge for 2019, something with a bit more stick-to-it-ness than the designed-to-be-broken, “Read from the shelves.”
I began with, “Read one book from every shelf in my library.” Because there are more than two hundred shelves, though, and because it’s been more than a decade since I last finished more than two hundred books in a year, the goal needed refinement. I have decided on one hundred books from my shelves, including at least twenty-four 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. Since I’ve been finishing between 120 and 150 books annually for the last few years, this goal leaves me a little room for impulsivity. My current plan requires nothing more than that the book have been in my collection before the end of 2018, but I will add more details if or when it becomes less random.
How about you? Do you have any reading plans or goals or challenges for the coming year?
Vote. The local and state races directly affect you.
We haven’t carved a pumpkin in several years, so it’s sort of sweet to put one out again.
A few more new books.
What a dark, fuzzy image! Well, it’s a sort of dark, fuzzy day, so maybe it works.
Earlier this week, I finished Gorilla and the Bird,
Zack McDermott’s 2017 memoir. For the commonplace book:
Watching my mom tutor eighteen-year-olds who read at a second-grade level — who considered our humble abode the Taj Mahal because we had a weight bench and a Sega Genesis — showed me that the difference between the track to prison and the track to grad school boils down to approximately a thousand consecutive nights of Clifford the Big Red Dog and Where the Wild Things Are, along with being told by someone who loves you: “A writer is always writing” and “A writer’s job is to tell the truth” and, once, “A writer is a liar. A good writer is a good liar. And you’re a silver-tongued devil, boy.” In other words, being lucky enough to have the Bird or someone like her as your mom.
I spent my whole life trying to get out of this place. It’s as familiar as an identical twin, and yet I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that this is the factory where I was assembled.
The place to which McDermott refers is Wichita, Kansas. One of the books I’m now reading, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, is set just thirty miles outside of that city. From an NYT review of the National Book Award finalist:
A deeply humane memoir with crackles of clarifying insight, “Heartland” is one of a growing number of important works — including Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted” and Amy Goldstein’s “Janesville” — that together merit their own section in nonfiction aisles across the country: America’s postindustrial decline. Or, perhaps, simply: class. It’s a term that Smarsh argues wasn’t mentioned during her childhood in the 1980s and ’90s. “This lack of acknowledgment at once invalidated what we were experiencing and shamed us if we tried to express it.”
I’m thisclose to finishing the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, and I have recommitted to Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. Now I need to figure out where to put the recent acquisitions: the TBR pile or the shelves?
The weather has been so odd, and the trees and plants are taking it hard. For example, the ginkgo in our front yard dropped all of its leaves this morning — they were still green. The forsythia rebloomed and then froze. The same with both rose bushes. Although fall colors have been difficult to find, however, some autumn gold glimmered during our walk in a new-to-us park near campus yesterday.
“A house that’s full of books makes a different kind of people.”
(Inheritors by Susan Glaspell)
Elsewhere, I posted a link to the October 10 article “Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to literacy and numeracy, study finds
” (The Guardian),
to which my daughter replied, “That’s good to know,” a wry observation from a young woman who grew up in a library.
In the comments, someone asked I am able to keep all of the books, or if I face “tough decisions.” I have not kept all of the books, but that did not involve tough decisions; after all, not every book is a keeper. We sold or donated more than a quarter of the library before our last move and nearly that much again when our home education adventure concluded; and my rate of acquisition since then has not yet outpaced the shelving space with which we outfitted the forever home.
The space is finite, though, something my husband and daughters, who often help me shelve and shift, regularly remind me.