Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

February 19, 2012

State of the Reading 2011

I used to do reading roundups every year on my Livejournal on January 1st of the new year, like clockwork. I did the first at the dawn of 2004, reporting that I had read in 2003 46 books (“not counting plays, graphic novels, magazines or school books”). In 2004 I read 39 books and described the total as “disappointing”. 2005 got worse with a total of 38 books, with the caveat that “in my defense I am in school and had to read an awful lot of journals, textbooks and notes which don’t appear on this list.” 2006 was a strong 46 again, but in 2007 I only eked out 19, a flop I attributed to learning to knit instead. 2008 I read 22 (“The excuse: Was knitting a blanket 4-8h a day solidly between March and June. Also, had a baby.”)

In 2009 I started blogging and read only 18 books officially because I didn’t want to own up in public that I read Twilight that year. I didn’t even bother to make an excuse then, because I suspect by this point I’d come to realize that I am actually a very slow reader who needs a dedicated 8h a day of uninterrupted reading time if I’m to even manage a book a week.  In 2010 I moved my round-up to the blog rather than my LJ and added fancy graphics (because I am fancy). Surprisingly I managed to read 40 books and 32 graphic novels that year because, I think, I was back at work while strangers looked after my child – not sure how that works out in karma.

And all of that is a prelude to this year’s excuse. The Excuse has become as much of a yearly tradition, I now see, as the list itself. By the raw numbers 2011 looks okay:

Books read: 31

Books read before the baby was born: 23

Books read after the baby: 8

Not bad, right? We’re back to my pre-children numbers! But I have an excuse for excellence this time: I cheated. At least, what I did counts as cheating to me. I’m a bit of a subscriber to the Georgian philosophy of reading. It should hurt a little. It should be edifying. Reading “just novels” is fun, but perhaps not the very best use of one’s time. This is my way of avoiding hypocrisy.  I like video games, but I wouldn’t advocate playing them all the time. I like television, but I don’t think you should watch it all the time. I like to read, but I don’t think you should just read novels all the time. It’s fun. It’s leisure. But leisure is what you get up to when your day of hard work is over, when you have a bit of time to yourself.

I like to challenge myself when I read, and this year I most assuredly did not. I re-read all of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. I re-read the entire Game of Thrones series. I read Patrick Rothfuss and Connie Willis. I indulged because, dammit, I spent half the year pregnant while caring for a toddler, gave birth in my basement without any kind of pain killers, then parented two pre-schoolers almost entirely by myself. That was my work this year. I was full up on work, thank you very much.

So maybe my numbers should look like this:

Challenging books read: 14

Indulgent books read: 17

Lives created: 1

Lives sustained: 4

As 2012 runs me down like a herd of panicked wildebeests I can only hope I am able to keep up a pace like the latter minus, knock on wood, the life created. A handful of books to make me a better reader, and a pile to keep me jolly while I continue with my new, harder job: sustaining lives!

2 thoughts on “State of the Reading 2011”

  1. I used to keep track of the books I read and an average year for me was 70. But as kids got older, and I went back to work full time, that number has dwindled, and if I take out the books I read for work….well, I feel lucky to read more than the one I read monthly for book club. I’ve been trying to get back into the daily reading for pleasure routine, but it’s a tough slog some days. A worthy goal, though.

  2. Kerry Clare says:

    “I indulged because, dammit, I spent half the year pregnant while caring for a toddler, gave birth in my basement without any kind of pain killers, then parented two pre-schoolers almost entirely by myself.”

    You make a very good argument. I think you deserve every indulgent book you’ve encountered. Well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: