Never Surrender

Back in the spring of 2015, I announced in a blog post that I was going to attempt the reading of 100 books during that summer. No doubt some of you just rolled your eyes. A few cheered me on. And there were those who thought maybe I should allow myself a year to do it.

Smarties, aren’t you?

It took me a year and three months to fill in my list of 100 titles and authors. I feel a bit chagrined that it took so long.

Well, realistic or not, I prefer to dream big and reach high. And in my enthusiasm for the project, I have to admit that I was recalling those halcyon summers of my childhood when I had nothing to do but read–sometimes one book a day, occasionally two–and the most exercise I got was walking to the public library to check out more. Life is a little busier these days and, despite two summers, I somehow never got around to actually spending a day reading on the sofa now and then, which had been my intention.

I read several books that had long been on my get-to-these pile. Others were old favorites that I reread with pleasure. I did not write down the titles of any I began but didn’t finish. Several duds were chucked aside. And some ghastly nonfiction tome bogged me down for over a week.

But in November when I filled in the title for #100, it was with a feeling of regret that the list was finished. Now I sort of miss the discipline of recording each book, and I wish, too late, that I’d dated each one. I’m thinking about starting another list, just for grins.

People of leisure used to keep what are known as book diaries, where they would enter the title and author of each book they read, along with the date and either a brief synopsis or their opinion of the work. Isn’t that a lovely custom? I am enticed by the romanticism of it. The leather-bound journal and a mother-of-pearl Parker fountain pen lying just so on my antique slant-front desk, ready for me to sit down on gentle afternoons and record my impressions of someone’s toil and effort to bring characters and their troubles alive.

And yet, have any of us time for such an indulgence? In today’s harum-scarum world of texting, multi-tasking, racing crosstown on interstates, too many appointments and a phone chiming to remind us of them all while juggling jobs, soccer games, grocery shopping, online banking, pinterest boards, tweeting, and walking our dogs–how can we fit in a book diary? Is there an app for that?

We know, however, that we will always make time somehow to do the things we really want to do.

I suppose the question then boils down to whether I really want to devote the time an actual book diary would take, or do I just want an excuse to shop for a blank journal in pretty binding? In looking over my list of completed titles, I must admit that few of them are worthy of an essay opinion expressed via bottled ink on fine paper. And the OCD in me worries about the following:  how long a journal should I buy? What if I write several pages about a book and eat up the journal and then it’s not long enough to complete the year’s reading list? What if I need two journals? What if they don’t match? Should I buy two to start with? But wouldn’t it be neater if everything was contained in one?

(And people wonder why writers sometimes never get around to actually typing manuscripts.)

Just think, I’m contemplating a new way to procrastinate away from my keyboard. Because if I vent my writing steam on the book diary, will I have any energy or will or creative juice left to actually produce the day’s writing quota?

Whatever I decide, I have until January 1, 2017, because that is when I want to start my new reading project. Maybe I’ll face reality this time and forget the book diary. I can print out another numbered list to fill in. It’s easy and quick–as long as I don’t misplace the list–and can be done on paper or on my phone while on the run. It’s less expensive than a fancy journal, and I won’t have to hunt my elegant Parker pen, much less clean it or locate that dried-up bottle of ink.

Alas, modern-day life is so practical … so dull.

Meanwhile, I’m still reading sans list. And so my discovery of author Kate Saunders will not be noted in any official capacity. It makes me twitch, but that’s good practice for fending off OCD tendencies.

And I could always aim for a 200-book goal next time!


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6 responses to “Never Surrender

  1. I admire your optimistic fortitude.

  2. I didn’t know about book diaries of the past, but it seems obvious to me now! I record the book, the date I read it, and any quotes that inspire me. (I can remember how a book stirred my spirit, but I cannot remember any specifics. So, this method helps me store evidence of what I can only describe intuitively.) A lovely plus: quotes have served as jumping off points for story premises and essays.

    I’m glad you persevered! Congrats!

  3. Many years ago, I got my “online writing break” writing reviews — music first, followed by movies. Most of my early reviews were terrible. I did too much “recapping” and not enough “reviewing.”

    I eventually set up a website dedicated to my reviews, and unfortunately I ran into the very trap you mentioned in your post. Between all the time I spent consuming media and writing about other people’s work, I didn’t have much time or energy left to work on my own. I still write and post reviews, but nowhere near the volume I used to,

    This year I swung the pendulum too far the other direction. I kept track of all the movies, television shows and books I watched and read, but other than noting whether or not I had watched or read them before, I didn’t capture any other information. With last night’s movie (“Dial M for Murder”), I’m at 80 movies, 10 television series, and 10 books (I know, I know). Next year I’d like to do something more along the lines of what Rilla Z suggested and document not just the titles, but maybe a paragraph about each one — something to remember about each one without spending an hour writing about it.

    Anyway. I admired your book reading goal and am inspired to double my own goal for next year. May your well of unread books, and fancy pen, never dry up!

    • Thanks!
      When I was writing down the just-read titles on my list, I felt like I was making considerable progress. But now, when I glance over the titles, it’s just a list. Blah. Some of the books I remember vividly and others are fading fast. I realize that says a lot about the caliber of book I read, but I think a brief paragraph of commentary about each one would make this effort more worthwhile.
      And then there is that mountain of as-yet unread books stacked on top of the bookcases in the hallway ….

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