Thursday, January 7, 2016

Reading more in 2016

By Steve Weddle

Happy New Year and all that crap. We're getting back into the full swing of things here at DoSomeDamage. so you'll see postings pick back up the next couple weeks. Your prayers have been answered.

Did you make any resolutions for the new year? Good. I did, but they're none of your damn business,

Anyway, as readers and writers, what are the things we're supposed to make for resolutions?

I logged in to Goodreads the other day since LinkedIn was down and I needed something else to do on the internet. They have this Reading Challenge for 2016 over there. It looks like this:

Damn right I want to read books in 2016. And magazines. Newspapers. Blog posts. All sorts of things. Of course I do. So I go to check the box there, and it turns out they want me to put a number in that slot. What the heck am I supposed to do? How many books am I supposed to read? More than I read last year? Should I read fewer books but more pages? 

Goodreads would probably like for me to read many, many books. They'd like for me to update my status as I read, review books I read, join discussion groups to talk about books I read.  

Helpfully, they've let me know what others are doing:

People are PLEDGING to read books? (What's that on your chest, mister? A pledge pin, sir.) OK. Do I get a coffee mug if I pledge to read 50 books? A tote bag for 100? An Arlo Guthrie/Judy Collins DVD for 200? The box says 37 million books have been pledged. I guess they'd like me to join in. Of course, Goodreads (owned by Amazon) would also like for me to click the Audible (owned by Amazon) ad below to get a book to listen to or click over to Amazon itself to buy some books to read. Sure, Amazon wants me to pledge to read 48 books. Heck, if I sold lemonade on the corner, I'd want you to pledge to buy 100 cups or more. That makes great sense from a financial perspective. And I'd certainly agree that we should read more. I just disagree that increasing the number of books -- or even bothering with counting -- is the best way to measure whether you're reading more.

Read in more genres this year. Do you read mysteries and thrillers? Have you slid in a biography of a pirate? A space opera? A book of essays? I'm kinda in love with Rebecca Solnit essays at the moment. She wrote a book called Men Explain Things to Me, which has been fairly popular. The one I'm reading is called The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciouness, and has a brilliant piece on the Katrina response, as well as a clever, sly essay on California punk rock and how the 1970s maybe didn't exist at all. How about letters? Do you read collections of letters? The Nabokov letters recently made a big splash, judging from the reviews I read everywhere. Westerns? When's the last time you read a real Western? True Crime? A book on foods from Siberia? Just think of what we could learn if we spread our vision to other sections of the bookstore. Heck, maybe you're way ahead of me on that. 

Read more "different" voices. As a white dude, I still read many white dudes. I don't say to myself, "Hey, sexy, You've read a white dude this weekend. Your next read should be by a Martian." I have been hugely successful in picking out books from folks around the world. I mean, just type "Nigerian novel" into the Google searches and you can't go wrong with the first couple pages of searches. Here's a list I've found super helpful, too. 100 Must Read Nigerian Novels Of course, you can go with Iceland. New Zealand. Ukraine. The world awaits you.

Read short stories. I will run across a short story in Zoetrope or the New Yorker or at a thousand other places and end up buying a collection from that author. That's how I ran across Rebecca Lee's amazing collection, Bobcat. I don't always read every story in the book I end up with. (Sorry, Nathan Englander.) But I read as much as I want, whether just a few stories or all of them. I find that reading stories instead of novels sometimes makes it feel as if I get to hear more voices. 

Read everyone from one author. This seems like a cool thing I'll never do, Pick a new-to-you author and read everything. Laura Lippman. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Ben Okri. Sjon. Zane Grey. Heck, just pick someone. Chances are, you're missed some stories or books from even your most favorite writers. It's possible I've missed a story from Jay Stringer, though I kinda doubt it.

So, yeah, you can read more in other ways, too. You've probably already thought of some. Reading more is great. Posting reviews is great. Puppies are great. But maybe you don't want to just put a number in that empty slot. Maybe a number isn't what you need to challenge yourself this year as a reader. Maybe reading 500 books isn't the answer. Maybe, like me, you just want to read more.


Neliza said...

I use Goodreads to keep track of what I've read because it's easier than remembering to do it on my blog and I have a terrible memory. In years past, I've read a lot of "books" per their number, but last year I lowered my expectations so I could feel free to savor some poetry (the books are smaller but it sometimes takes me longer to get through one), read some magazines and parts of books (like just the chapters in a research book that I actually was interested in). This trend will likely continue.
I also need to stop misplacing books at the grocery store and other places.

Steve Weddle said...

I thought about having a notebook to keep track of what I've read. You know, just a line for the title/author and the date. But I tend to start more books than I finish. I might get 100 pages into a book and stop for a number of reasons. Maybe I don't care for the book. Maybe I've gotten what I need from the book. I guess I could have a box for FINISHED. I dunno. Seems like I'd just be setting myself up to feel like I'd failed at something.

Scott D. Parker said...

Darn you! You just stole my Saturday column. It's okay. I'll just say it also.

Steve Weddle said...

Looking forward to what you come up with, Scott