Reading Resolutions Part 2

22 Jan


As well as my ambitious reading plans for my 2013, I’m doing a bit of ‘tidying up’. When I say ‘tidying up’, I mean ‘reading all those books I started but never finished.’ I’m not one of those people who just throw a book across a room halfway through reading it because they hate it/find it boring/have higher standards when it comes to literature and move on with their lives. I like to start and finish a book, and then say I hate it/found it sooooo boring/that is not literature!

pile-of-bookThe books that I haven’t finished hover over me in my mind and haunt me, flapping their unread pages at me in mocking disgust. The biggest of these spectres is James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’ve pretty much read it, including the naughty bits and the bits I needed for the seminar I had to go to. And for the essay I wrote about it. Pretty much the whole thing. But not quite. And I always said that the on thing I wanted to get out of an English degree was to have read Ulysses.

The other considerable source of unfinished reading is the pile of self-improvement-type books that I am always ordering at work. This includes guides and introductions to: teaching, better eating, quilting, gardening, better grammar, US politics, writing tips and being a PhD student. In fairness, many of these are kind of dip-into books and not necessarily intended to be read cover-to-cover. But that didn’t stop be from embarking on them with those very same intentions, only to get distracted halfway through and wander over to another book and start reading that. So there’s those.

Any book we read is in some ways a gesture toward some kind of self-improvement. Lots of people write ‘Read More Books’ on their list of New Year’s resolutions for this very reason. This is why people read classics; to satisfy that voice in your head that says: ‘Ah yes, I should  read that.’ And hey, I’m not arguing with that. Reading books makes you a better person. Fact. Its a problematic statement, to be sure, and it depends what you’re reading (Hey, I never said I wasn’t a book snob) but there are literally millions of amazing, informative, revelatory, life-changing books out there.

Which leads me to another looming tome: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. That book has been on my bedside table for about five years now. I’ve put it down and then picked it up again months later so repeatedly that I like to think of it as a kind of bible. Not content-wise. Just in its role as bedtime book (the bit about cell division is great for knocking yourself out with) cum dust-gathering mug plinth.

Then there’s all those work and research related books that I told myself I should read in full but mostly just read until I found the right quote, got the jist or discovered I had to read seventeen other books that same day and so put it in the pile.

Ah, the pile. Every book lover has one. Many have several. I’ve turned my piles into a game by listing them on the website Goodreads and categorising them. Great stuff. So anyway, I’ve decided that 2013 is going to be the year where I DO SOMETHING about this, tackle the problem HEAD ON and READ MORE BOOKS.

Wish me luck!

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