Who remembers those first back-to-school homework assignments, asking about summer vacation? One of those terrible things about being in a household composed entirely of working adults is looking back over a summer and realizing that you didn’t really have a break, especially not a gloriously excessive one like you idealize from your childhood.
It wasn’t all business-as-usual at the Library, though. Just a few days ago we finished our summer reading program. And while the children’s department was focusing on superheroes, here in “adult” land we talked about goals. It was a time to deliberately break out of our usual reading patterns (or genres). We all wanted to try something new, even if that something was as simple as setting aside a few minutes a day to be able to read.
That last one is not my particular problem. I read almost compulsively. I read while I eat and while I cook. For years, my exercise regimen has been based around what I can do while reading. I buy purses based on their ability to hold books. I have read during class, work and religious services. I have read throughout parties, sporting events and dental procedures. Books are my security blankets.
Between the shelves at home and the shelves at work, I am constantly surrounded by books I could be reading. Because I have ready access to recommendations, my “to read” list numbers in the thousands. I read more than forty books this summer, including books for this blog, continuations of four different series, half a dozen graphic novels and one personal development project, besides a pile that just seemed interesting.
Despite all this, I didn’t actually meet my declared “summer reading goal.” The challenge I had set for myself was to only read books I had never read before. I made an exception for reference books, including cookbooks, because I rarely devour those in a single pass. But even with the mountains of new things calling my name, I re-read books one and two of a trilogy to prepare for book three, and half-accidentally repeated a John Grisham (by chapter three I was sure it was familiar, but I had already been sucked in too well to put it down).
I did meet some of my less explicit reading goals this summer. More than half of my books had female authors, and the list represented diversity of age, race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Most were from my “to read” list, rather than the metaphorical flings that caught my eye across a crowded shelving truck. Many were interesting, a few even useful.
Given all that, does meeting the goal even matter? I mean, if I had declared from the beginning that I didn’t care if I met my goal, I wouldn’t have tried. And I did push myself to avoid some of my “comfort” books because I had set this goal, and discovered a few new lovely things. Perhaps, then, the deeper purpose of the goal—pushing me to actually work through new things, even when it took more effort—was met. That’s something to consider when I set my next goal.
P.S. If you are in need of suggestions, here are a few of my favorites from this summer:
The World Forgot (book three in a ridiculous sci-fi trilogy about teen pregnancy, space travel and alien prejudice)
Superman: Secret Identity (a stand-alone comic book about a man named Clark Kent in a world that already has a Superman)
Men Explain Things to Me (essays about experiencing a gendered world that sometimes doesn’t work)
March: Book Two (part two of a three-volume graphic memoir by Congressman John Lewis about his experiences in the Civil Rights movement)
Roller Girl (a graphic novel aimed at middle schoolers about growing up, changing friendships and roller derby)
Breasts: A natural and unnatural history (this one is kinda self-explanatory)