On January 21, 2014, I shared this picture on social media with the accompanying caption positing that I would attempt to read one hundred books during the year.
Almost as soon as my fingers pounded out the goal, I realized that reading one hundred books was out of the question; it was already practically February. So instead I said that reading fifty would be more likely. I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but that’s like one every week or something.
As of writing this, I’ve read fifty-one books and am on my way toward finishing number fifty-two.
Now, I realize that this isn’t a great accomplishment by any means. Still, I was impressed with myself for setting a goal and achieving it. While I’ve always enjoyed reading–I do work at a public library after all–there was something almost stifling about knowing that I had to finish this goal. In fact, almost as soon as I posted the picture, one of my friends commented that it’s better to keep the goals that you set to yourself because announcing the goals tricks your mind into thinking they have already been completed.
There were many times when I started reading a book and just couldn’t get into it, and wanted to stop. For instance, I started reading The King in Yellow after watching True Detective over the summer, but I didn’t finish it until early December. That’s outrageous! The book is only 256 pages. I should have been able to knock that out in a weekend. So I set it aside and read other books. All the while I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that the time I put into reading those hundred or so pages would be worthless unless I finished the book in its entirety.
So I pressed on toward my goal’s end. I knew I had to, but it wasn’t just because I’d already put it out there on the Internet. I had to do it because if I don’t finish a book, I feel like I’m disrespecting the author.
When I first take a book in my hands, open the cover and feel the paper, crisp and dry between my fingers, I’m entering into an agreement with that author and into a relationship with that book. For however many pages, I belong to that book and it belongs to me. When I put it down, even for a few days, I feel like we’ve abandoned each other. By not being interesting or not grabbing my attention, the book has recanted its agreement with me.
A recent study showed that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, such as when you read fiction, improves your ability to show compassion. Maybe that’s why I have trouble abandoning those books—because I know inside those pages, I’m someone else, maybe even someone better, if only for 300 or so pages.
Please save your psychoanalyses until the end, thankyouverymuch.
I’ve listed the fifty-one books on the next three pages, broken into three categories: Good, Godawful and Great (because I like alliteration. If I liked assonance, I’d call them All Right, Awful and Amazing). I briefly thought about ranking them, but then I realized that my rankings would do nothing to sway you if you’d already read a particular book and loved it and vice versa. All I can say is that I highly recommend all the ones that I’ve put in the Great category.