At one point in my life, when I commuted by bus and Metro, I regularly read more than 200 books a year. Even after I started driving — and then even after I started working from home — I regularly read more than 150 books a year. Working at The (late, lamented) Mystery Bookstore boosted that number, but I've always been open-minded about where my books come from: bookstores, libraries, publishers, friends, Goodwill and yes, even Amazon.
Last year, for the first time in my adult life, my reading list didn't break 100 — and that was even after I let myself count everything I'd read for work, including galleys I proofread and manuscripts I edited. I topped out at 99, with an advance reading copy of the delightful BE FRANK WITH ME by Julia Claiborne Johnson. (Read it, it'll make you happy.)
This year my pace is even worse: I finished my 73rd book of the year, Thomas Mullen's DARKTOWN, yesterday, and again that list includes proofread galleys and edited manuscripts. If I keep reading at this rate, I won't even break 90 by the end of the year.
What happened to me? I got a smartphone. Apps now fill the waiting time I used to spend reading. Waiting for a bus? I'll check in with my virtual pals on Nats Twitter. Stuck on the Metro? Let's level up on Candy Crush. Train to New York? Somebody linked to a great article in The Atlantic . . . and am I caught up on the Wittertainment podcast?
I'm frittering my reading life away, and this year in particular the election news has become a malign drug. I know who I'm voting for. I know her adversary is a candidate of unprecedented venality and ignorance. I don't need to be any better informed about that person than I already am, and it's literally giving me nightmares.
So for the month of November, I'm changing course. I'm retreating into words on the page, and the goal is to read 30 books by the end of the month. That's a lot, but it's doable if I stay off social media and allow myself a few semi-cheats:
- Three of these books can be work-related (galleys I'm proofreading or manuscripts I'm editing)
- Three of these books can be re-reads
- A book longer than 500 pages counts as two books (I'm making this exception specifically for James Michener's TEXAS, which someone sent me as part of last month's book swap)
- Three of these books can be young-adult or children's books
Onward . . .