Wednesday, January 16, 2013

83 Is the Answer, but Who’s Counting?

I received an e-mail earlier this month from GoodReads, a social network for book enthusiasts. (I became a member merely to access an interview with a favorite author.) How many books do I aim to read in 2013? GoodReads wanted to know. Don’t I want to read more? GoodReads would help me do that with a kind of Weight-Watchers community approach.

First of all, as my mother would attest, no one needs to encourage me to read more. (As a child, I was encouraged to play more.) Second, if you’re a member of GoodReads, aren’t you already an avid reader? This goal-setting activity seems a sham to me—seems participants are really just showing off the number of books they’ve read. Third, and most important, quantity shouldn’t matter to people who read with ease (reminds me of Adler’s observation about reading). As long as your nose is stuck in some kind of printed/digital matter, why be concerned about the tally?

In reviewing my blog list, I counted 83 books read last year plus magazine articles, short works, and blogs. The number means nothing. Some books were slim and full of poetry; a few were written for a young audience, while others were of a how-to nature. Most were animal- or nature-related.

Why do I keep the list?
1. It helps me choose the next read and prevents me from rereading books.
2. It’s a kind of diary for me. I can gauge from the list my emotional temperature and mindset over the course of the year. And you can, too, if you’ve read any of these books.
3. If I want to direct someone to specific animal-welfare information, the list helps jog my memory as to which book to recommend.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
—Oscar Wilde

It’s not a contest. I’m not trying to read more books than some other schmo. I can’t/won’t compete: The field is FULL of folks who read at least a book a day. I need more time to ponder what I read. Sometimes one book prompts me to read another book at the same time because they complement one another or they reference one another. I once read an article profiling different kinds of readers based on…well, I can’t remember now. All I recall is being hopping mad that I fell into the “Promiscuous” category simply because I read several books at the same time. Promiscuous readers apparently are unable or unwilling to commit.

At any rate, I will continue my list-keeping—without the aid of GoodReads—of books I’ve read and books I want to read and think about next. (I maintain this second, much longer list in a journal.)

Call me promiscuous if you want, but I’m opening my mind, learning new things, considering and developing new ideas, shaping and solidifying my beliefs, and seeing the world differently. That’s what books do for me—what I wish they could do for everyone.

[Art by Albert Joseph Moore.]

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