My 2017 read-less-athon, getting ready

I shouldn’t have planned a start date to my plan to read less. I should have just started. I don’t really believe in ‘new year, new start’. Plans, once made, should be followed through as soon as possible otherwise they’re almost always doomed to fail. All those resolutions – how many of them make it to the end of January? Well this is not a resolution, but it is a change I’d like to see succeed. And I’m not making it too easy on myself.

Since I declared I would not buy any more books I’ve bought four books. Two of them were books I’d read before: Masks and The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi, both of which I’d like to re-read sometime. One was Half Mile Down by William Beebe, an old copy (it’s pretty hard to get hold of) which I’ve wanted to read since reading my top favourite book The Last Samurai (Helen DeWitt). The last one was a bit of an impulse buy – Essays in Idleness and Hojiki; I needed to bump up an Amazon order (sorry world) to get free shipping and it seemed like a good way to do it. Since then I haven’t bought any books, though I have been tempted by many, but one thought has been helpful in holding me back and it’s this…

I can only read 40 new books in the next year.

40 books. That’s nothing. 40 books is barely a dent in my back catalogue, I probably have 40 books sitting on the 2 shelves in the cabinet in the living room, and that is the sum total of new books I can read. Because I’m committed to re-reading at least 1 book a month, and only 52 books in the year. The re-reading excites me, I find it is easy to choose books that I’d like to re-read, in fact it would be very easy to spend the whole year, all 52 books, re-reading. It’s tempting. It’s tempting, except that the weight of all those books I haven’t read yet might bury me, and then there are the books I’m borrowing from the library which I can’t stop myself from doing (I have 2 in January already).

I’m not going to renege on my plan, I genuinely want to read more slowly. But the idea of just 40 books (which may be more than most people read in a year, I expect) has suddenly terrified me. How do I choose? Which 40 books are worth choosing over the rest of my books waiting to be read? Suddenly it’s become more important to select my books carefully, rather than simply moving wilfully from one book to another book as the spirit takes me. And this is scary, but it’s also a good thing. Limiting my choice means I have to make a choice rather than letting the choice be made for me by impulse.

I’m not sure how I’m going to do it; I’m not sure how I’m going to control myself when sometimes I can read a book in 2 days and sometimes, those weightier books, it takes 2 weeks. But the idea of being limited, of only being able to commit to a small selection, is also refreshing. For once I’m really thinking about what I want to get out of reading, it isn’t just something I mindlessly do. And perhaps that thinking will extend to other things too. I no longer intend to simply consume my way through life. I want to experience it, enjoy it, feel it is valuable. There are so many books I’d like to read, but perhaps focusing on those I really want to read is more important. And I probably own all of those already. Maybe this thought will be enough to stem the buying flow, maybe it won’t. But if it makes me more selective in what and how I buy then perhaps that is enough. Because habits are formed slowly and they have to be unpicked slowly, but perhaps, this time, the recognition that slowness is what I want to achieve might just be enough to see me through.



About bookbii

I'm an ordinary woman living an ordinary life in an ordinary place, and it is quietly wonderful
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11 Responses to My 2017 read-less-athon, getting ready

  1. I wish you luck, Belinda. I know that I’m incapable of this kind of self-control, I’m afraid, but I will be very interested in seeing how it all works out for you. I do have to say that as a regular reader of you blog, reading ‘mindlessly’ doesn’t seem to be what you do!

    • bookbii says:

      Thanks 🙂 I’m not sure I’m capable of the level of self-control required either, but I’m going to give it a try. I’ll be impressed if I last until the end of January to be honest!

  2. naomifrisby says:

    Do you have a plan if you really don’t get on with a book you’ve chosen? Can you ditch and substitute or are you going to read regardless? I’m interested to follow you doing this. I’d like to slow down too but I can’t see it happening anytime soon.

    • bookbii says:

      It’s a good question! I think I’ll allow substitution but only if I’ve given the book a fair crack of the whip. There have been a few books in the past couple of years that I felt ambivalent about to begin with but which I ended up loving (The House of Mirth, Bodies of Light) so it might be worth persevering.

  3. SimplyMe says:

    Bi, I love this statement you wrote: “I no longer intend to simply consume my way through life. I want to experience it, enjoy it, feel it is valuable.” Speaking only for myself, focussing on what is meaningful (what “I want”, as you phrased it) seems more effective than placing too much focus on what I may need to sacrifice in order to achieve it. This may or may not be helpful to you. Regardless, wishing you all the best.

  4. roughghosts says:

    I’m not an especially fast reader but I find that I have three different kinds of reading: ordinary reading, the books I chose to read because I want to and that, in most cases I write about on my blog; critical review reads which are more intense and may require re-reads or research before I write a detailed review for publication somewhere (I am being much more selective with these—I am choosing books/authors I really want to explore to this depth); and the books I am reading in conjunction with my own writing. This third category includes books that I may not read in full and typically don’t review, theory, philosophy and some long overdue gap-filling (classics I hate to admit I have not read!).

    If you are worried that you will exhaust 40 books too easily, why not slip in some rereads? Books that you want to re-visit. Anyhow, good luck and be sure to report on the experiment as it unfolds.

    • roughghosts says:

      Oops, I’m obviously not reading very carefully, I see re-reading is part of your plan. So embarrassed.

      • bookbii says:

        No embarrassment necessary! Thank you for your considered response, I like how you have distinct categories of reading. I also am not sure if I will count ‘educational’ reading as part of my 40 books; I’m planning to read more philosophy (which will take some time in and of itself) and consider this a bit separate to my day to day reading. But I’m not sure. Perhaps that’s just cheating! I guess I’m going to have to figure some things out as I go along.

  5. I never thought of resolving to read fewer books. Good idea. I read so much that I feel as though my mind gets clogged sometimes.

    • bookbii says:

      Thanks Cheryl 🙂 I know what you mean about feeling like the mind is clogged but, for me, it’s also simultaneously empty as so much of what I’ve read slips through, almost untouched. I’m hoping that will lessen by reading less (and re-reading more).

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