Ever since I switched jobs, I’ve had more personal time, and one of the things I’ve really enjoyed filling that time with is more reading. At any given point, I like to have an answer to the question “What are you reading now?”, and for a large chunk of time, my life was just too packed to be able to do that. The past year has slowly turned that situation back around, and I couldn’t be happier.
One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is be part of a book club, and last year, I took my first steps towards actually signing up for one. It was run by a woman who claimed she’d skipped on her reading in school and wanted to go through all the classics. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of classic literature, but when I took a look at her booklist for the year, I saw quite a few books that had always been on my own list (but that I was always putting off because I had more “interesting” things to read), and realised that there was no way I was ever going to get around to them without some external motivation.
So, I joined the book club and started on the difficult task of reading a book a month. Back then, I wasn’t working, so I had a lot of time, but even then, a book a month was a lofty challenge. I’ve mentioned before how I absolutely cannot skim through books, so reading often takes me longer than absolutely necessary. To top it off, I was having to read classic literature, which is definitely not the kind of writing I’m either familiar or comfortable with.
Mostly, I managed, but I remember the month I had to read Dostoevsky, and the book was so fat I needed to use both hands to hold it while reading. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the book in time, but went for the book club meeting anyway, which was a good decision, because it convinced me that the book was worth reading (eventually). That’s what I liked most about the meetings – not the fact that we were reading books I really enjoyed, but that even the most uninteresting books garnered some really interesting discussion that gave me a fascinating insight into how other people consumed fiction.
My reading goal for 2014 was 20 books, and by May, I had already done 13. I slowed down considerably in the second half of the year, so I only managed 18 by year-end. This year, since I’m working full-time, I set the goal lower at 10 books, and am on track so far. I owe a lot of that to my new Kindle, which has helped me read on the way to and back from work, something I couldn’t do before if the books were large and unwieldy. I carry the Kindle everywhere, and the fact that it’s something I can only use for reading (unlike an iPad) keeps me really focused.
I hear a lot of talk these days about technology butting into the old school world of books, and about the loss of the tactile side of reading. I agree in part, because there is something wonderful about the feel of paper and the smell of ink, and because seeing a crisp, new book with a beautiful cover in a bookstore still makes me want to buy it immediately. A friend once sent me the first four books in the Game of Thrones series by post, and opening the package and seeing and flipping through all those new books was a wonderful feeling, indeed.
Still, my fear of hoarding runs deeper than my love for shiny, new books, which is why I’m thankful for the concept of e-books. I love that libraries are getting in on e-lending, because it means the world is adjusting. Paper books are great, but they mean a lot of paper, a lot of space and a lot more work. That’s why this article about a man photographing people reading on the subway hit me on two levels – I loved the compilation, because I love finding out what others are reading and the sheer variety in there was fascinating, but the underlying idea that paper books were becoming “endangered” was a little off-putting. Yes, the advent of technology means leaving a few things in the past, but that’s all part of moving forward with time. If it means more people are reading and/or being able to read more, isn’t that worth the compromise?
I love my Kindle, but I’m sure that’s not going to stop me from picking up a paper book from the library every once in a while. Meanwhile, if my Kindle allows me to read an 800-page novel faster because I don’t have to worry about lugging the bulk around everywhere, I’m not gonna complain.