Saturday, January 05, 2008

One Reader's New Year's Resolutions


I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions mainly because I can't remember ever making one that I followed through with for more than a few days anyway. So why bother? But this list of one "reader's New Year's resolutions" by the American-Statesman's book editor, Jeff Salamon, made me chuckle a bit because of the universality of the man's resolutions. I think that those of us who think of ourselves as readers can easily pick out three or four of Salamon's resolutions for ourselves. I'm willing to bet they are pretty much the concerns of every dedicated reader out there to one degree or another.


1. Read faster...I'm not interested in speed-reading methods that encourage skipping every other word or sentence or paragraph; skimming is to reading as stepping in a puddle is to swimming. I want to read the way I already read, just more quickly.

2. Less genre fiction, more short lit...Like everyone I know, I'm usually worn down enough by my professional, familial and social responsibilities that what little discretionary reading time I have I often give over to something relatively undemanding; mostly, high-grade specimens of genre fiction. But then, occasionally, I'll pick up a short work of "serious" literature — recently, Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" — and gape at how different it feels to give myself over to an author who's more interested in language and character than plot.

3. Don't read in bed... Reading until I fall asleep has only succeeded in training me to fall asleep when I read.

4. Buy fewer books... I'm surely not the only bibliomaniac who spends as much time shopping for books as he does lamenting how many of the books he already owns go unread. Partly, this is because I adore books as objects; a vintage paperback designed by Paul Rand is a thing of value, whatever resides between its covers. And partly it's because my eyes are too big for my eyes, as it were; I'm eternally fooling myself into believing that tomorrow morning I'll wake up and discover a few extra hours in the day that I can devote to reading.

5. Try to remember... You'd think that, being a slow reader, I would retain most of what I read; each word has that much more time to embed itself in my consciousness. But you'd be wrong.
I love the last sentence of Salamon's article because it so perfectly describes what I meant when I named this blog "Book Chase."
The aura of a book I have yet to read, with its promise of rapture, surprise and edification, might be even more powerful than the aura of a book I have read, enjoyed and duly forgotten.
Jeff Salamon is definitely a kindred soul of ours.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for bringing this particular article to the forefront! I too was tickled by his resolutions, most specifically the one on reading before going to sleep chiefly teaching us to fall asleep when we read. So very true.

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  2. I don't make resolutions, but book-related goal for this year is to blog more about what I've been reading. I love coming here and reading yours; I'd like to do the same with mine.

    I think we should change RCR to Reader's Critiques and Reviews or something because lately I've been enjoying this a lot more.

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  3. I'm with him on (mostly) everything but #3! Reading in bed is one of life's greatest luxuries.

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  4. lol-so funny! I read in bed, but not before bedtime. Instead, I fall alseep to audiobooks. :D My favourite sentence was "And partly it's because my eyes are too big for my eyes, as it were; I'm eternally fooling myself into believing that tomorrow morning I'll wake up and discover a few extra hours in the day I can devote to reading." So true!

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  5. I can understand the one about buying fewer books. I (stupidly) made that resolution and now here I am, with eight new books by day five of the year.

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  6. I agree with you about the last sentence. So true!

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  7. Thanks for sharing this. It's great! I can definitely relate, as well.

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  8. Every time I look at my bookshelf of unread books I feel what Jeff is describing in that last sentence.

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  9. Some writers, best example Alice Munro, can convey a whole novel int a thrity page story. Like many readers, I prefer to read 150 to 200-page novels, which has not stopped me from reading the really long books such as War and Peace, Don Quixote, Middlemarch, and The Corrections. I won't read a really long book unless it has received outstanding reviews by everyone.

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  10. Jill, sadly enough, I've pretty much trained myself to fall asleep anytime that I get to comfortable while reading. I think he's onto something.

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  11. Annie, I'll look forward to reading your blogs in 2008. I always enjoy them and wish there were more.

    I agree about RCR, by the way. I think we're doing more good in the world of books than in the world of real country music...isn't that sad, though?

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  12. Carrie, it's truly a luxury but one I can take only in small doses before I become lose consciousness. :-)

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  13. Eva, listening to audio books will knock me out every time unless I'm driving or doing something else at the same time, something mindless like painting or mowing the lawn.

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  14. Stewart, I've added five already this year and only finished three. But one of those was a library copy, so I'm already losing ground to my TBR list.

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  15. Gotta love that sentence, bybee. It perfectly captures the excitement of the great unknown, but perfect, book that has to be out there somewhere. I won't quit looking for it until I find it. :-)

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  16. Thanks, Lisa, glad you enjoyed his list. I saw myself immediately in that article.

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  17. Me too, Matt...and the quest goes on...forever, I suspect.

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  18. Anonymous, I'm trying to enjoy more short fiction, but I am pretty much the opposite of you. I prefer the longer stuff but always wonder what I'm missing when it comes to the great short story writers of our day.

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