I’m not one to post my monthly reads on my blog, though I enjoy reading other bloggers who do. I just don’t finish enough books every month to warrant it. While I used to average about four books per month (a pretty decent amount, I tell myself), it’s even less now.
And so I thought: the end of the year would be a perfect time to list all of my reads from January to December. One long, annual list would be much more impressive than 12 leaner ones. But I hesitate to reveal my (still) embarrassingly short list. I am a book blogger, after all, and I had an entire year to read. Shouldn’t it be more?
At this point, I could turn the discussion into an exploration about feelings of inadequacy or guilt for not reading more. Why feel bad over a passion, a semi-professional pursuit? And is this common – do other readers experience these same emotions? Or is it just when we start comparing ourselves to others? It would be a curious digression, no doubt. And had I not received a timely email, this post might have gone that direction. But I did receive it, and so the piece will turn another way.
It was a message from one of the brick-‘n-mortar / online bookstores which I buy from, an email that was akin to Facebook’s “Year in Review” videos. You know the kind: the generic slideshows that have been personalized for you, which show which of your photos received the most “likes” that year, and which of your friends you were tagged with most often. But instead of reviewing my year’s worth of social media, it reviewed my year’s worth of books.
According to my 2018 year in review, I’ve enjoyed six years of membership with this bookstore (“here’s to many more,” it read); purchased 11 books from them; and, my favourite genre was apparently “kids books.”
It got me to thinking that there are many ways to measure a year . . . even in books.
It doesn’t just have to be limited to the amount of books read. A year in review of books can be measured any way you want. (Why did I feel a certain burden lifted, a lightness as I considered the possibilities?)
More than just a way to weasel my way out of giving my tiny total of books read this year (though it is that, too), I thought I’d explore some of the ways to “read” a year of books. In doing so, I hope it inspires you to think of different ways of measuring your own.
And so, I give you my alternative lists to 2018 Reads.
Library check-outs: 25
My mind went immediately to the library. After all, my online account gives me access to my so-called “reading history.” As I review it, I see that of the 25 books I checked out this year, three of them were children’s picture books, one was an inter-library loan (which I cannot now remember), five I returned or will return unread, one was for research, and ten of them I actually managed to read all the way through, with another which I expect to finish this week. My online history does not show how much I paid in library fines (I don’t want to think of how many second-hand books I could have bought for myself with it all), but it does reassuringly show me that my current balance is $0.00.
Books blog reviews: 9 (and 3 shout-outs)
On my library list, a modest portion were books I reviewed for my blog: Precious Cargo, How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, The Bookshop. And, three more of them I mentioned considerably in posts though I did not specifically review them: George Eliot’s Middlemarch in The Pithy Aphorisms of George Eliot, Homer’s The Iliad in On Emulating Creative Writing, and Bruce Handy’s Wild Things: The Joys of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult in The Appeal of Children’s Literature as a Grownup Person. I’ve found since I began blogging that a lot of what I’m currently reading somehow makes its way into blog posts. The other six remaining book reviews were from my own shelves.
Pages in commonplace book: 108
Now, here is where I can really shine (no guilt for not enough material here!) . It wasn’t until after I began my blog that I began a new commonplace book to record the many wonderful quotes from books I read. Now, I may not read fast, or very many book each month. But the ones I do read, I like to read thoroughly, generally speaking at least. And so, as I read, I underline and/or insert sticky notes into the passages I find particularly poignant. Sometimes, it takes a few days (or more) after I’ve finished a book to get it off my desk and back on its shelf or returned to the library . . . I have so many quotes I need to type into my commonplace book first! [end of modest boasting]
Books acquired: unknown [large] number
Listing how many books I acquired this year isn’t a boast for me. It actually feels more like a confession. To be honest, I have no idea how many new books came into my hands this year, and it would take awhile to try to tally it up. Let’s see. I’ve bought books from at least one new book store (11 books there, apparently), one second-hand bookstore (5? 10?), two library book sales (21 at one, perhaps 10 at the other?), one conference (2 there, I think), one thrift store (a couple dozen? three dozen, perhaps? it is over a 12 month period, after all). I received a few as gifts (4, off the top of my head), picked up a few for free at various locations (not sure how many), and bought several online, with several from the USA and Canada, at least two from the UK, and one from Germany (the order was completely in German and the only reason I bought it was because this very rare book had been incorrectly listed, meaning I found it, even though it didn’t come up when you did a normal search on the web. And yes, it was the book I was looking for.) How many does that make in a grand total of new acquisitions this year? Around 80? 90, maybe?
I could get a more accurate number if I were to look over all my shelves of books, but they’re currently in disarray, as I’m in the midst of moving my office and all my books are haphazardly stacked in various places. I really do need to keep better track of how many books I acquire annually. A good New Year’s resolution, perhaps? (Did I mention that I also acquired — or am in the midst of acquiring — 7 new bookshelves?)
And, since I can’t really give a list of books without some measurement of reading:
Books actively reading: 2
Were my books neatly lined on my shelves (as they were two days ago), I would and go and provide you with a grand tally of the books that are currently “dormant reads” (that is, ones that have bookmarks in them, which I previously began but which have been left long enough that I’ve removed them from my bedside table of towering books and back to the stacks). It would be a much more impressive number than my “active reads,” which I’ll loosely define as books which I’ve read something out of it in the past month. Only two? That seems uncharacteristically low. But I did, on this last day of the year, manage to finish reading another book.
Question: What are some alternative ways you measure your books?
P.S. For those who are interested, the other six books I blogged about in 2018 were: Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet: The Crosswicks Journal, Jacqueline Berrill’s Wonders of the Fields and Ponds at Night, William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker, and L.M Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon. And, I’ve realized since originally publishing this post, that there were many, many other shout-outs!