Saturday, December 24, 2011

Retrospective -- How Many Books Did You Read?

The end of the year is fast approaching, faster than I had anticipated, at least.  I am officially terrible at planning for the holidays.  I say to myself, "I have plenty of time" and then BAM PRESTO it's Christmas Eve and I still have shopping and wrapping to do.  The same kind of thing happens to me and all the books I wanted to read.  I am friends with a lot of compulsive readers.  These people stay up till all hours of the night, spend their free time, and even take a book with them to lunch.  I admire their resolve, their stamina, and their concentration. These people push through eighty, ninety, a hundred books (and often much more) every year.  And every year, I make a mad dash in December to try and catch up.  And yet here I am with a grand total of 30.  And I swear half of them were kids' books.

Now, I could dwell on the sad lack these numbers seem to have when compared to those of others.  Or, at this, the Eve of Christmas, I could make a list of the things I have been thankful for because of reading the books I did.  Since I'm kind of a, "Oh look!  There's liquid in that glass!  How great!" person, I think I'll do that.

1.  I read several "classics" this year, which I haven't voluntarily done in such numbers for a few years (Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Little Princess, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. . .hey, they are all classics in their own way).
2.  I read several academic books (and started several more).
3.  The academic books I read were more varied than normal (i.e. not just Indian history but a history of sexuality and a book on early West African civilizations and Chicagoan serial killers).
4.  I got to read a NEW book by a DEAD author -- Michael Crichton.  Yes, I got ridiculously excited about it.
5.  I discovered biography.
6.  I actually read some novels.

The question then remains: what next?  As our Buddhist friends quietly remind us, the journey is what really matters, not the destination.  The point of this isn't the number of books I read, it's the experiences enjoyed and the increased richness of my life because I read at all.  Not every book is a winner, and I got through the books I enjoyed the most.  I picked up new books willy-nilly because that's how I like to read -- tripping from one topic to another.  I cannot stop thinking, and I never want to stop learning.  This next week (and the weeks after), I am reading a novel about a woman who pretended to be a man during the 1800s, a novel about Charles Dickens' wife, a biography about a man grappling with his son's autism, Emily Post's new edition of etiquette, a non-fiction book about firefighting, the love story of Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel, and soon enough a book about dinosaurs, because why not read about dinosaurs?

As the old year comes to a close, the infinitely more exciting new year opens, and so does my next book.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Yukon Ho!

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