At the beginning of the year I set a reading goal on GoodReads: Read 80 books in 2013. It was somewhat arbitrary, but reasonable. In 2012 I read 63 books, which was a 5 year low. I didn’t think I could crack 100 though, so I set my goal in the middle. Tonight I finished Rob Delaney’s new book, which was my 80th book of the year. I hit my goal and I read a lot of great stuff this year. I managed to keep up with a lot of books that were released this year and actually post some reviews in a timely matter. I enjoyed almost everything I read. But I noticed that the list was missing a lot of kinds of books that have been lingering around my apartment for years, quietly judging me for choosing new shiny books I just brought home, instead of them.* Books that if you asked me, “What books have you not yet read but really need to?” would be at the top of the list. (I did read a few, most notably: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Sun Also Rises, The Maltese Falcon, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.) So I’ve decided to challenge myself to choose five books from my bucket list and read them before the end of the year.
Five books in 8 weeks doesn’t seem like a lot, but during the holidays I am always running around NYC soaking up every ounce of music, cheer, lights, and hot cocoa, and I also tend to read classics very slowly – to pull everything I can out of them. I’m allowed to read other books in this timeframe too, as long as I finish the big five. I’m usually a very serendipitous reader – I don’t do many reading challenges because I like to keep each of my book selections free and whimsical – not choosing the next book until I finish the one before it. (I don’t like restrictions of choice or freedom on anything in my life, come to think of it.) But we’ll see how I do anyway!
Here are the five I chose, and why:
1. Moby Dick. This has been on my to read list all year. I’ve reluctantly come to terms with the fact that reading this book is in my future – it’s the most recent book added to the “Classics I will actually read someday list.” For a long time it was in the “Classics I just will never get to, sorry.” list. Books do jump back and forth between the lists sometimes, but this was a momentous migration. (Insert pun about whales.)
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four. There is no excuse for me to have not read this.
3. The Scarlet Letter. The last of the Concord Literary Giants that I haven’t read. As obsessed as I am with Concord during the Alcott/Emerson/Thoreau/Hawthorne days, I need to read this.
4. Catch-22. Joseph Heller is the favorite author of my favorite author (Kurt Vonnegut) which makes him my favorite author once removed. This is how my twisted, nerdy brain works. Another standard that I cannot believe I’ve never read.
5. To the Lighthouse. The only Virginia Woolf I’ve read it Mrs. Dalloway, which I liked, but didn’t love. I’m going to give her another shot. I’m also going to listen to the audiobook version of this one, thanks to a enthusiastic review of it from my mom, who is never wrong about good audiobook narrators.
So here we go! I’m starting with Moby Dick because I might as well start off aggressively with the biggest of the five and get it out of the way. I’ll post updates on my progress.
And in case you’re wondering about the B-roll, here are a few worthy candidates that didn’t make the cut:
Anna Karenina: High on my TBR list, but I already have a whopper on the list, so I decided to stick to just one extremely long book. Maybe next year, Anna.
In Cold Blood: I’d like to sleep at night, thankyouverymuch.
A Farewell to Arms: Still a gaping hole in my reading history, but I already read two other Hemingways this year (The Sun Also Rises, and re-read A Moveable Feast), so this was vetoed.
Love in the Time of Cholera: This has been sitting on my shelf for years and years. For some unknown reason I am never in the mood to read it. And I’m still not.
*I should also note that the 80 books I read included FOURTEEN re-reads. I love to re-read my favorite books and think that revisiting the books you love is one of the greatest pleasures of reading, so I don’t feel bad about it. But still. Seems to help justify shifting focuses for just a bit onto books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time.