Sunday column preview

Echoing a couple of blog posts from earlier this week, Sunday’s column is about reading for pleasure. (I hope it will be a pleasure to read.)

Reading is one of my hobbies, but I’ve never been very fast about it. I spend too much time lingering over sentences, my mind is easily distracted and besides, it’s hard to find time to focus on a book.

Have you heard of the book “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”? Here’s the list. Well, in 2007, this inveterate list-keeper read 10 books. At that rate, it would take me 100 years to read all the books I’m supposedly obligated to read. (Last year I read 24 books, a pace that puts me on track to finish in 42 years if I start this weekend.)

Of course, nobody in his or her right mind would really use that list as a parameter, unless you have a yen to read “Aithiopika” by Heliodorus and “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole. Even the titles are boring. Heck, even the authors’ names are boring.

For anyone reading this after reading that column, the link to the Sarah Weinman I-read-462-books-last-year interview that I mention is here. It’s also a few blog posts down in the “Speaking of reading…” entry, preceded by a piece about “Billy Budd.”

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  • K

    Yeah, it’s funny — I start reading when I get up in the morning, and, barring breaks for showering, eating and commuting, I’m reading all day [*], right up until I turn off the lights at night. But it’s all ephemera — newspapers, e-mail, blogs (well, barring your deathless prose here), magazine and web articles, etc. I don’t know if I even read 10 books last year!

    It’s a bummer, ’cause it seems like there’s something more complete and more nourishing about reading a book than all of the little stuff I pick up during the course of the day. I’ve started to make an effort to read more books, and spend less time online, but it’s not really going so well.

    I don’t know about your list of 1,001 books, though. It warms the cockles of my heart to see so much Hemingway on there, but I wonder if it’s really merited. I can’t believe that they suggest reading Neal Stephenson’s Crytonomicon, but not Snow Crash or Diamond Age. Weird. Or that there is so little pre-1700s stuff, or even the Bible or the Koran or any other religious tomes — whether or not you believe, those books have certainly had enormous influence. I guess we’d all have our own lists!

    [*] Okay, I’m writing code and debugging problems and writing e-mail all day, but that requires a fair amount of reading.

    [That "1001 Books" list has lots of holes, as commenters on Amazon point out: No Willa Cather? No "Canterbury Tales" or "Paradise Lost"? Etc., etc. And thank goodness it's deeply flawed, otherwise we might have to feel guilty about ignoring it. Yes, trying to balance reading for information and reading for pleasure is tricky. As for squeezing books into your schedule, remind me sometime to explain my Two Page a Day Plan. Although it's kind of self-explanatory, I guess... -- DA]

  • doug

    “Heck, even the authors’ names are boring.” It’s lines that like that that keep me coming back here. Very funny stuff.

    [Nice of you to say, Doug. -- DA]

  • John Clifford

    I’m actually jealous of YOUR reading speed. Even though I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to do the “look at the line without looking at the words” thing that Evelyn Wood preached. I read every word, pronouncing it in my head (I’m currently reading a novel by an Indian writer and the pronunciation can be a challenge). I like to think that I’m giving the writer the respect of paying attention to those words. I’ve known enough writers who sweat over each of them that I’d feel like I was cheating if I didn’t at least look at the words. Even newspaper writers worry about individual words, why shouldn’t I?

    [We certainly do. And I read every word too. Some of them multiple times. -- DA]

  • Don Stockwell

    If you like Louis L’amour, you can read at least three a week.

    Other great books I like are Clive Cussler’s, Stuart Woods, and the best is by far Fannie Flagg !!!

    I have most all of these authors’ books, and you’re welcome to borrow them any time !!!!

    The Louis L’amour Sackett Series will have you in the saddle and eating dust as you read !!!!!

    Love your articles, I think Diana Sholley is the Daily Bulletin’s version of Fannie Flagg !!

    [I thank you and I'm sure Diana thanks you. But as for borrowing books, while I appreciate your generosity, I'm afraid I have enough unread books to last several years. -- DA]