Saturday, March 30, 2013

You are what you read...

From my last move
Every time I move, I count of the number of boxes I use for books. In my last two moves, I ended up with 12 boxes of books. This may not seem like a lot to some people but for me, it's huge. I'm one person and have amassed 12 boxes of books. It seems insane. This is even after I do a book purge as one of the phases of packing. I don't even have the appropriate space in my apartment to house all my books. Books are stacked on my coffee table (there are 15 books there now: ten that I haven't read yet, one that I just purchased yesterday and sort of started, one that's in progress but no where near finished, and three Paris related books). My two bookcases are seriously stuffed, books stacked in all different ways. I guess they're cozy.

Back in December, I read this review in The Washington Post about books about books. I was shocked by the first sentence - the average American reads four books in a year. FOUR BOOKS!? What is wrong with America? (Don't answer that.) I've been trying to wrap my head around this statistic since I read the article and have shared this with numerous people (also avid readers) and I still don't get it. Now I know we're all busy people and have various levels of access to books (in real book form or electronically) so maybe reading four books in a year is totally normal and I need to just stop thinking about it. But I can't. Much like I don't understand when people tell me they don't like music, I don't understand people who don't read. And I said "don't" not "can't" - literacy is a completely different issue. This is a topic for another day.

Reading is fundamental friends - it  makes us better writers, communicators, and humans. Even the fluffiest piece of chick lit has the ability to take you out of the normal of your daily life and make you believe in love and meet-cutes. Reading is magic.

My mom once commented on the old FB that my brother and I both carried books around like stuffed animals when we were younger. This is an image I can get behind although I seem to remember having some stuffed animals I carried everywhere too. I loved summer reading more than summer itself - I would read through my list way too fast and then the librarian would have to find other books for me to read. Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Ann M. Martin were early favorites. Having an older brother meant that not only did I get to learn about The Cure and Metallica before most of my friends, I also got to read Stephen King before it was probably appropriate.

My ideal bookshelf
One of the books mentioned in The Washington Post review is a book called My Ideal Bookshelf. I picked this book up before I read the review and it's a lovely tribute to the books people love. In  2007, artist Jane Mount began a project chronicling people through the books they love. She paints the books arranged as a bookshelf. Jane joined forces with Thessaly La Force to create a book that combines the illustrations with interviews conducted by La Force. Among my favorites chronicled are Dave Eggers, Drew Gilpin Faust, Kim Gordon, Pico Iyer, Chuck Klosterman, Patti Smith, Mira Nair, and Thomas Keller. Each shares their "ideal bookshelf" and talks about the books and the influence they've had. I like that I've read lots of the included books. I also ended up with a two page list of books I "need" to read. I even tweeted a picture of my ideal bookshelf to the authors (as they encourage you to do so at the end). They retweeted and commented that they weren't aware of one my books and were going to check it out. Success! If you're thinking ahead to my birthday and are wondering what to get me, I would suggest this.

One of the other things that came out of this review is my new obsession with tracking the number of books I read. In January alone I read more books than the average American reads in a year. I also have an "in progress" list (since sometimes I stop books in the middle but come back to them) and a "need to read" list that is a bit staggering in volume.

The count so far:
  • January - 6
  • February - 4
  • March - 4 (with two days left in the month - I'm in the middle of Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad and could potentially have it done later today) 
Not only am I tracking my books, I'm also tracking actual versus Kindle books (4 out of 14). Getting a Kindle was either the worst thing I've ever done (it was a lovely gift from my parents) or an excellent life choice. I haven't been able to decide which. I like the ease of traveling with a Kindle but I miss the smell of a book and the heft of reading an actual book. Also, cover art is awesome. I feel about book art the way I feel about album art.

I guess this all just means that one day I'll be an old lady surrounded by books and albums and CDs. And probably cats - lots of cats.

1 comment:

  1. You have inspired me to start tracking my own reading. I am also ashamed of American reading habits (seriously, I read 4 books last month alone, I just finished 3rd one for this week). READ MORE PEOPLE.
    Sadly I have no real memory skills to figure out what I've read since the beginning of the year, but I'm going to start tracking moving forward!