November 5, 2009 at 11:12 am | Posted in Book Blather, Challenges | 3 Comments

Another milestone already.  Last year I read 409 books.  Now it’s November 5 and I’ve already beaten my personal record.

It’s wearing me down, though.  I’ve been trying to do other challenges as well, and it’s necessarily involved reading more than double the proportion of fiction that I normally do.  You know what?  Most fiction is depressing!  Murder.  Suicide.  Adultery.  Hypocrisy.  Oppressive social constraints.  Terminal misunderstandings.  Even the funny stuff starts to weigh on you, because I think all humorists have a jaundiced view of humanity that leaks through.  I can definitely say that I will be reading less fiction next year.

The other problem is the sheer amount of work that’s gone into this stupid stunt.  I get flack from my friends for missing social gatherings that I didn’t even hear about until after the fact, because I only check my e-mail about once a week.  Whenever I’m not reading, I’m running around doing housework or errands, trying to clear the decks so I can get “caught up.”  Inevitably it’s a race to catch up, because I’ve been behind goal since the second week of January.  Even now, with eight weeks to go, it’s seriously in doubt whether I can make it.  That’s a minimum of 11 books a week, which I can only occasionally manage.

The other problem is that I’m not getting the ego gratification I thought I would for myself.  I wanted to accomplish a death-defying feat.  Last I year I found that someone else had beat my “record” by something like sixty titles, so I settled in for a second year of dedicating inhuman amounts of time to reading and neglecting other aspects of life.  Now I learn that there are supposedly people out there reading 1000 books a year.  I’m obsessed to the point of obsession with Speed Readers and documentation and proof and the limits of age, intelligence, and honesty.  It’s a theme with me that I set myself a challenge and then get beaten at my own game, usually by a close friend.  I should be grateful for the inspiration but I’m usually enraged.  I’m the one!  Can’t you understand?  It was my idea! Nobody gets to be a megalomaniac but me!  I’d take my marbles and go home, but evidently I’ve already lost them.

Blogging is starting to get to me, too.  It seems like a lose-lose proposition.  What interests random strangers the most is also the most likely to alienate any friends who might know the situation first-hand.  The posts that draw the most hits from search engines are the least likely to interest your regular readers, and vice versa.  Writing about obscure books drives readers off, while writing about popular books annoys them because they see the same book on every blog they read.  Writing at all takes away reading time.  The most interesting posts to write often also seem to draw the least comments, and it’s a constant guessing game to try to write about things that interest yourself and your audience too.  After this year, I can’t think what I would write about.

Introspection is a losing proposition in general.  Go ahead and try asking your friends what they really think of you.  Chances are pretty high you’ll get some “constructive criticism.”  Is it ever possible to receive the benefit of the doubt that one extends to others?  At least in reviewing books, people are willing to say, “I didn’t like it but I’m glad you did.”


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  1. just wanted to check to see if you got the amazon gift certificate i sent to your v1rag email address several weeks ago. if you no longer use that address i can have it resent

  2. I will always be your #1 fan when it comes to your reviews of obscure or older books — that’s what I love, it’s what I crave.

    Although my goal is so much smaller than yours, I feel as if we’re doing the same thing and experiencing many of the same frustrations.

  3. I love reading your thoughts on this blog, whether about your personal life, obscure titles, or bestsellers. I hope you continue to write after this year.

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