Off the Shelf: Reading My Way Through 2017
By Sharon Saye on January 03, 2018
For my New Year’s resolution in 2017, I resolved to read more diversely. I read a lot, but I was really bored with what I was reading. I read historical fiction, romance and fantasy for relaxation, but I was definitely in a rut and when new books came out in series that I loved, and sat in stacks on the floor, I knew I needed to do something. I thought about taking a vacation from reading, a nice break, but there are so many new books and time is flying so that didn’t seem like a good option.
So I decided to fall back on an old habit, I would read five pages of a variety of different books every night. And I needed to pick books that I wouldn’t normally read. The rule was that I must read five pages; I could read more, but never less.
One of the first books I put on my list was Ron Chernow’s biography of “Hamilton” on which the Broadway musical is based. It is over 700 pages, and five page bites worked very well. A chance pick was “The Book of the Unnamed Midwife” by Meg Elison which was a top seller on Amazon. The reviews were right; I polished it off in three days. For nonfiction, I chose “The Literature Book” which covers the gamut of great works of literature; it seemed like a good book to help pick other good books to read. To go to the other side was “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story,” an inside look at how the entertainment behemoth got its start.
Remember I was trying to read diversely so I added a popular children’s book by Rick Riordan, “The Trials of Apollo,” and a young adult fantasy series by Sarah Maas. I also started a hefty, 900-plus pages historical novel, “Russka,” by Ernest Rutherford who likes to take a geographic spot and tell its story over time. I admire Mr. Rutherford’s grasp of history and literary invention, but geographic novels are now on my no list. Plus at 5 pages a night it took until spring to finish it.
Since science is not my forte, I resolved to read books in that field, and I decided that I had to include mysteries as well. Mysteries have turned out to be much more interesting than expected, but the science books have been hit or miss. Politics and history have been great from “Day of Infamy” about Pearl Harbor to “Path through the Sea” about the Panama Canal. Books about the arts haves been a mixed bag, the biographical novel about Georgia O’Keefe was compellling, but “Apollo’s Angels” about the history of ballet was slow going.
One of the smartest things I did (purely by accident) was to keep a notebook. I could mark my progress through the books; I kept a list of books I finished by date. Sometimes it would be weeks, but then suddenly I would be finishing book after book. At one point I was reading 15 separate books which turned out to be too many at one time so I whittled it down to around 10. That seems to work about the best; I’m a fast reader so that takes me about an hour. I polish off a few 5 pages in the morning and read the rest with the television on.
I’ve made an effort to read classics such as “Brideshead Revisited,” and also to reread old favorites such as “Watership Down.” I finally read “The Wind in the Willows” and “The Room with a View.” Around June when I finished my first 100 books, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to pick long, heavy books. Also, the stuff I like to read is just as worthy as the stuff I think I should read so I’ve sprinkled in romances, and fantasy novels.
So here it is the end of the year. I just polished off book number 246. A number that astonishes even me. As the New Year beckons, I’ve decided to read on. Last year was way too much fun. This time I purchased three similar notebooks: one to keep track of my progress, one to list my “To Be Read” possibilities, and a third to keep track of my book purchases and lists of books in series to tell me where I am. My main question is do I want to keep reading Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series since there are over eight books at over 700 pages each? At five pages a night it will take years.
And this year I’m finally going to read “Middlemarch” a classic that I worked hard to avoid after “Silas Marner” put me off Victorian authors for decades. So wish me luck and I appreciate recommendations. Remember I have an entire notebook for suggestions.