To say that I have too many books is like stating that a shark has but a handful of teeth. The number peaked in 2007 when I was working at Barnes and Noble, and has slowly been declining since. As I have the luxury of taking my read books to my parent’s house which has a dedicated library, nearly all of the books I retain are unread, with the rest made up of reference books and favorites. Combined with a purchase rate artificially maintained to be less than my consumption rate, I can keep shrinking my collection.
In my efforts to actually read the books, I am often faced with the problem of longer versus shorter. Shorter books are smaller, and so easier to travel with, and require less time to read. Traditionally I would read a series of shorter books during the school year and one long title during the summer. However I am entering a stage of life devoid of “summer break”, and so the longer books are in danger of being permanently shelved.
Normally I hate reading two books at once. I like being able to return to the same story, and I like focusing all of the limited time I spend reading towards completing one book. If I read two books, one of them is usually fiction and the other non-fiction. But I do want to read more (everyone says that, few achieve it), and many of the books that I want to take up are the longer ones. Some of them I’m avoiding reading just because they are so long, and for them I have developed a carefully-crafted force-feeding regiment.
Take Tom Jones, for example. I had the pleasure of working on the play at one point and loved it. There’s a film version as well that is really great. So naturally I wanted to read Mr. Fielding’s novel, and indeed purchased the B&N edition one day at work back in ‘07. This book, this…paperweight, goes from 1 to 801 in 2.1 inches and 1.5 pounds. Published in 1749, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling displays the shift towards Romanticism in the 18th century, and is also known as one of the first books of the form that we now call a “novel”. The work has one distinct advantage over the other books on my shelf: it is easily broken up. The book is laid out in 18 sub-books, each with a series of chapters. In total there are 208 chapters, which is roughly 3.85 pages per chapter. That’s small enough to fit alongside any other book I’m reading.
And so that’s the plan. One chapter a day, starting tomorrow, will bring me to….(Python timedelta magic)….March 23, 2011. Maybe I’ll even read more than 4 pages a day and finish early! Along with this book I’ll be rereading the wonderful A Generative Theory of Tonal Music before I restart work on a project that I had shelved for a long time. That book is too big for subway reading, so instead I’ll be carrying around Huber Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, which I had been meaning to read ever since I read Requiem for a Dream.
And so this is the life I’m going to live from now on, I think. One voluntary book of fiction, one voluntary work of non-fiction, and one semi-force-fed book that I normally would never get around to reading because I want to read the other books more. At least one of them should be portable. In addition to reading, November always brings NaNoWriMo, which I have declared my intent to participate in for nearly a decade, though never actually have. However, the likelihood that this will be the year I complete my one-month novel is rather small, as I do intend to have a real job by then. Of all my projects waiting to be worked, writing the two or three novels that I have in my head is fairly low on my priorities list. Someday I suppose, but probably not this year.