I read 44 books last year. This isn’t so impressive considering that the books I read these days skew short. Often really really short. Slender with wide margins and spacious leading (but only one included pictures). Frankly, I’m more likely to begin a book that I know I stand a reasonable chance of finishing. My 44 books were probably the page-equivalent of two Franzen novels, three Barbara Kingsolvers, and an uplifting, inspiring, and motivational memoir optioned by Julia Roberts (so you can go see the movie if you can’t stomach reading through to the end). In fact, the novels I read nowadays used to be called novellas, because calling it a novel is the only way to convince someone to pay $17.95 plus tax for what is really a short story; the high price is worth it to be able to declare at a New Year’s Eve party, “I read 44 books this year. You?”
The biggest book I read by far was Outlander (656 pages), which also had the most sex of any book I’ve read in years, which was probably the only reason I finished it. Come to think of it, it’s the only reason I started it. My witty friend Ann fondled the cover in a bookstore, and she murmured that it was chock full of great sex, so of course I borrowed it from the library right away. It’s even more unlikely that I would finish a big library book. Usually they’re overdue before I start. Ann (now having an MBA and thus able to Solve for X-rated quite handily, though usually with the help of an X-cel spreadsheet) was spot-on about the carnal aspects of this weighty tome. Not just a glossing over of sex, but bursting at the tartan seams with sex, all involving a very big man in (or out of, as the case may be) an often hastily-doffed kilt. You can read this book in front of your children and tell them that it’s historical fiction in which you’re learning a great deal about 18th century Scotland. Open it up to show them a word like sgian dubh and rest assured you can leave it anywhere in the house without fear of them cracking it to discover what’s really under a kilt.
Bone to pick: The only Munro in a book rife with Scottish clans was a stinky, lame, wandering beggar dressed in blechy rags. Certainly no one the heroine wanted to see sans kilt. Come on, now, we Munros have a castle and a tartan, too!
I’ve repeatedly urged the Man I Married to purchase a Utilikilt, to which he replies, “Hell, no, I’d get my ass beat.” Has it occurred to him that I might be the one doing the spanking?
Besides not having the time to read big books, I also lack the biceps. The thought of propping up anything other than a brimming martini glass is about as enticing as the scary part of doing laundry, when I must blindly stick my hands into the Little Monster’s pants pockets to find what mysterious horror lurks there (and which he will later deny he had anything to do with).
I rarely, if ever, sat in a chair during daylight hours to read a book. Reading a book in front of the Little Monster is the silent, motionless equivalent of that guy with light-wands on the tarmac beckoning a Boeing jet of annoying behaviors to come hither now and pester me loudly and persistently. LM cannot stand it when I read. He would probably notice it less if I suddenly smoked a cigar while executing a Double Lutz. If I ever want him to stop doing anything, all I have to do is crack a book. Although he cannot hear me yell to him that it’s time to take out the recycling, he has bionic hearing for the sound of a page turning.
So I read 44 books in bed at night. That I’ve read so much in bed does not mean that I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, gripped by Shirley Jackson until midnight. It means that I go to bed at 7:45 and read until 8:59 if I really force myself. What usually stops me is not my eyelids drooping but my hands getting cold. See, nerds risk frostbite, too! Who needs to tackle Mt. Everest when one faces hypothermia resulting from lack of circulation atop one’s own mattress (while reading about people dying on Mt. Everest)?
Of those 44 books, 24 were library books, 16 books were purchased, and 4 were Kindle books (2 free, 2 purchased). I tried to reduce my book spending in 2010, which means that I ended up spending twice as much as I did in 2009, when I set no limits on myself. This is called the Diet Principle. Tell yourself that you will lose five pounds and you gain ten because the mere thought of deprivation drives you to Trader Joe’s to stock up on dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Tell yourself to buy fewer books and suddenly you must, absolutely must, acquire the collected works of Daphne du Maurier.
Of the 45 books I bought, I read 15. Here’s the exciting thing: 5 of the books I bought are by authors who are friends. How inspiring is that? Their book covers grace this blog, and congratulations to them.
The librarian cannot tell me how many books I borrowed in 2010, because of protection of privacy, but she could tell me that I had borrowed 2,922 items since they introduced their new computer system in 2003. This equals to my borrowing exactly 365 books per year for the last eight years, which confirms my long-espoused theory that my primary form of exercise is carrying library books (that I never read) up and down the hill. Although some of the 2,922 items might have been CDs or DVDs, trust me, most of them were books, of which I read a mere 6.5%. Clearly, I have higher aspirations than follow-through. I end up donating the books I buy but don’t read to the library, so it’s a handy closed system.
Only one of the 44 was a writing book (Ron Carlson Writes a Short Story, highly recommended). Only one was a parenting book (The Three Martini Playdate, but you probably guessed that, also highly recommended, particularly for its insistence that parents should have hobbies, a theme that is close to my heart and that I will explore in a future blog post, if I can ever take enough time away from my hobbies to write it). In my defense, I did watch a parenting two-DVD set and skim the accompanying book (Magic 1-2-3, recommended by our Harborview specialist, well worth it to learn the two biggest mistakes that parents make–can you guess what they are?).
Conclusions and Goals:
Finish my own damn book with the belief that it will be published, because my hard-working, persistent writing friends have proven that it can be done.
Read the sequel to Outlander.
Put no limits on my book spending, which means I’ll spend half as much.
Borrow twice as much from the library to lose ten pounds.
Write shorter blog posts so I have more time to pester MIM about that kilt.
(Yes, the savvy amongst you will note this makes more than five book covers by friends, but I must include Mary Guterson despite her book being a 2009 purchase. Books by Wendy Call, Donna Miscolta, and Sharon Cumberland coming in 2011. I should also mention recent books out by Lorraine Healy, Lana Hechtman Ayers, and Midge Raymond. Gee whiz, I’m lucky to be surrounded by such a motivating force of talent and willpower.)