Late last year, as my friend Tracey and I were scurrying to finish our end-of-the-year lists, we both were a little amazed at how few books we’d managed to cram into our brains over the course of 2006. Tracey’d done about forty; I was lagging even behind that, somewhere in the mid-thirties. It was obvious something had to change. Because we’re about to enter our mid-thirties pretty soon, and if we’re going to continue to pretend to be literary people, we might as well pick up a few books every now and again.
Thus we came up with the notion of challenging each other to read fifty books this year. Fifty: a nice, round number. One that shouldn’t seem all that impossible to achieve … and yet, even given my predilection for graphic novels and re-reads of Stephen King books, and Tracey’s passion for slim young-adult novels, it’s been years since either of us have made that magic number. What’s wrong with us?
Well, for starters: there’s the distraction of the Internet. At least Tracey’s doing legitimate reading there (and by legitimate, I mean fiction created with the idea that someone will want to read it. I’m not sure the classic sense of the term legitimate applies to anything Tracey does.) Me? I’ve turned into a Wikipedia junkie, of all things. I want vaguely maintained and sometimes poorly-written “encyclopedic” entries about subjects I barely care about, and I want them now. And this is besides the For Better or For Worse and Something Positive cartoons I find myself reveling in when I’m actually supposed to be working.
On top of the Internet – well, Tracey and I are both writers, too. She writes her stories and I write my novels and we both write long, involving journal entries. Writing takes time, people! Time spent so involved with our own words that we of course can’t be bothered to absorb those of others. We can only multitask so much!
So, it’s clear that a change is needed. The challenge is part one. I know I do better at most things when I’m trying to prove Tracey wrong. Part two is actually setting a goal for myself to write this – this what? This column? This summation? This review? – every month, detailing which books I acquired, which books I read, and how I’m feeling about all of it.
I’m hesitant to call this a book review, and I’ll tell you why: writing reviews hurts me. Like, seriously. Some of you might now the physical problems I have whenever I try to write cover letters. Imagine that, just a little less severe. When I was strictly writing Stephen King reviews, at first they were fun to write but shit-awful. When I became a better writer, the reviews got good, but the writing of them was the shit-awful part. Shortness of breath and all that. So I’m going to try my best to not make this a “review.” I don’t quite know what I’m going to make it, but a review it won’t be. This, of course, does not guarantee it won’t be shit-awful.
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Oh, and one last thing: yes, I stole the idea and the format from Nick Hornby’s Believer columns. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Tell that to my roommate, who didn’t seem amused when I started writing my own Project Runway reviews in the style of him. I’m an interpreter, not a plagiarist. Yey?