In 2015 I am keeping a reading log. Last year I kept track of books I read at a couple of web sites: Goodreads and Harper Collins’ 50 Book Pledge site. But looking back, and these were issues I had uncovered during the year anyway, I determined I needed more.
I review books for myself. I read literature not only to enjoy but to learn how to write better. I make notes when I read: new-to-me words, interesting lines, interesting technique, criticisms and questions, and even the occasional error. Last year I discovered errors in four books, including Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”, the epub version.
I am also in a couple of book clubs. Notes do not raise their ugly heads during the library discussion. We have a dozen or so members, most of whom cannot hear well anyway, and if they can hear me, have no idea what I ramble on about anyway. It is led by a librarian who loves to hear herself talk, and she chews up a big chunk of our hour. There is not much point in using notes to help you say whether you enjoyed it or not and give an example of what you liked. Seems I used the same logic at school decades ago. But I am also in a small, men’s book club. There are four of us. We are all keeners and we like to drink. We only read four books a year, but so far they tend to generate hours of discussion and drinking. We take turns supplying drink, preferably something related to the book in question. We’ve only read three books so far: Crime and Punishment, Fifth Business, and One Hundred Years Of Solitude. We’ve drunk Russian vodka, Canadian whiskey, and South American wine. Our next read is Beloved by Toni Morrison and my turn to bring the booze. I bet you can guess what I will be bringing for drink. Anyway, making notes of books is pretty much required, unless you just want to sit and drink.
Particularly with these three chosen books but also with others, I discovered that note taking and deep thought when reading slows down your pace. It took me two months to read Dostoyevsky and two months to read Marquez. Other books also hung around too long on my desks and tables. I pledged 50 books for 2014 and I only made it to 34. I dilly dally, and I need help keeping on track. I need more granular goals and record keeping. Oh, your a half-book behind pace? Pick it up! I decided to try logging how much I read each day.
Then there are craft and technical books. I read a Unix book last year. It required extra time. I read five or six writing craft books. You cannot breeze through the stuff. You need to read slowly and take it in.
You know what else? I have a shelf full of notebooks and journals I will likely never use. I want to buy more, but how do I justify it? By using them up.
This is January 6th and the day is not done. This is what my next to last page looks like:
1 The Progress Of Love (finishing) 12 / 12
2 Hunting Badger [HB] [275 pages] 77 / 89
3 HB p163 86 / 175
4 HB p217 54 / 229
5 HB 275 58 / 287
. Bird By Bird [237 pages plus 21 Intro] 21 / 308
6 BBB Ch 1 15 / 323
. Carnival by Rawi Hage [Cl] [289 pages begins @ 3] 17 / 340
So as of right now, I have read 340 pages in the first six days of 2015 and completed one book. Yay! But this begs the question: how much should I read a day? And can I pick up the pace? I read slowly due to eye issues and desire to absorb. Due to the need to scratch this notebook with notes. I am on page five of notes, and there is no way one book will suffice at this pace. But Hunting Badger was abysmally written, or should I say edited. I made a lot of notes from it, the bulk of the note-taking so far. I am running with fifty pages a day. That’s 350 pages a week. At that pace, as long as I don’t attempt too many Tolstoys, I should achieve my fifty book target. My current pace is 56.67 pages a day and I still have seven hours left on today’s clock. Though Hunting Badger’s word count per page was quite low, around 250, and his writing was simple and terse. Carnival’s is more dense and lyrical, but it too is about 250 per page. Some books are around 333 or even 400. I just read Rabbit Run and some of its pages must have 480 words [40 lines x 12 with no white space]. Yeah, fifty a day works. The density will average out.
So where does this get me? It gets me to the concrete goal of reading fifty books a year, employs use of a goal-setting and measurement tool, which frankly I could use elsewhere as well, and keeps me on a pace to publishing.
Oh yeah, publishing. My Jan 15th goal of editing 477 pages is about on track. I am on page 222. I started this around Dec. 19th, and the holidays were not real productive. Two scenes lopped off the list today with more tonight.