This is not a summer reading plan


As the post title indicates, what follows is not, emphatically not, a summer reading plan–and not because it’s already August and the dread scent of winter is already, somehow, on the air.

I do not believe in summer reading as distinguished from other seasonal expressions of reading; I categorically deny its existence in my life. I don’t deny its presence and importance in others’ lives, but it’s a manner of organizing one’s time, one’s books, one’s brain that makes no sense to me. I wish to read only one kind of book all the live-long year: good books. This is not a diss. (It would have been at one time, I won’t lie. But as I approach true middle age, I have, I hope, gained some measure of open-mindedness. In any case, I have decided it best to decline to judge others’ reading habits; I figure reading is itself a huge win; also, other people’s leisure time habits are none of my bidniss anyway.)

You are, by now, accustomed to my wordy introductions and general tendency towards blather; but in this case, the above reflects my discomfort and sadness. I’m not gnashing my teeth sad, although it might eventually come to that; I am, rather, big sighs and slightly slumped shoulders sad. I am not lost in the doldrums, but perhaps I have misplaced my map…

Alright, here it is: starting last week (or whenever it was that I read The Lake and A Rare Benedictine (reviews coming soon)) I began to read with my current reality in mind. My current reality is very busy and I just don’t have the time I once had for reading super-fat novels. It’s taking me so long to finish longish books, in fact, that I’m losing track of them as I go–this makes for neither an ideal reading experience, nor good writing about them. As this is, in large part, a book blog, this makes no sense. And so starting immediately and for the foreseeable future, I will be reading books of no more than 300 pages; preferably, 250 maximum. Le sigh.

A very small representative sample of my TBR pile. It hisses every time I walk by without picking something up.
A very small representative sample of my TBR pile. It hisses every time I walk by and don’t pick something up.

So, why am I so damned busy, you’re wondering? Well, a couple things. I recently became a regular contributor at Food Riot. I’ve had five pieces go up as of today, the two most recent reflecting my rather schizophrenic interests: a sentimental but, I’d like to think, restrained look back at my grandmother’s culinary expressions of love, and the strange interest I appear to be developing in professional competitive eating contests.

Also, I’ve been quite busy the last month or so working on a piece, which went live yesterday, for Open Letters Monthly. I’ve written for them before, on the lovely and disturbing works of Yoko Ogawa; this time around, I looked backwards into my beloved 17th century at the most hilarious play ever written (imho): Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle.

You read "Toronto Public Library" here; I read reproach.
You read “Toronto Public Library” here; I read reproach.

Also, there’s this quotidian but also monumentally shameful fact: my hold list at the library has reached its upper limit; there shall be no more holds, sayeth the Toronto Public Library, until I read my list down significantly. 60 is the magic number there, by the way; just a few months ago, I made a comment on Twitter about dealing with the 30 books I had on hold and someone laughed at my hubris.

Also, I really to finish Don Quixote in 2013.

To deal with all these problems, I will read all the short books on my library hold list and try very, very hard not to add anymore to it for the time being. I will alternate library books with the tiny books currently dying of neglect at home.

My tendency towards building my collections, either owned or borrowed, is unmanageable, to put it mildly. I collect books, one way or another, like I’m both running out of time and have approximately 1,000 years of reading remaining to me. As I turned 38 on Thursday, 1,000 years is looking a little too optimistic….

And so Operation Get Your Reading Shit Together, Woman, Dammit begins now. Please console me with kind words and cookies when I start wailing loudly for 900-page novels by Trollope and Gissing and Oliphant, okay?

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Jean Melvin says:

    Oh blast! I forgot your birthday! Belated good wishes!


    1. Colleen says:

      No worries. Life at the cottage is a beautiful dream that transcends birthdays. 🙂 Wish we were there with you!

  2. Tony says:

    Good luck 🙂 I’m trying to balance my ARC ‘obligations’ with a couple of big library books which have been sitting around for far too long…

    1. Colleen says:

      Thanks, I’m going to need it! I wish I could still make my way through books as quickly as you do. I used to be a contender…

  3. heidenkind says:

    How is Don Quixote going?

    1. Colleen says:

      I should have said more about that….It’s AMAZING. But it’s physically too large for me to carry around, and I do more of my reading outside the house than in it these days. Also, I find I need breaks from it even though I really do love it–there’s only so much bombast I can take (which means, obviously, that DQ is bombastic in the extreme). You’ve read it, yes?

      1. heidenkind says:

        I haven’t! It sounds good in concept but I’m not sure I’d actually enjoy it.

  4. J.G. says:

    Hear, hear! “Summer” reading: never for me. Shorter novels: often thematically, structurally, and conceptually precise, polished, and therefore very enjoyable. And yes, you can finish them and build up some momentum! Fall and winter starting to breathe over my shoulder: yep, totally.

    1. Colleen says:

      That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking! I’ve only been able to read 30 pages in the last two days though, so even the short books might suffer a little…

      It’s weird to feel just that hint of Fall; I don’t know how to describe it but it’s there. However, we’ll probably have at least a few days of hellish hot heat before summer’s really over, to remind us of how awesome winter is…

  5. Stefanie says:

    Good luck with your “Operation.” There are many fine books of short length and maybe after a few you can wallow in a fat Victorian novel for a bit before returning to the concise and to the point. You are the second person I know this week who has mentioned maxing out on their library hold list. I have never managed it and now I am beginning to feel inadequate. Perhaps I should go through all the book lists I like to make and request from them at random. Glad you are enjoying DQ. It’s a good one in so many ways. And a happy belated birthday.

    1. Colleen says:

      Don’t max out your library hold list! It causes anxiety; it doesn’t make one feel cool at all.

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