Friday, December 27, 2013

First We Read, Then We Write...

So goes the title of a book about Ralph Waldo Emerson and the creative process.  It features quotes from Emerson on his reading and writing habits, and commentary by the author on how various writers influenced Emerson.  And I haven't finished it.  Yet.

Story of my life.  "Haven't finished it yet."

Don't get me wrong.  I'm ravenous about books.  I'll put a half-dozen on reserve at the library at a time. Unfortunately, they all then come in at once and I end up returning half of them untouched, even after hitting the renewal ceiling.  I could spend hours in bookstores.  I'm like a puppy romping through a park.  But wandering through a bookstore isn't reading, just as buying new shoes isn't running.

I usually have two books going at once:  one fiction, one non-fiction.  Or one non-fiction, one of a spiritual nature.  Either way, the approach has not always served me well.  My focus splits, and one of them always ends up getting the short straw.  Like Macon Leary recommended in The Accidental Tourist, it's best to pack one book for a trip, so to speak.

At least where I am concerned, Schopenhauer was sadly right when he said, "Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents."

Thankfully, with audiobooks and the nature of many of the books I enjoy (short story collections, etc), I can pick up where I left off without much problem, but I am finally acknowledging, if the end result is actually enjoying all of these books I've anticipated getting my hands on (or ears up against),  I need a new game plan.

For 2014, I look forward to rectifying this by taking a more laser-like approach to reading.  Goodreads has an annual challenge, inviting participants to choose a goal for number of books read in a year.  I'm still deciding on the right number, but even more fun is deciding which books to read.  Here's a short list of some of the books I hope to enjoy in the year to come:

1)   Nine Inches:  Stories  -  David Perrotta
2)  Kansas City Lightning - The Rise & Times of Charlie Parker - Stanley Crouch
3)  The Disaster Artist - Greg Sestero
4)  Mixology - Adrian Matejka
5)  I Was Told There'd Be Cake - Sloane Crosley
6) A Death in Kitchawank - T.C. Boyle
7)  The Liar's Club - Mary Karr
8)  Letters on Life - Rainer Maria Rilke
9)  Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
10) Child of God - Cormac McCarthy
11) The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach
12) Nine Headed Dragon River - Peter Matthiessen
13)  Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism - Chogyam Trungpa
14) Fool - Christopher Moore
15)  Rant - Chuck Palahniuk
16)  The Poetry of Pablo Naruda - Pablo Naruda
17) American Pastoral - Philip Roth
18)  The Rabbit series (four books) - John Updike
19)  Fully Alive - Pema Chodron
20)  The Icarus Deception - Seth Godin
21) The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth - Jonny Bowden

...oh yeah, and (22)  First We Read, Then We Write - Robert Richardson

That's a start.  Around two dozen of the eighty-odd tomes I have queued up on my Goodreads profile.  My eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak.  But enthusiasm - when tempered - is a good thing.

So, my literary lovin' friends, what books are on your To Read list for the coming year?  What books consumed you in 2013?  And what reading habits have best served you or tripped you up as you try to make your way through the totality of your list?  I'd love to know.

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