10 Nov 2014

reading wishlist: re-reads

This morning, The Boy so kindly informed me that 2015 is almost over. Just what I like to think about before 7 a.m. Sixty-ish days remain in the calendar year – for the Internet-Bookish, this means a lot of talk about book awards, end of the year lists, Nanowrimo, and perhaps the meeting of one’s reading goals before the clock strikes 2015.

We are all trying to answer the same question: how, exactly, do you measure a reading year?

As y’all are probably aware, I dabble in most methods of book monitoring. I keep two Internet lists of books I have read, and more offline tally sheets than I’d prefer to admit to. I run my little Best Reads feature to celebrate the top X% of my reading year. Last year I dabbled with other quantitative measurements in chart form. I like keeping track of what I read – I’ve found the you manage what you measure axiom to hold true in my own life. But at the same time, I’m interested in reading like a professional. I want to avoid falling into ruts, be they spells of not reading, spells of reading only what I like and nothing that stretches my boundaries, or spells of reading without critical engagement.

You manage what you measure, yes, but how you measure your data implies your value system. Measuring your reading life by pages or books read can be fun or useful or harmless, but what does it say about how you value books and your reading time? If pages are constantly whipping by you, if you move straight from one book to the next, then do you have enough time to give that book your full consideration? What’s more important: finishing books or getting something out of them?

I’m still parsing all of this out in my own life. I’ve talked about slowing down my reading, I try to be intentional with the books I choose to give my time, and I always take into consideration the circumstances under which I read a book before I evaluate it. But my daily life and hobbies and side gigs do require a certain amount of speedy-ish reading, so that’s also a circumstance I have to get used to. Training myself to slow down might make me a better reader, but there’s a limit to how slow I can go.

I have been taking a few steps to engage my critical reading facilities. I don’t have the time or mental energy to write full-blown book reviews here with any regularity, but I do force myself to write a few sentences about most of the books I read on Goodreads. I’ve got a new book-notetaking habit that I’ll tell you about soon. I’m still taking my reading lunches, which seem simple and a little silly but have become a very important part of my schedule – the only time I step away from the rest of my life and make intentional time for close reading.

And maybe that is the difference between the kind of reader I am and the kind of reader I’d like to be: it’s not about reading this kind of book or that kind of book, not about making my Goodreads goal or finishing X book before Y happens. It’s about time. Putting in the hours versus the pages.

Carving out time for dedicated reading is one way to make your reading more about time and attention rather than accomplishment. Another, I think is one of my very favorite reading habits: re-reading. Re-reading nearly doubles the time you spend thinking about one single book. You pick up things you might have missed the first time. Since you know all of the plot turns ahead of time, your brain might begin to churn in new ways in order to entertain itself. It’s not the most obvious way to refocus your reading, but I think it’s an easy one and an important one.

And for me, it’s just downright enjoyable. If I had my druthers, I’d kick most of my reading list to the curb in favor of re-reading everything I’ve ever loved. So now that you’ve sat through me blathering on, here is a quick list of some books I’ve been meaning to revisit, either because I feel they might still have something to teach me or just for the pleasure of it. Or both.



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