We have an ongoing joke in our house that 73% of statistics are made up on the spot. That number varies, but it seems to work its way most often into conversations involving political polls, science, or fascinating “Did you know…” facts. The point being, of course, that all purported statistics should be taken with a grain of salt and a dose of self-deprecating humor. (Yes, we’re nerdy like that.)
I only mention this because yesterday I came across some staggering numbers on the reading habits of Americans, which made me question the future of humanity and/or consider spending my life savings to buy more books for ALL THE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.
As it turns out, those statistics are possibly untrue. (Rayna debunks them here, and the Pew Research Center has some slightly less dire numbers, so all hope is not yet lost. But stilll…) Today, I’m feeling the urge to curl up with an extra large stack of books — and send a big donation to charities like First Book and Room to Read.
Reading has been my love and constant companion for as long as I can recall. I can’t imagine my life without books! Not everyone has that opportunity, and even those of us lucky enough to have a life-long love of reading often set the bar too low for ourselves.
What we choose to read reflects who we are and what we value. Books are a gateway to a bigger world outside yourself and a deeper well of experience within — a window of discovery, where you meet people and hear ideas you’d never experience in real life. To read the Great Books is to have a conversation with some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. A Kindle full of “beach reads” falls flat and pale by comparison.
The truth is, there will always be more books than time, which is exactly why Thoreau advised us to “read the best books first.” Over the past few years, I’ve tried to be more diligent at devoting time to reading better books.
My goal each month is to read one classic (from my Tackle the Classics list) and at least 2-3 other books (mostly fiction, memoirs, history, or writing/creativity). I only plan a few months at a time, as mood and interests steer me in new directions throughout the year. (It’s hard to say in February what books I’ll be ready for by December!)
Here’s my reading plan for the first few months of 2014. I’d love to hear what you’re reading too!
- Yellowrocket: Poems by Todd Boss
- The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
- The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
- Utopia by Thomas More
- The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle
- Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – I’d like to reread Wolf Hall before starting this
- Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
- Essays by Michel de Montaigne – I’ll read a selection from this massive(!) complete collection
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
- Richard III by Shakespeare
- The Great War & Modern Memory by Paul Fussell
- Rabbit Redux by John Updike
- I’m also rereading the Anne of Green Gables series… most recently, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne’s House of Dreams
I use Goodreads to organize and keep track of all the books I want to read, but these shorter reading lists work well for keeping me focused. I wish I had some literary friends to discuss books with in real life. But I suppose it’s no surprise that introverted bookworms have a hard time finding their kindred spirits! In the meantime, I find inspiration online from ardent readers like Edie at Life In Grace and Rachel at Elephantine, whose tastes in books I trust and admire.
What’s on your reading list this year? How do you stay organized and motivated?
[ Photo adapted from Stewart Butterfield ]